Tuesday, May 31, 2005

Pasadenan Enters Mortuary, Drinks Poison, Falls Dead

May 31, 1947

Mrs. Vida Dell, employed by Ives & Warren Mortuary at 100 N. Hill Ave., is used to dealing with the dead and the bereaved. But she wasn't prepared for today's frugal visitor, Joseph Arthur Rawles, who apparently saw no point in incuring the cost of two rides in a hearse.

The 70-year-old jewelry store worker, despondent over poor health and fading eyesight, entered the mortuary, tapped on the office glass to get Mrs. Dell's attention, then drank from a bottle of poison and collapsed. A note on his body explained Rawles' reasons. The deceased lived at 650. N. Madison Ave.

Ives & Warren To-day

Whether suicide is at the top of your list of things to do, or a few items down, believe me, there are worse places to do it than at Ives & Warren. Frederick Kennedy designed this gorgeous Spanish Eclectic basilica in 1929—for once, we applaud stucco—and it remained Ives & Warren until taken over by the Pasadena Conservatory of Music in 2001. (Kennedy is best known for his work on Pasadena’s 1925 First Baptist, National Register, sure, though that hasn’t half the cool lyricism of this building.)

Much of the interior has been gutted, save for a few interior columns with some nice curvilinear ornament. The thirty-foot central nave got a dropped ceiling, turning it two story:

The building is still lovely, though, and the courtyard with its arcaded gallery still enchants, despite part of the mortuary being turned into a nail salon, and Hill having become a major thoroughfare. I can assure you, though, that Mr. Rawles had a beautiful service.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Olivia de Havilland's 'Advisor' Lands in Jail

May 30, 1947

“Psst! Olivia de Havilland! “Operations Everything” is off!”

That’s the happy news police gave today to the Academy award-winning actress, with the arrest of her self-styled advisor, Paul Randall, a 34-year-old artist from Chicago who has been inundating de Havilland with unsolicited advice letters signed “St. Paul” or with a creepy P-in-a-circle motif.

The letters were followed by recent telegrams announcing Randall’s imminent arrival in Los Angeles and demanding de Havilland meet him “alone.” Today he angrily phoned de Havilland’s agent Kurt Frints to protest her failure to meet him at Municipal Airport. He told Frints that he was in town to carry out “Operations Everything,” and that Miss de Havilland, whom he had met twelve years ago when they were doing theatrical work (in Van Nuys, no less), would understand what he meant. He intended to wait at 1738 N. Las Palmas Avenue, where “she better see me.”

Instead it was detectives who came to take a look at St. Paul in his new digs in Hollywood Jail. They wired Chicago for more information, and asked that police psychiatrist Dr. Paul De River examine him. Olivia de Havilland denies knowing her visitor.

1738 Las Palmas To-day

Maybe de Havilland (in town to work on The Snake Pit) gave Randall a roll back in ’35. Maybe they were coconspirators in the Marshall Plan Rembrandts-for-gold scandal. Maybe he was just your garden-variety stalker-psycho. In any event, they were to hook up here:

The Las Palmas is best known as where Richard Gere rescues Julia Roberts from the lumpen whoreitariat that is our lot. Worth seeing for the shot of the old neon that used to grace the pole outside, since replaced with backlit plastic.

A taste of Old Hollywood: nothing says Old Hollywood like a punker with a big mohawk in front of the Las Palmas. Depending on your definition of Old Hollywood, of course.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Polar Climate Changes Viewed As Menacing

May 29, 1947

At a seminar of the Geophysical Institute of the University of California today, professor Hans W. Ahlmann of the Swedish Geographical Institute, Stockholm warned that profound temperature changes are affecting the North Polar region, and possibly the world. Dr. Ahlmann bases his conclusions on expeditions to the region starting in 1919. Since 1900, water temperatures have risen 3-5 degrees Fahrenheit, and air temperatures are as much as ten degrees higher. This has triggered the melting of glaciers and the incremental rise of the nearby seas.

Ahlmann warned the group of scientists, “If the Antarctic ice regions and the major Greenland ice cap should be reduced to the same rate as the present melting, oceanic surfaces would rise to catastrophic proportions. Peoples living in lowlands along the shore would be inundated.” He urged his colleagues to discover the reasons for these mysterious changes, which are, he believes, already affecting the weather in Eastern Africa.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

House Damaged By Girls' Pony

May 28, 1947

Two little West Covina girls found themselves wondering today if a pony would ever go into a house, and what might happen if it did. They acted out their fancy within the unfinished El Rancho Estates home of Mrs. Bernie M. Osborn, causing $258 in hoof damage to the new linoleum. Sheriff's deputies from the San Dimas substation detained the young equestrians, while the patient Mrs. Osborn declined to press charges until she had a chance to talk with the girls' parents.

Friday, May 27, 2005

Rancher's Shotgun Kills 'Terror' Of Orchardale

May 27, 1947

For the past six weeks, the more nervous citizens of the Orchardale neighborhood (near Whittier) have shuddered at the thunder of a huge animal racing around their homes, yards and nearby farmland by night, never straying close enough to be clearly seen.

That all ended tonight, when Victor S. Moffett, of 2102 Valley View, set a trap at the edge of his orchard, laying down a quantity of feed and lurking in the darkness with his shotgun loaded with high powered shells. Whatever was out there, he was ready for it. The animal suddenly appeared, Moffett fired and... felled a 400 pound wild hog sporting three-inch tusks. The Terror of Orchardale was no more.

The Terror of Orchardale

Shotgun-wielding Whittierites? And I thought the Quakers were such peace-loving folk. Of course, try telling that to the Cambodians.

Whittier, 1947. Orange and avocado groves were being gobbled up by tracts. So when the Russian Boar weren’t busy rooting out roots and rutting with blood-crazed feral razorbacks, they were getting cranky about the encroaching subdivisions. Thus they’d thunder through backyards, letting housewives chill to the sound of them sharpening their whetters on their lower tusks.

