Saturday, December 31, 2005

Goodbye 1947, and Hello... 1947?

Gentle reader,

We thank you for coming along on our nine month's voyage into old Los Angeles, city of vice and foolishness, of sunlight and deep shadow.

Many of you have asked "What's next after December 31?" The real question should be "What about March 13th?" You see, we somewhat arbitrarily began our blog adventure in March 2005/1947, and the plan was always to loop around at year's end and finish out the 1947 calendar year.

So tomorrow, you'll find us having super-charged our time traveling, rewinding further still to January 1947. Elizabeth Short, who will soon become more famous than she ever dreamed, welcomes the new year in San Diego, thinking idly of finding a ride back to L.A. W.C. Fields awaits burial after his sad Christmas death from a stomach hemorrhage. It's 1947 all over again. Anything can happen.

Stay tuned for buttermilk skies and much more strangeness between now and March 12, and on March 13 an announcement of what fresh form 1947project will take.

Kim and Nathan
(and Larry, too--hey, you read the comments, right?)

And Leave the Drinking to Us

Remember dear reader, the mixing of alcohol and automobile should be left to the professionals. Drinking and driving is the domain of cops, and metallurgists, and writers, and a few other selected individuals skilled in and comfortable with the venerable art.

Thank you for your attention.

Friday, December 30, 2005

The Lonesome Death of Baby Ralford

December 30, 1947
Los Angeles

They met again in Superior Court, Douglas Ralford, electrical engineer of Long Beach, and Dr. W. R. Senseman, Lancaster hospital owner, and his nurse, Alma Carleton. The last time was November 4, 1946, when Vivian Ralford gave birth to an apparently stillborn son.

Alma told Vivian her child was dead moments after his birth; seven hours later, wrapped in paper in the morgue, baby was heard to cry. He was hurried back to the nursery, where he died two hours later of exposure.

The Ralfords were seeking $100,000 in damages, but reached a pre-court deal through Attorney S.S. Hahn and Senseman's insurance company, believed to be in the range of $5000.

Death and Resurrection, and Death

And who among us is surprised to see...another nurse.

Yes, I love their embittered hearts and unrepentant drug addiction and that I love their overblown need for role playing is an unfortunate matter of public record, but their fundamental incapacity to discern between "alive" and "dead,” that’s the part of nursing that weirds me out.

But Ralford Jr. rose…like Lazarus, with Nurse Alma’s bidding? Or did the li’l revenant self-resurrect, rolling his rock away from the entrance of the morgue? In any event, pointless theological speculation aside, Junior up and dies again, making him some sort of undead I Am Legend spawn.

All in all, the question remains, what’s a dead baby worth? Above and beyond the nine months of minimum wage that is your due? The Ralfords asked for 100k and settled for five. Telling. Of course, kid would have grown up to be one of those self obsessed boomer types. Ahem.

This much we know with certainty: screams from a morgue—there’s a sound you won't soon forget.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

1947project on KNX Newsradio

FLASH: Here's the piece in handy MP3 format.

Nathan and Kim are back on the air this week in a moody mood piece scribed by KNX investigative reporter Michael Linder, the L.A. Press Club's 2004 Radio Journalist of the Year. You can hear our spot throughout the hourly news round ups either on Thursday or Friday, and probably thoughout the weekend, on KNX-1070 AM.

The Miraculous Case of the Nurse on the Running Board

December 28, 1947
West Hollywood

The peace of little Sharon Lee Christensen's sleep was shattered tonight when a late model sedan crashed through the wall of the 5-year-old's bedroom at 8852 Cynthia Street and came to a stop atop the child, with only her mattress protecting her from certain death.

The incident began when Lucille Bianchi, 20, a nurse, parked her car on a steep grade on Larrabee Avenue near Sunset Boulevard. The car rolled free and Lucille hopped onto the running board, struggling frantically to get inside and throw the brake. Before she could, the car smashed through the Christensen's wall, with Lucille along for the ride. She was taken to West Hollywood Emergency Hospital with a possible broken pelvis. Sharon Lee, meanwhile, went to sleep in a less drafty part of the house.

8852 Cynthia Ave., To-day

I don’t buy it. Not for a minute.

Here’s Larrabee's “steep grade” as spoken of in the paper’s account:

And after the car barrelled down that grade, it would have had to have turned this sharp corner—

To then hit 8852:

--no. I stand by my estimation of 19 December (uh, and of 21 December) wherein I take nursing to task. At the risk of conjuring the ire of the American Nursing Association, I put it to y'all, that Lucille “Registered Nurse” Bianchi’s auto was somehow bewitched by said’s nursing powers. That which can be equated with nursing invariably invokes madness, mayhem and death. Prove me wrong, ANA? Didn’t think so.

Bianchi’s auto. An inanimate object animates itself. That’s hard to do. Under the direction of a nurse, however…

Yeah yeah, leave nurses alone. Nurses see more death than doctors. Hell, nurses see more death than do most Army sergeants. The only gals who see more death than nurses are lady morticians.

(Those of you who, like this humble writer, only date nurses and morticians know that one cannot, under any circumstances, put both in the same room at the same time. Neither oil and water, nor fire and ice, between the two, it’s fire and another kind of fire… but on the Crazy Scale, nurses outstrip morticians 11-5. Trust me on this one.)

