Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Clayton Stratton

Clayton Stratton was born and raised in the Port Angeles area in the state of Washington. His father was white and his mother, native Indian. Clayton left school in the tenth grade and worked a variety of jobs for the next few years, which included truck driving, bartending, bouncer, fisherman and merchant seaman. While working as a seaman, he got involved in labour affairs as a member of the Seafarers International Union.

Stratton was a big man - 6 feet, 3 inches tall and weighed 280 pounds - and he used his muscle to become a "Union Goon".

In 1949, there was labour unrest in Vancouver. Stratton accompanied the Seattle SIU president to Canada in order to help settle the dispute. Vancouver union men remember that during his visit here, Stratton carried a gun tucked into his waistband. The administrator of the SIU in Montreal, Hal Banks, gave Statton the 9mm automatic.

1949 was the year it was rumoured that the SIU paid Stratton to beat up a shipyard rigger in Seattle by the name of John Mahoney. Mahoney was beaten severely enough to be hospitalized, he claimed Stratton and two ex-wrestlers were his assailants. Charges were never laid.

Clayton married a Vancouver woman in 1951 but they separated soon after she gave birth to a child. He returned to Washington State and worked for six months as a Deputy Sheriff in Callum Bay. He gained a reputation as a bully and a braggart. He was fired for smashing up a police vehicle.

When Statton's bail was paid in Vancouver, he again returned to Callum Bay. He bragged to his friends that he had been paid to 'beat up on a picket' and flashed the roll of cash he was paid to do so.

During the next two weeks, he made inquiries about obtaining some dynamite and fuses as well as purchasing a pistol. He tested the pistol on the beach near his father's home. After Stratton's demise, police searched the beach, recovering spent shell casings. These were sent to Vancouver where a ballistic examination confirmed they were fired from the same gun used to kill Stratton.

Early in March, Stratton and his girlfriend, Nancy Morrison, drove to Vancouver by way of Seattle. Morrison asked Clayton what he was going to do in Vancouver and he told her,

"This guy's going to give me a roll to put a bullet in a guy's leg and cripple him up a little." Nancy was used to her boyfriend's bragging and thought it was another one of his stories.

 I want to thank the book Policebeat, 24 Vancouver Murders and the author Joe Swann for the information above.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Monday, May 25, 2015

The Union Goon

On March 7, 1962 a man by the name of Gustav Strathie was cooking his evening meal in his home at 719 Homer Street.

Gustav was a bachelor at 62 years old. He had never married and lived in the same house he was born in. His mother died some years before.

Strathie was able to live on a small, regular income he received from the sale of some property his mother had left him.

While waiting for his dinner, there was knock on the door and when Strathie answered it, he saw two men standing on his doorstep.

One of the men had a pistol in his hand and as soon as Gustav opened the door, he pushed his way in and began hitting Strathie on the head with the gun butt. Strathie was pushed back the length of the front hall, pistol-whipped the entire time until he was prevented from going any further by the hall-stand.  The man with the gun swung at Gustav's head once more but missed and got the older man in the chest.

Gustav's back was pressed against the hall-stand, his face was bleeding. In desperation, he grabbed hold of the gun butt and got his finger on the trigger and... pulled.

The gun fired and the attacker released his grip on the barrel, sliding to the floor. Gustav stood with the gun in his hand.

The other man rushed at Gustav so he raised the gun and fired again. This time, he missed and the bullet shattered the glass in the front door. The would be assailant turned and ran.

Now alone, Gustav began to shake uncontrollably. His face was numb from the beating, his clothes covered with blood. Once he regained some of his composure, he turned on a light and looked at the man he shot. The guy was still alive so he asked him,

"Who the hell are you, anyway?" There was no reply.

Gustav went out on the porch, gun still in hand, and asked a passer-by to call the police and an ambulance. When they arrived, the man was dead. Strathie was taken to a hospital for treatment and, after he made a statement, was taken into custody pending further investigation into the matter.

Meanwhile the dead man's wallet was looked through and he was identified as Clayton Stratton - the man who hit Ronald Clark.

Thanks to the book Policebeat, 24 Vancouver Murders by Joe Swan for the above information. Wednesday, I will tell you more about Stratton.

I hope you find the beauty around you.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Union Unrest

It was early in 1962 and the Vancouver Local of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union was involved in a contract dispute with its employers. The union members set up picket lines at various locations throughout the city.

However, the Teamsters Union refused to honour those picket lines so the R.W.D.S.U. picketed the Teamsters Hall at 400 East Broadway. To add more to this contentious mix, the Seafarers International Union, led by Hal Banks in Toronto, was facing a threat from a new union, the Canadian Maritime Union. They had just opened its charter and were stealing members from the SIU.

There were monthly meetings for the SIU Port Agents in Teamsters Hall and one was scheduled for February 8, 1962. Even though the hall was behind picket lines, the meeting was going on as planned.

It was 11:15 am and Ronald Clark was on picket duty outside the front doors of the hall. Two men approached to enter and Clark told the men the building was being picketed. Without warning, the larger of the two men punched him in the face. Clark went down, striking his head on the sidewalk.

Naturally, the police were called and Clark, with a bleeding cut to the back of his head and a split lip, told the officers what happened and gave them a description of his assailants.

The police proceeded into the hall and found the two men fitting Clark's description of his attackers in the coffee shop. The suspect identified himself as 42-year-old Clayton Stratton, an American and a member of Seattle SIU.

Stratton admitted hitting Clark. "He tried to stop me going in so I dropped him." His version was confirmed by the second man, Roderick Heinekey, a SIU Port Agent in Vancouver.

The police officers went back to Clark and told him the procedure for laying charges against Stratten and Heinekey before leaving to attend to their other duties.

Later that day, picketers saw Stratten and Heinekey leave the Union Hall as passengers in a Cadillac driven by Teamster's business agent, Allen  Barnes.

That evening, Stratten was arrested by police and charged with assault causing bodily harm.

Bail was set at $500 on the following day. He was released when the bail was paid by Heinekey.

Tune in on Monday. There is a murder about to happen!

Thanks to the book Policebeat 24 Vancouver Murders by Joe Swan.

I hope you find the beauty around you.