Death Tees Off

golf

October 30, 1927
Los Angeles County

What should have been a happy father-son bonding session ended in tragedy today at the Fox Hills Country Club. Forty-year-old Ben H. Wesley was helping his 12-year-old son on the practice fairway when young Donald accidentally clipped his father on the neck with his club. The blow caught the elder Wesley just below the base of the left jawbone; police speculate he was either standing "at the left and slightly to the rear or directly in front" of his son, or perhaps was bending down to reach for a ball rolling from the tee. Country club attendants and players ran to Wesley’s aide upon hearing his son’s screams but he died a few moments later. Donald was rushed home by friends.

A coroner’s inquest is planned, but all are certain Wesley’s death was but a cruel accident.

Lacy Underthings and Seagull Wings

beach

October 23, 1927
Los Angeles

John A. Horn was born to be a poet but Fate (O! cruel mistress she!) decreed he make his living as a lingerie salesman. Worse, he was married to a woman who did not understand the lyricism of his delicate artist’s soul. So he left his wife—but not before explaining himself in verse.

Martha Horn, seeking a divorce upon the grounds of desertion, recently handed her errant husband’s scribbled magnum opus to Judge Gates:

"I’ll wait here ’till the sun sets," I told her
"If you are hungry, there’s a stand upon the pier."
She nodded. "You can wait. I won’t be long."
And saying this, she left me with the sun.
I sat upon the sand and watched the gulls
Skimming the restless water striped with gold.
The rolling waves tossed foam upon the beach;
"The lacy underthings the Old World wears,"
I told myself, then smiled quite satisfied:
Not many a clerk in a department store
From seven to six could say such clever things.
. . . . the sun
Was almost gone, the rounded golden edge
Was sinking out of sight when my wife called
"John." I saw her coming down the beach
Munching a bun. "I’ve one for you," she said.
I turned. The sun had sunk into the sea.

"And when I gave him the hot dog, he got sore," Mrs. Horn clarified for the court.

"This is just another example of the ancient controversy between rhyme and reason," chortled Judge Gates before granting a divorce to the long-suffering Mrs. Horn.

A Mysterious Suicide in Elysian Park

October 16, 1927
Los Angeles

His body was propped against a tree with a shotgun’s muzzle placed against what remained of his head. He had pulled the trigger with his toe. The note was terse: “Suicide. No dependents. No estate. No heirs. Please notice in New York World on Oct. 30th to print. $2 inclosed [sic]. Body to science, in reserve, or cremate.” It was signed “Anton K. Windsor.”

But who was the man found by police in Elysian Park shortly after daybreak this morning? Despite the carefully printed signature on the note, police doubted his name was Anton Windsor. If it was, why had he cut all the laundry marks and labels out of his clothing? A shears and razor blade used to do the job were still in his pocket. Identification had also been removed from a Masonic apron neatly folded in an inside pocket.

He was rich, according to detectives who cited his expensive gray business suit and outing cap, his soft hands with their careful manicure, and his face—”that of a man accustomed to easy living.” They speculated that his request to have his death noticed in the New York World two weeks from now was a message to someone “arriving from Europe shortly before that date” or perhaps he wanted to announce his death “in connection with some public event, possibly the settling of an estate.”

Another clue to his identity (the Times referred to it as the “only clew”; they apparently didn’t count his Masonic affiliation) was the “ancient” J. Manton & Co. shotgun he used.

Who were you, Anton K. Windsor?

Cupid’s Arrows Bent

October 9, 1927
Ventura County and Beverly Hills

Two stories from today’s paper prove yet again that the course of true love rarely runs smoothly. The first comes from Las Turas Lake (now Lake Sherwood) at Las Turas Country Club, where W.T. Verry, Jr. narrowly escaped death this afternoon when his friends finally figured out that what they thought were flirtatious gestures between Verry and a pretty miss on the pier were actually "frantic signals for aid" from a drowning man. Verry was pulled from the lake by J.E. Bower and revived by artificial respiration.

