New Car Blues

new car blues

“… Is that its horn sounding
through the night or something darker
that needs to speak? “New Car Blues” – Charles Fishman

Los Angeles
July 23, 1927

World renowned psychologist, astrologer, palm reader, and clairvoyant Ralph Wagner, is shown in the photograph above being congratulated by his brother after purchasing a sporty new Chandler Royal eight roadster.

Mr. Wagner boasts an impressive roster of achievements as a psychic. He foretold the World War back in 1908, and he predicted the recent Weepah gold strike in October of 1926. During the past five years more than 54,000 Angelenos have consulted the palm reader for advice!

Ralph was dazzled by the performance of the vehicle and having read the palms of dozens of Chandler owners, he considered it a great buy, even though at prices ranging from $1495 to $2375 ($17,901.51 to $28,438.85 USD 2007), it was costlier than many other automobiles. Ralph was so passionate about his purchase that he raved, “…after having investigated the stability of the Chandler factory I knew that I was making no mistake in buying a Chandler, for their financial statement reads as solidly as the rock of Gibraltar.”

Poor Ralph – bad vibes must have jammed his psychic radar…or maybe the stars were out of alignment. By 1929, parts for his snazzy roadster would be difficult to find. Chandler’s best year was 1927 when they sold over 20,000 cars – one of them to our psychic friend. Anticipating continued stellar sales, the car maker expanded too quickly and by the end of 1928 they were over $500,000 ($5,987,126.44 USD 2007) in debt. Chandler was purchased by Hupp Motor Company in 1929 and vanished from the planet.

Will someone please check on the rock of Gibraltar, and give us a call?

“… In time the Rockies may crumble,
Gibraltar may tumble,
There’re only made of clay…” – George Gershwin

If I Had a Hammer

If I Had a Hammer headline

July 16, 1927
Los Angeles

“If I had a hammer
I’d hammer in the morning
I’d hammer in the evening…”
— “If I Had a Hammer”, written by Lee Hayes and Pete Seeger

Jacob Goldstein, President of Rothschild Mortgage and Finance, permanently ended his business partnership with the firm’s Vice President,Jacob Goldstein Joseph Stern, by bashing him four times over the head with a hammer and firing three bullets from a revolver into his body. It would have been less messy if only Goldstein had let an attorney handle the dissolution.

Goldstein denied premeditating the attack, which occurred in the company’s elaborately furnished offices at 505 Hellman Bank Building, and swore to police that he had acted in self-defense. According to Goldstein, Stern had behaved like a lunatic and had menaced him with a hammer during a quarrel over business matters. Goldstein further stated that he was in fear of his life when he wrenched the hammer away from his future former partner, and then used the tool to crush the man’s skull. The coup de grace was delivered with the revolver he had purchased the day before.

Police found Goldstein’s explanation unbelievable and charged him with first degree murder. Goldstein entered a not guilty plea at his arraignment but was later allowed to plead guilty to manslaughter, for which he received a sentence of from one to ten years in the state pen.

It’s not easy to get kicked out of California forever, but Jacob Goldstein managed it. On the condition that he would move to Forest Hills, New York to live with friends, 63-year-old Goldstein was paroled from San Quentin on February 24, 1933.

You Make Me Feel Like Dancing

Big Feet Headline

July 16, 1927

“You make me feel like dancin’
I wanna dance my life away…”
— You Make Me Feel Like Dancing, written by Vincent Poncia, Jr. and Gerard Hugh Sayer, recorded by Leo Sayer

Bad news ladies – your feet have grown larger over the past twenty years. The reason? Dancing! Your older female relatives may have danced the night away, but they were tripping the light fantastic to the sedate melodies of the waltz and the two-step. The kinder, gentler dances of bygone days made it possible for women to keep their petite size three tootsies from spreading out like flapjacks. Modern gals stomp around the dance floor gyrating to the tango, Charleston, and black bottom. As a result of all this vigorous activity, today the average girl wears anywhere from four and a half to a size six shoe!

“As athletics become more popular for women and modern dances become more violent feet will grow in accordance. Some day women will Olive Oylhave feet as large as men’s are now”, said Mr. Julian Alfred, a director of musical choruses at Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.

