Born Out of Tragedy

August 22, 1927
Van Nuys

orphan One August night in 1927, Edgar Burnett of Van Nuys shot his wife, then turned the gun on himself, leaving their four children orphaned.  The children were separated, and taken in by different families.  Eleanor Ray Burnett, 7, was adopted by a wealthy Anaheim family; Ermie Jean, 3, was sent to Toronto to live with Miss Myrtle Hendrie; and Edgar Jr., 16 months, went to a Van Nuys family.

And today, the Burnett’s newborn daughter, Nona Lee, was adopted by Patrolman James Hayden of the Van Nuys police station and his wife.  Nona was only 5 days old at the time of the killings, and the babe had been in her mother’s arms when Edgar Burnett fired the fatal shots.  In 1927, it was reported that the Hayden’s would rear Nona "never to know the tragedy of her early life," or about her brother and sisters.

However, at some point, the Hayden’s must have decided to tell Nona the truth about her past.  And it seems a good thing they did.

You see, on Halloween night, 24 years later, 24-year-old Louis Shandra wrote a note, and went to his estranged wife’s apartment.  The note read, "I am going to kill my wife and myself tonight.  I love her more than anything else in the world."

guntragedyShandra had recently served 30 days for beating his wife, Carmela, who had moved into her own place while Shandra was in jail.  He went to the apartment at 808 E. Palmer Ave., Glendale, and shot Carmela to death with a rifle in front of the couple’s 2-year-old son, Bobby.  Then, Shandra went into another apartment in the building, and killed himself.

A Ventura housewife married to Deputy Sheriff Warren Paul read about the tragedy in Glendale, and was so moved that she and her husband offered to adopt the child themselves.  Nona Hayden Paul told the Los Angeles Times the circumstances of her early childhood and said, "I wondered what would happen to that poor little boy.  I talked to my husband about it and we’ve decided we’d love to raise him on our own."  Warren Paul agreed readily – he, too, had been adopted as a child.

No word on whether the adoption ultimately went through, or whether Mrs. Paul was ever reunited with her lost brother and sisters.  Here’s hoping. 

Don’t Get Mad, Get Everything

Aug. 22, 1927
chaplindivorce1 Hollywood divorces may be ugly today, but the dissolution of the legal bonds between Charlie Chaplin and his child bride, Lita Grey, may have been nastier than K-Fed and Britney, Alec and Kim, and Loni and Burt put together.

After divorce proceedings that had dragged on for nearly a year, Chaplin and Grey settled out of court today for the staggering sum of nearly $1 million ($11,971,200 USD 2007).  $625,000 went to Lita, $200,000 was used to set up trust funds for the couple’s two babies, and the rest went towards assorted legal and court fees.  She lost the house, but got custody of the children.  It was, in 1927, the largest divorce settlement ever paid in California history.

Lita was only 18, but she was either exceptionally shrewd or exceptionally wronged.

Wed in Mexico in November 1924, Lita moved out almost exactly two years later.  However, the marriage was in trouble quite literally from the beginning.

chaplindivorce2In her nearly 50-page formal complaint against Chaplin, Grey leveled the following accusations:  he’d forced her to have sex with him before they were married; he’d told her to get an abortion when he discovered she was pregnant; on their way back to Los Angeles after their wedding, he told her, “This marriage won’t last long.  I’ll make you so — sick of me that you won’t want to live with me”; accused her of forcing him into marriage; had an affair with a prominent motion picture actress; told her she was stupid; encouraged her to commit suicide; only took her out 3-4 times during the first two months of their marriage “for the sake of appearances”; left her alone on Christmas while he went out and got drunk; threatened her life twice with a loaded revolver; and since their separation, had only given her $27 for milk for the babies.

Apparently, Chaplin decided the money was worth his peace of mind – he didn’t even show up in court.  Earlier in the year, Chaplin had filed a cross-complaint that denied many of Grey’s charges, and accused her of excessive partying, relationships with other men, and negligent parenting; however, this complaint was dismissed at the time of the settlement.