Meanwhile, 23-year-old Grace Dawson today resumed planning her Tia Juana wedding, cancelled because the bride was in County Jail when she was scheduled to walk down the aisle. Several days ago, detectives searching the Beverly Hills residence of bootlegger and narcotics kingpin "Black Tony" Parmagini turned up an address. A squad under Chief George Contreras then proceeded to 201 South McCarthy Drive where they found Miss Dawson, 25-year-old Alice Gray, and another young woman (who jumped out of Contreras’s automobile at a traffic light on Sunset Boulevard), along with sixty-five cases of mixed whiskies and other liquors. Dawson and Gray were booked for violation of the Wright Act before being released on bail of $1000 each.

Lunch Lady, Give Me a Scotch!

October 2, 1927
Bell

To twenty-first century eyes, the headlines make it sound like a retro-ironic hipster bar for postmodern cocktail sippers: "Liquor ‘Cafeteria’ Found. Raiders Say Drinks Made to Order in Bell House." Anybody feel a spree coming on?

Well, before you round up the gang and head on over, there’s one thing you should know about the house raided under the direction of Chief George Contreras this weekend: the top-shelf booze it poured was fake. That’s right, the "’Scotch’ whiskies of aristocratic highland brands, ‘fine old Kentucky Bourbons,’ ‘Gordon’ gin and other rare liquors of ancient lineage" were mixed up in the back room out of cut alcohol and glycerin—as the customer waited, no less.

Dry raiders found a complete bottling plant on the premises as well as printing plant where labels mimicking those of famous brands were created. Fifty gallons of the alcohol used as a base were secreted underground in the yard.

Don’t Mess With The Elks

Elks Club Watchman Foils Bandits

September 25, 1927
Los Angeles

"A carnival of crime" took place in Los Angeles between last night and early this morning, the undisputed high point of which was a shootout at the Elks’ Club. Shortly after dawn, two men walked into the venerable lodge located at Sixth and Park View. One of them carried a black traveling bag, but neither of them sought lodging for the night. Instead, they pulled a gun on the cashier and asked, in the best time-tested bandit fashion, for him to "stick ’em up." The man with the bag then walked behind the counter and forced open the safe, placing wads of cash and silver coinage into his portmanteau.

The thieves had retreated about halfway across the lobby when night watchman Charles Swaverly appeared at the top of the stairway to the second floor, his rifle aimed squarely at the bad guys. "Throw up your hands," cried Swaverly, whereupon the man carrying the money bag dropped to his knees and raised one hand above his head. "Both hands," replied the cool-headed defender of the Elks, upon whose recollection of the incident we must depend.

The bagman dropped his booty and raised his other hand, while his partner took cover behind a column. When Swaverly ordered him to come out with his hands up, he sent a bullet whizzing past the night watchman’s right ear. Swaverly and the gunman spent the next minute shooting up the Elks’ Club lobby. When Swaverly stopped to reload, the robbers hightailed it, leaving the bag of loot behind. By the time he made it outside, the getaway car was too far away for Swaverly to identify its make or model.

In this morning’s Times, it all sounded a bit like a Fairbanksian fantasy, but the police were clear: thanks to Swaverly’s gunslinging, the Elks recovered thousands of dollars.

It’s All Fun Until Somebody Gets Shot

September 18, 1927
Inglewood

“A huge bowl of punch made from high-proof bootleg whisky” stood at the center of a drunken brawl that left one man near death and another on the lam early this morning. When an employee of the automobile wrecking plant located at 10636 Hawthorne Boulevard arrived for work around 8:00 a.m. today, he found Inglewood real estate developer H.C. Mitchell lying in a pool of blood at the back of the garage. Though badly wounded, Mitchell identified plant owner A.H. Van der Mark as his assailant. Officers have yet to verify that Mitchell, who remains in critical condition at Milton Hospital with gunshot wounds to his right lung and leg, is a former official of the Ku Klux Klan. Meanwhile, Van der Mark has disappeared.

