Sunday, July 31, 2005

Angel Garcia's Last Dive

July 31, 1947

Tongues are wagging over reports that earlier this week in Acapulco, Johnny Weissmuller's stunt double Angel Garcia was killed when waves dashed him back against the base of the cliff from which he had just executed a spectacular high dive for the production Tarzan and the Mermaids.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

Better Days For Ant Paste Girl?

July 30 1947
Los Angeles

Times have been tough for the Harold Johnson family, but the barely averted poisoning of daughter Janet could be a harbinger of better things.

About a year ago, the Johnsons and their three kids were evicted from their home, and while mom was packing, she contracted polio and was hospitalized for ten months. Church friends found the family a new home at 540 N. Commonwealth Ave. and helped dad look after the little ones. Mom's out of the hospital now and rebuilding her strength. But last week, the family car was totaled, and yesterday, 5-year-old Janet found some poisonous ant paste, determined it looked enough like honey to be tasty, and ate quite a lot of it.

But here’s where the Johnsons ill luck took a possibly happy turn. The ant paste girl was taken to Georgia Street Receiving Hospital, where she made a positive impression on a newsman, who alerted a casting agent to the hard luck cutie. This morning, she was called down to meet Hal Roach Jr. for an informal audition for an unspecified future kid flick. Roach liked the little miss, so peel an eye for her on a silver screen near you.

Suggested reading: A History Of The Hal Roach Studios

540 N. Commonwealth To-day

We can assume it will be some time before little Janet Johnson again quaffs honey in her quaint little home on Commonwealth.

It’s also likely that next summer pater Harold will call in Child Protective Exterminators.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Bang Bang, My Baby Shot Me Down

July 29, 1947
Los Angeles

Home on leave from Alaska for his grandmother’s funeral, 22-year-old technician 5th grade Richard DeSpain quaffed a lot of bay rum and got into an altercation with some Negro youths, whom he said robbed him. Determined to settle the score, he returned to his mother’s home at 323 E. 109th Street and retrieved his Japanese pistol.

The boy’s mother is Reverend Emma DeSpain, one-time follower of Aimee Semple McPherson and until recently minister at the now-closed Victory Chapel, 10700 Avalon Blvd. Reverend Emma was hosting a luncheon for several nice Christian ladies, but left her guests to plead with the boy to be more peaceable. In the course of their struggle, the gun, clutched in Richard’s pocket, fired, shattering mama’s thighbone.

Richard ran off, but soon returned to face the consequences. Cops are turning him over to military authorities, since his emergency leave expired two weeks ago, and the good Reverend says her injury is a small thing if it means her hard-drinking boy will start to live right. Here’s hoping!

Suggested reading: Sister Aimee: The Life of Aimee Semple McPherson

Nice Christian Ladies

323 E. 109th, home to your local rumsoaked pistol-wielding AWOL serviceman – the fruits of his folly are simply grown on the tree of his grief. Let the boy grieve, damn you!

The dreaded stuccoman has plied his trade well here.

The Victory Chapel, where ladies get religion (and shot):

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Contaminated Soya Sauce Dumped in Drain

July 28, 1947
Los Angeles

Police still don't know who did it--adulterated the city's soya sauce supply with quantities of arsenic nearly sufficient to cause death. Dozens of Japanese residents became ill earlier this month after ingesting rice seasoned with the poison, but all have since recovered.

Health inspectors today supervised the dumping of about 1500 gallons of suspect soya sauce, tipping drums down drains at a Little Tokyo wholesale business at 114 Weller Street. Another 48,500 gallons will soon face the same fate.

The sickly sweet odor of the sauce lingered on the air, bearing with it perhaps a hint of death, as the men from the health department acted to protect all citizens, even those of Axis descent.

114 Weller To-day

You can still smell death in the air, and soya sauce, which I like to think induces Proustian reverie in the old-timers.