Let Me Rephrase That, Officer …

August 21, 1927
Los Angeles

The voice on the phone was breathless. "Help! Murder! Police!! He’s killing me, come quick!" (All dialogue, however fanciful, comes verbatim from today’s Los Angeles Times.) "Be right over," responded the dispatcher, as he sent two of his "star murder squad officers" to the scene of the crime.

They were met at the door of 1618 East 27th Street by Mrs. Georgia Brown, who quickly assured them there was nothing out of order at her house. "Must be something wrong somewhere [else], everything’s running according to Hoyle here," she told the officers.

Then Mrs. Brown made an error, a grievous one, the kind for which you’ll forever after kick yourself, even if you live to be 100. "Just walk in and see for yourselves," she said.

The cops didn’t need to be asked twice. A five-minute investigation of Mrs. Brown’s house turned up five bottles of home brew. Called before the judge on a charge of possessing alcohol, Mrs. Brown was given the choice of a $100 fine or ten days in jail. She chose the former—though she still believes the police came to the wrong house.

The Historic Brick Streets and Curbs of NE LA

Nick Santangelo saw my post about the historic cobblestones exposed when Lincoln Heights was getting its roads repaved, and wanted to share photos of some of the brick streets and gutters in Highland Park and near Union Station. Some of these have already been covered over by insensitive city workers.

Nick says: The brick gutters on Avenues 41 and 45 (on North Figueroa) reminded me of Kim’s post. I have tried to get public works to stop paving over them as they are unique and historic but have not had any luck. I even sent some pics to the Highland Park Historical people but I never got a response. The new Homeboy Industries building near Phillipes sits next to a cobblestone street (Bruno, I think).

Sure, on a well travelled street it’s probably unreasonable to ask that archaic building materials bear the brunt of multi-ton SUVs… but can’t we somehow save the brick gutters in places where they’re still holding up so nicely?

A Good Man is Hard to Find

A Good Man Headline

August 20, 1927

In this case “A Good Man is Hard to Find” is not a reference to Flannery O’Connor’s allegorical tale of good and evil, faith and redemption – no, we are talking about finding a good man, one who won’t desert his date on a quiet stretch of highway at the first sign of trouble, escorting her safely to her home instead.

Thelda Gollett, of 456 Westminster Avenue, and Arthur Israel of 756 1/2 South San Pedro Street, were taking a relaxing drive in the Los Flores Canyon area when a man stepped out onto the roadway waving a revolver, and ordered them to stop. Upon seeing the bandit Thelda jumped from the car and started to run, with the gun wielding crook only a few yards behind her.

Rather than stay and protect his date, Arthur spun his car around and screeched off in the direction of Los Angeles.

Arthur wouldn’t learn of Thelda’s fate until after she had returned home unscathed. She reported to police that she hidden beneath a bridge until the highwayman disappeared. Once the coast was clear she was rescued by a passing truck – driven by a good man.

We suspect that this was the couple’s last date. Maybe Thelda will keep company with that chivalrous truck driver.

Guess Who…

Guess Who Headline

August 20, 1927
Los Angeles

Esther and Wilber Ebermayer weren’t playing a silly children’s game when Esther called out “Guess Who” – she was reading the inscription from the back of a small photograph she had found tucked inside of her husband’s watch case. Guess Who Pic

Esther had expected to find her own picture in the case so she was surprised, hurt, and angry when she discovered the coyly inscribed photo of an unknown woman smiling back at her.

Friends to whom Wilber had shown the photo informed Esther that he had been describing the woman as his future bride – once he’d managed to rid himself of his current ball and chain.

The wronged wife immediately sought a divorce from her faithless husband. “Well,” she told Judge Sproul, “if that’s the way he feels about it, he is rid of me right now as far as I’m concerned”.

Memo to Wilber: buy yourself a wristwatch.

Another Accepted Invite



luringAugust 19, 1927
Los Angeles

annaAll the noir hallmarks here:  a destitute, starry-eyed country girl, the shifty grifter she befriends, a rube with some dough in his pocket, a classic con, the crummy apartment hotel and a dark city.

Anna Karrick, 22, ran away from her Illinois farm home to win fame in pictures, but found herself down and out.  

