Whistle While You Work

June 12, 1927
Los Angeles

Is there anything more quaint than a peanut wagon, its operator on life’s downward slope yet cheerfully awaiting only a word from you to scoop up a paper sack of delicious, salty goobers? This was the face that 72-year-old Victor Tartas presented to the world—-until recently.

To the untrained eye, the steady stream of customers at the peanut stand bore testimony only to the elderly Tartas’s business acumen and pleasant personality. But Sergeant Adams of the Los Angeles Police Department detected something peculiar in the peanut vendor’s manner: if an approaching customer whistled once, Tartas responded with a single blast of the peanut cart’s horn. Two whistles were met with two toots on the horn. A quick investigation revealed several pints of whiskey nestled beneath a false bottom in the wagon.

Despite evidence to the contrary (twenty gallons of moonshine, a small still and a “quantity” of mash were found at the peanut vendor’s home at 2118-1/2 Brooklyn Avenue), Tartas pleaded not guilty. Jury trial was set for September 13, 1927. Bail was fixed at $1,000–which, it must be stated, wasn’t peanuts.