1500 gallons of arsenic down the drain? Hadn’t these people heard of “drains to ocean” or seen stencils of dolphins? And all within eyeshot of City Hall.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Sugar Sugar

July 27, 1947

Congress has just one day left to extend the industrial and institutional sugar rations, as requested by the Agriculture Department. Should they not vote the funds to continue keeping sugar from bakers, confectioners, food processors, bottlers, hotels and hospitals, the sweet stuff will commence flowing as it did before the Nazis ruined everything.

So hold your breath and make a wish that your representatives drag their feet tomorrow, and ajourn with the rationing bill untouched. Otherwise the rations will continue until (dear Lord, those Aggies are so cruel, so very cruel) Hallowe'en.

Further research: The Bubblegum Achievement Awards, October 7, 2005, at the Bob Baker Marionette Theater in downtown Los Angeles

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Mortuary Car Hit By Auto Crashes Store

[There are some stories from 1947 that seem custom-tailored by some benevolent Surrealist god who seeks only to delight my co-blogger Nathan Marsak. This is one of those stories...]

July 26, 1947
Los Angeles

David James Cline, an 18-year-old transient from Ohio, smashed into a hearse today at Pico and Crenshaw Blvds., sending the mortuary car hurtling into the corner candy store. The back of the hearse flew open, and the stretcher shot through the front door of the shop.

Don Luke, the hearse's 31-year-old driver, 284 Cherry Ave., Long Beach, was slightly injured, but his assistant Chester Hanson, 29, 8301 Kenyon Ave., had his back, leg, right hand and nose broken.

Cline bolted from the scene, but was captured by witnesses. He's been booked for felony hit-and-run.
suggested reading: American Funeral Vehicles 1883-2003: An Illustrated History

Pico & Crenshaw

Oh, what I wouldn’t give to drive a 1940 Henney Packard landau 3-way with Lev-L-Matic backwards at sixty miles an hour, slam on the brakes and let a casket set sail into a candy store! On the corner of Pico and Crenshaw today, though, I’d have to content myself with making that unwanted intrusion into the check cashing place:

Or maybe through the front door of the Goyne Building –

But then, I'd still be in heaven, wouldn't I?

Monday, July 25, 2005

Recipe for annulment

July 25, 1947
Los Angeles

Take one blonde "freelance actress" (Mildred Jenkins, aka The Bride)
Add one Alameda County rancher (A. Q. Bonnet, Jr., The Groom)
Marry them in Las Vegas

Immediately after their wedding breakfast, have the groom take the bride and her female roommate to a gambling house, where he loses all his money and repeatedly demands that his new missus stake him, because what’s hers is his now. When she refuses, have him tell her that she takes the marriage too seriously, and that to him it’s just a good gag. Then have him drive back to the bride’s apartment at 145 S. Reeves Drive, Beverly Hills, where he leaves Mrs. Bonnet and her roommate, Jane Adrian, never to return.

Superior Court Judge J.A. Smith said that was as a fine example of an annullable marriage as he'd lately heard, and granted the request.

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Mass Vacination Set for All Aboard Train

July 24, 1947
San Bernardino

Ray Thompson, 38-year-old waiter on the Santa Fe Grand Canyon Limited, had a rash. It looked a lot like chickenpox, but after doctors offloaded him Wednesday it was determined he was suffering from smallpox.

Health officers now plan to board the train this morning in San Bernardino, and inoculate the 138 persons still on board before its 11am arrival at Union Station. Anyone who refuses the shot will be taken directly from the train to their home and quarantined for two weeks.

Among the passengers are five carloads of delegates en route to the west coast Lions Club International convention. (What’s a little shot between lions?)

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Post-hypnotic suggestion?

July 23, 1947
Los Angeles

Remember Lula Colias, yesterday's unfortunate whose Hindu yoga teacher took her for $20,000 while she sat helpless? Police picked her up this evening at Fifth and Main.

Det. Sgt. F.I. Ellis explains that the lady took a long cab ride (Long Beach to Ocean Park, and thence downtown), hopped out of the cab and created a disturbance. Is she bats, in a trance, or just driven batty by her recent loss? Lula's under observation at the General Hospital psych ward, so maybe an answer is forthcoming.

