People had often wondered what the story was behind the National Honor Certificate for Heroic Action award displayed in the old city hall. It was for stopping a runaway trolley car on April 3, 1930 in Richmond by Arthur R. McCarty. His picture was displayed for years in the old City of El Cerrito Council Chambers. It was presented to the city by El Cerrito councilmen, J. R. Beck, H. M. Nissen, P. A. Lee, E. E. O'Brien, and Peter Larsen.
Arthur McCarty lived with his parents, Mr. And Mrs. Dick McCarty, at 7517 Terrace Drive in El Cerrito. He was a member of Scout Troop No. 1, which was sponsored by the El Cerrito Lions Club.
It seems that Julius J. Miller, a shop worker for the Key System Transit Company, had stopped his streetcar the morning of April 30th, at Twenty Third Street and Pullman Avenue in Richmond, the beginning of the single track, to permit a northbound streetcar to pass. As the other streetcar passed, Miller was gazing at his trolley, according to the motorman of the northbound streetcar, which was pulling a trailer, (second car). It is believed that Miller may have backed into the trailer as he looked at the trolley. A few moments later a school bus halted at the Southern Pacific Railroad crossing and some of the children noticed Miller lying in the street. McCarty, then 14 years of age, jumped from the school bus and went to the aid of the injured man. [Editor's note: Pullman Avenue is now known as Carlson Boulevard.)
A. R. Parks, a passing truck driver, and McCarty assisted Miller and walked him to the front steps of the streetcar where he seated himself. Miller informed McCarty and Parks that he was injured and could not continue on the car. He asked them to go the Key System car barn a few blocks away and report the accident. Just a few moments later when McCarty and Parks started to leave they heard the streetcar moving and turned to see Miller's crushed body under the car. With the streetcar rapidly gaining headway, McCarty tried to overtake it, but could not.
He flagged down the car of Mrs. Fay Stallard who was driving by. Mrs. Stallard and McCarty raced south on Pullman Avenue passing the streetcar on its way to the busy crossing on Cutting Boulevard. There McCarty dismounted and posted himself warning the pedestrians that the car was runaway. He then removed his coat and at top speed was barely able to swing himself aboard. He applied the airbrakes as he had seen the motorman do before. With the motors stalled by the set brakes, but power still on, the car's resistance plates heated and flared up. Mr. P. A. Icardo pulled the trolley cord, but it was too late to prevent the car from burning. A few moments later a northbound streetcar pulled up and one had to wonder what would have happened if McCarty had not stopped the runaway. There probably would have been a head-on collision and the possibility of lives being lost.
Arthur McCarty was rewarded by a check for his heroic action from the Key System Transit and the National Boy Scout Council, at a meeting in New York, voted to award him the National Heroism Citation Certificate. A Boy Scout National Court of Honor was held in the county courtroom of Superior Court Judge A. B. McKenzie honoring McCarty. He was also honored with a luncheon held at Manny's Place in El Cerrito given by the El Cerrito Lions Club, who sponsored his scout troop.
This is the reason that his picture was honored and displayed in the old El Cerrito city hall as El Cerrito was proud to say Arthur McCarty was "one of our boys". Arthur married and moved to Oregon with his wife and two children. His mother, Grace, also moved to Oregon. His brother, Jack, lived at his home on Elm Court.
Copyright Mervin Belfils, October 1975
PO Box 304, El Cerrito, CA 94530