Women of the future – beware! You are fated to have feet as big as Olive Oyl’s.

“Walkin’ with my baby she’s got great big feet
She’s long, lean, and lanky and ain’t had nothing to eat
She’s my baby and I love her just the same
Crazy ‘bout that woman cause Caldonia is her name…” 
– Caldonia, written by Fleecie Moore

Mother and Child Reunion

mother child reunion headline

Los Angeles
July 9, 1927

“No I would not give you false hope
On this strange and mournful day
But the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away…”
Paul Simon

Two women, one of them the mother of an infant and the other her traveling companion, stepped off of a Southern Pacific coach this morning at Central Station and set into motion a chain of events which culminated in a dramatic chase involving an airplane and a speeding train.

The mother decided to leave her peacefully slumbering tot unattended in the berth while she and her friend went into the station to stretch their legs. When the women returned they found that the train had departed without them!

The panicked women scurried to the taxi stand, hailed a cab and directed the driver to take them to the Glendale Airport where they hoped to find famed stunt pilot Roy Wilson.  They quickly located the aviator and the sobbing mother made a plea for help. Persuaded by the mother’s tears, Wilson hopped into one of his planes and with his two female passengers rocketed north in a desperate attempt to catch the speeding train.

Straight out of a Hollywood movie, the ensuing frantic airborne chase rivaled anything that Wilson had performed in “Wings”.  Following the Southern Pacific tracks the daring aeronaut was able to overtake the train as it sped north through Saugus. Flying low alongside the engine Wilson signaled to the engineer to stop. In a burst of speed the pilot then flew ahead and skillfully landed the aircraft near the tracks. Once aboard the train the anxious mother found her baby exactly as she had left him – sound asleep.

California Dreamin’

california dreamin headline

July 9, 1927 
Los Angeles

While carrying out his duties as caretaker of the Connelly estate at Eighty-Third Street and Normandie Avenue, 72 year old William Nugent found a pile of ladies clothing and a partially buried female corpse. Or did he? Although summoned to the scene, police were unable to locate a dead body or discarded clothing in the sixty acre dump site on the property.

Nugent claimed that he was taken into custody by two homicide detectives last week, and that the detectives grilled him for more than two hours in front of the Seventy-seventh street police station. He also said that the detectives left him with a stern admonition to keep quiet about the supposed murder so that they could find clues. John Howard, field representative for the Peace Officers Association of California, has asserted that there are no records corroborating Nugent’s claim.

Mr. Nugent gave the following statement to Captain Williams at the Seventy-seventh street police station: “Well, I’ll tell yuh, there might have been some clothes, and there might have been a body of a woman buried someplace, but from what I’ve deduced this here murder mystery appears to be nothing but one of them there hallucinations.”

The cause of Nugent’s hallucinations, if indeed that is what they were, remains as mysterious as the rest of his story.

Hooray for Hollywood!

Rose Host Headline

July 2, 1927

“Hitch your wagon to a star.” — Ralph Waldo EmersonRose Host

A blue-bound copy of Emerson’s essays, 50 cents, and the clothes on her back were all that Miss Rose Host had with her when she stowed away aboard the Panama Pacific liner “Manchuria” bound for Los Angeles. If Capt. William J. Munroe hadn’t been so understanding and hadn’t allowed her to earn her passage by stamping passenger forms for the ship’s purser Leo Gallagher, she may never have made it.

Rose’s picture appeared today in the Los Angeles Times accompanied by a story about her Hollywood dreams of gold and fame. A beauty contest winner in her home state of New York, Rose believes that a successful career in tinsel town is within her grasp.

Fast forward six months. Rose landed a bit part in the film “Shootin’ Irons” with Jack Rose and JackLuden. See – that’s Rose in the photograph, nothing more than a silhouette. Her part was so small she wasn’t even mentioned in the credits, and her Hollywood dreams ended with one picture. Rose Host the actress was not heard from again.

Maybe she became an English professor, sharing her love of Emerson with idealistic undergraduates. Let’s hope so, because when a Hollywood dream becomes a nightmare you have Jack Luden’s story.