Suggested reading (again): The New Encyclopedia of Stage Hypnotism

Fifth and Main

Friday, July 22, 2005

Woman Says Hypnotist Vanished with $15,000

July 22, 1947
Los Angeles

Lula Colias, art student and would-be publisher of books on mystic arts, called police today to report that the Hindu mystic with whom she has been studying yoga and spiritualism, and whom she last week loaned $5000 for publication of a book on hypnotism and “secrets of the Far East,” is no fake.

It seems the Hindu dropped in to see Miss Colias, 35, of 615 W. 35th Street on Monday evening and carried on a seemingly normal conversation with her before suddenly intoning, “You can’t move!”

And indeed she could not, and watched helplessly as her spiritual friend made straight for the cash box, liberated $15,000, and waltzed out the door. When the lady regained her senses, she dropped a dime on her holy hustler. Bunco is investigating.

Suggested reading: The New Encyclopedia of Stage Hypnotism

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Marooned Travelers Make Rail Station 'Home'

July 21, 1947Downtown Los Angeles

The train engineers are on strike, and Union Station is beginning to look like a flophouse. Guitar-strumming Mexican actor Jose Y. Torvay made the mistake of cashing in the bus ticket he’d bought in Mexico City after the Warner Brothers gave him train ticket as an après-shooting gift. There’s now a two-week waiting list for southbound bus seats, and no hint of when the engineers will return to work. Fifty manual laborers bound for Portland kibitz in the patio, and a big brown Boxer dog named Duchess swelters in her crate, while a dame in El Paso waits for the living symbol of puppy love she’d been promised from a West Coast Romeo (that’s Albert J. Kallis of 1300 S. Mansfield Ave.—sorry, gals--and sci fi poster geeks--he’s taken!).

Suggested reading: Science Fiction Poster Art

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

'Hobo Camp' Estate Gift Made to Santa Barbara

July 20, 1947
Santa Barbara

The hobos of Santa Barbara's Jungleville gave a rousing cheer tonight as news filtered through their encampment that their great, but aging, benefactress Mrs. John Howard Child had ensured their protection for the foreseeable future by deeding her estate Vega Mar—17 acres on East Cabrillo Boulevard between the Mar Monte Hotel and the Mrs. William A. Clark Estate, currently valued at more than $100,000—to the city.

A previous attempt to give the property to the University of California foundered when the school was unwilling to allow Mrs. Child to remain in her home. Some years ago, she sold the section of property where the hobos camped to the Mar Monte Hotel people, and personally supervised the moving of their ragged dwellings to the new location.

Mrs. Child retains a life interest in the property, and has declared that the hobos shall not be moved so long as she survives.

Suggested reading: Riding the Rails by Errol Lincoln Uys

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

He was kind to dogs

July 19, 1947
El Monte

When traffic officers busted 14-year-old Leonard Kiter of 521 S. Muscatel Avenue, San Gabriel last night for jumping a signal on his motor scooter at Five Points in El Monte, they opened up a hornet’s nest. For it seems young Leonard was carrying the wallet of his grandfather William, and could give police and his father Leland no explanation for it.

Leland was concerned, and went with officers to the campsite near Big Bear where the 70-year-old was staying (in town, he lived at 2511 Las Flores Ave., Alhambra). There they found William Kiter, dead from axe wounds, laying on a cot.

The boy initially denied knowledge of his grandfather’s death, but soon confessed to killing him. They had spent the morning fishing, and the old man was mad about a lost anchor and anchor rope. Before that, there were fights over William’s refusal to rent horses and motorbikes for Leonard. So when William went to take a nap, Leonard crept up and whacked him.

Suddenly helpful, Leonard showed police where he hid both parts of the axe, about a quarter mile away from the camp site, in two places. And he told them how before the killing, he’d carefully placed a blanket over his little dog to spare the creature the terrible sight.*

suggested reading: Without Conscience: The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us by Robert D. Hare

[* a note from 2005: Leonard was charged with murder the next day, and not a single mention of the boy or his crime ever again appeared in the pages of the L.A. Times.]

