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Who Was the Ding Dong Daddy? – Part 1



The Ding Dong Daddy of the D-car Line is the basis for William Walmsley‘s alter ego, Ding Dong Daddy.  But who was the Ding Dong Daddy?


The name is based on what is still considered one of the Top 10 Sex Scandals in San Francisco history.  Francis Van Wie was a streetcar conductor in San Fransisco, California in the 1940s.  This story takes place during World War II, at which time he reportedly courted and married many of the women he met while working the streetcar.  The problem is, he did not bother to divorce any of them.  Van Wie was too old to be drafted, and with many of San Fransisco’s eligible men off to war, the competition for the attention of the local ladies was minimal.  When he was arrested the first time, in 1945, it was found that he had at least 14 wives without a single divorce, all living within blocks of the line he conducted.  Most of these wives reported that within weeks of marriage, Van Wie became abusive, stayed out until all hours, and was absent for weeks at a time.  Wife #3 stated, “Frank’s a card in the parlor, a gentleman on the street, and a beast in he home.”

But how did he do it?  How did this man who one reporter described as, “on the wrong side of 50, round as a beer barrel, pale and meek looking with a shiny bald head and eyeglasses,” managed to catch and balance these 14 wives?

It began with Van Wie’s overall view of women, which left much to be desired.  While being interviewed by Norma Barzman, reporter at the Examiner, he stated, “You’re a woman.  I could get you to marry me in a month… [Women] want to be told they’re loved more than anything else – and they want their own way.  It’s simple.  If I wanted to get you to marry me, I’d help you cook dinner some night, and I’d make you feel how cozy and secure love can be…  Older women are the ones who like to feel secure.  They want to feel they’re building a home and just starting out like a 16 year-old bride…  I know how to make a woman feel as if she’s the only women in the world – and I’m the only man.”


After he had hooked the ladies, he would make fanciful claims to explain his long absences.  One time he came home in an Army uniform, claiming to have been aiding the war efforts.  He told many of the wives that he was an FBI agent doing secret work to uncover the secrets of the Pearl Harbor attack, and that part of his cover involved pretending that other women were his wives.

After his arrest in early 1945, Van Wie had his day in court.  His defense attorney took the stance that his client was simply misunderstood, a “sheep in wolves clothing”.  It was claimed that he was a harmless, sentimental old fool who meant no harm to his wives.  He just had too much love the give.  The Prosecution on the other hand, cited evidence that Van Wie had abandoned one wife with a baby, and that Wife #5 was actually the daughter of Wife #1.  The story had San Francisco’s attention in the way the scandals of modern day politicians have the attention of the entire country.  On April 12, 1945 Van Wie entered the San Quentin State Prison having been convicted of Bigamy and sentenced to 10 years.   But if you think this is where our story ends, just wait for Part 2.


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