March 17, 1927
Frustrated at being rejected for employment as a nurse by Kern Hospital, twenty-one year old Gladys Maryon Lindley came up with a plan – become a man!
Dressed in men’s clothing and answering to the name “Billy”, Gladys presented herself at Kern Hospital once again. Instead of seeking employment as a nurse, “Billy” applied for the job of a male orderly this time and was hired on the spot.
Gladys went undetected until three months later, when the secret of her identity was revealed by one of her former teachers. Recognizing “Billy” at the hospital, the teacher ratted her out to hospital administrators. Gladys - aka Billy - resigned immediately.
Perhaps naively, the LA Times reported that “a real desire to do hospital work was given as the explanation of the masquerade”.
March 10, 1927
Police received a tip that next to the home of Ray Foss in Bellflower, several people had been observed burying something that may have been the body of an infant. Thankfully, no bodies would be found. Police had discovered however, that Ray had an outstanding felony warrant from 1925 for operating a "baby farm" in Moneta (near Gardena). The fear of being nailed on the baby farm charge loosened his tongue, and Ray Foss began to relate a sordid tale of baby trafficking, illegal adoption, an alimony racket, bigamy, and narcotics addiction.
Ray told the cops that a woman being held in County Jail on forgery charges under the name of Minnie Williams was actually his wife, and that she had been the proprietress of the Moneta baby farm.
The baby farm had come to the attention of the authorities in 1925 when Minnie sold a baby girl to a woman who gave her name as Mrs. Johnson. The infant was found to be blind, and Mrs. Johnson returned the child and demanded a refund. The child later died. Mrs. Foss gave the woman $25 in cash, and in lieu of the remaining $35, she gave her another baby! Ray and Minnie fled a short time later to avoid standing trial.
During the next two years Minnie trafficked in babies, ran an alimony racket, and fed her drug addiction. She provided infants for women to carry into court when seeking alimony. Prior to being identified as Minnie Foss, she’d tried a variation of the alimony con in Judge Hardy’s court. Using the Williams alias, she made an emotional plea for probation on the forgery charge, alleging that she was about to become a mother. The court soon discovered that she was not actually Minnie Williams, and that she was wanted in the Moneta baby farm case. With the masquerade over, Mrs. Foss began to confess to Deputy District Attorney Costello.
Things got off to a strange start when Minnie was asked to state her name for the record. She told the Deputy DA that her last name was really Hines, not Foss. She said that she’d married Ray Foss when she was only 15 years old, and then met Clarence Hines in 1921. The three lived together in a ménage a trois until Foss left. Minnie claimed that she then married Clarence, but never went to the trouble or expense of divorcing Ray.
How did Minnie end up trafficking in babies? According to her, she was in fact, a "serial adopter". In 1922 she had noticed a newspaper ad about adopting a baby. She said that she went to the Mexican quarter near the Plaza and met with a couple who told her that they had a child they couldn't keep. Minnie took the baby home and passed him off to Clarence as his own child. She told him that the child had been born to her while she was away in Burbank!
Clarence may have been a very dim bulb, because over the next few years Minnie said that she brought home several other infants including a set of twins, and that she had informed him that he was the father! According to Minnie, Clarence never questioned her about any of the babies, so she continued to adopt.
Maybe Clarence wasn’t quite as gullible as Minnie had thought, however. When questioned by police, Clarence told a slightly different story. He said that he’d known that his wife sometimes placed “not wanted” babies. He also told investigators that he was aware of a black trunk which may have been used to store baby clothes or as a coffin for some of the unwanted babies. The trunk was later found at a home near Bakersfield that had once been occupied by Ray Foss.
When the trunk was examined by police it was found to contain baby clothes, a hypodermic needle, and a marriage license issued to Ray Foss and Minnie Magnolia Williams. Also found in the trunk were approximately twenty-four photographs of young girls and babies.
Even though Minnie said that she’d adopted the infants, the most likely scenario was that she occasionally kept unwanted babies born to women in her care. Where did all of the babies go? Police traced many of the children to foster parents who subsequently adopted them. Several infants remained unaccounted for.
