March 19, 1927
Long Beach, CA
Fred and Lela McElrath had been married for 25 years, and raised three children together, now grown. But just as the couple should have been settling down into contented empty nesthood, a violent disagreement nearly destroyed it all.
Fred wanted to leave Long Beach for Freewater, Oregon, where they owned a ranch; however, Lela was determined to stay put. She moved out of their home at 45 Atlantic Avenue, and Fred spent nearly a week trying to track her down. On March 18, they finally agreed to meet at a neutral location, their daughter's home at 32 Neptune Place, and try to talk things through.
However, Lela refused to reconsider, and walked away from the argument. As she was descending the stairs in her daughter's house, Fred pulled out a gun and shot her twice in the back before turning the gun on himself, firing into his mouth. The shots didn't kill Lena, and when she was admitted to Seaside Hospital, it was assumed that she would recover. However, Fred was barely clinging to life, and in fact, police arriving on the scene initially believed him dead.
Today, things looked drastically different. A bullet was lodged behind Fred's left ear, but doctors expected that he would make a full recovery -- and in all likelihood, be left to stand trial for his wife's murder. The shots fired into his wife's back had punctured her right lung, and she was not expected to live. Authorities stood watch at Fred's bed, waiting to charge him either with murder or attempted murder.
Shockingly, the story has a moderately happy ending. On April 11, a frail Lena McElrath, appeared at her husband's preliminary hearing and was helped to the stand by her son, where she made an impassioned plea on Fred's behalf.
"I do not want to testify against my husband, nor do I want him prosecuted. I believe our trouble was caused as much by me as by my husband. I want to go back to him and begin all over."
Judge Stephen G. Long agreed she should have that chance, saying, "This is a very remarkable affair, but if both parties are willing to forgive and forget and to endeavor to patch up their broken lives, I think the kindest thing for this court to do is to give McElrath a chance."
The charge was dismissed, and the McElraths left the courtroom with their arms wrapped around each other. Lena's wounds were expected to heal completely with time, though Fred would be forever incapacitated by the bullet, still lodged near his spine.
November 24, 1927
Frank E. Foster once stared down the blazing Enfields and Richmonds of Johnny Reb, Bragg’s cannons and Forrest’s cavalry, but it took some punk kid from Long Beach to put him down for good.
That punk kid is Richard Robert Haver, 16, whose penchant for driving other people’s cars landed him in Chino, where police interviewed him today about a spate of Long Beach robberies last September. Sure, during one robbery he pushed an old man. Haver hasn’t been told that the old man died.
“I saw him coming, although it was dark,” Haver told Detective Sergeants Smith and Alyes. “At first I tried to avoid him by slinking back against the wall, hoping the man wouldn’t see me. But he grabbed me by the coat with both hands.” (Apparently the 85 y.o. Foster figured the whippersnapper wouldn’t be reconstructed.) “I kept pushing him into the screen porch where he slept. The door was open as I rushed for it and I pushed the man out of the way. He tripped on the steps and fell outdoors onto the sidewalk. Then I ran toward the front of the house and headed for the ocean. I’m sorry I pushed him so hard, now that I know he is an old man.” Haver’ll be sorrier once the authorities inform him that, on top of being popped for the eight homes he ransacked while the occupants slept (earning him the sobriquet "The Pants Burglar", in that he stole away with trousers in the night and emptied their pockets), he’s a murderer.
(Haver was sent to the State Reform School to remain until he turned 21, at which point the courts would again pass upon his case; the papers make no mention of that event or its outcome.)
In further news of the Boys in Blue, another Damn’d Yankee, this one in Spokane, has problems of another variety. “I’m living on borrowed time,” said Enoch A. Sears, 84, “far past my allotted three score and ten, and I only want peace and quiet.” He has filed for divorce from his wife of one year, and has departed his home, leaving it to his wife, 59, and her mother, 79. Enoch simply stated he was “too old to become accustomed to living with a mother-in-law.”
October 7, 1927
Between Christ’s wanderings in the deserts of Jericho, and Kidder’s huddlings in the gardens of Glendale, there was Robert Sankey.
Sankey, 44, a prominent Riverside contractor, was in a splendid mood September seventh last; he had no domestic or financial troubles, and bid his lovely wife and 13 year-old daughter goodbye that morning in his home at 270 Bandini Avenue before a trip to Laguna Beach. He made it to Laguna Beach, and picked up $12,000 ($132,359 USD2006) in cash which he had been paid by the Colton School Board for the construction of Colton High School.