2511 Las Flores To-day

Had only Bill Kiter stayed home instead of going out to brave bears and snakes and axe-wielding delinquents, he could have lived out his days in this little home here in Alhambra. True, this little cross-gabled house hasn’t escaped the dreaded stuccoman, as have his flanking neighbors. That notwithstanding, life in a stucco’d house, it could be argued, is somewhat preferable to death in a cot.

Monday, July 18, 2005

'Hecate' Seller Found Guilty

July 18, 1947

Are dirty books being sold in Hollywood? According to an 8 woman/ 4 man jury in Municipal Judge Mildred L. Lillie’s court, yes. Although the conviction of bookseller Harry Wepplo and the Pickwick Book Shop Corp. was previously dismissed following a reversal in the State Supreme Court, the City of L.A. made a fresh charge. The offense was selling Edmund Wilson’s racy “The Memoirs of Hecate County,” and Judge Lillie insisted that every word of its six short stories be read aloud in her courtroom. It was no defense for Wepplo to claim ignorance of the content: if the jury found the book dirty, it was their civic duty to convict.

And so they did. Harry Wepplo was released on his OR, and attorney Raymond Stanbury stated he would ask for dismissal when court reconvened on Friday.

And from the uppity New York literary critic who wrote the filthy tome, or Doubleday, the fly-by-night smut merchants who published it, not a peep was heard.

The Pickwick

See the gentleman bow?
He once did so repeatedly as an animated neon (far left, below):

One can only expect degeneracy and vice to ooze from such a neon-drenched wonderland (here, ca. 1955)…

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Mother Tells Plight of Self and Sandy

July 17, 1947
Los Angeles

On July 7, a pretty blonde woman came to the home of Mrs. Marie J. Crow, 344 W. 82nd Street, to inquire about the classified ad she’d posted, offering a room for a mother and a child. With her was a little girl, around 4 ½ years of age. Mrs. Crow explained that the room had been rented, but she agreed to care for and board the child for $15 a week.

The blonde eagerly accepted the offer. She introduced herself as Toni, and explained that she and her daughter Sandy had just come from Seattle, that she was a cocktail waitress, separated from her husband, and that she had sold her house to finance an operation for the child, who was born blind but could now see. And if Mrs. Crow would just keep an eye on Sandy, she’d just go down to the post office and get some money…

And of course that was the last Mrs. Crow saw of Sandy’s mother. After a week, she phoned police, and Sandy was taken to Juvenile Hall as an abandoned child. A story in the Times about the little girl’s plight quickly rousted the errant mother, Mrs. Iona (Toni) DuBose, 30. She told reporters that she was broke and had no friends in Los Angeles, that Sandy was hungry, and she couldn’t stand to see the child suffer.

She’d come to town looking for her estranged husband, a barman by the name of James (Slim) DuBose, in hopes that he would pony up some cash for Sandy’s eye treatments—astigmatism had made her blind from birth until an operation last fall. Since leaving Mrs. Crow’s house, Toni had found a bar girl’s gig at a café on Main Street, and had rented a hotel room.

After interviewing the mother, Juvenile Officer Alice Owen said, “This woman needs help more than punishment,” and declined to file charges. The case is being turned over to County Probation for hearing and disposition.

Suggested reading: Desperate Journeys, Abandoned Souls : True Stories of Castaways and Other Survivors by Edward E. Leslie

344 West 82nd To-day

When b-girls abandon their calves, they do so here? Port in a storm.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Woman Dies After Police Get Kin Suicide's Note

July 16, 1947
Lincoln Heights

Visiting the in-laws can be such a drag. But there’s no excuse for behaving like the late Raymond Scott did during his stay with Mrs. Eva Utzinger, 74-year-old mother of Scott’s widow Lucille.

The Scotts were on vacation at the Utzinger home, 368 S. Ave. 21, when Eva turned up with a broken skull at the foot of the outside stairs leading into the cellar. Detectives found a red-stained hatchet in the cellar, and turned it over to the lab to see if the stains were blood.

Also nearby, an unsigned note in Scott’s handwriting. “I must end the source of trouble in this house. You know whom I mean. I find I cannot escape a breakdown. And so, I am jumping from the N. Broadway Bridge. You have been a wonderful family. Here is insurance to get you well.”