Although there were many unanswered questions – particularly regarding the fates of the infants who could not be found, Deputy DA Costello dropped the baby farm charges because Minnie and Clarence had confessed everything to his satisfaction – including an addiction to narcotics for which Minnie was treated with Narcosan. The DA’s office couldn’t pursue the bigamy charges because the statute of limitations had run out.
Minnie pleaded guilty to issuing a fraudulent check and was given a sentence of from one to fourteen years in prison. Clarence received a similar sentence.
March 3, 1927
"Who can take a sunrise,
Sprinkle it with dew,
Cover it in chocolate and a miracle or two?
The candyman, the candyman can,
The candyman can 'cause he mixes it with love and makes the world taste good."
When local school children crave a hand full of gum drops and a pint of whiskey, where can they go? Rumor has it that if they visit Frank Belioi’s candy store at 5973 South Broadway, they may leave with a few new cavities and a major buzz.
Sgt. Childers was in charge of the squad that raided the local sweets shop, and revealed in court that although the police department had reports that Frank was selling liquor to minors, they had failed to produce evidence against him.
Frank was lucky – the only thing the cops managed to bust him for was the one and one-half gallons of whiskey on the premises. He said he kept it on hand for party guests.
Frank pleaded guilty to the possession charge, and Judge Ambrose fined the candy man $300 [$3,639.31 current USD].
I could go for a pint of gin and a chocolate bar right about now. Are you with me?
February 18, 1927
The Whittier social set was agog at the forcible bobbing of Mrs. Evelyn Thompson’s hair by two of her former friends, Mrs. Florence Nutt and Mrs. Lucille Roulston.
All three young women had married men in the local oil business. The couples had become friends who frequently partied together. At a recent dance, Lucille believed that Evelyn had spent too much time in the arms of her husband, and in a fit of jealousy she plotted her revenge.
The bobbing incident unfolded like this: Evelyn had been out shopping for stockings, and as she passed by Roulston’s home she was flagged down and invited inside to see Lucille’s new hat.
Once inside the house, Evelyn decided to try on her new stockings. She was seated in a chair with one of her shoes off when she heard a snip and saw four of her curls fall to the floor. It was at this point that Florence held her down while the scissors wielding Lucille hacked off the rest of Evelyn’s curls, snarling “You used to be the center of attraction, but no man will ever look at you now.” Evelyn told police “It was over almost before I knew what was happening. I started fighting them without avail.”
Prior to the forced shearing, Evelyn had sported lovely long chestnut curls – they were her crowing glory. She said “I had never wanted to be a flapper. That’s why I didn’t bob my hair.”
Florence Nutt was arrested and charged with mayhem. A warrant had to be issued for the arrest of Mrs. Roulston, because she’d taken it on the lam. She was sighted in places as far flung as the Orient!
The mayhem charges would be dismissed, thus ending the criminal case. Evelyn had the option to seek damages in civil court if she wanted, but there would be no further mention of the bobbers or bobbee in the LA Times.
February 11, 1927
Valentine’s Day is coming up and most couples will celebrate their love with cutesy cards, candy, and maybe some pre-prohibition champagne. Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Fillmore will not be among the celebrants. Margaret Fillmore has filed for a divorce. Their love has turned as cold as a stone floor.
Margaret had said that she was annoyed by Hugh’s refusal to give her money, and by his arrogant attitude. But she may have been willing to overlook everything if it hadn’t been for the stone tile.
In her divorce papers Margaret claimed that Hugh had bankrupted her by insisting that she use tile, manufactured by his company, in the home they were building (and she was financing). Margaret claimed that all of her money had gone into the construction of the house, and that the additional $2000 [$24,142.07 current USD] that it cost for the custom tile had left her destitute.
Hugh was thinking only of the advertising potential of having the tile in his home, especially since his sister-in-law was the actress Mary Miles Minter. Perhaps Mary would bring some of her Hollywood cronies over to see the tile. She still had lots of friends in town, even though she had featured prominently in the 1922 mysterious, and still unsolved, slaying of director William Desmond Taylor.
Margaret is having none of it – she’s determined to end her marriage. All she wants now is a divorce and an inexpensive carpet. Sadly, the road to true love is often a rocky (or stony) one.