(Note Valley View a little southwest of center. Sure, Whittier College has expanded and roads have multiplied, but it looks as though there are still some wilds nearby – take care, beasts of the wild, the locals’ve got Acts 7:42 under their belts…or do they see in themselves II Pete 2:12?)

Can only assume they dug a big pit and Hawaiian’d this noble brute. Maybe made some summer sausage. My heart goes out to you, O Terror of Orchardale.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Nazis' Victim Convicted in Slaying of Publisher

May 26, 1947
Los Angeles

Angelenos will recall the shocking case of linotype operator Otto P. Parzyjegla, 38, who on February 15 killed his boss, Alfred Haij, publisher of the Swedish newspaper California Veckoblad, in the paper’s print shop at 821 W. Venice Blvd. and dismembered him with a blade from the paper cutter.

The two men had been arguing for weeks, and February 15 was to be Parzyjegla’s last day, with a new operator due to arrive from San Francisco. Parzyjegla claimed that despite his being let go, he still took his job seriously.

Parzyjegla: I told Haij that the linotype machine needed attention. All of a sudden he ran wild and said, “You dirty German, you aren’t going to run my business.”

Parzyjegla, who is a Russian-born Pole, was held prisoner in a German concentration camp, during which incarceration he was tortured by standing in a fake execution by firing squad. He claims that being called a German, and a dirty one at that, triggered a dreamlike flashback state, during which he beat his employer to death. Then he pinched and hit himself, hoping to wake up, and realized it was real.

Within minutes, several people walked into Haij’s office asking for the publisher. Parzyjegla said that he was out, and locked the door. All day, Parzyjegla sat in the print shop with Haij’s body, wondering what to do. “Finally I thought of the blade on the paper cutter.” Wrapping rags around the blade, Parzyjegla dismembered Haij and packed the parts into cartons, cleaned the floor and burned the rags, Then he went home to 415 W. Jefferson Blvd., his 21-year-old wife and infant child. Around midnight, having been unable to sleep, Parzyjegla returned to the print shop with idle thoughts of disposing of the body—maybe he could rent a car, take it someplace—but police, alerted when Haij failed to return home to 1445 S. Hayworth Ave., were already in the vicinity.

Radio Patrolmen B.H. Brown and A.J. Drobatz spotted Parzyjegla in front of 1609 Cherry St., in the act of tossing Haij’s watch away, and observing his cut hand, took him to the print shop. There Parzyjegla promptly confessed and acted out the assault and dismemberment.

Noting that one of the anonymous Black Dahlia confession letters had clearly been prepared in a print shop, Captain Jack Donahoe of Homicide Division expressed interest in Parzyjegla and arranged a line up where six recent female assault victims tried and failed to recognize him.

In Superior Court today, in a juryless trial before Judge William R. McKay, Parzyjegla repeated that since 1939 he has been subject to black outs and “seeing red,” which he claims that he did before striking Haij. McKay convicted Parzyjegla of second degree murder, and invited him back on Thursday for sentencing of between five years and life.

The World of Otto Parzyjegla

With Kim and Larry’s complete coverage, I’ll go photo-heavy on this one and let them speak for me.

The scene of the crime – amazingly, still a printer’s shop. 821 is on the far right.

While post-47, a pic of the cut-out signage:

Much of this area was demo’d for freeway construction. Had the 110 had been built a hundred feet to the west, we would have lost the Veckoblad HQ. Instead, this Utter-McKinley mortuary was sacrificed for an overpass abutment:

Looking up Cherry, a quiet residential street, now neither, scene of the watch drop:

The area bounded by Pico, Figueroa, Washington and Burlington:

The Parzyjegla home – the 400 block of Jefferson was also eaten by the 110.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

House Safe Job Nets Burglars $200,000 Haul

May 25, 1947
Los Angeles

Next time his brother Lawrence asks if he can put a safe in his bedroom closet and fly out periodically on his private plane to rummage around in it, Archie Bardin will probably say “nix.” Archie and the missus came home from a day at the beach to find their house at 8655 Airdrome Ave. filled with smoke, a souvenir from the acetylene torch burglars had used to gain access to the floor safe after climbing through a bathroom window.

Detective Harold B. Williams asked about the safe’s contents, only to learn Archie had no clue. Whatever rested inside—cash and securities, Archie thought-- was the property of brother Larry, general manager of the Indianapolis Brewing Company. A call to Indianapolis revealed the missing cabbage to number 250,000 leaves.

The missus told Detective Williams about two strange phone calls received yesterday, from an anonymous, accented caller, but otherwise clues were scarce. Police reckon the crooks knew the location and contents of the safe, which implies the answers will be found in Indiana.

8655 Airdrome To-day

A modest house. Who’da thunk it fulla clams. Clams stink. Something stinks.

Missing moolah. Accented callers. We know about those accented callers. Bruno Hauptmann was one.

[While here at 47hq we leave the day’s events suspended in time, Bardin’s juicy tale cries out to be heard: The question stands—noone pulled down this sort of action in LA, so who tipped the crew? Or were these Indy-savvy boys out from the Hoosier state for a business/pleasure vay-cay? The FBI didn’t even look into it—they were curious about the interstate transfer of a large sum of cash, not the robbery. Bardin stated that the money was going to pay taxes, but, uh, had less of an explanation as to why he didn’t put that money in a bank. Probably had something to do with his background as a WWII-era beer-peddling black marketeer, and fellow traveler in the famously corrupt Democratic machine out Indiana/Illinois way. He bought the brewery from Democratic National Committeeman Frank McHale, with money from Democratic National Chairman Frank McKinney and, after serving a six-month Federal prison term in 1948 on the charge of putting 12-ounce labels on bottles actually containing 11 ounces of beer {hanging’s too good for ‘im!} finally got popped in ’52 by Repub Senator John Williams for concealing $231,000 of his 1946 income from his return.]

