Imperial Beach’s First And Forgotten Aviator

Part 3

In his youth, Charlie Walsh “took a lively interest in clean sport. He pitched ball for the ‘Yellow Kids’ of whom his brother, R. J. Walsh, was manager.”

The Yellow Kids were a baseball team named after the famous comic strip character of the 1890s, “The Yellow Kid.” Walsh “won a fifteen-inning errorless contest from the San Diego Giants,” the African American San Diego Baseball Team. “He could deliver as speedy a ball and with as sharp a curve with either hand. Charley was interested in mechanics and started a bicycle business, which did not pan-out. He angered his father when he hitchhiked to Los Angeles looking for work and did odd jobs while graduating from a course in Stationary Engineering…landing work as a steam engineer at California General Hospital in Los Angeles.”

“One warm summer day he spotted a pretty and sassy young student nurse, Alice Connelly. Sure now an’ that was a beautiful Irish name and the emerald of love started to glisten.” September 23, 1903, they married.

By 1904, the couple moved to Winslow, Arizona Territory, where Walsh worked for Union Pacific Railroad. Finding that he would have to work for years in apprenticeship before he could command a train, he had a “brief temper flare, picked up and moved back to Los Angeles. An oil refinery liked his quiet but determined spirit, and hired him as a field engineer around the oil rich Dominguez flatlands.”

Gold was flowing in Goldfield, Nevada. Alice contacted her brother, Tim Connelly, “known from the Alaskan Klondike to Sutter’s Strike,” to see if it might be worth the move. “Tim, a big, burly, two fisted Irishman replied that there was gold all right and he was on his way.” Charley, Alice, her sister, and brother-in-law joined him.

Life was hard in tent homes. “Charley operated and repaired hoists and mine carts used to move men and gold from deep in the earth. He was happy to use his engineering skills. He earned $10 a day and Alice made $8 at the post office. “This was exceptionally good money… they pooled their earnings together and bought stocks and bonds in newly established gold mining companies.” The area grew rapidly, and soon was the largest town in the state with about 20,000 people.

For a sense of place, in January 1905, while the Walsh family lived there, Virgil Earp was hired as Sheriff. His gunshot wound from the O.K. Corral cost him the use of his left arms, so he carried a “brake top revolver which could be reloaded with one hand.” His brother Wyatt visited that February and then returned to Los Angeles. That same year, Charley and Alice learned she was with child. With better medical facilities in mind, they also returned to Los Angeles. October 22, 1905, Walter Kenneth Walsh, a red-head like his dad, was born. 

The little family quickly returned to Goldfield. “This time living was going to be easier in the remote desert area. They were loaded down with staples such as flour, sugar, salt, coffee, fried beef and warm clothing.” Within two-weeks Charley was building a house of adobe-bricks. April 22, 1907, Juanita Enola Walsh was born at Goldfield, with the help of a Spanish friend, Juanita. The baby was named in her honor. On January 15, 1909, a third child, Charles Edward Walsh was born, and that same day, passed.

Banking troubles and union clashes led to the end of Goldfield. The military was called in. Charley and his family headed back to San Diego. “The old Walsh homestead at 17th and K… stood proud, almost like a beacon for the dejected young couple.”

Charlie worked as a hotel elevator operator. “Alice remarked, That‘s befitting, it‘s the story of our life, just like an elevator, up and down.” She had no idea how up-and-down their life would become.

Special thanks to Bill Swank, San Diego Baseball Historian.

Next: Charlie Flies...

(1) comment

Amanda Walters

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