February 4, 1927
A police dragnet is closing in on the killers of Luther H. Green. A member of the Los Angeles Stock Exchange, Green was slain outside of his home at 1053 Bonnie Brae, as he attempted to thwart the hijacking of his $10,000 [$120,710.34 current dollars] stash of pre-prohibition booze. He was able to fire a single shot from his rifle before being mortally wounded by the burglers.
According to Chief of Detectives Cline, six men have been implicated in the aborted liquor heist. It is believed that the ringleader of the failed raid may be the notorious crook, Harry “Mile-Away” Thomas. Mile-Away’s mouthpiece, Attorney S.S. Hahn, told cops that he had conferred with his client and, “…he was not only a mile away this time, but sixteen miles away”. Harry and several of his confederates would soon be arrested in connection with Green’s murder, but none of them would ever stand trial for the crime.
More than a decade prior to the invention of Teflon ®, the often busted but rarely convicted non-stick felon would be released on the charges stemming from the Green killing. His lucky streak would end on the evening of April 21, 1927. Harry would be caught in a sting and gunned down by the law as he attempted to steal an expensive automobile from a private garage at 1408 West Thirty-Fifth Street.
Riddled with machine-gun bullets, buckshot, and slugs from police revolvers, Harry staggered from the garage and collapsed in the arms of a uniformed officer. Mile-Away’s last words before he succumbed to his injuries were “Everybody has to fall some time.”
January 28, 1927
The hunt is on for a cop killer. Traffic Officer Parley Bennett was mortally wounded when he attempted to halt a robbery at Brodin Millinery Company. Bennett was attempting to pull out his revolver when he was shot by the bandit. His weapon discharged as he fell, but fortunately no one was injured by the stray slug. Officer Bennett was dead before he hit the floor.
Parley’s widow, Elizabeth, received $1,000 [$12,071.03 USD 2007] worth of police insurance, and merchants on Los Angeles Street (where Bennett died) passed the hat and collected a total of $1,071 for the bereaved woman.
While the fallen officer was being mourned, more that 150 policemen searched in vain for his slayer. Chief of Detectives Cline stated that the search for Parley’s killer would continue indefinitely.
Although 250 suspects would be taken in for questioning, none of them would be positively identified by witnesses to the shooting. There would be the usual sightings of men answering the description of the desperado, but each suspect would ultimately be released. Eventually the leads would dry up, and Officer Bennett’s murder would remain unsolved.
January 21, 1927
Edward W. Xanders (aka Bert Best) was extradited from Portland, Oregon today to be tried for a series of robberies and burglaries committed in Los Angeles over the Christmas holidays.
Xanders spent most of the day with sheriffs, trading quips and calmly confessing to a litany of misdeeds. He admitted to burglarizing the home of John Lindley near Azusa (see photo), and he has also said that he and his crime buddy, Ray E. McCoy, robbed famed boxing manager Jack Kearns.
It was through his confession that police learned that Xanders and McCoy had stopped Kearns’ car on a lonely road near the beach. While the stick-up was in progress, a policeman had approached the car to see if the men needed assistance. McCoy jabbed a gun into Kearns’ ribs and told him to keep quiet, or die. Always the glib talker, Xanders chatted with the cop, offered him a cigar, and sent him on his way.
Xanders admitted to police that he had been in court a few times during 1926. He stated that he had been granted probation on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon. It was during that case that he had told the court that a childhood head injury had led him to a life of crime. According to his story, ever since he had received the blow to his noggin, he has had an irresistible urge to commit crime. Based on an alienist’s report, the judge recommended that Xanders, if willing, should undergo an operation to relieve pressure on his brain. Xanders declined to have the surgery.
With the nasty pressure still on his brain, it wasn’t long before Xanders was in court again. In making his plea for probation, he said that he’d been offered employment for two years on a ship headed for the South Seas. The judge felt compassion for the youthful crook and gave him four years of probation, on the condition that he would accept the job and sail off into the sunset (and out of this jurisdiction) for at least two years. Of course Edward never boarded the ship; he stayed in Los Angeles and continued his crime spree.
Edward is still a young man, and his penchant for crime may easily lead to another crack on the cranium. Maybe a second smack upside the head will put him on the straight and narrow.
January 14, 1927
Hut, two, three, four – an army of field mice is on the march in Taft, and like most armies, this one travels on its stomach.
