Lue S. Birch
Interviewed by Jordan Chavez
16 July 2013
Oral History Program
Weber State University
Lue S. Birch
16 July 2013
Copyright © 2014 by Weber State University, Stewart Library
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It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:
Birch, Lue, an oral history by Jordan Chavez,
16 July 2013, WSU Stewart Library Oral
History Program, Special Collections,
Stewart Library, Weber State University,
Lue S. Birch
July 16, 2013
Abstract: The following is an oral history interview with Lue Birch. The interview was
conducted on July 16, 2013, by Jordan Chavez and Lorrie Rands. Lue discusses
his experiences with 25th street.
JC: I am Jordan Chavez and I’m sitting here with Mr. Lue Birch on July 16, 2013, at
3:00 p.m. here in his home. We are going to be talking about your life as a police
officer here in Ogden.
JC: Did you grow up in Ogden?
LB: No, I was born in Idaho.
JC: When did you move?
LB: My family moved to Ogden when I was eight years old.
JC: You joined the police force in 1949. What was Ogden City like then and did your
beat include 25th Street?
LB: Ogden had a lot of crime, mostly burglaries, but 25th Street was really rough. It
was that way mainly due to the prostitution there. We walked the police beat back
then, checking buildings throughout the city. We did so much walking we
practically wore the sidewalks out! My partner and I cleared up 142 burglaries in
three months and put 32 burglars down at the point of the mountain—I’m not
bragging, that’s the truth!
For five years I walked the beat and then they decided to put officers in cars
because they could get around much faster and curb the crime a lot better in cars
than they could walking. One of the drawbacks of walking the beat was some
criminals would watch the policeman on his beat and find out what his habits were
and then make their move. By the time the officer got back to square one, they
would have the burglary done and would be gone. They couldn’t do that as easily
with officers patrolling in cars.
Later I suggested that having two officers per car was a waste of
manpower. I explained that it would cost the department two more cars, but that
we would have better coverage of the city with four officers in four cars covering
each corner of the city. If an officer needed backup they could get it in 2 ½
minutes by one of the other officers.
JC: That is pretty good time. That’s incredible actually. Seems like a very impressive
rate that you and your partner had with clearing the street in such a short amount
LB: Yeah, some of the crooks were even coming down here from Montana. They
would have somebody case the area, come in and hit the jobs, and then head
back to Montana, but we were able to run them right out of Ogden.
LR: What are some of your memories of being a patrolman and 25th Street?
LB: I can tell you a lot of crazy stories and things that happened while I patrolled 25th
Street. I was involved in the cleaning up of the “houses of ill fame.” Sometimes
we would sit in the main lobbies of some of the business to cut down on their
business. A lot of the people that frequented these businesses would hear that we
were sitting in the lobbies and would sneak in and out the back, to save their
reputation. One night we arrested 35 people in a particular cathouse. The
Madame would always try to give the on-duty officers coffee, cake, or liquor. I
would always refuse. I told her “I don’t drink coffee, I don’t drink liquor, and I’m
skeptical on who made the cake!” I would never accept anything from them,
knowing that they were wanting me to compromise my duty as an officer, in
exchange for their gratuities.
We arrested a Madame one time and were booking her into jail. She had
rings on all of her fingers and the jewelry that she was wearing was documented at
$40,000 dollars alone. She was worried that she would not get all of her jewelry
back when she was released. I assured her that she would, but to be sure we
would put it all into an envelope, seal it, and she could write her name along the
flap, where the flap meets the envelope. That way she would know if the signature
had been disturbed, the jewelry had been tampered with. When she was released
her signature on the envelope was as she had written it and all of her jewelry was
intact. After we cleaned up that particular group they headed for either Reno or
Las Vegas because prostitution was legal there.
There was one hustler that we nicknamed “Walk Your Dog” because he
would be seen sometimes walking 15 dogs at once! He would walk the dogs of
the prostitutes while they were “working.”
One time I was walking the beat and I could smell something. There was a
man smoking and I yelled, “Put that cigarette out!” I had smelled gas fumes and
noticed that there was a gas leak on 25th Street and Lincoln. It turned out to be a
big gas main that was leaking. Had I not been walking the beat, smelled the
fumes, and noticed the guy smoking, there may have been a major explosion.
I also remember getting on some of the elevators in a few places around
town, like the Wilson Rooms, the Calico Cat, or the Rose Rooms and they would
smell of marijuana. As an interesting sideline, Rose Davies, owner of the Rose
Rooms, owned a cheetah as a pet.
We knew this guy that had a wooden leg. You could find him everywhere
around town and he was always drunk. Usually if someone had passed out or
was sleeping you could tap on their leg and it would wake them up. One night I
was going around tapping some of the drunk patrons on the leg to wake them up
and when I got to this particular man some of the other officers started to laugh
because they knew I would never be able to wake up this guy, by tapping him on
the leg, because he was the guy with the wooden leg!
Then there was a judge by the name of Judge J. Quail Nebeker that we
would come up against every now and then. He would be for the bad guys instead
of on the side of the law. We would arrest the winos and he would say “Five or
ten?” which would mean five days in jail or $10 and then he would let the offender
back out on the street. We started to take the crooks to South Ogden because the
judge there would hand down a real sentence. You know, we would hardly ever
see the crook again after he had served the real sentence given out by the South
Ogden judge instead of the “five or ten” sentence.
Well, 25th Street was pretty rough. Sometimes you were forced to use your
brawn instead of your brain, but I loved my job working with the kids and the safety
program even better than being an officer on the beat.
