Chapter 21

I look back and wonder how both William and Annie managed with their little brood of four and the slim returns from the small business that got only half a man's time and in a fast-diminishing market. But I do remember those days as days of plenty, of shining damask tablecloths on the dining room table, of big platters of good food, home-baked bread, baked beans on Saturday, bacon and eggs, and pancake breakfasts Sunday mornings, chicken and homemade noodles for "heathen" Sunday dinners, and devil's food cakes, in case friends dropped by on a Sunday afternoon.

Mama never accepted Sunday as a day of rest, much to Father's disapproval. We did have a garden and we all worked in it. There were times when we had a cow and chickens, too. I guess that was part of the management. I remember clean clothes with all buttons sewed on, pressed and mended, even though the brothers pressed their own pants, and a house that sang with cleanliness. How it was all done only Annie could explain. It was a glad house always! William never brought home his hardships.

"Mama wouldn't understand," he told me once. "And I wouldn't want her to."

Then he gave me a letter. If my memory serves me right, it came from Mayor Sebastian, but it could have been Mayor Alexander, for both mayors gave him complete backing in his work. It told him of a big I.W.W. demonstration the police were expecting the following Sunday and that the plan was to bomb Mullen if he tried to preach. It was the opinion of the mayor's office and of the police department as well, that it would be better if he did not show up. He wanted me to know about it, for most likely my older brother would accompany him and he wanted me, who would remain at home, to be aware of what might happen. But when he read the alarm on my face, he smiled. "Never fear, Sister," he consoled me. "God would not let those blackguards hurt me or my boys either. But you keep the letter where it will be safe and say nothing about it to Mama."

"But Papa, you don't have to go this one time," I pleaded.

"Seems to me I gave you a quarter once for learning the Ninety-first Psalm. Have you forgotten it so soon?

I shook my head.

"Remember any of it . . . still?"

"I think so."

"Let me hear you repeat it."

"He that dwelleth in the secret

place of the most High

Shall abide under the shadow of

the Almighty . . . "

When I came to the end--"With long life will I satisfy him, and show him my salvation"--he said, "Good girl. Nothing's going to happen to me. The Lord still has use for me yet."

He always said that when people warned him of impending danger. But I will never forget the anxiety I felt. I was too nervous to go to my own church. (I attended the Presbyterian Church at Long Beach.) I washed my hair and studied, but I remained nervous and unstrung all day. It was the longest and most fearful day I have ever known.

Then came the sound of the familiar footsteps on he porch. Papa was home, with that certain walk he had when I had been a little girl and he had conquered that day an especially vicious horse. Yes, he had overcome the odds!

I rushed to him and put my arms around him and sobbed out loud.

"Whatever is the matter with you, child?" my puzzled mother asked.

Then my father told her, giving it all the suspense of the stories he so loved to tell.

He had had his biggest crowd that day--fifteen thousand men--extending from First to Second Street and overflowing in the doorways and wherever else they could find room to stand! They were there to hold their own celebration and they would not have their enthusiasm drowned out by a street preacher who told about God's love and preached against violence.

The crown had marched, a great throng of them, down Los Angeles Street, congregating finally around his preaching area. The air was charged with the electricity of a thunderstorm about to break.

He took his pulpit in the back of his parked car, took off his coat and hat, handed them to Calvin to keep for him. Then he lifted his head high to pray. Instantly, there was the rumble of an earthquake, an ominous rumbling that foretold something was about to break loose.

His automobile was parked in front of the Mission. By the Mission's open door stood a group of friends who usually came to the meetings, interested Christian workers such as Maurice Clark of Exeter, who never missed a Sunday. Plain-clothed police were standing by, too, keeping their eyes on the ugly crowd.

Then, with the rumbling, came the onrush of vicious men, pushing toward this one lone man in his shirt sleeves, clutching an unopened Bible against his check. They were not going to permit him to say one word, and if he opened his mouth, they promised to shut it.