Despite being low on the food chain, or maybe because of it, field mice are crafty little creatures, and they can rapidly assess a situation before taking action. While cutting a wide swath through Taft, the mouse invaders spied a small sheep that was confined in a pen and unable to escape. Hundreds of rodent soldiers felt their mousedar vibrate. They swarmed the helpless animal and devoured it on the spot.
Not all mice are evil sheep snacking marauders. On November 18, 1928, Walt Disney would introduce an adorable animated anthropomorphic mouse in the cartoon, “Steamboat Willie”. Nobody would ever look at a mouse in quite the same way.
January 7, 1927
Bending the Volstead Act to the breaking point is de rigeur among the smart set, with an evening of drinking rarely resulting in anything worse than a queasy stomach and a screaming headache the next day.
Dennis J. Cavanaugh (22) and his companions Walter Scott and “Tex” Scott went out last night to do a little carousing. The young men began their evening by stopping off to buy a couple of pints of rum at a store on East Ninety-Second Street, run by the Henkins brothers, Clay (46) and William (48).
Where the young men went to party after purchasing the hooch is not known, but by this morning Walter was in critical condition at his home, “Tex” was very ill, and Dennis had been found dead on the front lawn of a house at 1847 Roosevelt Street – his body reeking of alcohol.
Whether they knew it or not, the Henkins brothers had sold the boys poison liquor. They are currently in jail facing manslaughter charges.
Buying illegal booze is dangerous – it’s like playing Russian roulette. But it becomes even more frightening when people like Wayne B. Wheeler, advocate of the Anti-Saloon League, come out in support of allowing the government to use poison to enforce Prohibition.
On January 1st of this year, the new government formula (“Formula No. 5”) for denaturing industrial ethyl alcohol went into effect. The formula doubles the amount of poison which manufacturers are required to use. Bootleggers sometimes buy industrial ethyl alcohol and substitute the original label with one of their own. Only three drinks of the libation may cause permanent blindness.
Many in Congress have demanded that the government stop legalized murder. The Secretary of the Treasury recently announced that he is opposed to the use of poison to enforce the law, but that “Formula No. 5” will remain until a non-removable, non-poisonous denaturant can be found by government chemists.
December 31, 1927
Mrs. Evelyn Rosenkrantz has claimed in court that her dream to become the Queen of Holy City, California was reduced to ashes and bitter tears when the City’s self-anointed King, William E. Riker, retracted his marriage proposal. Evelyn is asking for $500,000 ($3.5 million USD 2007) in damages for breach of promise. The woman who would be Queen stated that William had sweet talked her in to posing as his wife. She said that they resided at a “love cottage” on 3679 Motor Avenue, Palms City.
Evelyn was not the first woman ever to have been disappointed by William. About 20 years ago, he fled to Canada to avoid bigamy charges. It was there that the former palm reader founded "The Perfect Christian Divine Way”. To achieve perfection, devotees adhered to a strict credo of celibacy, abstinence from alcohol, white supremacy and communal living. To make it easier for his disciples to concentrate on their spirituality, Riker required them to turn over all of their money and worldly possessions to him.
William and his followers returned to California and set up his “New Jerusalem” near Los Gatos. Surprisingly, he never got around to building a church in Holy City, but he did manage to construct a gas station (which sold “holy water” for over heated autos), restaurant, and an observatory where visitors could view the moon for ten cents. Located on the Santa Cruz Highway, Holy City became a tourist destination and was eventually bringing in over $100,000 ($1.2 million 2007 USD) annually. Tourists were lured by signs with such catchy slogans as: "See us if you are contemplating marriage, suicide or crime!" and "Holy City answers all questions and solves all problems!"
Things went so well that the city incorporated. There would eventually be a Holy City Post Office, newspaper, and radio station, KFQU. The radio station would lose its license in 1931 for “irregularities” (maybe it was the call letters).
Evelyn would lose her breach of promise suit, but she and William would tangle again in a couple of years.
In the spring of 1929 Evelyn was serving a life sentence in San Quentin for being a habitual criminal (her final conviction was for passing bad checks in Oakland). She swore in an affidavit that back in 1927 she had witnessed Riker strangle a Mrs. Margaret White to death in the cottage on Motor Avenue. Evelyn told the court that Mrs. White was another of Riker’s abandoned wives. Nothing would come of Evelyn’s affidavit, and she likely spent the rest of her life in prison.
