Go East, Young Man!

May 23, 1927 
Flagstaff, AZ
Several west coast railroads launched their See America First campaign earlier this week, offering slashed rates to eastern destinations in an effort to equalize east-west travel during the busy summer months.  However, the program got off to a rocky start when two of the first trains to leave Union Station collided early this morning, resulting in two fatalities and 165 injured persons.

The accident took place when a section of the Santa Fe Railroad’s California Limited line stopped on a downgrade to make a brake adjustment, and was plowed by another California Limited train just outside of Flagstaff, AZ.  Sleeping passengers were rattled from their berths as cars were knocked off the rails.  Mrs. Ernest Watson, the wife of a Hollywood firefighter, was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident, while dozens of other injured passengers and railroad employees were shuttled to nearby Mercy Hospital in Flagstaff.  Twenty-five of the most seriously wounded were transferred back to Los Angeles.  Two of them, Lee Evans, a dining car waiter, and Mrs. Robert L. Vivian, the wife of a retired minister, died en route.  Or so it seemed, for the rumors of Evans’s demise were greatly exaggerated.  A few days after his death was reported, he was found alive and more or less well.

An inquest by the Coroner’s jury in Flagstaff found evidence of negligence, but could not place blame conclusively.  The jury recommended a full investigation to be carried out Arizona state officials.  Arizona passed the buck to the Interstate Commerce Commission who, after a month-long investigation, found the engineer of the second trail negligent for failing to heed caution signals.  Simmons was his name.

Still, It’s a Better Excuse Than a Burger Run

 May 16, 1927
Beverly Hills, CA 
rosabelleheadlineRosabelle Laemmle, only daughter of Carl Sr., was arrested for speeding in Beverly Hills today.  When Officer McBane asked where she was headed in such a big hurry on this Saturday night, she replied, "To the dentist."  Unfortunately for Rosabelle, she’d already used that excuse on McBane twice before.  Tired of playing the chump, McBane said, "I advise you to have all your teeth pulled out and to present this speeding ticket to Justice of the Peace Etrelinger on the 23rd."rosabellelaemmle

While it’s tempting to call this story just another example of heiresses behaving badly, Rosabelle was really a fairly good egg.  After her mother’s death in 1918, Rosabelle, then a teenager, took over management of all household duties.  As her father’s success grew, so did her responsibilities, and she became known in Los Angeles society as a terrific hostess.  In her late teens, she flirted first with the idea of becoming an actress, and then with her father’s protege, Irving Thalberg.  However, Rosabelle’s interest in the limelight eventually faded, as did the romance (Thalberg is thought to have left Universal, in part, because of this).

Rosabelle wedded businessman Stanley Bergerman in 1929, settled down, and had two children.  Presumably, her driving settled down as well.

The Sad Story of the Red Rose Killer

May 9, 1927 
executiondelayedConvicted murderer Earl J. Clark was granted a stay of execution today as his appeal twisted its way through the State Supreme Court.  There was a time when Clark’s chances to avoid the gallows seemed promising; however, following an escape from prison, things were looking grim.

It all began in April of 1925 when Clark, a handsome, half-Cherokee bootlegger, stabbed Charles Silva, a Filipino sailor, in a dispute over a girl.  The girl in question was 17-year-old Mamie Stephens, herself a fugitive from justice since her escape from a girls’ reformatory the previous October.  Though accounts varied, when the three met at Clark’s home, Stephens apparently wore a red rose in her hair as a sign to Silva that she would leave Clark for him.   Tempers flared, and Clark refused to let Stephens leave the house.  When Silva stepped in to help her, a fight broke out, during which Clark stabbed Silva in the gut.  Silva apparently did not realize the severity of his wounds, and died later that night en route to his ship.  The papers dubbed the case "the Red Rose Murder" and Stephens "the Red Rose Girl."

earljclarkIn July of 1925, Clark was sentenced to hang, but his attorneys immediately initiated an appeal to save his life.  The appeal before the State Supreme Court was repeatedly delayed while Clark languished in the Los Angeles County Jail.  On March 16, 1926, just days before his appeal was scheduled to come before the court, Clark and five others escaped from jail.  While the five were quickly captured, Clark managed to go into hiding for over nine months.  He was finally found in Minot, North Dakota, the proprietor of a paint store across the street from the local police station and husband to the daughter of one of Minot’s leading citizens.

