San Gabriel Valley
There's something perverse and delicious when mundane formality captures genius in its net. The census is one of the best tools for illuminating these queer intersections.
The recently published 1940 US census finds the serial renters Raymond and Pearl (Cissy) Chandler living at 1155 Arcadia Avenue in what was then Monrovia Township. Their monthly rent is $50. (Regrettably, for those who like to visit the residences of great writers, the house has not survived; much of the block was replaced by condominiums in 1979.)
Mrs. Chandler, who answered census taker Cornelius F. Hax' questions, gives her age as 63 (she was actually 69) and Chandler's as 51. She states that during the week of March 24-30, 1940, Chandler spent 36 hours engaged in his profession, Free Lance Writer. Yet when asked about employment during the calendar year 1939, she states that Chandler did not work at all.
This report of an idle 1939, like her age, is a lie. Chandler worked fiendishly that year. His first novel, The Big Sleep, was published in February. He began, then set aside The Lady in the Lake and dug into Farewell My Lovely.
By the time the census taker knocked on their door on April 8, the revisions for Farewell were nearly complete; it would be published in October. Perhaps Chandler was in his study working while Cissy spoke with Mr. Hax in the front of the house. Maybe, ever conscious of their privacy, she pulled the door shut behind her and answered his questions on the porch. As is nearly always the case with these dry census records, one is left longing for more. A few facts, most of them wrong, jotted down, and then Mr. Hax was off to knock on another door.
In walking his route that spring day, Mr. Hax recorded a cross-section of the suburban west. The Chandlers' neighbors came from California, Italy, New York, Nebraska, Wyoming, Ohio, Maine, Pennsylvania, Canada, England, Texas, Missouri, Illinois, Massachusetts, Arkansas, Iowa, Minnesota and Montana. There was a painter and a telegraph operator, a chicken rancher and a bookkeeper in a meat packing plant (Chandler, when new to California, had done similar work in a dairy), an automotive mechanic and a U.S. Postmaster, a wholesale shoe salesman, an architect, a department store saleslady, a machinist, a comptometer operator, a stenographer, a teacher, an attorney and a man who kept an aviary.
As he began what would be the most distinguished and lasting literary career of any writer working in the debased genre of detective fiction, Chandler chose to live modestly among strangers, far from L.A.'s literary or intellectual hum. Hollywood wouldn't call for a few years yet.
The Chandlers kept to themselves. He wrote. She looked after him. He was still sober. They had fourteen more years together. And the purple San Gabriels loomed above.
February 3, 1927
It was another olla podrida fulla banditry in Los Angeles, which bubbled over and burned something fierce at El Molino and Ninth when a gent approached Frank Merlo, robbed him of $50 ($551 USD2006) cash and forced him to swap clothing.
Elsewhere, a truck containing $4,000 worth of cigars and tobacco, parked in front of the Glaser Brother’s establishment at 1028 Wall Street, just up and disappeared; a burglar capable of squeezing through a window not more than seven inches wide entered the Wrede Drug Company at 1327 Fairfax and made off with $200; persons unknown jimmied a rear door of Brunswig Drug at 4922 Santa Monica and btained $500 worth of cigarettes and delicious narcotics.
In residential news, Mrs. Elba Burdick was lightened of $1,000 worth of clothing, rugs and pesky jewelry that were cluttering up her place at 232 Carmelina Avenue; Nathan Lack now lacks one $600 diamond stickpin, formerly in residence at 831 South Harvard; Torato Nishlo was relieved of $500 in jewelry from 925 Hemlock; Dr. H. C. Hill of 806 Golden, also relieved of $500 in jewelry; Nathan Berger, of 2010 Brooklyn Avenue, also relieved of $500 in jewelry; and loot valued at less than $300 was pilfered from a dozen other residences, according to police reports.
Daylight is a good time to work as well—Sam Stone got his register rifled while looking the other way, Stone Furniture Company, 2711 Brooklyn Avenue.
