The old Edmonds City Jail, and a jailbreak

By Betty Lou Gaeng | Nov 19, 2018
Courtesy of: Betty Lou Gaeng The Edmonds Jail at the Edmonds Historical Museum, pictured today.

Maybe life was a lot simpler 80 or so years ago when the population of Edmonds was more or less 2,000 souls. Most of the news back then often seemed a lot more fun. Even the stories of happenings at the local jail were mostly amusing.

If you have ever visited the Edmonds Historical Museum, located in the old Carnegie Library building at 118 Fifth Ave. N, you probably have learned that back in earlier times, the Edmonds city jail was in the basement of the library building for many years.

Actually, the jail cell is still there – although its only purpose now is to amuse museum visitors.

When I remember the former jail, I recall the purported human skull that once graced the window. I don’t know if it was supposed to intimidate us, or what the purpose was, but it sure was a good conversation piece.

No one ever admitted the source or whether it was actually real, but it sure looked like the real thing to me.

Ray Cloud’s old local paper, the Edmonds Tribune-Review, reported on some interesting jail breaks, as well as some strange occupants. The little Edmonds jail seemed to mainly house those whose crimes were imbibing too much.

Although, occasionally, there were some runaway kids – mostly boys who had sneaked aboard the train in Seattle looking for adventure, and managed to find that adventure upon arriving in Edmonds.

They were usually confined in the jail cell as they waited for their parents to show up and take them back home. No long-term visitors. Any serious criminals were removed to the county jail in Everett.

A typical jail break happened Sunday night, Christmas Eve, 1933, while night patrolman Walter Childers was on duty. He had arrested two men for being drunk and disorderly in public and locked them in the jail cell.

He then set out to capture a third man on the same charge. While Patrolman Childers was away, one of his prisoners, 26-year-old Floyd Joy, managed to escape. Using a two-by-six board from his bunk, he pried the bars in the cell door apart and went home.

Later, the other prisoner said he slept right through the jail break. When he woke up and saw what had happened, he took advantage of the opportunity, crawled out and also went home.

In the meantime, Childers had recaptured Joy and taken him to the more secure jail in Everett. There was no mention of what became of the third drunken reveler, or whether the second escapee was able to spend Christmas morning with his family before being returned to jail.

Another interesting event happened on a Sunday night in March 1934.

Marshal Charles Larsen had three very unusual occupants in the local jail that night. He was getting fed up with the wayward bantam chickens belonging to the town’s physician, Dr. Harry H. Kretzler Sr. The marshal was not in a good mood when he received a late-night complaint from Fred Sticker, the local bakery man.

That night, Sticker found three of the small chickens sleeping in his trees, a favorite spot for them. He caught the three little ones, placed them in a box, and called the marshal to pick them up. Upon retrieving the wandering chickens, Marshal Larsen put them in the jail for the night for safekeeping.

In the morning he called Dr. Kretzler. When the good doctor arrived from his home just a block east up Main Street, Larsen fined the good doctor $1, payable before he could take his wandering chickens home where they belonged.

Don’t we wish all our problems were this simple?

Kind of like Mayberry without Barney Fife.

Betty Lou Gaeng is a local historian and member of the Edmonds Cemetery board.


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