Scott, who was 60, and a schoolteacher at Taft, was indeed found gravely injured at the base of the Broadway and Pasadena Avenue bridge. He died at Hollywood Presbyterian. Lucille confirmed that both she and her son had been ill.

Suggested listening: Reckless Nights & Turkish Twilights by the other Raymond Scott

The Dutiful Son-in-Law

Matricide and suicide. A perfect pairing. Like being cuddled to a warm bosom.

Here’s the house where he gave her forty whacks (or at least one, which apparently sufficed):

“I must end the source of trouble in this house” read the note. Is it that trouble lay with the house itself, in some sort of mock-Amityvilleism? Borne of its pitched roof and sinister spindlework? That’s for the present owners to find out. After which, should they need such, the can rest assured that the Bridge of Death is a short walk from their digs:

Friday, July 15, 2005

Hot Rod Boys Spend Afternoon in Court

July 15, 1947

Compton Justice Court Justice Harry R. Simon spent this afternoon lecturing twenty fidgety, t-shirt and jeans-clad youngsters on how very, very, very naughty it was that they had turned a local street into a hot rod race track last July 8. All were caught when local police blockaded the street and snared the drivers.

Fines ranging from $2 to $5 were levied on 9 of the boys, and all were charged for having defective gear on their cars, with a requirement that they produce evidence of repair. “If we catch you racing your hot rods in Compton again,” said Justice Simon,” I am going to throw you all in jail. You had better behave yourselves, because we’re not going to have that kind of driving in this town.”

suggested reading: Hot Rod Pin-ups by David Perry (intro by Robert Williams)

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Broken Marriage Ends in Slaying, Suicide Try

July 13, 1947
Los Angeles

When Mrs. Dorothea Lee, 35, left husband Horace last May 9, she might have thought she was rid of him. But Horace wasn’t finished with Dorothea. Last night, there were noises in the backyard of 559 W. 90th Street, disturbing the dog. Dorothea’s parents were visiting from Portland, so her father, George C. Brooks, went out to see what it was. He was promptly felled by three shots to the head. Dorothea and her mother saw Horace standing over him and ran to a neighbor’s to call the police. Then they went back to the house (ah, such innocent times). There on the living room floor with a bullet in the head, the estranged Horace. Brooks died on the scene, but his son-in-law lingers. They’ve moved him to the prison ward at General Hospital for now, and if he lives will do what they can to kill him.

suggested reading: Kiss Tomorrow Goodbye by Horace McCoy

559 West 90th Street To-day

Three shots to the head. Grasses hopefully tended with more care than these, fertilized by blood. A living room with some spattered brain, but non-fatal. Broken marriages and bloodshed are as commonplace as security bars and klieg lights. And rightfully so.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Woman Shot as She Sits on Bus-Stop Bench

July 12, 1947
Los Angeles

Was it shame, pride or loss of blood that made Dorothy Hawkins, 24-year-old waitress, half-rise from her General Hospital bed to grit her teeth and insist the man (tall, slim, 20s, brown suit) who shot her as she sat on a bus bench at Wilshire and Vermont was a stranger? And the stranger was polite. After shooting her, he said “I am sorry that happened. I’ll go and call and ambulance.”

But when police visited Miss Hawkins’ apartment at 1214 W. 8th Street, they found the door smashed in. Neighbor Frances Darby described a man busting it down, arguing with Hawkins, and leaving with some boxes not long before the 2:30am shooting.

Former Folsom prisoner Aubrey Jones, 26, was raised on the horn and asked to come down to the station. He admitted he’d spent some time with Miss Hawkins, but declined to meet officers as requested. A bulletin was issued for his arrest.

