Way Back When: Our Musical Comedy Jail

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Way Back When: Our Musical Comedy Jail
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Harry Anderson didn’t have to be Harry Houdini in order to break out of the Santa Barbara jail (Image: New York Public Library)

By Betsy J. Green

Jail is not supposed to be a joke, but when a petty prisoner dug his way out of our city’s pokey (with his fingernails!) back in October 1919, it was pretty comical for a while. A local journalist had fun telling the story.

“Inside, everything was gloomy and dull and stupid. Outside, the sunshine was bright and warm and everything. And Harry Anderson, accused of burglary, was inside when he wanted most of all to be outside.

“Harry is accused of being a good breaker-in, but little was known of his ability as a breaker-out until yesterday. He proved to be as good at one as the other, for he scooped out the plaster with his fingers, bit out a couple of saplings and shimmied through the opening between the ceiling and the roof, finally emerging through a manhole.” After a brief foray in the great outdoors, Harry was apprehended and placed in a safe-deposit vault.


Betsy's Way Back When book -- 1918 -- is now available in local bookstores and at Amazon.com. This is the fifth book in her series of the history of Santa Barbara, one year at a time. Learn more at betsyjgreen.com​

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a-1574297619 Oct 19, 2019 06:24 PM
Way Back When: Our Musical Comedy Jail

My favorite jailbreak story involved dental floss. Lots and lots of dental floss. The guy used it to make a rope. Don't recall all the details and I semi-remember the rope helped the guy get up over a wall.

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