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Don Smith's Last Ride

December 27, 1947
Los Angeles

He didn't obey the boulevard stop, so cops pulled him over. Donald I. Smith, 50, sat in his car in front of 1640 S. Robertson and eyed the rearview as the officer walked towards him. By the time the man reached the car, Smith was slumped over the dash with a bullet in his head. He died an hour later in Santa Monica Hospital. File under: you'll never take me alive, copper.

It didn't take long to determine that Smith was the man wanted for kidnapping his 14-year-old stepdaughter Sheila Shirley Marilyn Morrison from her aunt's place in Leucadia on Christmas. The girl had already been found safe in a hotel in La Mesa.

Smith must have known they were going to catch him. He left a series of mocking notes in the car. One read: "To John Law--Greetings, John. Our relations to the best of my memory in the past were never overaffectionate. It's all been strictly business, so let's keep it that way. My name is Donald I. Smith. My address is Nebula M-17. Any astronomer can tell you, but it's too far to bother going there. Nebula M-17 is quite a journey and it may tire your flat feet. Happy New Year and may all your kids be born with flat feet. I was educated at three prisons. I've been in jails too numerous to mention. I've got a long prison record."

No one bothered to check to see if Nebula M-17 burned a little dimmer in mourning.

1640 S. Robertson To-day

Some of us travel with license and registration handy, others with the requisite “I’m dead, so blow me” note. Such missives are necessary for those of us actively sought for the abduction of our 14 year-old stepdaughters.

History does not record what transpired between the two from the moment of Sheila’s abduction and her discovery in that hotel, but if it was worthy of daddy’s suicide, we can assume it was nothing good.

Had Donald rolled down the window of his Nash, or Plymouth, or Hudson, as the bulls approached? Did the folks within this handsome collection of prewar apartments hear a muffled pop, or a startling crack? Could Sheila-Shirley feel his head explode, wherever she was?

Monday, December 26, 2005

A Deadly Holiday Tradition

December 26, 1947
Los Angeles

Each family celebrates the season in their own way. Some have carolling and stockings, some make a respectful visit to church, others opt for Chinese food and a double feature. Glenn Hepner, 43-year-old upholsterer, honored Christ's birth by picking up a stranger, Alonzo W. Boren, 61, and bringing him home to 2831 S. Orange Dr. for a drinking party.

Hepner's wife Anna retired early, leaving the two men to their tippling and horseplay, and in the morning found Glenn dead on the bathroom floor. Rousted at his home at 724 N. Fairfax, Boren admitted he'd been fighting with his host, and had left him in the bathroom. An autopsy is pending.

2831 South Orange To-day

The archetypal California bungalow, thick braces under low-pitched double gables, sent to hell via the stuccoman. The neighborhood reeks of stucco. And booze. And corpses. It is Christmas, after all.

It's no wonder folks fetishize postwar America—the anteplaystation years—while now grown men sit together in front of some giant screen (all those years donating plasma finally pay off), back in '47 we were Men, and we had drinking parties. (We’ll ignore the homorerotic overtones within the Times’ use of the phrase “drinking companion” and Mrs. Hepner’s account that the two were “playing pretty rough.”)

In any event. The drinking party: you drink, you get drunk, somebody dies. That's a party, you computerized pansy.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

The Axleys' Last Xmas

December 25, 1947
Los Angeles

Mrs. Mabel Axley, 30-year-old beautician, didn't tuck her sons Claude Jr., 8, and Jimmy, 3, into bed on Christmas eve. After a fight with her drunken, unemployed husband Claude, she was locked out of the family manse at 739 Marine St., and spent the night in the garage. Mabel awoke to the heat and smell and sound of fire--the house was burning, and no one responded when she pounded on the door.

Gerald C. Benson, who lives at 801 1/2 Marine, soaked himself at the garden hose and made several valiant efforts to rescue the children, to no avail. The children's mother was badly burned attempting to get to her sons, and is in Santa Monica Hospital tonight. Claude Axley, meanwhile, emerged unscathed. He has been charged with two counts of murder.

And on Marine St., a charred teddy bear lolls in the ashes, along with other ruined Christmas gifts opened not by tiny fingers, but by flame.

My First Xmas Gift

Drunk on Christmas is a holy tradition. Like drunk on Easter. Or Lincoln's Birthday.

Another Christmas tradition? Sleeping in the garage. Hearing your children's bones crackle like yule logs.

And so on. I was bitterly (if not a little blithely, I'll admit) considering my blogging options for this day while out in Santa Monica preparing to shoot the former location of Axley Manor, when I came across this 75¢ photo in a pile of crap in a junk store.

Santa, you magnificent bastard, you read my wish list.
In 1947 there were no collapsible steering wheels. Please remember this as you wave gaily at Santa's giant blood-red head.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Santa and the Stink Bombs

December 24, 1947
Beverly Hills

While staff and customers awaited the start of the annual holiday party at Vallera's Rotisserie Restaurant and Delicatessen, 8680 Wilshire Blvd., the festivities were disturbed by the sudden explosion of two stench bombs, one of which had been left a phone booth. The restaurant is the sixth business being picketed by the A.F.L. Culinary Workers union to be attacked in this manner.

Owner Joe Vallera says that the union is disputing one employee's wages, but that most of his 60 workers have been crossing the line. Those workers rushed into action following the bombing, manning mops and fans to flush the foul smell away. After an hour they had either succeeded or become acclimated, and the party went on as planned.

Ho Ho Ho, Stenchy Christmas!

