Gloomy Gus Goes to War: Stan Staub, Cub Reporter and WWII Soldier

By Amy O’Hair

In the course of doing a house history for local residents in Sunnyside I unearthed the story of a young man whose star shown briefly and brightly. Stan Staub was a junior reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle in the late 1930s, who then felt called to join the military in anticipation of World War II. He left an account of his training as a soldier before he was shipped out to the Pacific Front, as well as nearly a hundred bylines at the Chronicle.[1]

Stan Staub, age 21, in front of the family home on Flood Avenue, c.1939. Photo courtesy the Staub family.

Stan’s family lived on Flood Avenue for many years—it was his home as a teen and young adult. The house was originally built about 1900, and underwent several renovations over the years.      

House at 346 Flood Avenue where the Staub family lived 1934-1974.

Family Background

Like so many residents in this largely working class neighborhood, Stan’s parents were immigrants from Europe. Helen and Max Staub came from Rzeszow, a village in Galicia (now part of Poland).[2]

Max Staub was a cap maker all his life. Although Max had some education before he emigrated at a rabbinical school in his village (his father was an important rabbi there),[3] on the 1940 US census Max stated he had “zero” years of school, something I’d never seen before. Nevertheless, he made sure Stan and his other four children all had the opportunity to go to college.

Max was active in the Cap-Maker’s Union, serving as president in the 1930s, and securing the agreement of the manufacturers here to use the union label in all their products, a critical part of union success.[4] Without being able to mark which product was union-made you couldn’t give the consumer any chance to support union labor–or boycott nonunion goods, an important tool of union power.

Union labels for the United Hatters, Cap & Millinery Workers International Union. n.d.

That hats and caps were big business in the first half of the twentieth century is apparent from photos of any crowd of working men; hardly a man was without one or the other. The white flat cap seen on many men here was the mark of the longshore worker.

1947 labor rally at Civic Center, San Francisco with Harry Bridges. From

Max worked at Eagle Headwear, in the Williams Building at Third and Mission (which is now a posh hotel).[5]

The Williams Building, 693 Mission St, 1970s. From the Library of Congress.

This firm manufactured a wide variety of caps, including the distinctive yellow cab leather taxi driver caps, and later military headwear.

1950s KoreanWar era Air Force caps manufactured by Eagle Headwear, San Francisco. From

Stan Staub’s Life

Stanley H. Staub was born in San Francisco in 1917.[6] He was active as a boy in the Scouts and the Mission Boys Club. He graduated from High School of Commerce in 1934.[7] That remarkable and under-documented institution was a progressive and fairly integrated school that provided practical skills for well-paid work—a route into the middle class for many young immigrants and children of immigrants.

1934 High School of Commerce yearbook, Stan Staub’s photo marked. From

At Commerce, Stan was editor and journalist for the school newspaper The Spirit, winning recognition for his work.[8]

Stan Staub, 1934 High School of Commerce yearbook. from

Stan went to UC Berkeley for two years, working as a cub reporter for the Chronicle while there, writing up Cal sports events, like this trip to Washington State for a crew match. Unfortunately Cal lost.

SF Chronicle, 20 April 1936, p23. View larger. 

After he left university, he was hired at the Chronicle as a copy boy and then junior reporter. In 1937 he covered sports; in Feb 1938 he took over the recently launched daily column ‘Aviation News,’ which tracked the emerging field of commercial aviation. Stan covered every aspect, from new technologies to air traffic to airport expansions.

SF Chronicle, 17 Feb 1938. View larger. 

In a Sunday magazine feature he entertainingly describes a complex technology enabling mechanized aviation in a way that most readers could understand.[9]

SF Chronicle, 27 Feb 1938. View larger. 

Read the article here.

At the end of 1938 he decided to leave San Francisco and seek work in Washington DC, as a journalist.

SF Chronicle, 11 Dec 1938, p3.

I don’t think he was successful; I haven’t been able to find any bylines under his name from this time. His obituary later says he spent several months studying at the Library of Congress.

Stan and his little sister Josephine in front of the family home, about 1939, perhaps just before his departure to Washington DC. Photo courtesy the Staub family.

Stan returned to SF some time during 1939, but he didn’t get his old job back at the Chronicle.

Nonetheless, he hung out (mostly in North Beach it seems) with those who did work at the paper, old friends like columnist Herb Caen, who was born the same year, and Bill Simons, who had a column called ‘In the Districts’. Caen mentioned him several times; Stan was apparently fond of puns, as any writer would be.