Riker became known as “The Comforter” and made four failed attempts to become governor of California. He would be arrested in 1943 for his pro-German sentiments – he was writing letters of support to Adolf Hitler! Defended by well known attorney Melvin Belli, who constantly referred to his client as a “crackpot”, Riker managed to skate on the charges. The ungrateful crackpot would sue Belli for defamation of character, and lose.
Riker made it to the ripe old age of 93, when he shocked his few remaining followers by converting to Catholicism shortly before his death in 1966.
If you’re interested in owning a piece of California history, Holy City went on the market in 2006 with an asking price of $11 million. Maybe it’s still for sale.
December 24, 1927
Dominating newspaper headlines for the past several days has been the slaying of twelve year old school girl, Marion Parker. Her killer, William Edward Hickman, is currently in Oregon awaiting extradition. He’ll return by train under heavy guard to Los Angeles, where he faces the death penalty for the horrific crime.
Long before newspapers were delivered to the doorsteps of most American homes, information was spread by song – and it’s a practice that continues to this day. Ballads have been written about floods, mining disasters, shipwrecks, and murder. Marion Parker’s tragic story inspired prolific song writer Reverend Andrew Jenkins of Atlanta, Georgia to pen the poignant “Ballad of Marian [sic] Parker”.
The Ballad of Marian Parker
'Way out in California,
A family bright and gay
Were preparing for their Christmas
Not very far away.
They had a little daughter,
A sweet and pretty child.
And everyone who knew her
Loved Marian Parker's smile.
She left her home one morning
For her school not far away.
And no one dreamed that danger,
Was lurking near that day.
But then a murdrous villain,
A fiend with heart of stone,
Took little Marian Parker
Away from friends and home.
The world was horror-stricken,
The people held their breath,
Until they found poor Marian,
Her body cold in death.
They hunted for the coward,
Young Hickman was their man.
They brought him back to justice,
His final trial to stand.
The jury found him guilty,
Of course they could not fail.
He must be executed
Soon in San Quentin jail.
And while he waits his sentence,
Let's hope he learns to pray
To make his black soul ready
For the great judgement day.
There is a great commandment
That says, "Thou shalt not kill"
And those who do not head it,
Their cup of sorrow fill
December 17, 1927
Mrs. Ruth Snyder has a date with Sing Sing’s electric chair on January 12, 1928, unless her plea for executive clemency is granted.
The seductive blonde and her lover, corset salesman Judd Gray (see photo), were both tried and convicted of murdering Ruth’s husband by caving in his skull with a window sash weight, strangling him with a garrote fashioned out of picture wire and a gold pen, and finally stuffing chloroform soaked rags into his nostrils.
If there is an explanation for the obvious overkill in the murder of Albert Snyder, it must be that Ruth’s previous attempts to snuff out the life of her husband (twice by asphyxiation and once by poison) had failed – and she wasn’t about to give up. Ruth had persuaded her husband to take out a double indemnity policy, which would pay her in the event of his accidental death. It was the lure of the $97,000 worth of life insurance that compelled her to continue with her diabolical schemes until she succeeded.
Fueled by two bottles of whiskey and profound stupidity, the criminally-challenged duo staged the murder scene as a burglary gone horribly wrong. But their pathetic plan was doomed to failure. They threw an Italian language newspaper on the floor as a false clue to the identity of the killers. They emptied dresser drawers and overturned chairs. And in an act that would eventually help prosecutors to prove her guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, Ruth hid her allegedly stolen jewelry under her mattress, about three feet away from Albert’s battered body!
The trial of Ruth and Judd would be a media circus, and celebrities such as director D.W. Griffith, and evangelists Billy Sunday and Aimee Semple McPherson would attend. Ruth would be called “ruthless Ruth”, “vampire”, and the “blonde fiend” by the press. Evidently not all men found those appellations a turn-off, because Ruth received at least 160 marriage proposals during her incarceration.
