M. B. (Mickey) Finn; Police Beat Led to Ranch for Boys

Times Staff Writer

Marshall B. (Mickey) Finn, the handsome and athletic policeman who grew weary of seeing the youngsters on his beat spend their days in idle mischief and gave them first a club and then a ranch where they could become productive, has died.

The retired Los Angeles police officer, sheriff’s corrections officer and one-time stunt man and actor was 70 when he dropped dead Thursday while walking a horse near his retirement home in Rancho Mirage.

His wife, Millie, said doctors had told her that he suffered a massive heart attack.


Fittingly, she added, he was working with some youngsters at the time.

Finn became a minor legend in postwar Los Angeles, soon after he was discharged from the Army. He was the son and brother of LAPD officers and gravitated easily to police work.

Lacked Purpose, Hope

The 6-foot, 3-inch, 200-pound rookie cop was assigned a beat in downtown Los Angeles. There he found an ethnic mix of impoverished parents whose children were in school spasmodically, if at all, and who because of that lacked purpose and hope.

Wanting to make a difference, he rented a truck one hot summer day, drove it through his district and loaded it with some curious and bewildered Latino boys. He hauled them to Santa Monica, where they swam and had a barbecue.

Within two weeks he had formed a police-sponsored Boy Scout troop with his Latin beachboys. To them he added some Oriental kids he found hanging around New Chinatown.

With limited personal funds and some help from the department, he next formed a Sea Scout troop. The Police Department set aside a cell in the abandoned Central Jail for meetings, and Finn and his kids rigged it with hammocks and other seagoing gear. There they planned how they were to remodel a 40-foot Navy landing craft that had been donated to them, getting it ready for sea duty.

Sought Recreation Hall

Finn next formed a Chinese youth organization for both boys and girls, and they staged fund-raising dances while they sought a permanent recreation hall that would house all of Finn’s young friends.

That was born within a year or so as the Mickey Finn Youth Foundation at 215 1/2 S. Spring St.

There members of such old-time gangs as the Hope Street Boys, the Court Hill and Bunker Hill gangs and the Alpine and Bartlett Social Clubs came together to mingle around a blaring jukebox while Finn stood by proudly.

Hollywood helped, particularly actress Ann Sheridan, who helped finance summer camperships and became a regular hostess.

The club proved such a success (eventually there were 300 members) that Finn’s reach came to exceed his grasp.

Started a Ranch

He quit the department in 1954 to start a ranch near Idyllwild in the San Jacinto mountains, taking some of his kids to a newly acquired, 160-acre site. There he provided overnight pack trips, hiking, crafts and a swimming hole.

“I got tired of seeing the kids roam the streets,” he said in an interview as they were loading the truck that took them away. “I wanted to get them away from the city where they will be too busy to get into trouble.”

But, his wife said Friday, the donations that had sustained his club were not enough to maintain the ranch and they eventually had to sell what they had.

Finn joined the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department as a corrections officer and then turned to stunt work and acting in films, where he had several minor roles. He eventually retired from the Sheriff’s Department on a disability.

“I need to get these kids across the tracks,” Finn used to say to whoever would listen. “Far away across the tracks.”

Besides his wife, he is survived by his mother, two sons, a daughter and two grandchildren.