Enlisting in the US Navy

In September 1941 Stan joined the US Navy with his younger brother Mortimer. The United States had yet to enter the war. In November 1941, Stan wrote a substantial piece published in the Chronicle about his experiences in training at a Navy base in San Diego.[10]  He calls himself a “Gloomy Gus”; perhaps he had a melancholy temperament, alleviated by the intensity and activity of a soldier’s life. An excerpt:

I spent six weeks at the Naval Training Station in San Diego with thousands of other recruits … the result finds me looking like the composite ‘after’ in a combination Charles Atlas, International Correspondence School and Wheaties ad …. Miss Irene Schearer, teacher of journalism at the High School of Commerce, who once told me I had no mechanical ability will be somewhat surprised by the news that I am scheduled to begin a 16-week course in aviation radio ….

We also learned to wash our clothes every night and hand them neatly on lines … We were inoculated at regular intervals with typhoid, smallpox, yellow fever and diphtheria toxins. (Such needlework I have never seen on my left arm before, Watson.) But we all survived. Home town papers please copy.

Most of us are still growing up. We haven’t given world issues much thought because we have had more immediate problems. We think often of home, the family and the girl friend …. We’re cocky and take exaggerated care of our hair. And why not, it’s all we’ve got when we go ashore that isn’t regulation.

As for our futures, none of us know where we’re going to wind up. It may be the Atlantic, the Pacific, the Red or the Black seas. But we’re ready for all places and all comers and we’ll obey our orders like good enlisted men.

SF Chronicle, 16 Nov 1941, p4. View larger. 

Read the whole article here. Three weeks later, Pearl Harbor was bombed by the Japanese.

Stan then trained in aviation radio at Alameda and was posted to the Pacific the following spring. He volunteered for especially dangerous flying missions.[11] He was lost at sea in November 1942, listed as Killed in Action. His obituary was substantial in the Chronicle.[12]

Not content to be a ground crew member at an outlying Navy base, he volunteered as a radio man, first in a bomber and then in scouting planes. Whether he met his death in one of these is not known.

SF Chronicle, 31 Dec 1942, p5. View larger. 

In his column, his friend Bill Simons wrote about Stan:[13]

“Stan dead? We can’t believe it, We can’t believe that we won’t have any more rambling talking walks around San Francisco, that we won’t drop into Sam Wo’s around midnight for a bowl of gai jook, That we won’t have any more long relaxed evenings of playing the photograph and chess with him.

“The reality of that brief message from the War Department won’t sink home until this war is over, until the men [and women, I add] who will have won it return. Then, if Stan isn’t among them, we will be convinced and we will know that a far better place outbid the world for Stan Staub.”

Stanley Staub,, about 1942.

Ever busy and ambitious, sometime during his short life Stan also apparently wrote “several novels that were never published and literally hundreds of short stories.”[14] So far I haven’t located a family member who knows what happened to all those manuscripts.

A lifetime ago, men and women fought a real war against fascism, a fact I wish to remember at this moment in history when we hear the terms fascist and Nazi being used. I find it valuable and moving to recall the real threat such ideologies posed then, and the sacrifices that fight called forth in young people and their families then.

I gratefully acknowledge the generosity of members of the Staub family, who shared photos and stories with me while assembling this history.


[1] San Francisco Chronicle archives are a core source for this story. To read the archives of the Chronicle, enter your SF Public Library card number and PIN here: or click “Articles and Databases” on the main website

[2] See .

[3] According to the Staub family. Also the obituary for younger son Mortimer Staub: Obituary mistakenly names the neighborhood as the Excelsior.

[4] “Cap-maker’s Wages Raised in New Pact,” SF Chronicle, 26 Sept 1937, p60.

[5] WWII draft card, 25 Apr 1942, for Max Staub, 346 Flood Ave, San Francisco CA, b. 2 Aug 1892 in “Austria.” Local Board No.81, San Francisco County.

[6] As per the January 1920 and April 1940 US Censuses, when Stan is listed as 2-2/12 years old and 22 years old respectively.

[7] “3000 Pupils Eligible for Mid-Year Diplomas,” SF Chronicle, 1 Dec 1934, p5.

[8] “Commerce Hi Paper Honored at Convention,” SF Chronicle, 11 Nov 1933, p5 and “Young Editors Win Gold C’s,” SF Chronicle, 22 Dec 1934, p10.

[9] “Iron Mike, Mechanical Miracle, needs Human Control,” SF Chronicle, 27 Feb 1938.

[10] “Gloomy Gus: Here’s What the Navy Did for One S.F. Boy,” SF Chronicle, 16 Nov 1941, p4.

[11] “Chronicle Reporter: Former SF Newsman Listed by Navy as Killed in Action,” SF Chronicle, 31 Dec 1942, p5.

[12] Ibid.

[13] “In the Districts with Bill Simons,” SF Chronicle, 4 Jan 1943, p19.

[14] “Chronicle Reporter: Former SF Newsman Listed by Navy as Killed in Action,” SF Chronicle, 31 Dec 1942, p5.

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