But fret not people of Los Angeles! The bulls have pinched (another) gang of li’luns, ages 15 to 18, who now make the Alhambra pokey their new clubhouse. Their leader was busting into the home of an F. R. Lee on North Wilson when popped, and quickly gave up his younger cohorts—they of reputable local families—and location of purloined rugs, cameras, revolvers, and the black masks (cute—last year) they wore during their heists. The youth of these masked marauders may account for the ability to slip through Wrede Drug's tiny window. Unless it was those fabled fascistic interwar little people.
Saturday 9/29 - Explore the San Gabriel Valley's legacy of weird crimes, sea monsters and great eatsSubmitted by kim on Wed, 2007-09-26 06:41
What are you doing Saturday afternoon? Will you be among the lucky citizens exploring the strange secrets of the San Gabriel Valley and feasting on juicy dumplings on a concrete sea monster, or will you bored and kicking yourself for not getting on the Crime Bus? Read on for all you need to know to avoid that sad fate.
For this Saturday, September 29, Esotouric's Crime Bus offers a rare edition of its wackiest true crime and history tour, Blood & Dumplings. Tickets for the four-to-five hour luxury coach tour, including dumplings, are $60. Heading due East out of downtown for points rarely seen, the tour explores several historic communities that reflect the growth and eccentricity that are hallmarks of 20th century Los Angeles.
Crime Bus passengers will be treated to detailed descriptions of some of the most notorious, strange and fascinating forgotten tales from the past hundred years, each told at the scene of the crime. They'll thrill to the freakish case of the Man from Mars Bandit who stalked area supermarkets for months in 1951 before meeting his match in a police sharpshooter, shock to discover the deadly infighting among El Monte's American Nazi Party members, mourn the Case of the Buried Bride dragged beneath her home on her wedding day by her secret lover, gnash teeth at the weird lion farm (home to every MGM lion) that served lion meat barbecues on special occasions, and visit scenes of notorious cases including Phil Spector's spooky hilltop castle, James Ellroy's murder victim mother Geneva (the true-life inspiration for his Black Dahlia novel), neglected Manson victim Steve Parent and even an obscure East LA link to the JFK assassination.
And since no visit to the San Gabriel Valley is complete without a delicious Chinese meal, the Crime Bus will stop at 101 Noodle Express (one of Jonathan Gold's picks for 99 L.A. restaurants not to be missed) to pick up a dumpling feast, which will be enjoyed picnic-style at Monster Park, a remarkable sea-themed folk art environment recently saved from demolition. There passengers can enjoy their snack in the mouth of a concrete whale, or under a grinning octopus, then pose for photos with the creatures.
All this, plus stunning mid-century trailer parks, subterranean Black Panther hideouts, wild shootouts, dope-dealing druggists, missing Salvador Dali paintings, the original "little girl down a well" television sensation, and a very strange story about ducks.
This tour is my personal favorite of all our tours, packed with more offbeat history, horror, roadside architecture and fabulous Route 66 vistas than any other. We don't offer it very often, and I highly recommend it to anyone who has been thinking about getting on the Crime Bus.
And don't forget, we offer 15% discounts for KCRW members, gift certificates, and Season Pass deals ($30 off four tours for one person) that can be applied retroactively for recent passengers.
For more info on Esotouric, or to reserve your seat, visit
Upcoming Esotouric bus tour schedule:
Sat Sept 29 – Blood & Dumplings (San Gabriel Valley true crime tour)
Sun Oct 7– Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles (architecture/urbanism tour)
Sat Oct 20– The Real Black Dahlia tour
Sun Oct 21 – Where the Action Was (rock history tour)
Sat Oct 27 – Haunts of a Dirty Old Man: Charles Bukowski's LA
Sun Oct 28 – Hallowe'en Horrors featuring Crimebo the Clown
September 3, 1927
If you’re planning to escape the heat this Labor Day by going boating on Lake Arrowhead, don’t forget to take along your radio!
July 30, 1927
Los Angeles and its crime ridden suburbs
This has been a mad, felony fueled day in the Southland, and there isn’t even a full moon! We have four tales of crime including a beating, triple poisoning, robbery and assault, and finally the murder of a policeman in Arcadia by three wayward youths. Read them at your leisure, or devour them all at once.