8680 Wilshire, To-day

Again with the AFL (set your 47p wayback machine for October 9)…fortunately, we’ve since learned that whacking labor leaders and firing into crowds with the odd SKS are the preferred methods of contract negotiation.

Culinary workers? Long hours, sure, but they don’t hurt for eatin’. AFLCW didn’t hurt for anything, being one of LA’s famously corrupt mob puppets before their eventual implosion.

The Bombay Palace, at 8690, is a prewar brick building with a new façade. But our Vallera’s at 8680 is lost to the winds, the winds that carried off the last stench of class struggle…

My, isn’t this riot of AFL window-smashing & stench-bombing charmingly old school? Less charming, we must suppose, should you have to smell the stench.

FYI, should you need to show your displeasure with the company unions by the boss making by the workers double cross: hydrated lime may be purchased where cement is sold, and sulfur is the primary ingredient in rose dust; mix at one to two, add water and heat. Pour off into a container leaving the lime residue behind. Now add sulfate of ammonia (also in your garden department). Stir, cover, drain through cheesecloth into the bottle you’re about to throw, and there you have it. You now know as much as the Folks of 47 and we implore each and every proletariat on the side of the pin-setters to begin stench bombing Los Angeles in earnest. You have nothing to lose but your chains and stuff.

Friday, December 23, 2005

A Pill Bottle Is Not A Toy

December 23, 1947
Los Angeles

Trying to entertain her daughter Penelope, 18 months, while herself recovering from surgery, Mrs. Evelyn Gavrus of 10923 S. Hobart Blvd. tossed a closed bottle of laxative pills to the baby, thinking she would toy with it like a rattle. The child deftly popped the lid off and gobbled down four or five pills as Evelyn screamed for help. Neighbors came running, but by the time they got Penelope down to Park Emergency Hospital, Gardena, she was dead, her tiny frame overwhelmed by the 2/100s of a grain of poison inside each pill.

10923 S. Hobart To-day

One cannot judge Mrs. Gavrus too harshly. This was, after all, a full 25 years before Alice Cooper recorded “Dead Babies,” his warning against just this sort of occurance.

But it was 1947. A time when not only were there no childproof caps, but all seemingly harmless drugs contained deadly poison.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

A Very Bad Date

December 22, 1947
Los Angeles

Mrs. Helen Miller, 19, met a man in a restaurant about a week ago, and agreed to go back to his hotel room. He told her his name was Donald Graeff, and if she thought she might forget it, any chance was lost after he held her captive and carved his initials into her upper thigh with a dull jacknife. "I am going to brand you," he explained, "So I can keep you all to myself."

Today, Mrs. Miller managed to get word out to police, and was rescued. Mr. Graeff is in police custody, and will be questioned about several unsolved sex/mutilation murders in the city, including that of Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia.

Obsession, some room, a knife, and Thee

Maybe ol’ DG is crazy like a fox. Consider—pull at stunt like this within a year of the Dahila, and you’re gonna be picked up for some serious questioning. However, once they’ve cleared you of that heinous event, won't an overtaxed PD’ll be less likely to burden themselves with a a simple leg-carver? This is Christmas, not Thanksgiving.

Nice to know the pair in question will be played by Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey in the MOW.

What burns me up is that the papers don’t mention in which hôtel Graeff shacked up the young bride. There are many. Here are a few.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

A Suicide Pact

December 21, 1947

Wiley and Zelda Mills, both 65, took sleeping pills in their apartment at 1753 1/2 N. Berendo St. after preparing their wills and writing apologetic notes. Zelda's to their son Francis in Berkeley read " We are sorry to have to do this now. But it is the only thing left. Dad and I talked it out and there would be no use of my trying to go on alone. We love you very much. Mother."

The couple's son-in-law Cambern Cottrell, 1025 S. Westmoreland Ave., alerted police when he was unable to get the Mills on the phone or to answer their door. When officers L.T. Napier and J.H. Stein entered the apartment, they found Wiley dead and Zelda unconscious. She is in critical condition in General Hospital.

The couple was apparently despondent over financial problems and the death of Cambern's wife, their daughter Marjorie, from pneumonia four years ago.

1753+1/2 West Berendo To-day

A decidedly post-1947 complex of late-fiftiesiana has replaced the Mills’ death apartment. Hail the authoritative and striking Berendo Vista! Certainly we must imagine suicides of only the finest and most modern order conduct themselves here.

Despite my love of the Mills’, after having blogged about nurses a scant two days ago, I was hoping Kim would go with this story:

…because I’d hate to see another nurse, of whom I love collectively, whose mints on the pillows of the ol’ Hotel du Crazy are always fresh, fall through the cracks of 21 December 1947. That a blarney-smooching nurselet shall hang from a kookootown window, turning herself that particular shade of necrophile grey, is to be forgotten on my watch? Think not, dear reader.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Christmas Shoppers Menaced!

December 20, 1947

Shoppers in the S.H. Kress Co. store at 6608 Hollywood Boulevard this evening were terrorized when a gun-wielding robber forced floorman John W. Cossett to empty a register and hand over $110 before fleeing the scene.

The disappointing take seems about what you'd expect when a gunman hits a dime store.

6608 Hollywood Boulevard To-day

Hey look, that’s one of the many Edward Sibbert-designed Kress department stores (this being from 1935, ogle those setbacks) on the right. That’s a 1928 JJ Newberry Company on the left.

