San Francisco – 1909: The Portola Club

November 15, 2016 at 9:45 PM (Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , )

Jack Boyle’s life between the years of 1908 and 1914 is a bit of a mystery.  Despite having published an autobiographical essay in 1914 — “A Modern Opium Eater” — Boyle gave relatively few specifics regarding the years of his drug addiction.  The essay relates a few anecdotes, and mentions multiple jail terms, but is curiously stingy with specific places and dates.  In truth, the period between his fall from grace as a journalist and the publication of his early efforts in fiction six years later under the pseudonym No. 6606 is largely a blank.

However, bits and pieces of Boyle’s “lost” years do occasionally surface.  In “A Modern Opium Eater,” Jack shares this tidbit:  “After I abandoned newspaper work I dabbled in many semi-legitimate businesses.  I occupied myself with prize-fight promotion, gambling clubs and stock tricks, all verging on swindles …”  While certainly indicative of the downward spiral at the verge of which he was upon, this admission is still rather lacking in specifics.  But it ties in nicely with the following item from the April 24, 1909 edition of The San Francisco Call:


Of course, it’s difficult to prove definitively that the J.A. Boyle who served as the founding president of the Portola Club was the same disgraced journalist, John A. “Jack” Boyle.  But another aspect of the Call‘s article is very suggestive.  It identifies the club’s secretary as George W. Schilling … and when he had been sporting editor for The San Francisco Examiner, one of Jack Boyle’s employees was George W. Schilling.  (For further info on Boyle and Schilling, see the August 17, 2015 entry to this blog, “The Misadventures of Jack Boyle – circa 1907”.)   

So in the Spring of 1909, Jack Boyle was the president of a sporting club.  This seems a fairly wholesome pursuit for a shady opium addict … until you reflect on Boyle’s comment that he dabbled in prize-fight promotions which bordered on swindles.  It would seem that part of the reason the Portola Club came into being was to facilitate Jack Boyle’s schemes connected to the sport of boxing.

JBF  11/15/16


  1. Cathy Sperl said,

    Jack’s younger brother Olin McClintock Boyle Jr. died Aug 19, 1908 (born July 4, 1886) age 22. He was an University of California graduate with an civil engineering degree. He died while in the employ of Union Construction Company with headquarters in Calaveras County, CA. His obituary is in several CA Engineering books. the Baraboo Weekly News article dated April 24, 1919 referencing the divorce suit at CO said that Jack’s father Olin died in Delton, WI and the funeral was held in Baraboo, WI. Afterward, Jack’s mother went to Philadelphia and Jack & Violet went to CO. Jack & Violet lived in Baraboo, WI at the Ringling Cottage on 11th Street in 1918-1919 and at Lou Ringling’s (Al RIngling’s widow) Fern Dell Cottage at Mirror Lake near Delton. They also lived at 316 Fifth Ave, Baraboo – home of Mrs. George Gollmar (cousin of the Ringlings).

    • jackboylefan said,

      That all tallies with the information I’ve gathered. Thanks for taking the time to comment, Cathy. Jack Boyle’s family were an interesting lot. I have a nice photo of his brother, which I hope to post soon. His dad did, indeed, die in Wisconsin. In fact, his parents seem to have followed Jack over the years, until his dad’s death. They shared a house with him in Kansas City in 1915, and moved to Wisconsin shortly after he fled there in 1916.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: