Old Town Tustin is an Architectural Adventure

by Juanita Lovret
Reprinted courtesy of the Tustin News

Police Chief John Stanton and City Councilman Charlie Logan

THE FORCE: Police Chief John Stanton and City Councilman Charlie Logan
 stand beside Stantonís personal car, which served as Tustinís police vehicle
for years on the one-man force.

Quiet little Tustin was a place where everyone felt safe and no one locked their doors. But after it incorporated as a city on Sept. 15, 1927, the newly elected city council felt that as a city, Tustin should have a police force.

In January 1928 they hired John L. Stanton, a Huntington Beach policeman, to form a police department. Starting with the title street superintendent, Stanton became chief of police after two months, working for $45 a month.

The chief of police had a title, but little else. There was no police department building and no police car. The 1910 Craftsman-style house which Stanton and his wife, Kathryn, moved into at 515 W. Third St. served as the police station with their personal telephone doubling as the police department communication system . Stantonís personal car was the official police vehicle while he was on duty.

Changes came as Stanton continued to be Tustinís one man police department for the next 14 years. The city council authorized purchase of a police car. Eventually space for a police department and city hall was rented on Main Street. Stanton worked alone until the city approved hiring a night patrolman in 1942.

To be sure that Stanton was kept busy, he was appointed to serve as inspector of buildings, plumbing and electrical installation in addition to being chief of police. There is no record of his salary at that time, but because the new night patrolman was hired at $125 a month, it seems likely that his salary had been increased.

Stanton continued to do double duty until George Broomell took over as city building inspector. He then became business license collector as well a chief of police. In 1948 the city hired a third officer on a six-month trial basis and later made him permanent.

While on duty, Big John, as he became known because of his 6-5 frame, usually parked on Main by the side entrance to the drug store at the intersection of D (El Camino Real) and Main, ready to chase any motorist speeding or failing to stop at the intersection. D Street was part of California State Highway 101 at that time, connecting with Laguna Road and serving as the main route south with heavy traffic, especially on weekends.

Big John became a legend during the war years. Marines from El Toro delighted in trying to outsmart him. A favorite tale, true or not, tells how a couple of guys distracted him while several others secured the rear bumper of his squad car to a tree, then laughed uproariously when he tried to take off after a third prankster racing through town at high speed.

While Marines might tease him, local teenagers had a healthy respect for his law and order.
One encounter with him was enough. Seldom did he have to get on their case a second time.
Stanton retired as Tustin began to grow after World War II.

He probably never dreamed that the tiny police department which he inaugurated would grow to nearly 100 sworn police officers and 55 civilian support personnel, or that the city of Tustin would cover approximately 12.3 square miles with a population of over 70,000.

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