Meanwhile, the lady has less than a 50% chance of surviving. Gut shots are tricky that way.

suggested reading: Fast Food : Roadside Restaurants in the Automobile Age ... or pre-order Kevin Roderick's Wilshire Boulevard: Grand Concourse of Los Angeles
(out next month)

Monday, July 11, 2005

Soya Sauce Poison Tests Stir Seizure

July 11, 1947
Los Angeles

The war is over—so who is trying to poison the Japanese-American citizens of Little Tokyo? Forty people took ill two nights ago, and the cause was quickly found to be near-fatal quantities of arsenic adulterating the strange salty black soya sauce of which that population is so fond. In what seems to be an ingenious targeted attack—which has thus far failed to kill anyone, because the parts per pound were 2.3 grains instead of 2.7—at least one brand of soya sauce proved potentially life-threatening.

Not taking chances, city and state health department workers cooperated with officers of the Pure Food and Drug Bureau of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to seize some 8000 gallons of soya sauce throughout the southland. And while there have been no deaths, Captain Jack Donohoe of the police homicide department is on the case.

All roads lead first to the Staley Manufacturing Company (Decatur, Illinois), which ships soya sauce out to the coast for repackaging by local dealers. Representatives of the firm insist that there’s no way such large quantities of arsenic entered the food chain on their end—so the question becomes, at which local bottler did the deadly powder find its way into the dark and highly-flavored medium?

suggested reading: The Whole Soy Story : The Dark Side of Americas Favorite Health Food

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Woman Says She Booked Bets, but Only as Favor to Friends

July 9, 1947

It’s a friend indeed who sits around the house all day, taking horse-race bets from her buddies and passing ‘em along to a real bookie, for nothing but the joy of helping out.

This is the happy task claimed by Mrs. Kleo Marie Prince, 43, of 1737 N. Whitley Ave. While the perfectly-named officers G.F. Tillett and D.J. Lightfoot, who raided their apartment, report that Kleo and hubby Edmond, 38, Hollywood Boulevard shoe store owner, were both heard taking bets, and that they tossed the slips out the window when the cops busted in.

Mais no! says Kleo. Edmond was just home for a little lunch, and knew nothing of her hobby. Superior Court Judge Walter S. Gates evidently found this a convincing explanation—aquitting the husband while convicting the missus on a charge of bookmaking.

And not for the first time in these pages, I wish my great-grandpa Louis Prupis was still around. He had a shoe store on Hollywood Boulevard around this time, and was a betting man. I’m quite certain he had the dirt on the Princes and their little Whitley Flats operation.

suggested reading: Love Me, Love My Bookie: A Novel About Gambling and Marriage

Friday, July 08, 2005

Slain Woman's Stripped Body Found in Gutter

July 8, 1947
Lincoln Heights

It was 1:00 am when the divorce papers came, informing Antonio Mondragon, sheet metal worker of 1925 ½ Gates Street that his four-year marriage to Rosenda, 20, was ending. Of course, it was no surprise—she’d moved out of the house she shared with Antonio and her sister, Mrs. Trinidad Vigil, two months previously, and was living at 826 S. Crocker Street.

So the papers were served, and then about an hour later Rosenda herself appeared—drunk, said Antonio. They argued, and she left. Antonio followed, and saw his wife get into a car.

Or did she? William Moore, market clerk, says a woman matching Rosenda’s description called a cab from his store (location: N. Main and Mission Road) around 2:15am, telling the dispatcher she wanted a ride to San Pedro and 9th Street (a block from her home). But a car came by before the cab did, and the lady thumbed a ride with a husky blondish fellow in a dark coupe.

Flash forward a couple of hours to the early dawn, when mail clerk Newton Josha finds a gruesome package in a gutter on Elmyra Street near North Main: Rosenda Mondragon’s naked corpse, a silk stocking tightly tied around her throat. No signs of sexual attack. The likelihood that she had been killed elsewhere and pushed from a moving car.

Officers promptly gave Antonio a lie detector test, found his story at odds with his nosy neighbors, and booked him on suspicion of murder at University Division Jail.

Was it a husband scorned? The Black Dahlia’s killer, making a more northerly assault? Or an entirely new threat to the women of Los Angeles, striking near the city’s heart with a still-warm victim dumped by the train yards just up the road from the halls of commerce and of law? And how drunk did one have to be to thumb a ride, with Liz Short's killer still on the loose? Drunk enough so it didn't hurt to die?