A severely beaten woman was dropped off at Culver City Hospital by three men, who then sped away. The victim’s identity has not been confirmed, but she is believed to be Vivian Edwards of 501 S. Rampart. The injured woman lapsed in and out of consciousness. Finally in a moment of lucidity, she said that she had been assaulted by a man named Dick Burk. No trace of her alleged assailant has been found. The young woman’s injuries are critical and it is feared that she may die.
In Glendale, a wealthy couple, Mr. and Mrs. Leroy Armstrong and their nurse, Mrs. M. Woolf, are recovering in the Armstrong’s home at 1311 Rossmoyne, after having been poisoned with arsenic. The couple’s servant, Ray Tayama, is being sought in connection with the crime. The missing domestic had been discharged by Mr. Armstrong earlier in the afternoon, and as a farewell gesture Tayama served the three people coffee laced with arsenic and then vanished.
Are these the only cases from the police blotter today? Don’t be ridiculous! The mayhem continues…
Ex-con and bail jumper Paul Knapp spent the day in the arms of his lovely wife Josephine, while she tenderly patted his cheek and vociferously declared his innocence of robbery and assault. Josephine may be confident that her husband is guiltless of the charges against him, but his record speaks persuasively to a life of crime.
Paul was a cop in Seattle from 1919 until 1923 when he was dismissed for being absent without leave, refusal to obey orders, and for participating in a liquor hi-jacking. He was busted in Los Angeles in 1924 for attacking a woman, but he fled before he could be tried. By 1925 he was in Portland doing fifteen months in McNeil Island Federal pen for impersonating a Federal officer.
In April of this year, after vowing to shoot it out with the law, he was cornered by police and wounded in the shoulder. He was booked on suspicion of robbery and as a fugitive from justice. As if those charges weren’t enough, he was also wanted in Seattle for jumping bail and in Portland for violation of the Mann Act!
Earlier this month, a court order allowed the bandit to be released into the custody of two deputy sheriffs so that he could visit a dentist – whose office was conveniently located across the street from his mother’s house. Paul asked his custodians if he could be allowed to use the bathroom at his mother’s place. The police acquiesced, and once inside the house the bandit’s cagey spouse and his wily mother engineered his escape through a trap door in the closet of the home, while the clueless officers continued to wait for him outside!
Following his escape, Paul and Josephine reunited and hid out in a small apartment at 1057 South New Hampshire which had been rented for them by an accomplice known to police. On a hunch, Detective Lieutenant Hull of the Central Police Station investigated and found Paul and his wife at the apartment. The couple’s crime partner is being hunted.
Paul’s mother and his wife have been accused of conspiracy for engineering his Houdini-like escape. A glimpse into the future finds Paul sentenced to from sixteen years to life in the state pen. His mother and his wife will seek probation, but no word if they’ll be successful.
Had enough crime yet? Neither have we…
Our final story for this summer day in July of 1927 is a tale of flaming youth and flaming guns!
Under arrest for car theft and the murder of Arcadia police officer Alfred Mathias are: Frank Miller, 18 years of age, 820-1/2 West Third Street, accused of the actual slaying; Ray Oddell, 18, Fourth and Beaudry streets, confessed driver of the get away car and Miller’s accuser. Also in custody is William Montfort, 21, 903 West Fifty-ninth Drive who admitted to have been along for the ride, but claimed to be ignorant of his two companion’s hold-up plans.
The three boys have been friends since meeting in the State reform school at Ione. Both Oddell and Montfort credit Miller with being the brains of the outfit and insist it was he who formed the plan to rob a barbeque stand in Arcadia, which resulted in the shooting death of Officer Alfred Mathias.
The boys were sitting in the stolen automobile when they were approached by Officer Mathias. The cop asked Oddell for the car’s registration. Miller spoke from the back seat and told the officer he had the pink slip. Mathias thought the young man was acting suspiciously and asked “what are you sitting on?” Frank whipped out his gun and demanded that the officer “stick ‘em up”. Mathias bolted and headed for the rear of the car as Frank fired, leaving the policeman dead in the parking lot.
