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So You Think You're A Local: Tracing the Highway Patrol’s regional history

By: Mike Maynard, Special to the Colfax Record
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Editor’s Note: This is the second in a two-part story on early CHP in Placer County. By Mike Maynard Special to the Colfax Record Last week I talked about the starting of the Highway Patrol in our area. With such a history I thought I would keep going to around 1952. In 1935, new officers were to take 21 days of training. Classes were held under the bleachers of the race track at the old state fairgrounds in Sacramento. The novices were given a week’s motorcycle training on the track then assigned to their own county. That year George Haines was assigned to Baxter as a resident officer. He was not new to law enforcement or the hill. For 10 years he had been employed by the county on snow removal crews. When he was 19 he had been a sheriff’s deputy. Truckee was in the Nevada County patrol area and Charles McKean was the first resident officer there. One day a week Haines included Truckee in his beat area. In 1938 or ’39 Truckee was transferred to the Auburn Patrol Area. Patrol cars were not radio equipped until the late ’30s when receivers only were installed. Prior to that time, the officers had regular check points. In Colfax they signed in at the Colfax Hotel. If someone had left a call for them, a red flag was displayed. The patrol had no specific schedule for the men. They spent a minimum of 48 hours on the road and were subject to call out at any hour. Pay for overtime did not begin until July of 1963. Eventually a system of compensating time off to balance overtime was developed. It has been estimated that hundreds of thousands of man hours had been donated by men of the patrol. Rob Shelton was the first resident officer at Colfax and Melvin Shear was the second. Baxter eventually became a three-man resident post and Weimar and Tahoe also received resident officers. Alta substation was established in 1957 with a strength of four officers. This abolished the above mentioned resident officer’s posts. A house leased at Alta for use as a substation was used for five years. The new building at Gold Run went into use in the spring of 1964. Life on the patrol in the early days was rugged but certainly never dull. In 1936 four juveniles robbed a theater in Monterey. They abandoned their car at the Pioneer Garage which was located at the top of airport grade near Blue Canyon. Haines was notified by the sheriff. He drove as far as he could in the snow and walked the rest of the way. He apprehended the boys as they played penny poker in the Emigrant Gap Hotel. Their suitcase contained $4,500 of the take. Haines became Lt. Haines and was in charge of the rescue operations when the “City of San Francisco” train became stranded near Yuba Gap during the storm of 1952. Base of rescue operations was the Colfax Depot.