Following his extradition to California, Clark was resentenced to death; however, his attorneys had the appeals process reinstated.  However, it was all for naught.  Clark’s appeal failed, and his hanging was set to be carried out September 23, 1927.

Helen Scofield Clark, Clark’s 19-year-old wife, wept openly upon hearing Clark’s fate, saying, "I’ll never believe he is guilty."  However, she was not present for the judgment, having been forbidden by her parents to travel to California for the trial.

Clark was set to be hung alongside Joseph Sandoval, a Ventura man who had murdered his wife in a drunken stupor, but Sandoval’s sentence was commuted by Governor Young the night before the execution.  Clark received no such clemency.  On the gallows at San Quentin, he cursed the crowd of about 100 spectators who had gathered to watch the hanging, and as the black hood was placed over his head, whispered to his executioners, "Make it snappy."

Los Angeles police officers took up a collection for Clark’s widow so she could have the body shipped to Minot for burial.  She accepted the money, but not Clark’s remains.  No one else claimed them either, and he was subsequently buried in the prison cemetery.

Who’s the Most Perfect Baby of All?

May 2, 1927
Los Angeles


While attending medical school in Philadelphia, Dr. Maud Wilde was horrified by the number of mothers who brought their children to the college dispensary suffering from illnesses that could easily have been prevented.  This, coupled with high infant mortality rates in the United States, convinced her that something must be done.  In 1927, roughly 6% of infants born in California did not survive to their first birthday.

perfectbabyAnd so, Baby Week in Los Angeles was born.  The program began in 1916 under Wilde’s direction, with the sponsorship of the Los Angeles District Federation of Women’s Clubs and the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.  Features included lectures, educational booths, and most importantly, a physical screening for Los Angeles children under the age of 6.  By 1927, over 88,000 children had been measured, weighed, and tested for a variety of disabilities, as well as malnutrition by Southern California doctors.

To infuse the proceedings with a little more fun, the Baby Show was introduced, and quickly became the centerpiece of Baby Week.  Any mother whose child had been screened, and earned a “score” above 90% was invited to enter them in the contest.  Of the 400 babies entered in this year’s competition, 8-month-old Lorene Phillips scored the highest – 99% perfect.

Dr. Wilde placated the audience, saying, “Of all the 88,000 babies we have examined, not one has scored 100%.  To produce 100% perfect children, we must have 100% perfect parents.  However, we must not be discouraged.  It is possible that at the next show one of you mothers will exhibit the perfect baby.”

Women of Daring

April 25, 1927
Today, women on the outskirts of town performed astounding acts of bravery, whether they were defending themselves, saving lives, or simply defying their mothers.
In Glendale, early this morning, Paul Courts broke into the home of Anna and Lucille Sousa at 3050 Menlo Street, and "attempted to press his attentions" on Lucille, 17.  The girl seized a revolver and pointed it at him, at which point, Courts fled the Sousa home and was arrested for disturbing the peace.
150 miles away, the Deer Creek Cattlemen’s Association’s annual round-up and rodeo in White River was just another day at the fair until an unpiloted car began rolling down a steep hill towards a crowd of spectators below.  Mrs. Burt Smith averted tragedy by jumping onto the car’s running board, steering it through several groups of children, and crashing it into the racetrack.  Smith suffered a few bruises, the car, only a crushed radiator.
burbankgirlAnd back in the fair city of Burbank, 17-year-old Mignon Jones parachuted from a height of 2000 feet clad only in a sailor suit.  Jones’s mother had discovered her daughter’s plan, and notified the police in the hopes of stopping her.  However, by the time Burbank police officers arrived at the airport, Jones had already made a perfect landing and vacated the premises.  She was later found at a local skating rink.
Little Mignon then faded from the pages of the Los Angeles Times, which comes as something of a surprise.