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Actor, Doused With Water From Hose, Isn't Amused

May 24, 1947

Homeowners, it's like this: you own your home; the sidewalk and the curb and the street belong to everybody!

Earl Richard Casper, I'm talking to you. What were you thinking, hovering around in front of your pad at 833 N. Cahuenga, arguing with Ted Stanhope (45, occupation: thespian) over how he was parking his car? Turning your hose on Stanhope's engine, killing it and ensuring that both he and the offending machine would remain right there--the former now in a state of indignation? And blasting Stanhope with the hose when he got out of his car to protest?

Casper, you're lucky he just rassled with you on the lawn, took the hose away and called the cops. Next time, can't you just be a normal uptight freak, lurk behind the curtains and mouth bad words?

833 Cahuenga To-day

817— the life-giving Hollywood Craftsman that every Minnesotan of 1909 yearned for—your typical home on Cahuenga. Typical once, anyway.

Here, however, is what’s become of Stanhope’s house up the street at 833:

Why did these two tussle? Consider: Casper, a ghost, like a white sheet, dig. And Stanhope, player in 1947’s lambast of the Klan The Burning Cross. I seeeee.

(Burning Cross was shot at Ren-Mar Studios [nee Metro Studios] across the street at 846. Must be nice to walk to work.)

Monday, May 23, 2005

May 23, 1947
North Hollywood

L. Bruce Bryan is sharper than a serpent’s tooth--or so suggests the preliminary injunction granted today by Superior Court Judge Frank G. Swain, barring Bryan, a writer, from annoying, molesting or evicting his mother Mrs. Ethel Bryan for a period of six weeks, at which date the Bryans will reconvene in court to seek a legal ruling on their three-generation dispute.

Seems Ethel and her 17-year-old grandson (and adopted son) Bruce ponied up $1650 towards the purchase of a home at 6424 Riverton St., North Hollywood. L. Bruce, a writer, and his new wife Katherine put in $350 towards the total cost of $11,750.

Grandma and grandson moved in with the understanding that this would be their permanent residence, but the minority owners began a campaign of harassment, moving Ethel’s bed into a one-room building in back of the house, physically carrying her out of the house in February (she called the cops) and forcing her to sign a document agreeing to pay room and board in the amount of $60 a month until her $1650 stake in the house was exhausted. The last straw was when they changed the locks (on Mother’s Day!) thus denying her access to kitchen and bathroom and forcing her to withdraw from the property.

Through the case filed by Attorney Maurice M. Grudd, Ethel seeks a formal statement of her rights and a ban on further attempts by her son to dispossess her.

6424 Riverton To-day

The boys at Lockheed and Vega Aircraft didn’t worry too much about the noise associated with assembling P-38s, or the probability of accidents when testing the Constellation. It was a sparsely populated part of the world out there in the No-Man’s Land between Burbank and North Hollywood.

But by the end of the war houses had sprouted up everywhere. They’re all still there.

Some things are eternal—like a son changing the locks on his mother on Mother’s Day. Other things change—a street’s worth of garages become extra rooms (above). Ailing jetliners start falling on you instead of test planes. Right nearby the Valhalla Cemetery’ll haul off and expand (giving pilots of ailing jetliners more room to ditch). But the houses remain relatively intact, and every one, every single one, is there because of Lockheed. After all, during the war Lockheed had more employees than there were residents of Burbank and North Hollywood combined.

What’s most shocking about the area is that there’s no physical remnant of the mighty city that was the Lockheed facility. The unbelievable loss of the Earhart/Hughes hangar in 1998 was right in line with the mindset that Lockheed, the Airport Authority, and the City of Burbank maintain: to hell with our aviation history. The most super-secret of super-secret development buildings, the “Skunk Works,” whence came our first fighter jet (the P-80), the U2 spy plane, the Polaris and the Stealth, unceremoniously demolished. And that Building 85 was demolished by the city when it entered into the business of funding, of all people, the Hilton family? Let’s not even talk about that.

Thankfully, around the corner from the Bryans, a ’50 Roadmaster keeps a bit of the bygone spirit of the area alive.

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Man Claiming Wife's Murder Kills Himself

May 22, 1947

Before shooting himself in the head today, 29-year-old carpenter Rollin Albert Starkey told his mother-in-law, Mrs. Myrtle Foley, that he had choked her daughter Betty in their cabin near Lake Arrowhead. As if unsure that he could count on a woman to do anything, he then phoned police telling them much the same thing.

Investigators J.E. Hamilton and C.J. Bright of Harbor Police Station reported that Starkey confessed that several days earlier he had killed Mrs. Starkey while they were at their Dogwood Canyon cabin making repairs, and had returned to their home at 1610 N. Marine Ave., Wilmington yesterday. By the time officers arrived at the Marine Ave. apartment, Starkey was near death with a bullet in the brain; he died soon after at Wilmington Receiving Hospital.

San Bernardino Sheriff James W. Stocker sent Chief Criminal Deputy Harry Heap up to Dogwood Canyon to have a look. In the Starkey cabin, Heap discovered the deceased Mrs. Starkey, sprawled on the living room floor in an incongruous costume of playsuit, sandals and fur coat, a noose made from a pair of nylon stockings around her throat. There were no signs of a struggle in the cabin.

The cause and further circumstances of the murder and what Starkey had been doing since committing it remain mysterious. If Mrs. Foley knows anything more, she’s not talking.

1610 Marine To-day

(above: Google streetview, May 2011. Nathan's original photo has been lost to a Flickr storage bug)

In their size and shape and arrangement, the houses along Marine all oozed prewar. But then, they all looked new as well. I chatted up a neighbor. Yes, her house was built in the thirties, the whole street was. Really, I said. There have been some…changes. Oh yes, she replied, we did ours in ’86. The people across the street there just did theirs.

