Sugar is sweet… and so’s a poker to the skull

September 23, 1947
Arcadia, CA

Those battling Spreckelses are at it again! Last night, sugar heir John D. Spreckels III, 37, brained wife Lou Dell with a fireplace poker during a liquor-fueled argument at their home at 201 Santa Cruz Road. Call it a housewarming gift: they’ve been in the new place for all of two weeks.

Lou Dell ran from the house in a confused state and found herself at the nearby home of Laurie Connor, 215 San Luis Rey Road. Connor is a former relative by marriage of Mrs. Spreckels. John D. followed her, and began pounding on the back door threating to “kill” someone inside. This resulted in a call to police, and a charge of disturbing the peace, later expanded to assault with a deadly weapon and drunkeness.

Interviewed by officers, Lou Dell claimed she recalled raising her arms to prevent being struck by the poker her husband swung, but did not remember being hit. She does not know how she got to the Connor home. Mrs. Connor explained that she discovered Lou Dell on her back stoop after opening the door on her way to Pasadena.

Lou Dell indicated that she was willing to prosecute John D. on an assault charge, and was taken to St. Luke Hospital in Pasadena for stitches and treatment of a possible concussion. John was bailed out by Groves Bonding Co. with a call to appear in Arcadia Police Court at 9:30am. The bent poker remains at the Arcadia Police Station as evidence.

Further reading: Claus Spreckels: The Sugar King in Hawaii

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Kim Cooper

Kim Cooper is the creator of 1947project, the crime-a-day time travel blog that spawned Esotouric’s popular crime bus tours, including The Real Black Dahlia. She is the author of The Kept Girl, the acclaimed historical mystery starring the young Raymond Chandler and the real-life Philip Marlowe, and of The Raymond Chandler Map of Los Angeles. With husband Richard Schave, Kim curates the Salons and forensic science seminars of LAVA- The Los Angeles Visionaries Association. When the third generation Angeleno isn’t combing old newspapers for forgotten scandals, she is a passionate advocate for historic preservation of signage, vernacular architecture and writer’s homes. Kim was for many years the editrix of Scram, a journal of unpopular culture. Her books include Fall in Love For Life, Bubblegum Music is the Naked Truth, Lost in the Grooves and an oral history of Neutral Milk Hotel.

One thought on “Sugar is sweet… and so’s a poker to the skull”

  1. Woman Writer
    Gives List of
    Troubles Abroad

    Janet Flanner, during her many years in Paris as European correspondent for the New Yorker magazine, picked up the French love of epigrams. Genet, as she is known to the magazine readers, tried this out yesterday on a Town Hall audience at the Biltmore.

    “The United States was the richest country in the world—that’s dandy. Now it is the only rich country in the world, which is terrible.â€Â

    + + +

    Flanner was a regular visitor to Los Angeles, spending months at a time with her mother, Mary H. Flanner, at her home at 428 E. Marigold St. in Altadena. During one vacation in Los Angeles, The Times found Flanner working on a brick wall at the home, along with her brother-in-law Frederick Monhoff of the Otis Art Institute, who was married to her sister, the poet Hildegarde Flanner.

    She was featured in a 1940 Times magazine story titled “I’m Going Back to Paris,â€Â and although she ended up spending most of the war in New York, her comments provide an interesting insight on the foreign correspondent.

    “Why leave peace and security and plunge oneself into the difficulties and dangers of war?â€Â The Times asked. Aren’t you frightened.â€Â “Yes, she admitted, very frightened.â€Â

    “Then why?â€Â

    “Because, she said, she is a correspondent and a correspondent is a sort of verbal doctor who stays with his patient until the end.â€Â

    Speaking of postwar Europe in September 1947, she said:

    “The carpetbagging of our American soldiers went on for two years until the Army stopped it. It made cigarettes legal tender. American money still rates high, but our morality rates low.â€Â

    “Just now we Americans are trying to run a checkbook empire. It can’t be done.â€Â

    Six years before her death in 1978, she told an interviewer: “I wrote a novel, not very good, don’t bother with it. I did a few short stories, not very good, either. Learning to write is a tedious concern.â€Â

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