I wrote this in 2001.
Prominent oil executive’s son collides with irate chauffeur
During Prohibition it was common knowledge that the Peninsula’s wealtheir residents kept vst stocks of fine wines and imported whiskies in secure vaults, and it was no secret that Capt. Barneson’s inventory was among the best.
When rumors spread that an afternoon blaze was about to “lick up” Barneson’s illicit treasure at his beautiful San Mateo County home, volunteer fire fighters piled into automobiles, hopped onto motorcycles and rushed to the scene.
The fire fighters broke all previous records in the dash from San Mateo to the Barneson home. It was clear they were motivated by their civic duty to protect life and property.
“It was not every day that the populace of San Mateo was given an opportunity to aid in the saving of a vast store of liquor such as was reported to be housed at the Barneson county residence,” said one newspaper.
When the firefighters got there, they found nothing ablaze. The alarm was due to a defective flue on the upper floor of the Barneson home. How disappointed they were to discover that Captain Barneson’s liquor stock, valued at $50,000, remained safe in the fire-and-burglar-proof vaults in a sub-basement.
They went home sober and sad.
When Captain John Barneson passed away in Hillsborough in 1941, this son of a Scottish ship owner was heralded as one of the pioneers in the development of California’s petroleum industry. But on that Sunday in 1912, when frightened by his son’s automobile accident in San Mateo, he reacted like any other father.