So. Stucco and plastic windows are something you “do.” You just call someone up and say “I’d like to do my house,” and they’ll know exactly what you mean. They’ll come over and your house will get “did.” Nearly every visible trace of 30s Wilmington, borne of the 1932-discovered 2.5 billion barrel Wilmington Field (third largest in America), has been wiped from the landscape.

As to what Betty’s outfit signifies we can only conjecture; what types of costume (and their import) hung in the closets of 1610 is a matter of further fantasy. How had Mrs. Foley puzzled out her daughter’s dangerous games? Dear Myrtle must have filled her head with ignis fatuus to dispel any disquieting truths. Perhaps we can channel her spirit (which like said pale light hovers over the marshy oil fields) and pry some secreted tale from her misty midst.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Arrested Man Sues Turf Club

May 21, 1947
Santa Anita Racetrack, Arcadia

John A. Gordon, 67, retired hardware merchant who came to Los Angeles from Chicago a decade ago, filed suit against the Los Angeles Turf Club today in Los Angeles Superior Court. He claims he was falsely arrested and maliciously prosecuted following a January 23 incident when Arcadia Police Officer William S. Orr and two race track detectives detained him at the track on charges of vagrancy.

At the time, Gordon says, he had more than $1000 in his possession. Gordon claims Orr & co. offered to drop the charges if he would agree they had probable cause to arrest him; when he refused, they countered that they would instead charge him with bookmaking, and did just that. When the case went to trial in Pasadena, Peace Justice J.R. Morton dismissed it for lack of evidence that Gordon had accepted a $6 bet.

Gordon is resident of 502 W. Maple St., Monrovia, painfully near to the scene of his humilation.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Ex-Stage Drives Dies in Auto Crash

May 19, 1947
El Centro

George Hornbeck, rancher, who in his youth drove the Imperial Valley stagecoach, was killed today when his car collided with one driven by Jesus Q. Arizaga, 22.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Auto Smashes Into Trolley

May 18, 1947
Los Angeles

Passengers on the "O" line streetcar had their peaceful passage disturbed today when an automobile, estimated to be traveling 60 mph, smashed into the back of the trolley as Motorman Charles Carringer, 33, of 2451 3/4 Daly Street was about to pull away from a stop at College and North Main Streets.

Passenger Antonio V. Castillo, 30, of 618 S. Ferris Street, was killed instantly. The driver, Paul Z. Guerrero, 25, of 184 Darwin Street, was taken to the General Hospital prison ward, where he was treated for lacerations before being booked on a charge of manslaughter. Mr. Castillo has the posthumous distinction of being the county's 300th traffic fatality.

In Other News

As a service to our readers, I should like to call attention to two buildings that are not long for this world. Here is one:

Stiles Clements’ Mullen & Bluett building, 1949, 5570 Wilshire, built in the Late Moderne, a style that typified the optimistic postwar building boom. Note the sexy geometric volumes and eyebrow canopy. Mullen & Bluett is a perfect example of the Miracle Mile’s auto-oriented “linear downtown,” as Reyner Banham put it. Think Wayne McAllister’s Bob’s Big Boy in Burbank or Wurdeman & Becket’s Bullocks Pasadena. Legacy Partners of Irvine are razing this building and replacing it with a 197-unit apartment/retail thingy that resembles the lowest common denominator of faux-Miami Deco. (Their next project is enveloping the Art Deco Desmond's tower in nine stories of apartments.) I say go check M&B's roman brick & flagstone façade and copper beveled display windows while you still can—it’s too late to admire Clements’ 1936 masterpiece of streamline KEHE building, recently demolished by LAUSD, or his equally unbelievable Coulter’s, once across the street.

This is the Bach Auricon Inc. building, 1954, 6900 block of Romaine at 900 block of Mansfield:

BA are incredibly important in the history of filmmaking, especially as regards TV newsreels and documentaries. Auricon was a semi-self-blimped single system that recorded optical or magnetic sound on film, allowing our cinema-verité pioneers to shoot with a lightweight, maneuverable, quiet camera. Logos for Modulite, Cine-Voice, Datasync and Filmagnetic are still on this building; rumors of its impending demolition abound. This is correct, original Old Hollywood in the way a thousand trips along our current Hollywood Boulevard can never be.

(A photographic addtion, in reference to the posted comment:)

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

New Black Dahlia Products Available

Greetings, 1947project aficionados,

In addition to our popular Black Dahlia T-shirts, we've added a line of mouse pads, mugs, tote bags, beer steins and baby bibs. Because as Nathan pointed out, "if there's one thing I will not abide, it's a baby spilling its beer on itself." Nor should you.

Many G.I.'s Fiancees May Be Left Behind

May 17, 1947

The American Consule today stated that many American soldiers seeking permission to bring their German and Austrian fiancees home to the United States had applied too late and would be disappointed.

Under the Soldier-Fiancee Act which Congress passed last June, a former soldier was permitted to bring a woman he intended to wed into the U.S. up until July 1, 1947, where the woman could remain legally for up to three months as a nonimmigrant visitor. If the couple did not marry within that time, her status would lapse.

Almost 700 fiancees have entered the States, while 6000 other cases have been approved, are in process, or have already been denied, with more denials anticipated.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Father Freed In Gun Slaying

May 16, 1947
Los Angeles

A Coroner's Jury today returned a verdict of justifiable homicide in the case against Olin Bray, 53, of 11407 State Street, Lynwood. Last May 12, Bray was working in his garden while his daughter Zula and her husband, Virgil Lawson, 38, visited with Bray's wife Veda. Hearing raised voices in the house, Bray ran in to find Lawson striking the women. Bray retrieved a revolver from under his pillow and fired two shots. These fatally struck Lawson, whose widow corroborated her father's testimony before the jury today.

11407 State Street To-day

You’d like to consider State-led wholesale home obliteration to be a thing of the past, charmingly 50s or maybe delightfully 60s. Urban renewal, freeways, you know, during that kooky time back then with all the Modernity.