Celeb Behind Bars

April 18, 1927
Beverly Hills
johngilbertJohn Gilbert, celebrated film star and sometimes paramour of Greta Garbo entered lock-up today with a sheepish grin on his face.  Gilbert was arrested for disturbing the peace early on April 11 when he appeared at the Beverly Hill Police Station after a party at his home, demanding that someone be arrested.  Who exactly, he wouldn’t say.  When police explained they could not make an arrest without a name, Gilbert became so boisterous that he was jailed until morning.
"I must have been laboring under a hallucination and looking for trouble," Gilbert said of his behavior.  "I wasn’t angry at any of my guests and I just went down to the station and the boys took care of me; very kind to me."
Gilbert was sentenced to 10 days in jail, which he said, "ought to be a nice, quiet vacation."
Could there have been trouble with Mauritz Stiller, Gilbert’s main rival for Garbo’s attentions?  Too much sauce?  Or just a celeb behaving badly?  It’s anyone’s guess – Gilbert kept mum on the cause of his outburst.

What’s Cookin’?

April 15, 1927

Lmenuadies of Los Angeles!  Do your cakes fall?  Is your husband weary of tough pot roast?  Do the words, "Company’s coming" fill you with dread?  Never fear, because Mabelle E. Wyman is here!

Throughout the 1920s, master chef A.L. Wyman answered the questions near and dear to the hearts of Times readers in his weekly column, "Practical Recipes:  Helps for Epicures and All Who Appreciate Good Cooking," supplemented by the popular daily feature, "Suggestions for Tomorrow’s Menu."  After Wyman’s death in 1926, his widow, Mabelle, immediately took over the columns.  Then, she did him one better, announcing free cooking classes to be offered weekly under the auspices of the Los Angeles Times. mabelle

Approximately 1000 Angelenos crowded into Wyman’s lecture room at the Southern California Manufacturers’ Exhibit at 130 S. Broadway for the inaugural class on April 15, some of them sitting on window sills and even under the enamel sink on the stage.  Within a week, the Times announced that classes would be offered on Tuesdays and Fridays to accommodate the demand.

Domestic science was a relatively young discipline, and like many burgeoning fields, sought legitimacy in its early days by emphasizing the ‘science.’  Nutrition, economy, efficiency, and tidy presentation were prized, sometimes over taste.  While this era in culinary history gave us the icebox cake, it also ushered is a parade of congealed horrors like the tomato frappe (the less said of this unholy mixture of condensed soup and iceberg lettuce the better).

Wyman’s culinary focus was typical for the time, if quirkier.  She emphasized meatless dishes, like her Potato and Peanut Sausages, as well as foods grown or produced in Southern California.  Popular demonstrations included recipes for Spanish omelettes, cucumber loaf, orange cookies, and the ubiquitous tamale pie.

tamalepieAfter the first class, Wyman encouraged her audience to submit questions to a question box, and guaranteed answers either during the next class or in her "Practical Recipes" column.  While most columns simply answered requests for particular recipes, others were more cryptic.  One can only wonder at the query that prompted Wyman to write, "Mrs. S., Los Angeles:  I am sorry but the law prohibits my either printing the recipe you ask for or sending it through the mail."  Bathtub julep, anyone?

Wyman seems to have been as good as her word, frequently humoring readers who requested recipe reprints.  Despite being demonstrated several times at her lectures, and appearing in A.L. Wyman’s posthumous Daily Health Menus (available for check out at the Los Angeles Public Library), Mabelle printed the recipe for tamale pie no less than 10 times during her tenure with the Times.

The classes remained popular until Wyman’s sudden death on January 23, 1931.  She was found at her home at 424 Arden Ave. in Glendale (also the mailing address listed in her column for A.L. Wyman Laboratory Kitchen), having suffered a heart attack.  Her estate, including a collection of over 200 cookbooks, was auctioned February 8, 1931.

Recommended reading:  Laura Shapiro’s Perfection Salad, a lively study of domestic science and city cooking schools around the turn of the century, and Sylvia Lovegren’s Fashionable Food:  Seven Decades of Food Fads, a collection of trendy, eyebrow-raising recipes (including one for the ubiquitous tamale pie).

Also of interest:  The Food Timeline, a culinary history project created and maintained by a librarian (woot!), featuring landmark foods trends through the ages.  Peking duck to hummingbird cake, it’s all here.