We can only hope so.

Elmyra & North Main

Couple of corners near where Rosenda’s booze-suffused corpse hit the sidewalk.

Nearby is the William Mead Homes public housing project (415 units, 1940, nice corner windows). Did the residents see anything? Nah. But then, these projects were built on the site of the big bad Southern Refining and Amalgamated Oil which stood from 1900-1924 (read: toxic soil), so liberals will excuse locals of any Kitty Genovesism. This, despite the fact that statistically, the rich in LA are more likely to die from polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons than the poor. But I digress.

In any event, poor Rosenda is a mere blotch on the eclipse that is Dahlia in 1947 Los Angeles. Think of her when next in the neighborhood.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Wife Backs Up Mate She Says Fired At Her

July 7, 1947
Los Angeles

Who will ever understand the mind of a woman?

Nellie Robison was chased screaming from her home at 129 West Century Blvd. last night by husband Frank, 48-year-old welder. She was smart to run: Frank was firing .22-caliber bullets. Nellie found safety at a neighbor's house, and cops finally rousted her old man after firing tear gas canisters (and gassing themselves on the upwind). Once Frank was cuffed, Nellie ran out and embraced him, calling him "Honey Boy," and urging him to go along with the officers. Frank and his red-eyed captors adjourned to Georgia Street Receiving Hospital for eyewashes, and Frank was later booked at 77th Street Station on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon.

We'll assume his sweet Nellie will be waiting when, and if, he gets out.

129 West Century To-day

A .22? What’s the point of even running? Honestly. Welders.

The house from which Nellie fled:

Among a strip of interwar houses, this one typifies the street as well as any other. Stucco and security bars. Although to-day we like to think the ladies are packing sufficient iron to volley back.

A selection of vintage Los Angeles images available for purchase

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Hobbled Bird Chases Cat Out of Home

July 6, 1947
Los Angeles

It was a black day for Dingbat, long-haired tabby cat companion of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Patton of 571 S. Coronado Street. The Pattons found a weird black bird out on the lawn, its feet tied with a leather thong, and, with typical human foolishness, thought it would be a good idea to bring the hellish creature into the apartment.

The raven (or mynah, reports differ) promptly chased Dingbat out the door, and if it weren't bad enough that every kid and cat and bird in the neighborhood knew of Dingbat's shame, the man from the newspaper came and made kitty pose with the fowl interloper.

Dingbat won't be letting his owners out again for a long time.

suggested listening: The Story of the Quite Remarkable Adventures of the Owl and Pussycat [ABRIDGED] (Audio Cassette) by Eric Idle

571 South Coronado To-day

We didn't live then. Absurd to conjecture ‘bout "then and there." One thing I do know, we’d all be god-damned should we abuse a crow.

(That’s not a raven, and not a mynah.)

People ask me all the time, hey, you got a time machine, you gonna kill Hitler?

Fat chance.

Look out, crow abusers. Death like manna.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Thrill-Seeking Children Injured by Fireworks

July 5, 1947

Scores of kids ended up in area hospitals from firecracker-related injury over the July 4th weekend, but one young man in Lynwood set a sad record for carelessness and maiming.

Billy Wells, 13, of 2650 E. Century Blvd., insisted on playing with a 4-inch cylindrical professional pyrotechnic device that he found at a South Gate fireworks display. Ignoring the warnings of Joseph S. Dodson of 13715 Wright Lane, the father of a playmate, he punctured the tube and poured black powder on the porch of the Dodson residence.

Then, of course, he lit a match. Dodson was thrown backwards and momentarily blinded by the flash, while Billy's shattered hand was amputated by doctors at St. Francis Hospital, and he may lose the sight in one or both eyes. The condition of the Dodson porch is not known at press time.

Recommended reading: Firecrackers: The Art and History

Monday, July 04, 2005

Alert Officer Blocks Bridge Leap of Model

July 4, 1947
Santa Monica

What was 25-year-old model and movie bit-player Marjorie Jane White doing standing on the Ocean Avenue bridge overlooking Colorado Avenue at 3:30 in the morning? Thinking about money troubles and how nobody liked her, poor dear.