Set the time machine for two months hence; September 1927. Frank Miller will plead guilty to murder and auto theft and will be found guilty. He’ll be lucky. The jury will recommend that the youth not hang, but rather spend one year to life in San Quentin. Frank’s partners in crime Ray Oddell and William Montfort, will face similar fates.
The flaming youths burned out…and so have we! What a day!
July 12, 1927
Quick, fellas, hop in the car! We gotta get out to El Monte pronto, or there won't be any of the main course left. What, you mean you call yourself a Lion and you don't want to sample a hunk of barbecued adolescent lion meat, personally prepared by the King of Beasts' best pal Charles Gay out at his Lion Farm, as part of the celebration of the charters of the El Monte and Alhambra clubs? Getouttahere! Of course you do!
Ah, don't be a stick in the mud! We'll sit at the big table in the middle of the lion cages, drink up some hooch and gnaw on a cat bone while telling dirty jokes and practicing our roars. And then, when we're all good and lit up, Gay'll bring Numa, his biggest and friendliest lion out to walk the length of the table, and we'll toast that kitty as he's never been toasted before.
That's the spirit, fellas, out we go. This is a big day for the Lions of Southern California, one we'll tell our grandkids about!
June 8, 1927
Car dealer R.C. Kane thought he was about to close a sale, and perhaps was leaning back with an air of satisfaction when the would-be buyer, Mrs. R.N. Upton, became startled at an intersection as another car approached.
She went for the brake, but hit the gas, and the car careened into Judge F.W. Houser's yard and smacked into a concrete post. Kane and Upton, in the front seats, both went through the windshield and were severely cut and lacerated. In the back, Kane's wife went out the window, and like Dwight Lesley was cut and bruised. The car was wrecked: NO SALE!
Meanwhile, in Washington, D.C., President and Mrs. Coolidge's pet raccoon Rebecca, a beloved pardon case from the White House larder one Thanksgiving, escaped and led staff on a two hour spree around the trees of the temporary White House, before climbing down and nonchalantly returning to her stump behind the residence. For more about the Coolidge's interesting pets, see this article, with much on Rebecca towards the end.
May 24, 1927
Whoo-Whoo! Get outta the road, here comes a cop, or an ambulance. Jeez, usually they drive better than that. This guy doesn't give an inch. Muscling his way south through heavy Vermont Avenue traffic after midnight in his Essex, he pushes through the Third, Sixth and Seventh intersections with only some shattered nerves and shouted curses.
By this point he's picked up a tail, Detective Lieutenant Vanaken riding with Auto Club man Harry Raymond, who wonder what the deuce this yutz thinks he's doing, and if this could be the same siren-happy individual who's been reported around town these past three weeks. And then at Wilshire, the inevitable sickening crash of metal on metal, leaving A.J. Hanker and cabbie Oscar Ruiz, thankfully uninjured, sitting in their wrecked cars as Vanaken forces the automotive bully to the curb a block south.
Inside, Dr. R.B. King, 25, X-ray technician out Alhambra way, who denies causing the accident, though he admits he used his siren while not on an official call. Well, since he's a doctor, they book King on charges of failing to stop and render aid at an accident scene, and hold him in the City Jail. Meanwhile, we trust, police mechanics are cutting that siren off the Essex, and none to carefully, either.
Jacob Adelman of the venerable AP rode along with the gang on the Blood & Dumplings Crime Bus Tour on St. Patrick's Day, and produced a delightful little audio document of the day for the AP's youth-oriented asap section. It includes an overview of the tour, some excerpted crime stories from the tour, and interviews with a few of the delightful passengers. Why would otherwise normal people choose to spend their Saturday hearing tales of mayhem and horror? Click slowly and see....
Why yes, Pasadenans, that was our own Nathan Marsak glowering out at you from page three of the Sunday paper, doing his little AH impression on the former site of the American Nazi Party Headquarters in deepest El Monte, as part of the Blood and Dumplings Crime Bus Tour. To read Molly R. Okean's story, which oddly enough in the web version doesn't feature Sarah Reingewirtz' striking photograph, just click here.
