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November 20, 2009

Oroville Mercury September 16, 1944
Old Days In Oroville Recalled By Wagstaff
Here On Leave Hopped Bells In The Union; Remembers 4-Horse Stages, Wooden Sidewalks About Town
Thirty-six years have accounted for many changes in the appearance of Oroville, according to George Wagstaff, U. S. Navy chief bugle master, who left here to join the navy in 1908. Wagstaff, son of the late Mr. and Mrs. William G. Wagstaff, pioneer couple here, arrived in Oroville this week on a ten-day leave. “I used to carry a paper route for the Mercury,” Wagstaff said.. “That was when the newspaper plant was across from where the police station is located now. My district was Chinatown and I got there over the old wooded sidewalks. There was no paving in Oroville then.”

Recalls 4-horse Stages
Wagstaff said he once hopped bells in the Union Hotel. He recalled how the four-horse stages used to come there from Forbestown, Dogtown and other points. “We used to have a two horse hotel wagon” he said. “Every time a train came in we drove to meet it at the station on top of the Myers street hill.” He said the Oroville Opera House was located over the Union Hotel. “We kids used to climb up the telephone poles alongside and sneak in to see the shows.” The telephone office was down stairs in the hotel, Wagstaff related. Pansy Hughes was the operator. The operator, now Mrs. Abilla, is Wagstaff’s next door neighbor in San Leandro where he and his family have their permanent residence.

Wagstaff attended the local high school. He said Mrs. Grace Camp was principal when he was a student there. He left school at the age of 15 to join the navy. “We used to have a fine time at school,” Wagstaff reminisced. “Some of the kids I knew were Harry Cohen, Norm Thatcher, Clyde Taylor, Harriet Jacoby, Walter Taylor and ‘Hikey” Oates.”

Seeks Hilger Family
Wagstaff holds one of only seven bugle master ratings in the navy. His job is instructing in drum and bugle schools. He served in the navy form 1908 until 1938 when he left the service to work in the circulation department of the Oakland Tribune. He re=enlisted in 1941. Wagstaff and his wife are spending the week at Buck’s Lake. They will return here Monday. Wagstaff is interested in locating members of the Hilger family , relatives and neighbors of the Wagstaff family in the early days.

Oroville Mercury April 4, 1959
Four Local Sailors Home On Leave
Four Oroville youths have completed “boot” training at the U. S. Navy Training Center, San Diego, according to the local recruiting office. The boys are; Robert Edward Tooley, son of Mrs. W. H. Tooley, of Gawthorn Street; Larry Allen Bonham, son of Mr. and Mrs. Herman V. Bonham of Houston Street; Charles Richard Kitchen, son of Mr. and Mrs. John Kitchen of Robinson Street; and Gary Roger Engasser, son of Mrs. Thelma Lane, of Rosecrans Drive. They are at home on 14 days leave before reporting to their permanent duty stations.

Tooley had been assigned to the USS Buck, a radar picker destroyer, whose home port is San Francisco. Kitchen has been assigned to the 12 week U. S. Navy Training Center, Great Lakes, Ill. Bonham has been assigned to the 22-week electronic school for aviation at Memphis Tenn. Kitchen has been assigned to the 12 week U. S. Navy Training Center, Great Lakes, Ill. Engasser has been assigned to the USS Helena, whose home port is Long Beach.

Stu’s Notes: George Wagstaff’s family goes way back in Oroville History. This story could go in my Oroville of Long Ago column, but because he was a Veteran it will go on our website, thanks to Daryl. We plan to have a Bugler Statue in Our Memorial and this story makes that decision made at the start of our Memorial in 2001 that much more relevant t. It would be nice if we could find some of the relatives of some of the names in that story. I wonder what the nickname ‘Hikey” meant back then. In my Iron working trade it means an Iron Bar to bend re-bar.

The Union Hotel on Myers Street, down town burned down in 1944, 5 died including a young soldier, Morris Tims on leave from Beale Army Base. See his story on our website orovilleveteransmemorialpark.org, thank you Daryl. All that’s left of that train station is a monument and an end of the road track bumper. I was the first person there in the early 1960’s when it burned down. I grabbed an old fire hose hanging there but there was hardly any water pressure. I remember when the fire truck roared up and screeched to a stop, 2 men fell off the back. By then all was lost.

All those Navy men were class mates of mine, I wondered where they went.