Christmas shopping represents nothing more than a Consumer Confidence Index precisely mirrored against the Death of the Earth. When our last National Treasure, the choked and gasping American Landfill, dies via poison spilled from Christmas’ gaping chasm, we shall recall the time when the only terrors visited upon us were those involving popgun-wielding desperadi. As we suck in our final breath of outgassed CFCs we will beg for the Kress bandit’s bullet to put us out of our postmodern misery!

On behalf of the 1947project, I invite you to consume as hard as you can, while there is still time. Thank you for your attention.

Monday, December 19, 2005

The Noir Nurse

December 19, 1947
Los Angeles

Nurse Fay Young, 28, was dressed all in black when they found her in a cafe two blocks from her apartment at 826 W. Sixth Street--down to the .45 caliber Army automatic hidden in her purse.

Police were interested, because Fay matched the description of the woman who had just held up Stanley Brown, 1110 S. Lake Street, for $9 nearby. Would that she had walked to the cafe. It was her suspicious behavior in a cab that led driver Sam Wurtzel, 1163 S. Kingsley, to drop a dime on her. It seems she had been cradling the weapon in her lap and cooing to it, "This is my only friend, my best friend."

Fay and her best friend are in police custody tonight. Neither is talking.

My Fay Young's Little World

There is no profession more honorable than nursing, and I steadfastly believe all nurses give 110% to their craft. Such said, I’ve found nurses—having known an inordinate quantity for some reason—to be emotionally damaged sex addicts with rather pronounced substance abuse problems. Like yours truly. Which is why I like them so much, or at least that's why I’ve known so many.

In any event, the Nurse: like the Cop, she spends her days with her head in the human toilet, seeing people only at their lowest ebb. Is it any wonder they garb themselves in black and take in a lonely GI ACP as their only friend?

Here’s where my new delightful intended Fay Young lived:

Note her small apartment building just there to the left of the Gates Hotel. Both of which are gone, having been replaced like so:

(Orient yourself in the two pix via Wurdeman & Becket’s 1946 Mobil Oil/General Petroleum bldng peeking from the corner.)

And where Fay boosted some schmendrik who so dearly deserved to be relieved of his nine dollars:

Relatedly, on a Los Angeles streetcorner I recently reacquainted myself with M----- R-----, former nursing student and former girlfriend of mine at that, who now panhandles to support her, uh, nursing habit.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

The Case of the Walking Wristwatch

Hear this case recounted live on KPCC radio's Pacific Drift L.A. noir episode.

December 18, 1947

Two years ago, Mrs. Mary Louise Loftus rented a room in her home at 6429 Primrose Avenue to a (seemingly) nice young man whose height and cherubic features earned him an occasional paycheck doubling for Orson Welles. John Abernathy made such a good impression on Mrs. Loftus that she entrusted him with taking a broken diamond- and sapphire-studded wristwatch down to the jewelers. And that was the last she saw of Abernathy until...

... driving near Sunset and Laurel Canyon Boulevards last night, Loftus thought she spotted Orson Welles standing on the corner. But everyone knew that Orson was in Rome making Black Magic and mourning his split from Rita Hayworth. Ergo, that had to be Abernathy taking his evening constitutional! The lady called the cops, who located Abernathy in his nearby apartment at 8117 Sunset and took the kid down to the Hollywood Jail. The charge: grand theft, wristwatch, for the missing bauble was valued at $750.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Hans' Best Friend

December 17, 1947
Los Angeles

Hans S. Erlandsen, 48-year-old security guard, suffered an apparent heart attack today while driving and smashed into a telegraph pole at the used car lot at Santa Barbara and Vermont Avenues. Officers J.H. Turner and L.M Friday were called to the scene and tried to aid the stricken man, but his Doberman pinscher refused to let them anywhere near his master. After nearly half an hour, the dog quieted and permitted ambulance workers to attend Erlandsen, who was probably dead when his car left the road. According to his fishing license, the victim lived at 3980 S. Budlong.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Barone & Tucker Do the Slow Roll

December 16, 1947
Highland Park

Two city police officers were unharmed today following an accident as they made the difficult low-speed exit off the Arroyo Parkway near Figueroa Street. As officers W.B. Barone and J.C. Tucker left the high speed lanes, they swerved to avoid another car and hit the median, causing their sedan to flip.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

The Case of the Killer Longshoreman

December 15, 1947
Los Angeles

Police are holding Rufus Avery, 47, on suspicion of murder and arson after discovering the longshoreman wearing scorched clothing in the aftermath of a fire at 10351 1/2 S. Hickory Street.

Mrs. Vera Dudley directed police to look at her former suitor, who had previously attempted to burn her house down, following the early morning blaze in which her mother Mrs. Minnie Dudley, 50, and children Lawrence, 8, Carol, 6, and Kenneth, 4, were killed.

Avery was taken into custody at his hotel room at 108 Palos Verdes Street, San Pedro. Vera Dudley was not at home at the time of the fire.

10351 1/2 South Hickory To-day

Longshoremen are best kept down on the, uh, longshore. They come inland, and trouble ensues.

But Longshoreman Rufus came up he did, just a few blocks from where Simon Rodia was toiling away on his towers, to set a house full of children (plus one old lady) ablaze.

Fifty-eight years later, and still no-one’s built there.

There are a number of lots empty in the neighborhood, not just ’65-era commercial blocks-come-parking lots, but vacant plots of residential, like this lot two doors down from Vera Dudley’s.

The work of longshoremen, no doubt.