In the early 80s, a San Pedro congressman thought it would be “swell” to build a 17-mile freeway. Kinda retro, sure, but still kind of a bad idea…akin to a late episode of Happy Days, where Fonzie adopts an orphan. In the presence of Ted McGinley.

Perhaps it was breathtakingly necessary to link Norwalk and El Segundo, although spending two billion dollars (some say four; we’ll never know) of our money to do so may be more debatable. In any event, Bray’s house—where the honor of Woman is defended with deadly force—once stood at the location of this overpass, where it could conceivably have remained until the early 90s, when the Glenn Anderson Freeway was completed.

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Family With 11 Children Loses Battle For Home

May 15, 1947

Mrs. Jessie Brink, 41, today lost her civil suit before Pasadena Superior Court Judge Paul Norse, charging unlawful eviction of herself and her 11 children from their residence at 2007 Hulbert St., South Pasadena, last June 27. The court ruled that owner Emily Stockton was within her rights to remove the Brinks, because their tenancy was more that of guests than of renters.

The children include 23-year-old Mrs. Vivian Cornellson, John, 18, Betty, 16, Richard, 12, Ruth, 10, Billy, 8, John, 6, Roy, 4, Connie, 3, Phyllis, 2, and Linda, 3 months. Betty used to have a twin brother, Bobby, but he drowned in 1946 while the family was in Colorado harvesting peaches.

The husband of the family, machinist James, says he is searching for a home within his means. For now, the Brinks' relief check can be sent to General Delivery, Burbank, as the family remains officially homeless (not counting that 60-acre ranch they own back in Oklahoma).

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Escaped Felon Caught Here

May 14, 1947
Los Angeles

Last Sunday, William Harold Evans was one of three San Quentin prisoners who walked away from a Modoc County road crew. FBI agents found him just two hours after his arrival in Los Angeles, at the home of Miss Alexie Goldworthy, 185 W. 39th Street. The convict, a self-styled osteopath serving time for forgery, had been corresponding with the lady from his prison cell.

185 West 39th Street To-day

Curious zoning in these parts. Homes and light industrial nestle cheek to jowl, and not just block to block, but parcel by parcel. Typical neighbors:

So down the street it came as no surprise that here in a pseudo-residential semi-industrial area, the Goldworthy residence had been displaced by this alchemical factory:

We’re sorry to see there’s no original monument to where bureau nunkies nabbed William Howard Evans. However, the pick-up at his lady friend’s pad is immortalized in the old chestnut “Quick Joey Small”. (It is a little known fact that Kasenetz and Katz are the fathers of 1947project.)

Friday, May 13, 2005

Day-Old Baby Found Slain

May 13, 1947

Housepainter Robert Snow of 4141 W. 170th St., Lawndale just wanted to do some exterior prep on the vacant house at 465 N. Laurel, readying it for the new owner--then he found the corpse of a baby girl in the shrubs by the driveway. There goes the work day. The Coroner determined that the full-term infant had been born elsewhere, and died from strangulation.

465 N. Laurel To-day

Close scrutiny of 465 N. Laurel reveals one pertinent design feature: the absence of shrubbery. The homeowners apparently learned a valuable lesson—prickly pear cacti and Italian cypress are decidedly bereft of any and all baby-concealment properties.

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Mother of Three Choked to Death; Body Flung in Signal Hill Oil Field

May 12, 1947
Long Beach

While driving to his post early this morning, oil company patrolman Bert Winfield made a ghastly discovery, just a block from busy Long Beach Blvd. There in the dirt of the oil field was the body of a woman, still warm and apparently but recently hurled from an automobile. The victim’s clothing included one open-toed white shoe, a three-quarter length black coat and a cotton garrote around her neck.

Seeking to identify her, reporters on the Long Beach newpaper police beat canvased local dry cleaners about a laundry mark on her coat and got a name: Mrs. Laura Eliza Trelstad, 37. Soon they had a husband, too: Ingman Trelstad, 34, 2211 Locust Ave.--just a dozen blocks from his wife's dump site in the 3400 block of Locust.

Ingman Trelstad described his last encounter with his wife for Long Beach Det. Capt. Lorin Q. Martin. The couple had been playing cards with some friends in the late afternoon, and Mrs. Trelstad grew bored. If he was going to play cards, she said, then she was going to a dance. Mr. Trelstad went home to cook dinner for the couple's three children, Audrey, 8, Janet, 7, and Thomas, 3. When Mrs. Trelstad failed to return home, he said he couldn't go out and look for her, as there was no one else to watch the children.

Meanwhile, Coroner's Surgeon Frederick Newbarr made a preliminary examination of the body and announced that Mrs. Trelstad had been sexually assaulted before death. Police called for the public to be on the look out for the missing white shoe, which might be at a primary crime scene. They also requested that anyone who might have seen Mrs. Trelstad at a dance last night come forward to give a statement.

Locust Avenue To-day

Commenter Larry is correct in his dissection (eh hem) of the Short-Trelstad dissimilarities. However, there is only tenuous evidence linking Hodel to New Coke. He did, however, utilize MK-ULTRA to convince Angelenos to abandon our electric rail system, and later conspired with Neil Bush and Jaleel White to loot America’s S&Ls.

The question remains, though, had there not been a Black Dahila, would Trelstad have been murdered? Can and should Mary Tate, Jean French, Evelyn Winters, Rosenda Mondragon, Dorothy Montgomery and Trelstad be discussed under the rubric of “copycat killings?”

The death of Laura Trelstad, and the site today:

Derricks have disappeared from our landscape, save for the one constructed atop Oil Patch Liquor in Signal Hill. A mere handful remain in America, in central Texas and southern Oklahoma. (Should anyone know of extant Californian derricks, please contact us.) Derricks have since been replaced by the beam pumping unit:

aka the walking beam pumper, the grasshopper, the horsehead; these can pump out low-pressure wells for decades.

Despite grilling some subsequent attackers-of-women, Trelstad’s murderer was never found. Neither was her shoe, which of course raises another question: white before Memorial Day?

