A man to remember
The Spirit of Tehachapi
July 20, 2019
When I occasionally travel Willow Springs Road toward Rosamond and Lancaster, I pass Truman Road and Hamilton Road. For years I have told anyone who would listen that the two roads do not stand for an early American statesman, Alexander Hamilton, or former President Harry Truman. The two roads are a reminder of Truman Hamilton former lawman and Constable of the 11th Judicial Township. Beginning his job in 1922, residents saw a man of substantial size, both in height and weight. His size alone could often take care of any disturbance that would arise. After reading his obituary, I find that he was known as a "fearless" lawman when performing his duties. Attention to duty was his purpose.
I would not have known him but during the days when we lived in Mojave my parents used to extol the efforts of our local Constable and there was one story that has remained in my memory throughout these many years. A few years back I was happy to run into an article in a long ago newspaper file. The facts were just as my parents had said and I can relate them without wondering if the years had embroidered them a bit.
With the passing of the 18th Amendment in 1920, the citizens of our country found themselves unable to buy or sell liquor. This, of course, created one of the largest crime waves the nation had heretofore seen. The Mojave Desert was an ideal scene for bootlegger stills in remote places and liquor peddlers were doing a bang up business handling the forbidden commodity. Prohibition was soon in full swing and our country was involved in 13 years of bootlegging business.
One night Constable Hamilton, driving his sedan touring car, was pursuing some fleeing bootleggers. He was being fired upon by those in the lawbreakers' vehicle and he returned the fire. One of the bootlegger's bullets found their mark and Hamilton was hit. Being a very large man, but also carrying many extra pounds, the bullet lodged in the side of his abdomen and pocketed itself in the extra layer of fat there. It hit no vital organs and Constable Truman was not mortally wounded. It didn't say, but I would presume the bootleggers got away that time!
The end of prohibition came in 1933, with the 21st Amendment being ratified. Hamilton quit chasing bootleggers but found himself dealing with hundreds of people flocking to Mojave hoping to strike it rich as George Holmes had done when he discovered his bonanza in the Golden Queen mine. Soledad Mountain and Standard Hill, as well as other locations, found men looking for gold. Gold fever is no respecter of age or social status and bankers and Depression drifters often trod the same ground.
Mojave was like an old west boom town except there were automobiles everywhere instead of horses. The population increase found the schools overflowing and the fourth and sixth grade classes were held in the basement of the Community Church pending the construction of a new school.
I remember kids in school playing "Cops and Robbers" at recess. One lucky boy got to be Truman Hamilton!
After we moved to Tehachapi in 1937, I never heard anything about Truman except that he was still doing his job. Today, in my haste to tell people his bootlegger story and the two roads bearing his name, I decided to try to find him on the Internet. It's kind of sad. Just an obituary, nothing else. He died "in harness" in 1940. He had gone home for lunch, had a heart attack and died.
Most of Mojave attended his funeral and I recognized some Tehachapi names listed in those attending. I was almost disappointed to find out that he is buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Glendale, Calif. It seems fitting that he would have rested easier in the town he so "fearlessly" cared for.