Monday, May 7, 2018

Death At Lodi Lake

Lodi Lake, Lodi, California

June 8, 1952 was supposed to be a fun filled day at Lodi Lake for a parent sponsored party of 70 people, mostly students from Stockton High School, who were there for a party for their beloved band director, Bruce Hubbard who was leaving to take a new assignment in Monterey. Stockton High School administration had previously refused permission the week prior, so parents took it upon themselves to plan the party and carry it out. 

What should have been a picnic enjoyed by all, turned into a tragedy. Though park officials stated that every person who rented out a boat that day were warned not to get their crafts too close to the dam, it appears some teenagers didn't heed that message. Perhaps the two young men were too preoccupied with impressing their dates who accompanied them on the boat ride, but for whatever reasons, they ventured farther than they were supposed to.

Bud Kilburn (left)
Stockton High Yearbook '52

Bud Kilburn, 15,  Walter Christiansen, 15, Jacquelyn Scott, 14, and Joan Potter, 14, were enjoying their ride across the lake when the boat got too close to the dam at Woodbridge (the area where the fish ladder is), and the swift waters capsized the boat, sending its passengers off into the water. 

The Sheriff's office later explained that Bud Kilburn's statement was that he had been "attempting to turn the outboard-motored craft around when the current caught the boat broadside and dashed it against the concrete dam."

According to the Lodi News-Sentinel dated June 9, 1952, it stated "a six-inch margin made futile the rescue attempt of John Hollis Bible, 49, a vacationist stopping at Payne's Auto Court, Woodbridge. The Niland taxi operator said he was reaching for the black-haired head of the girl believed to be Joanne [SIC] Potter when both were dashed against boarding under the east support of the Woodbridge Road bridge."

He concluded that he had seen the bobbing head of one of the girls in the water and he tried to get down stream in order to intercept her. Sadly the currents pulled her faster than he could get to her. He said he could tell she had a bloody nose and above her left eye was an injury but that she kept attempting to keep her head above water until she hit the bridge. 

Stockton High
School Yearbook '53

The currents that day were considered "icy" which were said to have been around 6-8 miles per hour, which swept Joan and Jacquelyn under and sucked them in.  Other rescuers listed were W.L Pruett of Woodbridge who used his cherry harness to pull one of the boys out of the water. Eldon Snodgrass of Woodbridge grabbed the other boy by sticking his legs out into the water so the young man could grab on, which saved his life.

In the end, Bud Kilburn and Walter Christiansen were the only ones pulled out of the water alive. It took days before Sheriff's deputies were able to recover the bodies of Joan and Jacquelyn from the Mokelumne River. 

Jacquelyn Scott's parents were notified first. Mrs. Scott then called Mrs. Potter, Joan's mother, but failed to tell her that her daughter had died as well. Mrs. Potter traveled up to Woodbridge to pick up her daughter, thinking only Jacquelyn had passed away, only to find out that both girls had drowned. According to the newspaper, Mrs. Scott was not aware that Joan had died, and thus the confusion in communication between the parents. 

Jacquelyn Dee Scott was born on September 4, 1937, to Mr. and Mrs. Robert Owens Scott. Mr. Scott was a long time principal at McKinley Elementary School in Stockton.  She is interred at Casa Bonita Mausoleum in Stockton (North Wing, 2nd floor, West Wall).

Joan Potter was born on December 22, 1937, to parents Frederick K. Potter and Ethyle N. Oakes Potter. Joan is buried at Park View Cemetery in Manteca with the rest of her family.

Joan was a member of Mr. Hubbard's band along with band mate, Bud Kilburn.  More than likely Jacquelyn and Walter were their invited guests.  

I was able to get photographs of Jacquelyn, Joan, Walter and Bud because of my amazing fiance' Roland who was able to work his magic and locate the 1952 & 1953 yearbooks for Stockton High School out of his collection.  

According to the 1953 yearbook, Walter went on to graduate from the school, and planned to be a salesman. 

I couldn't find Bud Kilburn anywhere, which made me wonder if he transferred to another high school, given the fact that he was the one manning the boat that crashed and ultimately took the lives of two girls. The school took it pretty hard, and they even wrote a memorial for them in the '53 yearbook. 

Upon further researching into the other yearbooks, it turns out that Bud Kilburn graduated from Stockton High in '52. 

Back then Stockton used the 6-4-2 program where kids went 6 years to elementary, 4 years to middle school and two years (Junior and Senior) at the campus of the University of the Pacific. So Stockton High Students were attending the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th grades, and Bud Kilburn was a graduate of the 10th grade that summer.

If you ever visit Lodi Lake, besides enjoying the beautiful serenity of the water, the trees and all that surrounds it, please take one second out of  your day and remember what happened to those two young women that day. A day that was supposed to be a warm, sunny summer day at the lake that turned into a day of tragedy for everyone involved.

In Memorium Photo; Stockton High School Yearbook '53

(Copyright, 2018- J'aime Rubio

Lodi News Sentinel (6/9/1952)
Stockton High School Yearbooks 1952, 1953 (Roland Boulware)

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