But he was going to speak, and, as he did, they rushed against his car, closing in on him. Instantly he picked up a nearby chair and hurling it in the air, he cried out: "If one dares cross this line, I will crack his skull and those of the cowards who follow."

There he stood, unafraid--no matter how big the crowd, or how ugly, he would not let them frighten him. The crowd, silenced now, watched him anxiously while he held the chair high above his head.

No one came.

So he dropped the chair and delivered a prayer with his head raised to God. Full of power now, he opened his Bible and preached as only he could while the adrenaline from anger was coursing through his veins.

When he was well into his sermon he noticed excitement was brewing among the crowd directly in front of his car. Still, he kept on preaching. Then he noticed the cause: the promised bomb was under his automobile, smoking menacingly! Before anyone could gather courage to do anything about it, it fizzled and went out. He wanted the crown to know he had seen it, and it had not frightened him. He boomed out the poetry of his favorite Psalm.

"Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night;

nor for the arrow that flieth by day:

"I should have said bomb, shouldn't I?" he added, chuckling a little, too. His face brightened now as he continued giving meaning to the words.

"A thousand shall fall at thy side,

And ten thousand at thy right hand;

But it shall not come nigh thee."

They caught the meaning of the words. Here was a man who had something they did not have, and because of it there was no fear in him, and from then on, they listened with rapt attention and many must have wished they, too, could have had his strange power, this something that made him set apart from the crowd.

He looked into the heavens and put his left hand in his pants pocket and raised his right hand high into the air as he declared with magnificence and beauty:

For he shall give his angels charge over thee,

To keep thee in all ways,"

They knew it had been true. Fifteen thousand men had assembled to demonstrate the wildness of the street. What they demonstrated instead was God's power to tame it with love.

In the months that followed communism seemed to be on the rise, so William staged a celebration similar to the ones the I.W.W. often staged when they marched to the open forum where he would preach--this time on Eighth Street between Spring Street and Broadway.

His theme was "Christianity versus Communism." This time, he defied the foul-mouthed speakers to reply to the logic of his argument in the cause of I.W.W.-ism.

It was published next day in a news story for the LOS ANGELES TIMES:

"In the oratorical battleground, here we find these reformers, these blaspheming communists, these I-Wobbly-Wobblies, who are ever screaming for pies and doughnuts without labor, seeking these favors which the devil offered to heap upon Jesus. Why, we read of one of them trying to be Governor and when he cannot obtain the Governorship, he is willing to take a Constableship, and, failing that, he announced his willingness to take that of Poundmaster. Anything! Anywhere! Anyhow! To feel at the political crib. Not having brains to do business, too lazy to work, he would like to be fed by others."

He received his first blow from the hands of the strong arm members of the I.W.W. just as he had received but one injury in all his years of horse training. So he was to be injured, finally, by one of the street thugs.

It was in late January, 1917. The California rainy season compelled him to remain home for a Sunday. He had been with us for two of Annie's lovely Sunday dinners and then on the third Sunday, the first week in February, the sun poured forth a beautiful spring morning, and he went to conduct his street meeting in his usual place. But instead, two I.W.W. meetings were holding forth in front of his Mission. He stood at the fringe of the crowd and this angered the I.W.W. members, who mingled in his audience and tried to break up the meeting. He started to get down from his auto pulpit to move the men out, and before he reached the ground, he was struck with a blackjack. As he toppled over, two other men struck him again, knocking three teeth loose. Calvin, now an experienced football player on the Occidental College team, wanted to get into the fight, but Father checked him and in so doing let the men get away.

Of course Calvin was hurt to think he wasn't permitted to fight.

"It was not your battle," Father said.

When the altercation was over, William climbed back into the auto and continued preaching. He promised when the sermon was over, "I'll be back next Sunday."

Calvin drove him home. Papa staggered into bed where he remained for several days, but by the following Sunday, he was back again preaching as usual.

rope seemed to cause the I.W.W.'s to mobilize in still greater strength in America. Socialism had its origin in Germany, Syndicalism in France, Anarchistic Communism in Russia. The I.W.W. was the American counterpart.