1947project featured on KPCC's Pacific Drift, Sunday 9pm

Fans of SoCal noir are directed to tune their Philcos to KPCC-FM 89.3 at 9pm this Sunday, for a special noir-themed episode of Pacific Drift with Ben Adair and Queena Kim. This week's show includes a visit to Sunday's 1947project crime scene. What do you get when you cross an Orson Welles lookalike with a jewel-studded wristwatch? You'll just have to listen, or read the blog, to find out.

Also on the Noir L.A. episode: Alan Silver, author of LA Noir; Rob Thomas, creator of "Veronica Mars"; Paula Woods, author of Strange Bedfellows; and LAPD “cold case” detective Dave Lampkin. Plus LA Weekly music editor (and bubblegum fiend) Kate Sullivan reviews the year's best local music

The show will also be available as a podcast.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A Mysterious Assault

December 14, 1947
Atwater Village

When Mrs. Evelyn Schott got off the street car near her home at 3224 Garden Ave., she stepped unknowingly into a trap. For lurking one block from home's safety was a man with evil intent. He sprung upon Evelyn from behind a bush and commenced beating her head. She screamed, neighbors poured onto their lawns, and her assailant jumped into a car and split. Evelyn was patched up at Pasadena Ave. Emergency Hospital, and won't, we wager, be walking home alone after dark again anytime soon.

3224 Garden Ave., To-day

The house to which she vainly attempted to walk:

And the road she walked down:

The streetcar mentioned in the story was probably on Fletcher. A road near a streetcar, that's good. A road with hidden brain-beating, cranium-crushing madmen lurking in the shadows, not so good.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Let's Play Supermarket Sweep

December 13, 1947
Los Angeles

Mrs. Esther D. Miller, 39, is a woman with an interesting hobby. She writes letters to her grocer, accusing him of padding her bill, and demanding cash in exchange for not calling the police.

Mrs. Miller, who lives at 1416 W. 53rd Street, stands accused of writing such a letter to grocery owner I. Rodman, in business at 54th Street and Normandie. She demanded $200, and extortion charges were filed.

Rodman's wife told U.S. Commissioner David B. Head that this was not the first extortion demand from Mrs. Miller. Last time, Mrs. Rodman had personally paid out $300, reasoning that "[her] husband has ulcers and [she] didn't want to upset him."

Bail was set at $1000.

1416 West 53rd To-day

The Little Pink House where Esther hunches over her Underwood, tapping out threats, copy-editing extortion.

And a block away, poor Rodman the Grocer hunkers down to wait out the storm. Maybe he was padding the grocery bill. Or maybe there was something else. Something more lurid. Or something insane, on somebody's part. The wife is more involved in this than we are led to believe, and Esther's lucky she didn't end up with poisoned meat, and the market has had some sort of mock-Mansard roof attachment, and one way or another, this is going to end in tears.

Monday, December 12, 2005

People Who Live In Lean-Tos Shouldn't Insult Women

December 12, 1947
Van Nuys

What turns a brother against his own kin? For 20-year-old Harold Berry, who is on County relief to the tune of $128 monthly and resides at 14359 Erwin Street, it was brother Murrill, 27, suggesting that Harold's bride Colleen was available to anyone who asked. The lady responded by tossing a knife, but since she threw like a girl, Murrill was able to duck. He knocked Colleen out, and Harold threw Murrill out.

Furious Harold steamed for a time, then grabbed his revolver and stalked off to find his brother, who was not, as he'd first guessed, passed out in his car. So he stormed several blocks to 14657 Calvert Street, where big brother maintained a lean-to. Without thinking, he later told police, he pumped three bullets into the sleeping man's head.

As Colleen sobbed, Harold learned he'd have his formal murder charge on Wednesday morning.

And Harold Struck Down his Brother Murrill

Colleen, it would seem, is the sacrifice. She somehow represents that which is rejected by God. Harold, as both the younger brother and Cain, has therefore offered the sacrifice to his elder, who conversely is Abel. Murrill embodies Abel, a shepherd in a lean-to, a lazy and pointless taker who favors and is favored by God, a God who is in fact himself, by the void and for his brother. And his brother Cain, history’s first worthwhile man, fountainhead of art and thought, founder of the first city and lifespring of civilization, has a gun.

And one must remember, that in the time of Cain and Abel, murder was not forbidden by God. Blam. Blam. Blam.

And here is where the earth was stained by bloodshed.

Once a Van Nuys lean-to, it is now a house abandoned, sick, wrong. Why? When life was first shed, God said "And now cursed art thou from the ground, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand. When thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a wanderer shalt thou be in the earth."

And where did the fratricidal tiller go? Where is the land of Nod? La Habra?

Where Calvert once cut through the Valley, it has been torn up and replaced by the Civic Center.

Harold’s house was on this spot, now the Van Nuys Branch Library (Glenn Arbogast & Assc., 1963). Fitting, as he was progenitor of Lamech, father of music and meteallurgy. (Note the Van Nuys City Hall, nee Valley Municipal Building [Peter K. Scharborum, 1932] looming in the background like the Tower of Babel.)

Most cities are made up of collected Seth, borne to a chastened and humbled Eve. But LA’s angel is the boastful, prideful mother who gave us Cain, the man who settled in the land of wandering. The man who, sometimes, just has to strike down his brother.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

The Case of the Singed Curtains

December 11, 1947
Los Angeles

Some criminals just want to be punished. Consider the case of Mrs. Betty Cole, 27-year-old cocktail waitress, raising her twins alone while her Army captain husband serves at the San Francisco Presidio. Police investigators picked Betty up when it became clear that she was the pyromaniac responsible for four small blazes at the Palms Wilshire Hotel, 626 S. Alverado, on September 14, one at 1272 S. Western on October 14, and an initial fire at 1326 Oak Street on November 7, 1946.

