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Five Mendocino ‘Hoodlums’ Confess to ‘Deviltry’ and ‘Running Wild’—MendoThrowback


Combing newspaper archives, MendoFever will work hard to provide a MendoThrowback every day of the calendar year to remind residents of days long gone. 

[Clippings from the Ukiah Republican Press on February 7, 1945]

And just like that, their reign of terror was over. Five boys, called “hoodlums” by the Ukiah Republican Press on February 7, 1945, were finally caught after “running wild during nights on the Mendocino coast.”

Initially, these five were up to “boyish pranks” such as “breaking down fences” and “knocking over rural mailboxes.” Their childhood antics quickly curdled into crime and the quintet would now appear before Justice William Vaugh in Juvenile Court facing charges ranging from malicious mischief to burglary.

The five boys, Robert Klee, Tim Kaarlo, Roy Balcecchi, Russel Miller, and John Bishop, all would sign a statement describing and admitting to their behavior. Apparently, the “hoodlums” had been “running wild for some time”, and some of the boys were said to be “guilty of more deviltry than the others.”

The boys reportedly began stealing gas, breaking fences, and forcing entry into cabins. These “thugs” finally met their match when they attempted to move an automobile to steal gas and then ran into a cabin significantly damaging a wall. The owner of the cabin took action to bring these boys to justice. Their “pure devilishness alone actuated his outrage.”

Locals were frustrated because officials did not bust the boys “until a threat was made the cabin owner would employ a detective to ferret” them out.

Deputy Sheriff Ward Reis believed the arrest of the five would result in “most of the trouble in the Mendocino section will be stopped.” The article’s author opined, “now the culprits have been caught, they should be punished severely, or they will be on the loose again, breaking the law within a short time.”


  1. Any group of boys together and unsupervised will do things they never would have dreamed of alone. Did you read Lord of the Flies? My brothers and I ran rampant in Truckee for two years every time our father was away. Often stuck at Sugar Bowl with road closed. We once drained Donner lake 4 feet by opening the flow gate. A massive padlock but a screw shaft with a square head, we took that as a challenge and one large wrench opened the flow. They still think we picked the lock. Nothing was proved but we were in their sights after that. April 4 1968 was my last day running wild. Local paper ran the headline, Coulter Gang Rides Again. I was 14 and the State did its best to turn me into a hardened criminal with their corrective measures

    • Once your in the system “they” will break their own laws to keep you there. Self perpetuating corrupt corporation. “Man cannot govern himself” sayeth the good book.

  2. My grandfather used to say “one is all boy, two boys are 1/2 a boy and three boys are no boy at all”. So true

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFever
Picking Brains—Baring Bones—Paying it By Ears: I'm a reporter in Mendocino County and the Founder of MendoFever.

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