Those who belonged to the various national branches of the revolutionary, industrial movement opposed the war on the grounds that it forced them to go to war against their brothers. Thus the war abroad only fomented greater agitation here for more I.W.W. members, so labor difficulties took on increasing violence. The entire world seemed to be moving toward a General Strike that would precipitate the overthrow of all government. And, in fact, such was the plan.

After the incident of the bomb, nevertheless, William was permitted to preach unmolested. He had talked, sung, and prayed down the toughs for four intervening years, but now all his time and effort went into vocalizing about that turning the other cheek, that "ridiculous doctrine of Jesus," the I.W.W.'s scoffed. But they came and listened and laughed just he same. About a thousand a year of the men had accepted this religion William proposed as the antidote for "anarchistic communism."

Lawless bands had been forming all summer in Los Angeles as well as in the valley, where they swarmed down upon the ranches in predatory bands. Little by little they had been rounded up and jailed, or been run out of town, in the small farming communities. But now that the rains had come, they had moved in on Los Angeles, taking possession of the river bed. The police had responded by arresting one hundred and seven men one Sunday, including some of their leaders. Those who had successfully dodged arrest scurried out of town.

Immediately after these mass arrests, William sought a conference with the Mayor, the Chief of Police, and the District Attorney.

When asked what he wanted done with these men, he replied:

"I want them released from prison and given a chance to work."

"But they have had plenty of opportunity to work. You know that, Mullen."

"Yes, I know it. But these men are misguided. It will give me a chance to talk to their leaders." He laughed here. "Where they will have to listen."

"No one understands the I.W.W.'s better than you, Mullen, and yet you call them misguided." the District Attorney said.

"But they are. They are easy prey to agitators as all poor people are. How can you expect them to be good citizens when they have had numbers of unemployed men in every big city but there is never anyone to explain to them how they can find a new and good life in Jesus Christ."

The Mayor looked quizzically at the Police Chief. The District Attorney shrugged his shoulders hopelessly.

"You believe that, don't you, Mullen?" the Mayor said, "this is the answer to all our problems?"

"Well it gets at the cause. You have to do that before you can get to the effect."

But that did not mean they discounted his method, for they had admitted he had tamed the lawless street. They respected what he had to say and listened while he continued trying to win them over to his plan.

He argued: "While we are sending missionaries to foreign lands and thus glorifying God, we forget that there are thousands of heathen at our own door, who live in sin, darkness and sorrow, with misery in this life and no hope in the life to come, filled with ignorance and superstition and thus we find them turning to socialism, communism, and anarchism."

He went on to explain. "These are the people colonizing in that section where I preach, and I know them to be first and foremost discouraged men, who cannot endure their lives without an Advisor, a Strength-given, a Comforter as you and I have. What they want is someone to give them help, to give them love, to give them peace--a friend to save them from this life of misery, someone to lead them out from the shadows of death into a land of sunlight, joy."

He was so intent on what he was saying, they could not help but weigh his words. They listened to him with sincerity. They, themselves, were almost convinced.

The Chief of Police debated him, saying: "But they were arrested as lawbreakers. You believe we should enforce the law, don't you?"

"Yes, I do," William replied. "I agree they should have been arrested. Force is the only thing they understand. I admit that, and that is your job and you have done it. But mine is to help them and to bring them the gospel and I must do my job, too."

"But you ask to have them released. You are not asking for the privilege of preaching to them in prison!"

"I have found the heart is best reached through the stomach. And the best way, the only way to get at that is through work."

"Then you want them released for work."

"Yes, I want them to know in this big city there is someone who cares for them. That's what I want. Can you ask such people to be good citizens, to be kind and true fathers, who know no love, know no truth, who know no life, no light? Does this not create that army of men who congregate here in Los Angeles, breathing out vengeance and blasphemy against a God they don't know, cursing their luxuriously-living brothers, and teaching a vile doctrine of sabotage, a philosophy of destruction and anarchy and lawlessness?"