Jack and Rose were both in their 20s when they made “Shootin’ Irons” together. Jack was an heir to the Luden’s cough drop fortune, but he was young and it was Hollywood so he tried his hand at acting. He was a handsome guy and Paramount planned to feature him in westerns as they’d done with Gary Cooper. Unfortunately for Jack, “Shootin’ Irons” wasn’t a success and by 1930 the studio had either dropped him or he’d walked away from his contract to pursue a life as a junkie.

How he spent the years between 1930 and 1936 remains something of a mystery, but by the 1940s the thrice married Luden had a monkey on his back the size of Cheeta on steroids. He drifted in and out of the movie business – and trouble, for the next decade.

During those six lost years Jack evidently acquired a taste for the seamy side of life. Busted several times for shoplifting to support his heroin habit, he was known to have said "a crooked buck is sweeter than an honest dollar." Jack, it seems, was an unrepentant sinner.

Finally in 1951 he was sent to San Quentin for drug possession and passing bad checks. Nine months into his sentence Jack dropped dead of a heart attack. He was 49.

 “Come on and try your luck
You could be Donald Duck
Hooray for Hollywood!”
— Johnny Mercer

Cheap Thrills

ten dollar car headline

June 25, 1927
Los Angeles

Johnston car

Mr. H. Johnston has just completed a nine day journey along the National Old Trails Highway from Los Angeles to Philadelphia. Amazingly, he made the cross-country trip in his $10 dollar 1919 Ford! His total expenses, including gasoline, meals, lodging, and one minor $3 repair to the Ford was a miserly $55 ($657.31 USD 2007).

Impressive? Absolutely! But, future dwellers, while we shake our heads in wonderment at how inexpensive it was to live in 1927 America, let’s put on our time travel goggles and look at this feat from a different perspective.

If Mr. H. Johnston went out today and purchased an entry level 2007 Toyota Prius ($22,175.00) it would cost him $265,015.46 in 1927 dollars. Gasoline for the hybrid would take a bite out of his budget to the tune of about $35.83 per gallon!

Nine nights at a Motel 6 (at $69.99 per night) would set Mr. Johnston back a whopping $7,528.14. And that’s if he didn’t rent any movies. At these prices he may lose his appetite, but a man has to eat. Let’s give Mr. Johnston a total food budget of $45 to visit a drive-thru of his choice once each day – that translates into $537.80 in current dollars for burgers, fries and sodas.

Get out your calculators and we’ll do a back-of-the-envelope estimate for Mr. Johnston’s trek in the strange 2007 time machine. The nine day vacation would now cost him approximately $275,052.25.

Your mileage may vary.

Headless Chicken Hitchhikes in Monterey Park!

headless chicken headline

June 25, 1927
Monterey Park

The latest version of the old riddle, “Why did the chicken cross the road”, debuted today in Judge P.F. Guaiano’s courtroom. It fell flat.

While cruising his regular beat in the hills south of Monterey Park, Officer T.J. Neal eyeballed some shady looking characters in an automobile. The lawman resolved to have a look, and after further investigation he discovered three men, a decapitated chicken and three empty sacks with feathers stuck to them.  Arriving at the obvious conclusion that the poultry had been pinched, Neal demanded an explanation for the beheaded bird. The suspects related a story so improbable it left the cop scratching his head in disbelief.

According to the men, Yeacio Tavary of Downey, Isa Magana of Belvedere, and Daniel Garcia of Los Angeles, they had been out for a drive when they spied a headless chicken running amok through the countryside. Imagine their surprise when, without warning, the frenzied fowl dashed up to their car and jumped in!

What were they to do? The bird possessed no identification, which ruled out returning it to its rightful owner. After a brief confab, the trio had decided to keep the bird and had been on their way to cook the obliging entree when they were rousted.

Officer Neal hadn’t believed the fantastic tale of the hitchhiking chicken, and apparently neither had Judge Guaiano who mused “Chickens are not that foolish”, and ordered the defendants to spend ten days in the slammer.

Can You Hear Me Now?

Houdini Headline

June 18, 1927
Los Angeles

Hamid BeyEgyptian mystic Hamid Bey claims to have received a message from deceased illusionist Harry Houdini – but Hardeen, Houdini’s surviving brother, doesn’t believe that Bey’s claim is any more genuine than many others made since the magician’s death last Halloween.