Unfortunately for Ruth, her plea for clemency would be denied by Governor Al Smith. Her execution would be famously recorded by newspaper man Tom Howard. The ingenious reporter had strapped a miniature camera to his ankle beneath his trousers. Just as the executioner threw the switch on the whimpering murderess, Tom raised the cuff of his pants and snapped the tabloid photo of a lifetime.
The murderers were unexceptional, but their crime inspired art. “Machinal”, a play by Sophie Treadwell was deemed one of the best of 1928-29. James M. Cain’s brilliant novels “Double Indemnity” and “The Postman Always Rings Twice” are said to have been inspired by Albert Snyder’s murder. And, of course, each of the novels translated into two of the finest examples of film noir ever produced.
December 10, 1927
According to police there are several rival gangs of bootleggers known to be in the city for the Christmas holiday season, and a full blown gang war may be in the offing.
Cleo Bush, 37 years old, of 813 Flower Street, may have become the first casualty in the battle. In his own words, he was “called out” of the Glycol Products Company at 953 South Bixel Street by two men. Cleo told Captain of Detectives Cahill that he recognized the men as enemies who had been trying to “get” him for the last two years, but in true gangland style he refused to identify them. The unnamed assailants fired five .25 caliber rounds at Cleo, striking him once in the back. Cleo is in critical condition at Georgia Street Receiving Hospital following emergency surgery to remove the bullet that penetrated his right lung.
Cleo advised the cops to stay out of his business. He said he’d settle his own affairs. “I’ll attend to those birds when I get out of here,” he said, “and if I don’t, well, that’s all in the game.”
Five people were detained as material witnesses to the shooting: Mrs. Lelia Evans, 28, her husband, Lew Evans, 32, of 508 Union Drive; Jim Riley, 31, of 1130 Trenton Street; Claude Haggle, 27, of 1110 Ingraham Street, and Edward C. Young 34, of 1085 Lewis Street, Long Beach. None of the witnesses were willing to identify the shooters. There was a neighborhood witness to the crime; Mr. G.E. Christie of 945 South Bixel Street. He told police that he heard the shots and went outside in time to see two men flee the scene in a roadster.
Cleo recovered and was released from the hospital, but he continued to keep mum regarding the names of his assailants. Following an anonymous tip, Mr. Omar Lipps, 28, of 438 South Union Drive, was picked up by cops and confessed to the shooting. A trial date was set but Cleo took a powder and the case never made it to court. Lipps maintained that Cleo owed him $400 [$4,803.13 USD 2007] after losing to him in a craps game, and he was adamant that the shooting had nothing to do with rum running.
There were no further mentions of Cleo Bush in the LA Times after 1928 – the man knew how to vanish. Omar Lipps probably should have disappeared too, but instead he stayed in the area, frequented the same old haunts, and got into more trouble. He was arrested during a vice raid in April 1930 for possession of a complete opium outfit.
April of 1931 would find Omar caught in another police raid – this time of a dope pad at 187 South Alvarado Street. Equipment to accommodate half a dozen opium smokers was confiscated, along with pipes ingeniously constructed from flutes!
Omar obviously had a bad opium jones because he was arrested for a third time on January 3, 1935, for narcotics violations. He was holding a lamp, hose, and a small brown bottle containing yen shee. Yen Shee is the residue left in the opium pipe's bowl and stem after the opium has been smoked. Think about THAT the next time you have a “yen” for something.
December 3, 1927
Financial woes had driven 23 year old Clarence Martin to his breaking point. He rented a room at 555 East Seaside Blvd. in Long Beach, and resolved to end his life.
The young man turned on the gas and waited in the dark for the Big Sleep. Moments before he lost consciousness, he had a sudden change of heart and shut off the lethal fumes. Was Clarence’s epiphany the result of a glimpse into his family’s future without him, such as George Bailey experienced in “It’s a Wonderful Life”?
Did Clarence breathe a sigh of relief at his escape from death and begin to make plans for the upcoming holidays? Did he think about the wife he’d left in Gardena? She was probably worried sick because he hadn’t come home. Maybe he was going to phone her and let her know he would be with her soon, but decided to sit and smoke a cigarette first.
Lighting the cigarette was Clarence’s last act in this world. There was a terrific explosion which blew the door and windows out of the room. He was horribly burned, and later succumbed to his injuries at Seaside Hospital.