"You're probably right," the Mayor agreed. "Their motto is no God, no master, no respect for anyone. What they cannot obtain by fair means, they teach to obtain by foul. I know this class claims no allegiance to our government, to society, to law. Poor fellows, they have no rest, day or night. When they are not in the jungle, they are in cheap flophouses. Now that they have migrated back to Los Angeles they gather in crowds on the street, listening to the agitators, who urge them to adopt means of violence, to disregard law, and to reject all moral customs. But arresting them isn't going to correct the matter."

You have almost convinced me," the Chief of Police replied. "It will only cost the taxpayers considerable money to prove them guilty of breaking a law they will continue to break anyway then they get out."

"Yes, they have already asked for jury trials," the Mayor said. "We will have to keep them in jail until they can go to trial. And there are one hundred seven of them to house and feed."

"Yet it still doesn't give them jobs after their sentences are fulfilled," Mullen argued,. "I would ask you to suspend their sentences, and I would teach them that someone besides the agitator is interested in them. That is what I would do."

"Do you propose to get them jobs?"

"I do."

"All right," they concluded. "Go out and get them jobs, if you can find anyone willing to hire them. When you have gotten work for them, we will release them to you."

Papa came home a happy and unburdened man that night, glad that he had made the city administration see his point. If they were to have law-abiding citizens, they had to recognize that a man must have employment to keep his self-respect, that when he doesn't, he is provided with fertile ground for the seeds of sedition.

The next day he made the rounds of all the industrial plants. At first all he got were refusals. Then he used his rhetoric for the effective weapon he had always found it to be.

"Can the unemployed father go to his unfitly-furnished home and behold his discouraged wife and see his dying child drying and pleading for food, nourishment or medicine? he asked the industrialists. "Can he see the undertaker paid by the county, come in and place in a pauper's coffin that cold form, after suffering as it did, and bury it in a pauper grave? Can he remember that sweet, merry laugh that rang from its lips?"

One by one, they broke down and agreed to give these men work on a trial basis.

Then he was faced with his hardest task, getting the men themselves to agree to forfeit going to trial and to go to work instead.

His tactics with the men were the reverse, "Of course, if you would rather huddle together in the jungle, too lazy to work, relying on hunting, killing all you catch, getting a dime or a nickel from a kind professional man to obtain your liquor, and to steal a piece of meat and an onion and potato to make your Mulligan stew, that's a nice easy life for you. If that's all you want, you can starve for all I care."

"What's in it for you?" one of the leaders asked.

"The greatest reward a man ever had."


"Seeing one soul brought to the Kingdom of God."

"But going to work won't bring about that!"

Humor never failed William. He smiled. "Don't you know that if God can get one of you men to go to work, He will have performed the biggest miracle of the year?"

The men laughed.

"Mullen, you're a damn fool," the gang leader said. "I've seen you on Los Angeles Street. I've even stood there and listened to you. You're interesting. An' we don't bluff you. I've seen our men throw bricks and bottles at you. I've seem them curse you and sing dirty songs about you. Why do you want to get us out of jail now? I should think you'd be free to have things all pretty much your way. I jes' don't get it--why?"

"God hath not appointed man to wrath but to salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ," Father quoted from scriptures.

"I think you really believe that, don't you?"

"I do."

"I'll think about it. Come back tomorrow. I'll give you my answer then."

Before the week was over, the tired shoulders were bravely erect once more and the smile had returned to the recently trouble-worn face. "I got them all to go back to work but one man, and that bum wouldn't work no matter how hard we tried to make him." Nothing was more disgusting to William than a man who was too lazy to work. "And besides, the mean fellow had spoiled my record," he added quickly.

He had to keep after them, though, encouraging the released men to stay on the job, also seeing that the people who had given them employment weren't letting them down. That was the beginning of a free employment bureau that he ran in connection with his Mission on Los Angeles Street for some years to come. He also got a group of lawyers and doctors to offer their services free to help these people, in sickness and in trouble.

Go to Chapter 22

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