We had a great day exploring the San Gabriel Valley with a bus full of charming passengers, including a stop for dumplings at Monster Park (sorry about the soy sauce shortage!), turn-of-the-century bungalow poetry from co-host Richard Schave, black cats crossing our paths and some truly chilling tales of forgotten crimes and misfortunes. Thanks to everyone who joined us, especially Sister Kelly and Brother Nathan, and watch this space for announcements of upcoming tours, criminal and otherwise.
If there's one thing we at 1947project love even more than uncovering
evidence of an incredibly weird forgotten crime, it's Chinese
food--especially dumplings! Whether fried or boiled, stuffed with
shrimp, pork, pumpkin, fish, scallions or sometimes a little dollop of
soup, nothing is more comforting and delicious.
With Blood & Dumplings, we're combining our favorite things to bring
you the first new Crime Bus tour of 2007, a a grim and gleeful descent
into the criminal history of the San Gabriel Valley, including the battling Nazis of El Monte, the chilling (and probably incestuous) Case of the Buried Bride, missing Salvador Dali paintings, the dark history of the Lions Club's lion meat BBQs held in eye- and nose-range of hundreds of the lovely beasts, the Man from Mars Bandit (his mystery revealed!), plus Phil Spector, neglected Manson victim Steve Parent, Geneva Ellroy and a peculiar East L.A. link to the JFK assassination, concealed Black Panthers and the coolest trailer parks in the Southland.
Included in the $55 ticket price is a special stop for Chinese comfort food at one of the best dumpling joints in Monterey Park and an afternoon picnic surrounded by real sea monsters.
We hope to see YOU on the Crime Bus!
Kim Cooper & Richard Schave
Yesterday's Pasadena Confidential Crime Bus Tour was a hoot, as we glided around the Crown City in our air conditioned murder bus with a happy coterie of grisly lookyloos. Here are a few photos snapped along the way...
Below, Crimebo honors the lucky Miss Cathy with a pre-birthday litany of all the horrors that happened on the day she was born.
Here, Crimebo and hosts Kim and Nathan take a mid-tour breather at Connal's on Washington Boulevard, conveniently loated between the sites of a hammer murder and a bathtub suicide. Plus their malts is yummy!
And another view of that scary clown Crimebo... don't you want him at your birthday party?!
All the world loves a clown... especially a Crime clown! And when the editor of Pasadena Weekly heard about Crimebo, he upgraded Carl Kozlowski's planned feature on the Pasadena Confidential tour from the arts section to the cover! Sneak a peek, online or in person, and don't miss Matt Craig's evocative photos.
July 31, 1907
Despite the pleadings of well-situated friends, Eugene Parks, Junior is bound to face a Superior Court judge and answer to the charge of attempted theft of nearly a whole wagonload of lemons from the Whittier Citrus Association's railway siding. Parks and his pal Kirchner were caught in the act by Superintendent Greeley of the State School, and all the lemons were saved.
In court today, the youngsters begged the judge to accept as an extenuating circumstance the fact that they were looped to the gills on strong beer, half a dozen bottles a piece, and to recognize that they were at heart honest boys from good homes. But he would have none of it. For if a little beer would make thieves of them, then thieves they were, and only a higher court could determine an appropriate punishment.
April 19, 1907
north of Monrovia
It seems the rumors are true: there really is a wild man living in the remote reaches of Big Santa Anita Canyon! He was seen this week by two brave boys from Monrovia, Charles Crandall and Sherman Black, who climbed high into the hills, past the old Sturtevant camp, to the West Fork, then about two miles above Clam Shell Canon. It was there they encountered the living myth.
The wild man has long been rumored to live in the caves high above civilization, and to be insane. The creature the Monrovians spied was old and yellow skinned, with long claws on his hands, a wild beard and stooped figure. He was surprised in the doorway of his rude dwelling, a windowless concrete hut with live oak rafters, but slammed the door when they attempted to make conversation.
The young men of Monrovia are not to be so easily snubbed. Even now, an exploration party is being assembled, with the intention of learning more about what makes the wild man tick.