Fight With Police Jails Diana Barrymore, Mate

May 11, 1947
Louisville, KY

If John Robert Howard can't make his young bride Diana Barrymore behave, why should he think that Louisville's police can control her? Howard was also in rude form, early this morning, when officers found the couple honking their car horn at an intersection. Patrolmen John Shepherd and Walker Zettooh stopped to ask what the trouble was, and the car sped off, stopping at the next corner.

The officers followed, but found the Howards unwilling to enter into a dialogue. That's when, if you believe the Howards, officers "knocked down" the lady and hit her husband "with a club." Police counter that the couple verbally insulted the officers, while an unidentified companion sought to calm them. Diana slapped at the officers, so they started to put her in their patrol car, at which point John protested and in the ensuing scuffle was slapped by Zettwooh.

Released from County Jail today on $100 cash bond each after a three hour visit, the young marrieds returned to their quarters at the Louisville Boat Club, where Mr. Howard was recently hired as the tennis pro.

Diana, Goddess of the Highball

Oh, the alcoholic. The only thing more predictable than the alcoholic is the child of an alcoholic. Resistance is futile. Maybe it’s your juice-damaged genes. Maybe it’s that, after a childhood of abuse and emotional neglect, you just need to share that special feeling with others. Nature or nurture, the events of your life are as precisely mapped as moves on the GAOTU’s tessellated historyboard.

Diana “Too Much Too Soon” Barrymore was no exception. John Barrymore was a kind and caring father, when he wasn’t drunk, which wasn’t often. After he died in ’42 Diana became an actor and an alkie just like daddy. By ’47, after a series of minor film roles, she was off on an alcoholiday with husband number two of her three failed marriages, brawling and slapping cops and generally putting the fun in functional alcoholic, just baby steps on her path to sanitariums and suicide attempts.

The Happy Couple, under arrest:

Diana pens TMTS and sees it made into a feature in ’58; its most truthful element being Errol Flynn cast as boozehound John Barrymore (the bottle killed Flynn a year later). Despite the picture’s Hollywood ending—she's on the road to recovery!—Diana finally offs herself in 1960 at age 38. When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade. And put plenty of gin in it. And use it to wash down all the sleeping pills in your medicine cabinet.

“What the hell would I want with a dozen gladioli when I could have four roses?”

(Yes, Diana was the sister of John Jr., the rageful child-beating drunk who whupped Drew “Little Girl Lost” Barrymore as a toddler. Drew became a preteen addict, but has thankfully since fallen under the sway of a famous womanizing, stock-swindling, acid-dropping midcentury occultist mysteriously named “Bill W.”)

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

The Housing Crunch

10 May was a slow news day for crime. But as I put my feet up and vainly perused the paper for evidence of murder and mayhem, an item about a new house caught my eye. Here in 1947, where building costs are high and the housing shortage acute, veteran Clement Cointe has decided to build a miniature dream house, to live in until such time as he can enlarge.

Enlisting architects Harold Bissner and Harold Zook, they’ve come up with a 700sf one-room house with a magnificently modern wall of glass (please note how unobtrusively it fits into the landscape):

Their one room is all-purpose, with closets that open to reveal built in linen and dish storage, card table, bar, coat closet and radio-phonograph. The Harolds included built in bookshelves and desk. The bedroom area—couches of grey upholstery with Mexican cow pony pillows—can be partitioned off with an accordion wall. The whitewashed fireplace in the wall of rough-sawed redwood stakes is a nice touch.

Oh, hell. Since I’ve brought up the housing shortage, I might as well touch on one of LA’s juicier housing stories: in the late 40s the City Housing Authority, its coffers full of federal lucre, pulls an eminent domain on the people of Chavez Ravine. Out come the bulldozers, which level the barrio community. Don’t worry, says the Authority, we’re building you a 3,300 unit high-rise housing project, and you’ll all get first pick of the brand new units! (And it’s designed by Richard-Freakin’-Neutra no less!)

But uh-oh, here comes the Committee Against Socialist Housing. And here comes HUAC hot on their heels. In 1953 new mayor Poulson kills the whole deal, including the resident’s Right of Return. ‘Round about that time O’Malley couldn’t connive an Ebbets Field replacement out of the borough of Brooklyn, so he went fishing in LA, and found a sweetheart deal if ever there was one. You know the rest. Go Dodger Blue.

Not that I don’t love Captain Emil Praeger’s park—the early 60s stadium is replete with atom-age flourishes—but I hope no-one goes there without recalling this image:

Sheriff’s deputies forcibly evicting Aurora “They’ll Have to Carry Me” Vargas from the Arechiga home; bulldozers razed the structure moments later.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Fugitive Blimp Brought Down After Wild Chase

May 9, 1947
Los Angeles

For several weeks, Harry Hasley has been minding the barrage balloon that floated 300 feet over the Pan-Pacific Auditorium bearing an ad for the current show. It was quiet work, sleepy really... until tonight. The balloon broke free of its nylon tether and while Harry watched helplessly, floated off on the northwest wind.

Numerous city agencies, including the LAPD, Sheriff and Airway Traffic Control began nervously monitoring the blimp's unpredictable progress, concerned that it might stray into the airspace of Los Angeles Municipal Airport.

When the errant bubble finally bobbed to earth, it was spotted by Sheriff's Deputies William O'Keefe and Kennth Hancock, who caught up with it at 105th Street and Wilmington, in the Firestone Park district. By the time Harry Hasley arrived, the deputies had released the remaining helium and folded the runaway gasbag for the trip back to the Pan-Pacific.

Zeppelin Attack!

Well, not really. This wasn’t a rigid-framed dirigible airship like Count Ferdinand’s England-bombing namesakes, this was just a gasbag on a journey of freedom, terrible freedom, seeking to join its brethren at Mines Field. Perhaps LA's curious onlooker recalled the 9,000 incendiary balloons sent to America by the Japanese—though those only managed to kill six picnickers in Oregon, proving again that picnicking is a dangerous activity.