Realizing that they had a nutty dame on their hands, and that no one had as yet been injured, the investigators offered to waive the charges if Betty would agree to stop smoking and drinking. But when Betty called the station to ask her nice policeman friends to join her for a beer, they revived the prosecution. Betty was picked up in a cocktail lounge, and her bail is set at $2500.

Fire in the Hole

Strictly speaking, Betty isn’t an arsonist; she isn’t after revenge or monetary gain, nor is she plain old psychotic. No, she’s a true pyromaniac, with a probable paraphilia for fire and its attendant accouterements—fire trucks, foam, and fun. That, and she just loves to set fire to curtains, but who doesn’t?

After having set four blazes at the Palms Wilshire, it’s a wonder it’s still standing:

She also did some drape-ignitin’ here, or perhaps near. The address in the Times is 1272, and the address on this building is 1250, putting 1272 about where the TV-VCR repair bunker quivers behind the tree.

And on Oak, where we picture her writhing in ecstacy over burning case headings and bubbling pencil pleats. How her blood would boil as hot as the flames engulfing the valances! How only oceans of beer could quell the inferno in her soul!

But revisiting that room, to feel the hot madness of her throes… I don’t have to tell you that Oak, which used to run blithely up to Pico, got wiped out north of the 1400 block by the Arroyo Seco Parkway.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Child's Play

December 10, 1947

Two baby cousins, each 14 months old, were playing together in the kitchen of the Joseph and Mary Diaz home at 3139 Alameda Street while the adults kibbitzed in the living room. Suddenly a child's scream shattered the peace of the evening. The Diazes rushed into the kitchen to find their son Joseph Junior bleeding profusely from his head, as cousin Alice Vasquez sat spellbound, a pancake turner clutched in one fat fist. The families raced to Pasadena Emergency Hospital, where Joseph died a few hours later.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Rowdy Roddy McDowall?

December 9, 1947
Los Angeles

Two laborers came to Superior Court today to sue actor Roddy McDowall, 19, for damages caused when the parties were involved in a head-on collision on September 7. In the accident, which happened on Roosevelt Highway near Latigo Canyon, Rosalio C.Padilla, 30, lost his left eye and suffered a broken knee, while Max Alverado, 42, received minor injuries. Through their attorney George Cohn, Padilla and Alverado sought $52,000 and $5200 respectively, from McDowall and actor Richard Long, 19, owner of the vehicle.

A message from the future: You know Roosevelt Highway as PCH, and Richard Long as Prof. Harold Everett from Nanny & the Professor.

Not an Eye for an Eye

Flickaphile McDowall was a Brit-in-LA at the same time Waugh’s 1947 Brit-in-LA novel The Loved One is published; McDowall goes on to star in the 1965 film version (featuring Lionel Stander, another member of our 47p community [cf. October 23]).

A couple of snaps not of the actual incident, but from the greater 47 collection, and which, we feel, get the spirit of the event across.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

You Can't Be Noirish 24/7

Psst, that crime bus has filled up... so if enough folks keep asking to be on the tour, we're gonna add a second bus on Saturday January 14. Waaaaah, I hear you cry, but that's not the anniversary of the discovery of the Black Dahlia's body! True, dearest, it's the anniversary of her last day of captivity. Much creepier, don't you agree?

But I didn't stop by to talk mutilation murder, not this time, but rather to alert you that when your humble editrix (moi) isn't blogging weird crime, I'm publishing Scram, a journal of unpopular culture. We're having a holiday sale, where you can get three gift subscriptions for the price of two, or a flat rate envelope stuffed with mags at a bargain rate. If you like neglected genius, oddball pop, true tales of lives lived distinctly and "the best cover art since the old Esquire" (sez Gene Sculatti), then you might want to check this link out.

Oh, did the wee policeman get an owee?

December 8, 1947
Los Angeles

Man, it took some guts for Elmer E. Kunkle to file his battery suit today. Not many LAPD officers would want it widely known that, when sent by his superiors to quell the noise at a party at 206 N. Avenue 51, he not only failed to intimidate with his mere presence, but was, he claims, set upon by the rowdy guests, beaten and bum-rushed off the property. Kunkle's suit names Graham E. Thompson and his wife Esther, William St. Charles, Jerry M. Garner, Leonard W. Likes and Angus D. Bell, and seeks $50,000 damages.

206 North Ave. 51, To-day

Sure, you're thinking "a cop named Elmer Kunkle gets beat up by a lady named Esther and a guy named Angus—this is a gag, right?" Wrong. This is a town of degeneracy and vice, depravity and vicious reprobate gangs reeling in cops like Elmer and throwing them back like fish too small for Satan's game warden.

To you, the uninitiated, “Se Rentan Mesas y Sillas” might mean these reg'lar folk rent tables and chairs. In actuality, it’s really a depraved shorthand for “We Throw Cops Off Porches.” Word to the wise.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Keep It Dark, We Like It That Way!

December 7, 1947

Those grousing murmurs regarding the ornamental lighting proposal for the business district at Crenshaw and Manchester Boulevards will be formally heard on January 2 in City Council Chambers. At issue are the costs for the bulbage, a hefty $6.10 per foot frontage for business owners.