I worked with the school kids in the safety program for 15 years. I would
visit the elementary schools and if it was recess or lunchtime, I couldn’t get down
the hallway. The kids would mob me. I have a picture in my scrapbook that
shows a little kid grabbing me by the leg. Often a teacher or the principal would
have to come out and rescue me. The kids always wanted to talk to Officer Birch,
but then being in the safety program you have to practice what you preach
because the kids are always watching you. One day I was crossing the street kitty
corner and I heard this little voice behind me say, “Officer Birch, you’re jay-walking.”
I said, “I’m sorry, I forgot. I’m glad you reminded me.” I went back and
crossed the street the right way. Then the little girl said, “I didn’t want to see you
get hurt.” Boy, those kids are so great. If you want the truth, ask a child.
JC: Yeah, kids are very honest.
LB: Yes, they are.
LR: How did you get involved with the safety program?
LB: Chief Shaw was having problems with kids getting hurt in the schools. He wanted
to get the kids to and from school safely. He asked me if I thought I could take
over the program and make it work. So, I wrote the guidelines for the state of Utah
and it spread all over the United States. It was basically a program used by police
to build safety awareness among children. The safety program would later change
and go on to be known as McGruff the Crime Dog.
Anyway, when I was in charge of the safety program I would go to the
schools and teach children how to be safe. Sometimes it would be with a film to
show the kids how to cross the street, bicycle safety, hand signals—anything to
get the kids to think about safety. I just taught plain stuff and I would give it to the
We had bicycle programs that taught safety and agility on a bicycle. We
had one where we would blindfold the rider of the bicycle. We would then put a
cardboard box on the grass. The rest of the children would start clapping as the
rider came toward the box. If he got off course the kids would stop clapping.
Once he was back on course they would start clapping again and lead him right to
the box. This one little boy told me “Officer Birch, you know that bicycle safety
program we had at the park where we had to get to the box?” I said, “Yes.” He
said, “It saved my life. I was riding my bike down Jefferson and 24th Street and a
car took the back fender off my bicycle. When it honked I knew exactly where it
was so I pulled off to the side and it just took the back fender off my bike, rather
than hitting me.” I said, “Boy, that’s really great!”
We held bicycle rodeos and also had bike inspections where we would
teach kids how to tighten loose parts on their bicycles. We would schedule dates
at each park and then the kids in that area would attend them. The kids loved it
and so did we.
Then in the schools we got the little safety badges for the Triple A Safety
Kids. I would go to the schools and swear in the safety patrol students that would
be responsible for helping other children cross the street. I would swear them in
just like a police officer and would teach them how to keep the children on the curb
until the traffic was clear and then help them across the street. The kids really
Then through the Chevrolet Company we started a green flag program. As
long as the school didn’t have any accidents during the month they could fly the
green flag in front of their school. It was an incentive for them to constantly think
about safety. Children would come up to me and say, “We’re flying the green
flag!” That program was really great.
At the end of the year Lagoon would give us free tickets for each of the
safety patrols. We had about 160 of them. We would take them all to Lagoon. It
was the highlight of the year. Area businesses would donate hotdogs, hamburger
for sloppy joes, money—anything they could to help with the Lagoon safety patrol
picnic each year.
One year, I was able to get five buses and took the safety patrol to
Hardware Ranch. I tried to give them an outing to compensate for the work they
put in on the corners helping other children cross the street on their way to and
from school. That’s what I miss the most—the kids, but I guess I had 15 whole
years of that.
JC: Tell me about Marshall White.
LB: Marshal White? He was Detective Sergeant Marshall White, the best shot on the
Pistol Team. He and I were hunting and fishing buddies. He was a great person
and a good friend of mine.
We called him “Doc.” He was trained as a Podiatrist, a foot doctor, but
since he was black only the poor and people who couldn’t pay would go to him, so
he joined the police force.
JC: Were you there when he died?
LB: I wasn’t with him when he was shot, but I was with him the night he passed away.
JC: What happened?
LB: He had gone out on a call to arrest a 16 year-old boy that had escaped from the
State Industrial School and the kid shot him. I wasn’t on the call with him but a few
days later in the hospital I told him, “Doc, you’re going to get better, you’re going to
get out of here and we’re going to go fishing and hunting again.” He said, “Lue, I
don’t think so, I’m hit too hard.” An hour and a half later he passed away. He was
a wonderful person. I sure liked him. He was only 54 years old.
LR: I have a question for you. You mentioned last time I was here, that 25th Street
didn’t have tunnels, but you had a story.
LB: I only knew of one tunnel on 25th Street. You had to go through a tavern on 25th
and Lincoln, right under where Willie Moore has his barbershop, and then you
would go down to this tunnel that had a lock on the outside. When you passed
through the door there was another lock on the inside. The tunnel ran under two
buildings and they would hold the Chinese lottery in there.
LR: I have one last question and it kind of starts back at the beginning. What
prompted you to become a police officer?
LB: I worked at the Defense Depot Ogden (DDO) before World War II, making $.86
cents an hour. After serving in the war, I came back to DDO where they held a job
for me. I was now a hearse driver helping with the repatriation of the World War II
dead. We brought back 2,400 dead, to the area, to their place of origin following
the war. After that, I went to work for the Ogden City police force. I was making
$222 dollars a month when I first joined the force.
I became a police officer because I wanted to be on the outside looking in—
not on the inside of a jail cell looking out. I wanted to be on the right side of the
law. I felt influential in the lives of kids. I would teach them about safety and they
would listen. I’m sure that saved a few lives.
I still enjoy hearing from students that remember me as Officer Friendly or
Officer Birch. A couple of years ago when I was attending my great-grandson’s
high school football game a current police officer recognized me and came up to
me and said he became an officer because of my influence. That really makes me
LR: Do you have any other comments to add about 25th Street or anything else we’ve
LB: Well, I think I’ve about run out of gas and that’s a lot of gas too!
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