Barrage balloons were part of our air defense system, designed to thwart bombings and low-level air attacks. This one was probably Air Corps surplus, discard of a War Won, finding new use in peacetime America (like the friendly antiaircraft shell, plaything of children; see entry of April 26).

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Wife Says Mate, Booked, Threw Knife At Child

May 8, 1947
Los Angeles

It is commonly believed that a wife is supposed to support her husband's aspirations. 23-year-old Charles F. Coulter was a mechanic who sought to develop his knife-throwing skills--by throwing knives at baby Danny's high-chair--while baby Danny was strapped in.

Quite an act, and on the first go-round the kid didn't get a scratch, but that didn't appease Charles' grandmother Mrs. S. Nelson or his wife Evelyn, who sought to restrain the would-be carney. In the ensuing fracas, grandma took a tumble. Amidst much screaming, sheriffs came. They booked Charles on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon, and so ended a promising career.

677 South Arizona To-day

After a long trek across miles of stucco and security bars, I finally came to the Coulter residence. Could I be hallucinating? A nice side-gable with Doric-columned entry porch. Original board wall cladding and double-hung wood sash windows, bracketed eaves…I considered chatting up the elderly rose-tending gentleman out front, but elected not to when I realized it could in fact be Charles Coulter. And you never know when someone is going to practice the ol’ knife-throwing routine. Explains his needing no security bars.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Shots At Family Laid to Husband

May 7, 1947
Bell Gardens

Miss Ruby Arnold is just a no-good meddler! Why, if J.D. Pullian, 28-year-old cabbie residing at 6000 Fostoria St., wanted to terrorize wife Marguerite, 24, and little Alene, 7, Corrine, 6, and Louise, 4--well, it was his family and he could damn well do what he pleased!

Marguerite knew better than to make a fuss, even after he blackened her eye two nights ago, beat her up again last night, and punctuated it with a blast from his double-barrel 12-gauge shotgun at the wall over the bed in the front room where the Pullian females were cowering.

This morning after Alene went to school, J.D. locks the littlest ones out of the house so he can get some shut-eye. Next thing you know it's noon, and that Arnold woman who rents the trailer in back has called the cops! Deputies search the house and find the shotgun (and some missing plaster), along with an icepick in Pullian's pocket. Marguerite told everything once they got her down to the Sheriff's East L.A. substation. Phooey, J.D. insisted. They just had a little spat, that's all, and he'd merely shoved his wife. Well, the charge is felony wife beating, and J.D. Pullian remains in the County Jail today.

6000 Fostoria To-day

Your average house. Balloon frame. Stucco. Low hipped roof. Patched-up shotgun blast holes. Textbook stuff.

Before the War, Bell Gardens was known as “Billy Goat Acres,” due to the large number of Okies that’d settled there. The goats and Okies have disappeared into the ether, but the area maintains a certain midcentury quality, especially as—in contrast to this “graying of America” business—the median age of the 45,000 souls who inhabit Bell Gardens is twenty-three.

Plus they still have lots of children and lots of shotguns.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Murder, Suicide of Couple Seen

May 6, 1947
Los Angeles

The Dorsey house, 6042 Romaine Ave. Usually so quiet, but not today. The dog just barked and barked, and no one came out to walk him. A neighbor finally called the police, who were maybe already wondering why 67-year-old William Dorsey, employee of their traffic division, hadn't come in to work. Inside they found the reasons: 65-year-old Bernadine, shot through the back of the head as she sat knitting in the front room; William slumped on the divan; the revolver where it fell. Colleagues told the usual tale of longtime ill health and general despondency. One hopes they found a home for the dog.

6042 Romaine To-day

The Dorsey home on Romaine is no more. Whatever it was, it probably soaked up too much spatter to ever be truly clean. In its place:

A sort of dingbat, though not really. Dingbattian in its boxy, stucco’d, cheap construction/maximum density elements, but lacking covered parking between the stilts, and the all-essential facade-affixed architectural eccentricity (interlocking boxes, backlit asterisks, abstracted fish, some anamorphic squiggles) that forced Francis Ventre to spit at Reyner Banham while they were tooling around LA: “My God that’s dingbat architecture!”

The address font is rather somber, although an attempt was made to apply it jauntily. It’s no “Shangri-Lodge” or “Seahorse Arms” in giant fanciful script, but then, something so lacking in sobriety would likely disturb and spur the Dorsey’s ghosts into demoniacal bloodlust. You know, like they got down the street at the Aku Pagoda Apts.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Monrovia's Pet Seal Dies of Poisoning

May 5, 1947
The community's children were inconsolable today as word spread of the death of little Oscar, the baby seal that three policemen found wandering on a street several weeks ago, and which had become Monrovia's unofficial mascot. Officers were working on finding Oscar a permanent home in the Recreation Park wading pool, but failed to protect him from dining on a meal of fish served on a plate that was believed to have been liberally sprayed with fly poison. The unofficial verdict is accidental death.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Toy Balloon Lodged in Throat Causes Boy's Death at Party

May 4, 1947
Long Beach

A child's birthday party at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Alvin Gale, 2283 Grand Ave., turned grim today when six-year-old Wayne R. Wilson, son of Mr. and Mrs. Ronald Wilson of 2263 Grand Ave., collapsed outside the Gale home. Mr. Gale and Elmer Alterman of 2282 Grand Ave. rushed the child to Community Hospital, where Dr. John A. Saltman extracted the offending matter--a small rubber balloon Wayne had been given as a party favor. The boy could not be revived.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Fire Threatens Historic Midtown Office Building

May 3, 1947
Los Angeles

A spectacular daylight fire nearly consumed the famed Bradbury Building, Third Street and Broadway, today, but it was saved by the concerted efforts of eighteen fire companies under the supervision of Fire Chief John Anderson. Crowds gathered in the streets to marvel as ladder trucks supported firemen climbing into the burning top floor offices of the Los Angeles Curtain Manufacturing Co. on the building’s Third Street side.

