THIS BOOK is dedicated to
the most unusual person that I ever got to
know in Livermore, Mike Pompileo, who
lived the rugged lifestyle of a bygone era.
The son of an Italian immigrant coal
miner from Pennsylvania, Mike was the
teller of tall tales, yet led a simple, impover-
ished existence. When I knew him in the
70s and 80s he was gentle and kind-heart-
ed and not the hellraiser that I heard about
from his earlier days. He loved animals; in
fact collected cats and dogs when he could
find a place to keep them. And he was the
only person that I have ever known to try
to "homestead" a piece of land by living on
it in a tarpaper and cardboard box shack
for several years before being evicted as a
squatter, then becoming Livermore's most
celebrated homeless person.
He was forced to leave Livermore some
years ago because there was no longer
cheap housing for him here and his health



wouldn't allow him to return to his pre-
vious primitive lifestyle in the surrounding
countryside. But I shall always remember
our long conversations, his claims of being
a direct descendant of the early California
Spanish governor Pio Pico, his stories of
gold in these hills, and his surprising know-
ledge of local and state history.
This familiarity with local history appar-
ently was gleaned from many old books
and photocopies kept in a ragtag suitcase,
the only remaining possession that was
rescued from his shack when it was ordered
burned to the ground.
San Francisco had its Emperor Norton
and Livermore had her "Big Mike," a
mountain of a man. (If you want to re-
member him at his best, stop by the Liver-
more Heritage Guild History Center and
ask to see the beautiful portrait done of

  • Barry Schrader


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Dekalb County

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