Posted in Montclair, Oakland, People

Living Double-Lives in Montclair

A couple of years ago someone in a Facebook group I belong to asked if anyone else remembered a story or rumor that went around Montclair in the mid-50s. It was a story about a guy the ran repair shop on La Salle Ave who was a spy for the American Government or something like that. It took me a while but I found it.

Undercover Agent – Asked to Join

Wilmington Daily Press Apr 23 1953

The tall shapely women said she joined the Communist Party after an FBI agent approached her and said:

Would you like to do this? There will be nothing it for you, but you would be doing your country a great service.

San Francisco Examiner April 1953



Joins Party to Help FBI in Roundup of Subversives

The tall shapely women was Sylvia Hill the wife of Dickson P. Hill of the Montclair District. The Hill’s lived had 3 children and lived on Snake Road. Mr. Hill owned Montclair Radio & TV Service at 6127 La Salle Ave.

From the outside they were your typical 50s family.

Oakland Tribune Dec 1953

Dickson P. Hill said he and his wife were approached by Communists in 1944 and ask the FBI ( I think the FBI was already watching them) what they should do. The FBI told them to try to join the party so they could do the country “a great service.”

They joined the Communist party in 1945 at the request of the FBI, and rose to the positions of membership chairman and education chairman receptively, while serving as undercover agents.

Double Lives

Hill and his wife lived “double lives” as Communists for the FBI for about four years. He said he named more than 50 people in Oakland-Berkeley area he had met personally and identified them as Reds. He also identified 36 organizations as Communist Party clubs during his membership 1945-1949. Dec 03, 1953

Santa Cruz Sentinel Dec 02, 1953
Oakland Tribune April 16 1953

Reds Call Labor School ‘Ours,’ Witness Testifies

Oakland TribuneJan 26 1956
Oakland Tribune Jan 25, 1956

California Labor School of Alameda County

Oakland Tribune Sep 17,1944

The California Labor school presented a Russian film “One Day in Soviet Russia” with English narration.

Oakland Tribune Aug 12 1945

Lectures on the ‘Roots of Fascism’

Oakland Tribune Nov 29, 1945

More Info:

The End

Author:

I have been an Oakland history buff since going on an Oakland Heritage Alliance Tour of the Fernwood Neighborhood in the Montclair District of Oakland, in the mid-80's. On that tour, I learned that there use to be a train (Sacramento Northern) that ran through Montclair, in the early 1900's and that people lived the area as early as 1860's. I have been hooked ever since. Since then I have spent a lot of time looking into the history of Montclair and I have learned a lot. I feel this will be the best way to get it out of my head and onto paper.

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