Eyewitnesses told different stories, but all agree the shooting occurred after a long night of heavy drinking at Van der Mark’s home (also the site of the wrecking plant). Mr. and Mrs. Charles Proctor told police the party was in full swing when they arrived, with guests freely partaking of the whisky punch. By 3:00 a.m., only the couple, Mitchell, Van der Mark, and Grace Haynes (a widow and the “asserted sweetheart of Van der Mark”) remained. Everything was rosy until Van der Mark allegedly told Mitchell that the latter’s habit of reporting bootleggers to the authorities “would make no difference in their regard for each other.” Apparently these were fighting words, for a scuffle began shortly thereafter. The combatants were separated, but Van der Mark returned with a .22 caliber rifle. The fight recommenced, three shots rang out, Mitchell fell to the kitchen floor, and the Proctors skedaddled. Police believe Mitchell then walked from the kitchen to where he was found in wrecking plant. Neither of the Proctors was held after making their statements.

Grace Haynes, on the other hand, is being held in County Hospital as a material witness. She claims the severe bruising about her head and body was caused by Mitchell, who she says arrived at the party looking for trouble. He had several fistfights with partygoers smaller than himself, including Van der Mark, who wound up knocked out—and presumably unable to avenge his lady’s honor. Haynes’s brother (he wasn’t there, but the Times was happy to interview him anyway) says his sister told him Van der Mark was passed out, not knocked out, but either way, “He was cold when Mitchell pitched into another member of the party and this man got a rifle and shot him.” And who was this man with the rifle? Why, none other than Mr. Charles Proctor. Haynes also told her brother that while everybody else at the party was more or less blotto, she herself was completely—totally!—sober.

To recap, of the five people present at the end of last night’s wild party, three claim Van der Mark shot Mitchell, one claims Proctor did the deed, and the fifth hasn’t been seen since the incident occurred.

In perhaps not unrelated news, the Times reports that the state now holds sixth-place in the nation for the number of “feeble-minded” persons admitted to institutions this year—or, as a headline summed up: “CALIFORNIA IDIOTS GAIN IN NUMBERS.”

The Postal Inspector Always Rings Twice

stockings

September 11, 1927
Glendale

Surely, oh, surely there are some very happy mailmen in Glendale today: a consignment of waterlogged ladies stockings are hung to dry around the post office. Whether they were similar to the Paris Clocked Chiffon Hosiery (in colors like French Blonde and Ecstasy) advertised by Bullock’s recently or simple utilitarian cotton, the Times does not say.

Shipped by the Thieme Hosiery Company to a store in Crescent City near the Oregon border, the stockings were removed from the train and transferred to a “stage” for delivery to their final destination. Alas, though the thought of a macho Wild West wagon filled with ladies’ finery is a pleasing one, the stage was in fact an automobile. The driver probably would have faired better with a team of horses, for after a sudden cloudburst, he was forced to abandon both car and cargo in a flash-flooded stream.

The stockings soaked in the creek for four days, after which the consignee returned them to the shipper. The Glendale post office notified the Thieme Hosiery Company, who refused to accept the soggy, but insured, package and declared they would collect the damages.

Now everyone awaits the postal inspector. “It is expected that the affair will be straightened out after several reams have been covered with correspondence, at a large outlay of time and money,” sagely notes the Times.

The Mysterious Madame XYZ

September 4, 1927
Los Angeles

The public stenographer was used to all sorts of crazy jobs, but the one that arrived in the mail last week was a new one for sure. She was to type up, and send to a number of prominent citizens, an appeal for $1500 from a purportedly destitute woman who promised to kill herself if the money was not received by the following Wednesday. The letter was signed “Madame XYZ.” It was all too weird for the stenographer, who turned the request over to police.