At a dance, she met a nice guy, Phillip Linker, of 1327 West Fourth Street.  She persuaded him to come back to her annaplace at 532 South Fremont Avenue (one imagines it didn’t take all that much persuasion).  Once there, in the hallway, thoughts of ingress dancing in Linker’s head, he is brained by a rolling-pin, wielded by one Jess F. Waller.  Linker wakes up in a taxicab, lightened of seven dollars and other valuables.

Waller and Karrick are thrown into County and charged with robbery and ADW.  Anna told the court today about her relationship with Waller, sure, but denied knowing he’d be there with her rolling-pin.

Sadly the Times didn’t see the need to print the trial’s outcome, and because there’s no Anna Karrick listed in imdb, we must sadly assume she never broke through Hollywood’s gates.

532532 South Fremont (now site of Glossy Black Tower, left) may be long gone, but it was a fun place while it lasted.  In May 1929, Filipino nationals Cal Blanco and Ceferino Sandries argued over women with some sailors from the USS Colorado, when Blanco announced, “I’m going to kill all you sailors,” and so sailor Clyde Forehand shot them both dead; July of 1929 saw a riot there involving thirty sailors and six women, at which two women and seven men were booked on suspicion of robbery; Jack Wilson and Clark Falcon, leaders of a gang of automobile plunderers, were arrested with their booty here in February, 1932; in September 1935 Robert Honchell, a 25 year-old taxi driver, was having a drinking party with his pal Edward Folder, a 29 year-old unemployed café worker, when a woman showed up with her infant daughter—Folder’s insistence on taking the child out for candy started a quarrel, and Folder ended up stabbed mortally in the chest by Honchell…you get the idea.

Shoes of the Times

August 19, 1927

nancyoscarYou jazz-age dames sure make life tough for us workingmen!  Oscar Smith, veteran bootblack at the Paramount Studio, has been compared by the Times to no less than a modern Rembrandt.  

In order to operate a modern shoeshine stand, you see, Oscar’s had to stock an uncountable number of brushes and equally innumerable paints to match the dizzying spectrum of colors that’ve come across his stand of late.  Heck, with the basket-weave sandals, multileathered and multicolored pumps, snake and lizard slippers flying past him all day long, he should be getting an Oscar™ of his own!

Here, Nancy Phillips is offering up a pair of head-scratch-worthy three-toned suede and velvet slippers.  Don’t worry Oscar, Old Man Depression is on the way!

Let’s Hope He Remembered to Cut Her Out of the Will

suicideAugust 18, 1927

Archie Howell had a flair for the dramatic.  

He and his wife divorced after two years of marriage, she awarded her $115 a-month alimony.  Howell had gone to see his erstwhile love at their home, but she refused to see him.

Later Howell was in his auto and saw his wife on the street.  “Come on over to the car, honey, I want to give you some money” he chirped.   The former Mrs. Howell strode over and leaned in, at which point Mr. Howell shot himself in the head.

And Only One Ring Tone!

August 18, 1927
Los Angeles

phonesThe 192 square miles covered by the Los Angeles exchange are crissed and crossed by, interwoven and interlaced with 1.7 million miles of telephone line, servicing those 307,471 telephones upon which you Chatty Cathies of 1927 gab.  (And that’s nearly double the 162,122 phones in service a mere five years ago in ’22.)  With 1.2 million folk in LA, there’s roughly 25 phones per hundred persons.

The Los Angeles exchange, in number of telephones, is the fifth largest in the United States, preceded by NYC, Chicago, Boston and Philadelphia, and is seventh largest in the world.  It has thirty-nine central offices and more than 5,000 employees.  As more than 12,000 telephones were installed in LA since the first of the year, the Southern California Telephone Company today announced a program that will entail the expenditure of 9.6 million ($105,887,824 USD2006) to handle all this interest in the modern convenience.  Little could they envision that someday not only would every individual own multiple telephones, but that the telephone company itself would no longer employ even one single human employee.

(The 25-phones-per-hundred-person statistic above might be off a little, for how does one take into account those ladies who press into service some twenty-odd telephones at a time?  Too bad the device was in its infancy when Kraft-Ebbing was pounding out his seminal work.)

(Of course, the nice lady pictured above will be without her precious candlesticks pretty soon.  In short order these devices will become the territory of rural law enforcement.)