Raid On Stockton
The date was set: September 21, 1958.
Official fliers were sent out.
Everything was readied.
EVERYONE in San Francisco and throughout the surrounding areas wore their “SCHARGE” buttons, business executives, construction workers, and cab drivers alike.
Only one question remained: “Will Sherwood Show?” Indeed he did!
On September 21, Marshal Don and General Hap accompanied the flyboys — 163 airplanes — to Stockton’s airport. As Hap’s air force neared Stockton, the Air National Guard out of Hayward joined up with them, flying in formation.
After landing in Stockton, Sherwood and Harper boarded their Sherman tank.
Other members of the aerial invasion were transported in the nearly two hundred cars that Bob Cole and Gene Babow had arranged for. The “fleet” of two boats was a little late-it arrived the following day. It was a matter of tiny motors and too many miles.
Lon Simmons, a well-known sportscaster who had recently joined the KSFO team, reported the siege for all the listeners who couldn’t play hooky:
As the troops make their way into town, there are still skirmishes on the outskirts of the city … Marshal Sherwood and General Harper’s tank is now rolling down Main Street. The crowds have parted like the Red Sea and line the streets, wildly cheering, waving flags and handkerchiefs. It is a proud moment for the Liberation Army as they come to a halt in the Stockton Civic Square … It is a tense moment, ladies and gentlemen.
The dignified city officials stand at attention and bravely face their conquerors … Gallantly dressed in their flamboyant uniforms and brightly colored ostrich-feathered hats — despite oppressive heat, Marshal Sherwood and General Harper stride, with sabers glistening in the sunlight, towards the table prepared for the signing … All parties are seated. Marshal Sherwood passes the document to General Harper for review … Marshal Sherwood has now taken pen in hand. The crowd whispers amongst themselves. Ladies and gentlemen, the peace treaty has been signed! An unconditional surrender! They are all shaking hands. This is a momentous occasion…
The last of Lon Simmons’ report was lost over the airwaves as a Stockton menace pulled the plug.
Before the ink could dry on the historic peace document, a pigeon flew over, dropping its mark … Splat!
So much for the peace treaty.
“Do you think he’s trying to tell us something?” Don asked Hap.
The Sherwood invasion of Stockton was enough to interest Time magazine.
In their profile of Don that September, they noted, “He is the highest-paid record spinner on the West Coast and the electronic darling of the Bay Area … Last week signing a contract that will boost his yearly take past the $100,000 mark.”
Question: What was Sherwood’s invasion of Stockton all about?
Answer: Sherwood borrowed from Shakespeare — it was much ado about nothing.
POSTSCRIPT: Hap Harper (BARHOF ’07), the world’s first airborne traffic reporter, passed away on October 4, 2006, at the age of 81. Hap had retired from radio in 1991 after working at KSFO, where he began his broadcasting career with a significant boost from Don Sherwood, and later at KFRC, KNBR and the combined KSFO/KYA-FM. On the occasion of Sherwood’s death in 1983, Hap reminisced on the air with Buddy Hatton and Aaron Edwards of KSFO about his old friend and their fabled raid on Stockton:
For more about Don Sherwood,
including archival broadcast recordings,
please visit DonnieBabe.com
The Bay Area Radio Museum thanks Laurie Harper, author of
“Don Sherwood: The Life and Times of The World’s Greatest Disc Jockey,”
for generously granting permission to reprint this excerpt.
The book and this excerpt are copyright © 1989 by Laurie Harper.
All rights reserved.
Photographs courtesy of Hap Harper.