Bonus Gift for Crime Bus Passengers

Each brave rider who joins us on the Crime Bus for Dahlia Day 2006 will receive a very special gift, a free CD of "Somebody Knows!" an ultra-rare 1950 CBS radio show that re-created key incidents in the Black Dahlia case and offered a $5,000 reward for tips in an attempt to solve the murder.

Stay tuned to this blog for more announcements about the one-day-only trip into the dark side of historic Los Angeles. The pre-sale list is filling up quickly, so be sure to reserve if you want dibs on a seat once they go on sale.

Date: 1/15/06
time: 11am-4pm
starting: in Hollywood
cost: $25 max, probably less
reserve: by email to editrix Kim, amscray @ gmail . com

Manchester & Crenshaw, Morningside Heights

What could be more un-American than strongarming businesses to pony up cash for a collection of plastic manger scenes? After all, not everybody believes in that sort of thing. Why, here’s a congregation that aren’t son worshippers, they’re sun worshippers!

Yes, apparently the folk who’ve inhabited the Academy Theater (S. Charles Lee, 1939) are sun worshippers. Whether they believe Sol will be devoured by Skoll at Ragnarock, or that Ra must defeat Apep every morning, they’re part of the community, just like you and me.

So, friends, fight the power—the electrical power, that is!

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Update: Please DON'T vote for 1947project as Best Los Angeles Blog

UPDATED UPDATE: Since clearing ones cache and cookies results in a clean slate where some unscrupulous soul can vote as many times as they like, and since legit voters are being locked out of the contest, we ask that you not bother voting for 1947project in Gridskipper's Urb contest. I am truly sorry to have wasted your time--and my own--on this unprofessional foolishness.

UPDATE: We've received several reports of people receiving a "page not there" error when attempting to vote. If this happens to you, will you please contact me at amscray at gmail dot com
? Thanks -Kim

Gentle Readers:

Thanks in large part to the kind readers who nominated us last week, we are officially in the running for a Gridskipper Urb award as one of the Best Los Angeles Blogs. Yea! Only we are up against our pal Rodger at 8763 Wonderland. Boo!

In any case, we'd really appreciate it if you could click over and, if you like what we're doing at 1947project, cast a vote before December 26.

Our catagory, Best Los Angeles Blog, is near the bottom of the page, under Best New York Blog, here.

thanking you in advance for your vote, I am,
yr pal,

Come Ride the Crime Bus

Our more observant readers may have noticed the countdown in the upper right hand corner of this site, bringing us ever closer to January 15th, the anniversary of the date Elizabeth Short’s mutilated body was discovered in scrubland in South Central Los Angeles. The Black Dahlia Case has become one of the most notorious and iconic unsolved crimes in a city rife with vice, subject of books, films, paintings and tasteless t-shirts.

On the morning that counter hits zero, you, lucky reader, will have an opportunity to be on a bus with a group of your fellow true crime and LA history aficionados, visiting a hand-picked selection of obscure and celebrated noirish crime scenes, from the Hollywood iHop where SLA revolutionary turned Minnesota soccer mom Kathleen Soliah tried to bomb two LAPD patrol cars to the Black Dahlia site on South Norton Avenue and many fascinating spots between.

This isn’t your typical Hollywood Babylon tour, but rather a voyage into untraveled lands and the incredible, forgotten crimes of the sort we run every day on 1947project.

More info will be forthcoming, but for now we’re looking for a projected headcount. If you’d like to be on the reserved list for the Crime Bus tour (ticket prices tba, but it will be no more than $25, and quite probably less), email editrix Kim at amscray @ gmail dot com. People on the reserved list will get first dibs at scoring one of the limited seats on the bus once the tour is formally announced.

We hope to see a lot of you on Dahlia Day 2006!

A Fish Story

December 6, 1947
La Jolla

A secretary, in heels and hose and a neat little updo, catching big game fish? That's crazy, kids! And yet it happened today off the beach in La Jolla.

Folks spotted a big fish swimming erratically between the two breakwaters, as if it had been injured. The exquisitely-named Mrs. Dymple Axtell, 28-year-old secretary of the La Jolla Beach and Tennis Club, watched for a spell and then couldn't contain herself. She enlisted Harry Grimm to row her out, and promptly gaffed a 512 pound, 12' broadbill swordfish. which they pulled back to shore. A San Diego fish market paid them $81.82 each for their share of the fish, which will handily cover any damage to the lady's coiffure or manicure.

Monday, December 05, 2005

An Ill-Mannered Con

December 5, 1947
Los Angeles

There were two distinguishing features of the man who robbed the Bank of America branch at Seventh and Broadway near closing time today. He had a very dirty face, and he was no gentleman.

Teller Paul V. Glowczewski of 2939 Covina Street told police that the man came to his window, showed a revolver through his Army raincoat's split pocket, and snarled "Gimme money." Glowczewski placed some cash on the counter, and Mr. Grubby snapped "Gimme more!" He was right; Glowczewski had been holding out on him.

Then the man took his money and strolled casually out of the bank, leaving one shaken teller and several dozen oblivious customers to finish up their business.

Bank of America, Seventh and Broadway

Ah, Broadway. (Here, looking west on 7th across B’way, the Bank of America on your far right at the NE corner.)

Scroll back to November 29 for Ms. Bertha getting a little loot lifted. And today Vets, without even the decency to toss a little water in their faces, are sticking pistols at people. In the future, of course, bank robberies will be graciously moved to the Valley.

