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Looking Back to 1956: Council studies fire, police policies, deputy cleared in death 

Looking Back Paso Robles

This look back at Paso Robles history comes from local newspapers in the Paso Robles Area Historical Society collection. News for this column is selected with the assistance of Research Director Jan Cannon. Newspaper photography by GiGi Green.

Excerpts from Thursday, July 5, 1956, Paso Robles Journal:

Council studies outside fire, police policies

In a brief 22-minute meeting Monday evening, the city Council held a reading of two proposed ordinances regarding city police and fire protection outside of city limits.

Both resolutions, which are tabled for further study, are based on the premise that both the city police and fire departments are obliged primarily to protect life and property within the city limits.

However, the police department resolution would give Chief Elmer Morehouse or City Administrator Sid Tucker authority to dispatch one police vehicle to assist public agencies in emergencies outside the city and to send the city’s resuscitator where a life can be saved.

Paso Robles history 1956

The fire department resolution provides for similar emergencies at the discretion of Chief Maynard French or Tucker and further proposes for formation of fire districts by residents of areas outside the city, to be served under contract by one piece of equipment. It is also proposed to encourage mutual assistance agreements with fire departments and other communities and the county and state forestry departments.

Jim Stahl, superintendent of the city part, read to the council a letter from T.R.A Kenner of Auckland, New Zealand, praising the beauty of the Paso Robles Park. Kenner wrote:

“Two years ago today, while travelling down the fertile golden coast to Los Angeles, I spent the lunch hour visiting with you in your Paso Robles park. In the year that followed, I did not see so green a park in any country visited. In my mind’s eye I still see your tall sycamore trees and the big Australian blue gum.”

The letter went on to say that the Kenners visited parks in England, Scotland, France and Italy, but nowhere found one to surpass in beauty the one they had seen in Paso Robles.

The council voted to accept the resignation of Cliff Bickell as city planning commissioner and to issue a certificate of gratitude to him for his years of commission service. Bickell recently was elected to the board of trustees of the Paso Robles High School District.

Police commissioner Vernon Sturgeon would up the meeting by calling attention to the fact that the city has passed its 1176th day without a traffic fatality.

Inquest clears deputy in Caldwell death

A coroner’s jury returned a verdict of justifiable homicide in five minutes in the shooting death of Jay Thomas Caldwell, 32-year-old ex-convict.

Holding forth in the Paso Robles old city council chambers, William Fredman; deputy district attorney, presented 17 witnesses.

Caldwell, who was cut down by Deputy Sheriff Lt. William Stonesipher, went on a shooting spree in the city on June 14, and was shot while hiding out in the Paso Robles Laundry.

He died of peritonitis on June 23, after being hospitalized for nine days.

Special investigator for the district attorney’s office, Richard Stacy, told the jurors that Caldwell reminded him of a man under the influence of narcotics.

According to Paul Smiley, the laundry manager, who assisted police by entering unarmed and courageously turned on the lights, Caldwell looked like a wild animal to him.

Also testifying at the inquest was Mrs. Alma Anderson, who was shot in the right arm by Caldwell while she was on duty at the desk of the IXL Hotel.

Mrs. Floyd Rideout also testified and showed the jury marks that were inflicted by Caldwell after he had forced his way into the Rideout home. She also told the jurors that Caldwell had struck at her with the butt of his gun.

Both women agreed that Caldwell had a wild man’s look in his eyes.

After he was shot, officers told how he refused assistance to the ambulance.

Deputy Sheriff Louis Tate told how Caldwell wanted a gun so he could shoot it out with the law after he had been wounded.

Other testimony that was presented said Caldwell asked the condition of Mrs. Anderson while he was in the emergency room at the War Memorial Hospital and said he was sorry that he had shot her. While at the hospital he paid the $3 emergency room fee and also $5 to the attending doctor.

According to the hospital, Caldwell was moved to San Luis for reasons of safety after doctors said there was no evidence of shock.


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Thank you to sponsors of Looking Back

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About the author: Reporter Jackie Iddings

Jackie Iddings is a contributing reporter and photographer for the Paso Robles Daily News.