Today, an anonymous note showed up at the Central Police Station identifying Madame XYZ as Eunice McMullin of 2674 South Vermont Avenue. Clues given in the note led detectives to the conclusion that McMullin is really Mrs. Frank A. Martin. The 40-year-old Mrs. Martin has been missing since last week, according to her husband, who also said she tried to kill herself three years ago in Oakland.

XYZ/McMullin/Martin was clearly no criminal mastermind; the note, which used her real address, also included details of a railroad accident Martin suffered in 1913. And asking a public stenographer to send her extortion letters? Pure bush league.

Postscript: Police closed the case the following day, after the still-missing Madame XYZ contacted her husband and promised not to take her own life. Detectives noted that Mr. Martin was “not at all concerned” over his wife’s threats of suicide (an attitude apparently shared by the LAPD where Madame XYZ’s attempt at blackmail was concerned).

His wife wanted the money, Mr. Martin revealed to the Times, to “establish a new religious movement.” Neighbors, on the other hand, reported that they hadn’t noticed an upsurge in religious activities by either of the Martins, who were “in a strained financial condition”—or so said the neighborhood busybodies.

The story ended two days later, when Madame XYZ dropped a letter in her husband’s mailbox stating she would return to him only if he joined her in founding her sect. Alas, no details were given concerning the new religion, and, as police reiterated, given Mr. Martin’s “confidence that no harm will befall his wife,” the case was at a standstill.

Vultures Circle Over Los Angeles

Ill-fated Tour Group

Los Angeles
August 28, 1927

Five days ago, twenty Mexican “rebelsâ€Â descended on a train carrying among its passengers a group of American schoolteachers headed back to Los Angeles after a summer session at the University of Mexico. Eyewitnesses said about 40 shots were fired into the cars, one of which hit 27-year-old Florence M. Anderson of 3414 Third Avenue, Los Angeles, in the left hip. Anderson, a popular member of the travel party, was taken to a hospital in Maztalan. Doctors operated on the stricken high-school Spanish teacher, but peritonitis set in and she died later the same day, the only passenger injured in the melee.

Now comes word that Florence Anderson’s father and a cousin, Mrs. Jean Garrison, are fighting over the disposition of her body, which arrived in Los Angeles early today.

Spokane newspaperman Charles H. Anderson, says that Florence sent him letters from Mexico in which she declared her affection for him. He says he is “puzzledâ€Â by the relationship between Garrison and his daughter, and pointed to news reports which first described them as aunt and niece, then as cousins. At any rate, he intends to have Florence buried “with her ancestorsâ€Â in California—and asked Southern Pacific to release his daughter’s body to him.

Jean Garrison, on the other hand, claims to have her cousin’s will, handwritten less than two months ago on the eve of her departure for Mexico. It states that Florence Anderson wished to be buried next to her mother in a Denver cemetery.

The tiebreaker was an affidavit filled out this morning by Francis Flynn, manager of the ill-fated tour group. “When Miss Anderson was shot and afraid she would die,â€Â Flynn told reporters, “she called me over and told me to send her things to Mrs. Garrison and to notify her about everything, but that her father was not to be communicated with.â€Â There were “strained relationsâ€Â between them and “she had had only two communications from him in recent years.â€Â

The will and affidavit were good enough for Southern Pacific, which released Florence Anderson’s body to Mrs. Jean Garrison. Both are en route to Colorado. It is also being reported that Garrison has “demanded through the State Department $100,000 [approximately $1.2 million today] reparations of the Mexican government for her cousin’s death.â€Â

Postscript. Charles Anderson gave it one more shot. On September 1, 1927, the Times reported that he had retained counsel and asked for a photographic copy of his daughter’s will, which left the bulk of her $10,000 estate (about $118,000 in 2007) for the education of two young cousins, Claire and Arthur Strong (ages 13 and 11, respectively). Perhaps he thought better of it; the Times makes no further mention of this sordid mess.