When Sgt. James Vitale saw her gazing down at the traffic, he knew he might have a jumper on his hands... so he crept up and grabbed the lass, and pulled her away from the brink.

"I don't think I would have had the nerve to jump," she sobbed, "But I'm glad you stopped me!" Marjorie's dad Paul Parr Smith picked her up and drove her home to Inglewood. She's a contestant in the July 17 Miss Hollywood contest, so judges: give the girl a break!

P.S. Change the name, kiddo. Hollywood memory is short, but not that short.

suggested reading, Santa Monica Bay: Paradise by the Sea : A Pictorial History of Santa Monica, Venice, Marina Del Rey, Ocean Part, Pacific Palisades, Topanga & Malibu

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Film Cinderella Sought For Kidnap Questioning

July 2, 1947
Los Angeles

Madge Meredith—what went wrong? The little Iowa City blonde, discovered while working as a cashier in the 20th Century-Fox commissary, later signed to RKO where she starred in “Child of Divorce” and “The Falcon’s Adventure,” though her contract recently lapsed, is today a fugitive, wanted on kidnap charges!

Two men are in custody following the daring escape from remote Lopez Canyon of Miss Meredith’s former business manager, 38-year-old Nicholas Dan Gianaclis and his assistant Verne Vinson Davis.

The men were allegedly shanghaid when they arrived at the base of Laurel Canyon Boulevard for a planned meeting with Miss Meredith. She turned up in a new red convertible, and motioned for them to follow her to Gianaclis' house up the hill. Near it, she used her car to block Gianaclis’ car while pointing him out to three associates in a third vehicle, one of whom administered a blackjack beating while the others held guns. Gianaclis and Davis were forced into their assailants’ car and driven for more than an hour, with blows punctuating every move they made. On arrival in Lopez Canyon, they were held at gunpoint for six hours, until they managed to escape and find aid at Slocum Ranch.

What’s it all about, Madgey? The lady recently made noise about suing her former manager for substituting a grant deed for a mortgage paper on the house at 8444 Magnolia Drive where until recently she and her family lived, and where the two hostages now reside, though after some initial testimony, the matter was dropped. Gianaclis identified one of his attackers as William Klinkenburg, 32-year-old cook, 6439 Agnes Street. When arrested, Klinkenburg was holding a gun belonging to Barclay Leon Thomas, 33, of 6936 Woody Trail. Barclay’s three-year marriage to Gianaclis’ daughter was annulled last week. Thomas denies any knowledge of the kidnapping and assault.

Madge Meredith’s mother, Mrs. Laura Massow, reached at her home at 8942 West 24th Street, said she had no idea where her daughter, who came home only occasionally, might be.

Police are still looking for the actress, and two mysterious men named “Jim” and “Bill,” and trying to determine motive for the strange incident.

[usually at 1947project we leave our cases frozen in time, but this one is just too juicy not to share further reference material. Miss Meredith turned herself in and served more than two years in prison at Tehachapi before her sentence was commuted by Governor Warren in 1951; Gianaclis had his citizenship denied for reasons of poor character; and in the end the lady got her house back, married a doctor (though it didn't last) and apparently made some films in Europe.]

8444 Magnolia To-day

As legend has it—which, like all legends, ranks somewhere between a lie and an untruth—as legend has it, this was one of the first houses built in the Laurel Canyon area, and the man who built it in the 20s would fly his biplane o’er and pelt the lazy workers with tomatoes. Until he crashed the plane into the half-finished house.

By 1947, 8444 had entered into the aforementioned contretemps with Madge and Gianaclis.

(The castle motif is not original to the house, but was added after Northridge.)

You can see why they’d fight over the thing, the views being pretty spectacular.

Although we should assume goats were not involved at that time.

And then there’s Madge herself. Sure, she comes off as no stranger to unsavory characters. But… the story continues, involving as it does Earl Warren, the California Assembly, and that little slice of heaven we call Tehachapi… but I’ll let another illuminate that.

suggested reading: Storybook Style: America's Whimsical Homes of the Twenties