Sankey then told friends he was going for a swim, and left his bag, clothing, glasses and shoes at a hotel near the beach. From there he disappeared…the sea was dragged repeatedly for his body, but to no avail. Had the briny deep swallowed Sankey? And what became of the money? And what’s this?—a few days ago, some Sankey acquaintance came forth and reported having seen Sankey on a Seattle-bound boat a day or two after the disappearance.
Today, Mrs. Paul McKenzie peered nervously through the window of her home at 4010 Massachusetts, Long Beach. There was a dazed, raggedy man wandering aimlessly up and down in front of her house for the better part of two hours. When she got up the nerve to confront the torn and tattered stranger, all a-jibber-jabberin' to himself, it was, you guessed it, her brother, Robert Sankey. Oh no, he insisted, I’m Andrew Borg.
Well, the Borg, I mean Sankey, had only $500 left (in checks issued by a Seattle bank) of the twelve grand, and even less of an idea as to where he’d been or what he’d done. He could only confirm that his clothes had been given to him by “the skipper,” and that he’d been to sea in a small boat with two men and a woman.
Further investigation revealed that Sankey recently boarded the steamer Evanger at San Francisco (booking passage to Buenos Aires as “Andrew Borg, grain dealer, Witchita, Kan.”), but put ashore at San Pedro the day he reappeared in Long Beach.
Sankey remains in his Borgian state at Seaside hospital, where Riverside county authorities are vexed with Seaside staff; the Sheriff is itching to serve two warrants on Sankey, each charging sixteen counts of violating the State wage law, but the pesky physicians demand that officers wait ‘til Sankey’s physical condition permits such activity.
Whether amnesia or grift, please bear in mind…steer clear of small boats, and beware "the skipper."
August 13, 1927
Eminent geologist Dr. Robert T. Hill has stated unequivocally that Southern California is in no danger from earthquakes.
In his keynote address to the Building Owners and Managers’ Association, Dr. Hill told the group that “there is not a thread of evidence on which to hang a prophecy of an earthquake in this district”. He went on to say that “our occasional little earth tremors merely give me a little thrill in the day time or rock me sounder to sleep at night”. Dr. Hill’s assertion that the Los Angeles area is seismically stable was music to the ears of association members who have been vigorously protesting recent insurance rate increases. The geologist characterized the insurance carriers as “alarmist”.
Well, Dr. Hill, dial ahead six years and set your “alarmist” for 5:55 pm on March 10, 1933 when a sizeable earthquake will devastate sections of Long Beach and kill 115 people.
Dr. Hill was conspicuously absent from local newspapers following the Long Beach quake – not even a “no comment”. We hope he wasn’t spending time in this building – whatever it was.
July 29, 1927
Reverend W. R. Hardy, pastor of the African Methodist Episcopal Church of Long Beach, had a little quarrel with one Joe Dianty, Montegrin bootblack, in front of Dianty’s home at 1225 California Avenue.
Of the two things a pastor can draw from his waistband—his bible or his revolver—Rev. Hardy elected to draw the latter. He shot Dianty in the abdomen, and when Dianty turned the other cheek (to run away) Hardy shot him again in the neck and shoulder. Dianty died on the sidewalk.
On October 13, Hardy is convicted of manslaughter after a week-long trial involving thirty witnesses for the prosecution and half that number for the defense; on October 27 he is given one to ten in San Quentin.
Now, would that he have had the jawbone of an ass...
March 24, 1927
Investigators from the State Board of Pharmacy began traversing the city today, in search of physicians who illegally supplied narcotizing agents to Miss Minnie Hines. It seems that while under the spell of narcotics, Miss Hines develops a “maternity complex” which requires the purchase of infants. When her mind clears some days later, it then becomes necessary to farm them out again. Adding complexity to the case is the fact that due to her dope-addled brain, she rarely recollects the homes where she obtained or disposed of the babies. She is currently under Narcosan treatment for her affliction.
Ms. Hines was arrested March 9th when she attempted to buy a baby at Pasadena hospital, and attempted to escape by putting pillows under her clothes and pretending she was an expectant mother. Hines, 26, of Long Beach, has farmed out three of her own children (ages eighteen months to twelve years) and an estimated ten others. Babies, incidentally, generally run between sixty and one hundred dollars ($700-$1,169 USD 2007).