I’ve been on the wrong end of a piece, and while it’s unpleasant, it’s nothing compared to the terror you will feel at the horror you are about to witness:

If you dare…scroll down to see what happens when we turn to peer back east on 7th at the Bank of America building…

Sunday, December 04, 2005

1947project in new Best of Blogs book

We are honored and delighted that our little experiment is featured in the upcoming book Blogosphere: Best of Blogs by Adrienne Crew (of LAist) and Peter Kuhns. 1947project kicks off the chapter titled "Pushing Boundaries of the Blog Format." Do visit the Blogosphere website for bonus chapters and to learn more about the book.

No Impulse Control

December 4, 1947
Los Angeles

Mark Lima, 16, could hardly dispute mother Estelle's opinion that he was a lousy student: his latest report card showed failing grades in spelling and in math. But why did she have to harp at him like that, first about school, then about leaving a door open?

Barely thinking, he loaded the .22 rifle his father Alfred, a Tijuana chemist, had given him when he turned 14 and he shot Estelle once in the back. Then, horrified, he called the ambulance to their little home at 412 1/2 W. 68th Street.

Even in her agonies, Estelle, 41, sought to protect her son, "Don't hurt Mark... he's a good boy!" Her condition is critical, and Mark is in juvenile custody.

412 W. 68th To-day

Seems like just a few days ago there was some attempted matricide up on 46th. ‘Course, that was a middle-aged shmoe wielding a washboard. Here we’ve got a juvie shooting his mother in the back. And to think, in just a year and a few days, Burbank’s own Every Mother’s Son, Edmund Kemper, will be born.

So I set out to see where Mark, this budding Nero, grew up.

But here, in 1947, in what was known as Los Angeles Judicial Township, a stone’s throw from the Goodyear Rubber Plant, there was no “South Flower” or “South Grand.” Just a stretch of homes from Figueroa to Broadway:

And that, children, explains where 412 W. 68th Street went--that's 428 in the picture, and as far as the addresses go.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

The Sad Case of the Model and Her Baby

December 3, 1947
Toluca Lake/ Hermosa Beach

It took police some time to piece it all together, but when they did, they found that familiar tragedy of a man of mature years, the young, troubled model he married, a love that burned but briefly, the child caught between them, and money. Always money.

The tale unraveled when Sam Wartnik, 45, sportswear manufacturer with offices at 1020 Wall Street, had his attorney ask Wartnik's partner Al Hirschfeld and employee Clifford Jones to drop by the house where his wife and son had been living solo since the he filed for divorce last week. Wartnik, in San Francisco on business, had been unable to get Lena Mae, 30, on the phone, and was concerned she might have done something rash.

This was the gal, after all, who he painted in his divorce suit as a drunk and drug abuser, a person who had once tried and several times threatened to kill him. All the same, he'd left baby Neil Ellis in Lena Mae's care.

On the door of the little Cape Cod-style house at 4545 Clybourn Avenue they found a note: "Have gone to spend week-end with friends." They broke in.

Lena Mae was big on notes. Along with the blood splattered in every room they found the one that said "Sam, here are the keys. Now you can sell the home and gloat over your MONEY."

And the one on the back of Lena Mae's summons to a custody suit that was to be held this morning. It said "Sam, this summons is my reward for standing by you through thick and thin. Well, this is what you've often begged me to do so I'm doing it--and taking my sweet, precious Neil with me. Too bad, cause we both did love life since you left us broke but happy together. We got well together with your beat-up presence away. Good bye..."

And they found Neil, dressed only in a diaper and his own congealed blood, strangled on a bed. He'd been that way for a couple of days. Propped on another bed, a whimsical book for expectant fathers.

The hotel manager found Lena Mae in the Hermosa Biltmore, covered in hesitation cuts, ultimately dead perhaps of poison. And more notes. "Bleeding to death is so slow but I do want my baby buried in my arms." And in her wallet, beside the season pass to Santa Anita, on the back of a mailing receipt for something sent to her husband at his office on November 10, a day after they separated, "I am Mrs. Sam Wartnik. Notify Los Angeles Police."

Sam and Lena Mae were married in Las Vegas on May 19, 1946. Baby Neil was born on January 24, and died around December 1.

Friday, December 02, 2005

2005 intrudes, happily

1947project got a little contemporary notice today, in a piece in the L.A. Times exploring the bloggers of Los Angeles, and in a pre-nomination for an Urb Award from Gridskipper. To stay in the running for that Best L.A. Blog Urb (Urbie?), we need to get seconded and thirded, so if you like this blog, please drop by Gridskipper and let them know, in an email or comment, that you think 1947project deserves to be considered in our category.

We thank you. And now, back to your regularly scheduled 1940s.

Cops Clean House in Watts

December 2, 1947

Police at the 77th Street Station are wrapping up a two-day sweep of neighborhood nogoodniks, having dragged 31 suspected robbers (male) and 8 grand theft person suspects (female) out of bars at 10218 and 10224 Graham Ave. A number of those arrested were armed with knives. No additional details were provided.

Further neighborhood reading:

Bars of Graham

Knives have their jobs. And the knife’s custodian has his. Things to do. Getting popped in a Watts bar isn’t on either’s list.

The bars were here, just across those tracks.

Washington Court, aka Washington Village Park Apts., have taken up the area, wiping out the 10200 block north of 103rd.

Judging by what I saw go down there, I’d say the community was better off with the cocktail lounges.