Moo-tion Carried

vivianthecowAccused of stealing four cows from Lancaster rancher J.L. Armstrong, Percy Sweet, Samuel Thomason, and Chalice Thomason first came to trial early in 1927.  Due to some uncertainty about the physical appearance of the stolen cows, however, the jury was unable to reach a verdict for the suspected cattle rustlers.
Deputy District Attorney Ryan then convinced Judge Stephens that he could have moved the jurors to a conviction had they gotten to see the cows for themselves.  When the defendants’ attorney, Guy Eddie, refused to accept photographs of the stolen cattle as evidence in the retrial, Ryan retorted, "Then we will produce the cow in court."
Stephens signed an order commanding one of the cows to appear as a silent witness in the grand larceny trial.  Why the cow was to be listed as a witness for the state, rather than evidence, is anyone’s guess.

And so, Vivian, one of the abducted cows, appeared with her calf in the Hall of Justice on April 11.  The bovine witness was unwilling to take a freight elevator to the courtroom, so the jurors came to her, and court reconvened in the Hall’s basement.   While on the stand, Vivian made nice with Judge Stephens by licking his ear, prompting Guy Eddie to joke, "I protest!  It is apparent that the witness is trying to reach the judge."

In the end, Ryan’s strategy seems to have been effective.  The Thomason brothers were sentenced to San Quentin for 1-10 years, while Sweet received five years probation on May 23, 1927.

A Real Nailbiter

demerveux1Today, fencing master and underwear salesman Lt. Gerard  De Mereux was vindicated for the second time in the space of a week.  Last week, De Mereux was awarded $500 in damages in a suit against Hollywood director J. Stuart Blackton, who was accused of beating De Mereux with a horsewhip.  De Mereux had been living as a guest in Blackton’s home, giving fencing and corrective gymnastics lessons to Blackton’s daughters.

De Mereux testified that Mrs. Blackton had given him a romantic note, and that as a gentleman, "the only honorable thing for him to do was leave."  While packing his bags, Mrs. Blackton reportedly began to strike and spit at him, at which point, Blackton entered the room with a riding crop and beat De Mereux about the shoulders and chest. demerveux2

Blackton testified that the attack was prompted by De Mereux’s attack on his wife, during which he choked her and clawed at her with his fingernails, drawing blood.  But ho!  De Mereux presented to the jury his fingernails, and brought forth numerous witnesses who claimed that De Mereux had spent the past 12 years as a confirmed nailbiter who could not possibly have scratched a soul.

Following the judgment, De Mereux was taken before the Lunacy Commission on an insanity complaint offered by Albert A. Kidder, Blackton’s attorney.  After several days of observation, physicians from the Lunacy Commission declared him merely "emotionally unstable," but were unable to find evidence of the insanity complaint, which, among other things claimed that De Mereux had threatened Blackton’s daughters.

Thrift Pays?

March 28, 1927
Los Angeles
A classroom of children from the Thornton Avenue School learned a little something about the value of a dollar this afternoon when they witnessed a hold-up outside the Merchants Trust and Savings Bank at 25th and Central.
Harry Harris, the bank messenger for City Dye Works (3000 Central Ave.), was accosted at gunpoint by two bandits and relieved of the $3000 deposit he was about to make for his employer. When guns were brandished, the children "set up a din of screams and wails that would do justice to the most powerful siren."  However, their cries did nothing to dissuade Harris’s attackers.  After being robbed, Harris commandeered a civilian vehicle and followed the getaway car four blocks east on 25th before losing the bandits. 
The school group had been taking a class trip to the bank to make their monthly deposits as part of the Los Angeles Banks School Savings Association’s "school thrift plan."  While similar programs existed elsewhere in the country, the Los Angeles plan differed slightly, in that it sought to give the children more face time with their local bankers.  Students were given home safes, passbooks, and made their own deposits.
Perhaps as a result of this hands-on approach, Los Angeles schoolchildren had the largest average savings accounts in the country. In 1927, 184 elementary and junior high schools in Los Angeles participated in the program, and students had close to 1 million dollars socked away in Los Angeles banks.