In other baby news: local actress Lita Grey Chaplin today dropped her renewed bid for temporary alimony for herself and her two toddlers in an attempt to force her husband, one Charles Chaplin, into court. (Mr. Chaplin had impregnated Lita Grey when she was 16, he 35, resulting in a marriage and sensationally scandalous divorce which, when finalized in August of 1927, cost Chaplin $825,000 [$9,648,650 USD 2007].)
According to Charlie’s biographer Joyce Milton, the 1924 marriage was the inspiration of Nabokov’s Lolita.
November 6, 1907
Oil facts, you say? And you continue to comment, I thought this was a crime blog! Well, the way most people talk about oil companies, you’d think the SS was Toys for Tots. So it’s apropos, especially as we head into Tuesday and face the outcome of Proposition 87.
On this day in 1907, according to the US Geological Survey, the numbers were in: in 1906, California produced 23,098,598 barrels of oil. That’s more than Oklahoma and Kansas combined. (Texas came in with a paltry 12.5 million barrels.) Our oil came primarily from Kern River, Coalinga, Santa Maria, with Los Angeles finishing fourth. The value of California’s 23M barrels came in at 9.5M dollars ($194,973,917 USD 2005). One-sixth of that oil was exported to Japan, Chile, and the American Panama Canal Works.
Today, California is no longer number one (behind Louisiana, Texas and Alaska) but we’re far ahead of those dried-up old fields in Oklahoma and Kansas. In 2007 California should come in with about 274M barrels, over ten times that of 1907. And that, with a value of approximately 16.5B (804M USD 1907). And we’re at our lowest oil production since WWII.
May 8, 1907
While fishing off the Long Beach pier, Harry Hamilton, a visitor from Prince Edwards Island, Nova Scotia, made a spectacular catch, which required a hard and frenzied battle to drag the creature from its briny home up to pier-level. It was only after subduing the finny fellow that Hamilton realized that his valuables--$325 in cash, a ticket home, and a diamond ring--were no longer in his pocket.
It is unknown if his property fell into the water while Hamilton was preoccupied with his catch, or were they snatched by a pickpocket, but the sad fact remains that Harry Hamilton, who was this morning well equipped to enjoy his stay in Fiesta-time Los Angeles, now possesses just his luggage and a large fish. Anyone who wishes to buy said fish may contact Hamilton c/o this website.
May 8, 1907
The Padrone must run a tight ship. Juan Acosta is a Padrone. He has a shotgun.
Just east of the city, at the Bixby Ranch, he discharged four men from one of his tents for reasons unmentioned. These gentlemen returned before daybreak and one of them, a Juan Diaz, stabbed a sleeping Acosta through the arm, and then stuck him in the breastbone and forehead. Acosta still managed to grab his shotgun and unload onto Diaz' abdomen at point-blank range.
El Padrone's brother managed to tackle and hogtie another assailant, one Luciano Morro, who was found bound at the entrance of the tent by local Marshals. The two others, Mssrs. Bartello and Rodriquez, now have warrants out for their arrest.
Padrone Acosta is expected to pull through. The outlook for Diaz is not as rosy.
March 14, 1907
Pity Miss Jane Beamer of Long Beach, who for most of her 20 years has yearned to meet her father, from whom her mother separated when she was tiny, back in Beamerville, IL.
She has discovered to her great grief that the fruit and confectionary vendor killed Tuesday night near his shop at 708 East Fifth Street was this same Frank O. Beamer, who has been living in this community for a number of years. Many times had Jane Beamer, her mother and her step-father R.E. Blair passed Beamer's stand, and even gazed into his face, without recognize the ladies' kinsman, who was also Blair's schoolyard chum.
Today, Miss Beamer grieves at the Bresee Brothers' mortuary on South Figueroa Street, lending comfort to Beamer's widow, who did not know until today of her husband's previous marriage or child.
The accident occured when Beamer stepped off an East-bound Brooklyn Avenue streetcar at the intersection of Fifth and Ruth Avenue. As he alit, his path was crossed by an automobile driven by W.P. Young, carrying three ladies and R.H. Ingram, general superintendent of the Southern Pacific Railroad, en route to catch the San Francisco Owl train at the Arcade Depot.
Beamer, who was very nearsighted, was apparently startled to see the machine so near him, and moved first one way, then another, before dashing headlong into the path of the oncoming auto. Although Young killed his engine and attempted to swerve, Beamer was struck and killed where he stood.
The inquest found Young without fault after Beamer died in the Emergency Hospital without regaining consciousness.
Illustration below from the 1909 city map compiled by Worthington Gates, Western Litho Co, showing Bresee Bros in the heart of Mortuary Row, on Figueroa just south of Eight Street.