Credit for saving the historic building, constructed at a cost of $500,000 by mining pioneer Lewis J. Bradbury fifty years ago and immediately famous for its grill work, goes in part to courageous elevator operator Minnie Epp, 62, of 123 E. Ave. 35, who remained at her post to ferry firefighters up to the scene of the conflagration. There were two injuries, to fireman Joe Stovall, whose right foot was cut by an axe, and to building employee Gleason Burks, who was struck by a falling hose and knocked from the fifth floor to the fourth, but fortunately suffered only a bruised shoulder.

B.J. Erwig, owner of the curtain company, estimated damages at $8000-$10,000. The cause of the fire is not known.

In other news, it appears 15-year-old Esther Yvonne Brooks is going to be able to keep her nose, which was cut off when she was thrown through the windshield in an auto accident on April 21. The nose, which was missing for more than two hours, was found by Sheriff’s deputies searching the wreckage, and rushed to Wilshire Hospital, where it was grafted back on the young lady’s face. Plastic surgeon Dr. G. J. S. Rambo is cautiously optimistic that the graft will take, and Miss Brooks, of 706 E. Arbor Vitae St., Inglewood, should be back to her old nasal activities by early summer.

The Bradbury Building

Mission-style auto courts. Googie bowling alleys. Roadside burger stands. Neon liquor store signs. Stiles Clements buildings. All are remodeled or demo’d with soul-crushing regularity. Of the hundreds that were and the handful that are, maybe, just maybe, should Fortuna bless us with her grace, we will be granted a precious one of each for our progeny to savor.

They are the few out of many. But there is only one Bradbury Building.

Yes, it’s a pleasant sandstone & dressed brickwork Romanesque commercial structure. Gorgeous opal-glass blade sign. And when you go inside—or rent Blade Runner if you’re lazy—there you’ll witness the jaw-dropping skylit interior atrium, the acres of wrought iron filigree, the glazed hydraulic elevators. And you think, where the hell did this come from?

LA, 1890. Bradbury hires famed LA architect Sumner Hunt to design an office building. Hunt gets to work, and presents the finished drawings to Bradbury. Bradbury doesn’t care for them, and so tosses the project in the lap of a young draftsman in Hunt’s firm, one George Wyman. Wyman isn’t an architect, but he has read Bellamy’s recently published utopian novel Looking Backward, which describes buildings of the year 2000 (they're “bathed in light"). After consulting the Ouija board to make sure he should take the project (his dead brother said to go ahead), the li’l autodidact jumped in with both feet.

This is what he came up with:

Which was of course scheduled for razing in the 70s (as were the Watts Towers in the 60s, another piece of LA both-footism) – and hell, this was a building described in 19-Victorian-demolishing-47 as “historic.” But then mighty State Senator Jim “Mills Act” Mills championed the California Historic Building Code, which rescued the Bradbury and countless others from the raw maw of demolition.

The building deteriorated until beautifully restored by the late Ira Yellin in the early 90s. Hong Kong real estate mogul Goodwin Yaw has since picked up the building and is planning a nightclub right there on the ground floor. The building that Minnie Epp helped save and Joe Stovall gave a foot for, this building that represents man’s noblest achievements, this building that is actually as close to being alive as any of us – will be rattled by booming bass, doused with sticky drinks, punched full of outlets, tagged and bruised and burnt: does anybody else consider this a really bad idea?

Monday, May 02, 2005

Man Wills Son $10 As "Payment For Beating"

May 2, 1947

Last January 7, Robert C. Sweet told his namesake son that it was high time he supported himself, his fiancee and her two children, rather than expecting his father do so. Junior responded with his fists, and the next day the old man went to his lawyer and drew up a new will. That will was filed for probate in Superior Court today, with the novel bequest of $10 to Robert Jr. as "payment for a wonderful beating." The remainder of his small estate was left to his widow Hazel, on the condition that she give none of it to Robert Jr. The elder Sweet resided at 304 N. Canyon Blvd., Monrovia, and the pugilistic scion at 930 Monterey Street.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Caretaker Held in Baby Case

May 1. 1947
Los Angeles

All Mrs. Florence Owens wanted was a place to leave 18-month-old Dale and 3-month-old Margaret while she was at her new job--the one she had to take after separating from her husband, the merchant marine. Mrs. Marian Billingsley seemed nice enough, and she said Dale and Margaret would be no trouble; she'd just watch them like she watched the old folks already parked in her nursing home at 1327 El Segundo Blvd.

And so Flo dropped her little darlings off on April 15 and worked two weeks straight, never stopping to visit, even though she lived just five miles away at 1600 Redondo Beach Blvd.

But give a neglectful, overwhelmed mom some credit. When she did finally stop by, she immediately noticed evidence of torture on her eldest tyke-- the scarred ears, the scratches, the welts and bruises on his hips and back--and rushed him to the Sheriff's Vermont substation. Dale was taken to Torrance General Hospital, and Mrs. Billingsley to County Jail on charges of child neglect and unjustifiable punishment of a child.

1327 El Segundo To-day

The hallmark of the American Child after the war was the deep imprint left by consistent indulgence: we fought for the freedom of the planet, and having won, damned if I’m not going to put my kid in the center of it. With a big spotlight on ‘em. But raising whiny, self-absorbed children into a generation of mefirst malcontents is the least of our worries: let those characters sit up nights pecking through eBay, searching for their Rosebud-slash-Stony Smith Sky Commandos. Not every kid was as lucky as you, Chip.

Some kids had to get dropped off with Mrs. Billingsley. Some kids will grow up to buy rope and duct tape instead of vintage action figures.

While tempting to picture a suitably gabled Gothic affair, what was likely a simple shingled nursing home has fallen to the industrial age of metal spinning and deep drawing.