Hardeen would love to hear from his brother Harry, and has offered $10,000 ($119,510.92 USD 2007) to anyone who can name only one or two words of a secret code which he devised with Houdini, and another deceased brother, William. The brothers entered into the pact prior to William’s death last year in order to prove that the dead cannot communicate with the living. They agreed that the code would be the preamble to any communication from beyond the grave. Hardeen said that he and Houdini never heard from William following his death.

Bey has spent most of this year on the vaudeville circuit performing feats such as being buried alive and then revived. Mr. Bey asserts his powers are divine gifts, and he had intended to challenge Houdini’s well documented skepticism of spiritualists. Throughout his life Houdini had scorned spiritualists and had often stated that he could duplicate, by mechanical means, any of the stunts performed by a medium. Unfortunately Houdini died before the two could meet.

Prior to his current stint in vaudeville, Bey spent a few years traveling around the world publicly demonstrating powers had he learned at a Coptic Temple in Egypt. While in Brindisi, Italy, he had a near death experience. He had announced that he was going to induce a state of suspended animation, and allow himself to be buried alive for three days. His plan to fast prior to his entombment was foiled by the residents of Brindisi when they prepared a sumptuous banquet in his honor, and pressed him to eat several large plates of spaghetti.

When he awakened from his trance he was buried and unable to breathe – he then pulled the emergency cord which rang a bell above ground to summon help to his gravesite. Bey later stated that his trance had been disrupted by the spaghetti he had consumed.

Were cosmic forces responsible for interrupting Hamid’s trance, or were a bad case of indigestion and a subconscious desire not to remain buried under six feet of Italian soil the reasons for his premature resurrection? It is a shame that fate intervened and denied us the outcome of a confrontation between Hamid Bey and Harry Houdini.

Houdini’s wife Bess held a séance on Halloween every year through 1936 when she declared that “ten years is long enough to wait for any man.” No authentic message from Houdini has ever been received.

A Streetcar Named Detention

bandit captured

June 11, 1927

A man entered the Hollywood branch of the California Bank at 3900 Sunset Blvd. early this morning to make a withdrawal – at gunpoint. Brandishing a revolver, the robber forced bank manager P.A. Beaton, assistant manager C.R. Gray, and Deputy United States Marshal Dave Reynolds into a back room, locked them in, and then stuffed a sack with $4000 ($47,514.02 USD 2007) in cash.

At the same time the bandit was hurriedly jamming money into a bag, Marshal M.A. Duarte was waiting outside wondering what was keeping his fellow U.S. Marshal from their meeting. Much to Duarte’s shock, a few moments later he encountered a man exiting the bank clutching a bulging sack of money in one hand and a revolver in the other.


For a split second their eyes locked – and then the thief saw Marshal Duarte reach into his pocket. He quickly realized Duarte’s intent and fled down the street with the marshal in hot pursuit. Midway down the block Duarte began to tire. Huffing and puffing, he sputtered to a stop and fired two shots. At the crack of the first shot the bandit flung his booty to the ground. When the second shot whizzed past his head he threw down his gun. Duarte fired a third shot just as the fleeing felon was about to board a streetcar and escape. This time the man raised his hands to surrender.

The suspect gave his name as Gus Palovack aka F.J. Palivas, of 1017 Monterey Road.

Gus PalovackOne of the most perplexing aspects of the case, other than why he chose a streetcar as his means of escape, is what drove Gus to bank robbery. Known about town as a realtor with political connections, Gus owns property and has several accounts in a number of downtown banks.

Hard work and a knack for saving money may be the reasons for the bank accounts and real estate holdings – but police don’t think so. They believe that Gus has recently made similar withdrawals from other local banks. Gus is charged with the robbery of the California Bank, and two robberies of the same branch of the Commercial National Bank located at 1572 Sunset Blvd. Bail is set at $25,000 ($296,962.64 USD 2007).

Gus either abandoned his brief career as a bank robber or became more adept at it, because there are no further mentions of his exploits in the Los Angeles Times after June 1927.