The Mustard Seed Murder

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February 24, 1927
Los Angeles

In what the papers have dubbed the “Mustard-Seed Murder,â€Â we see once again that, gentlemen, your sartorial decisions are always of importance. (Damn trouser cuffs! Were this 1960, this condemned man would’ve walked free.)

The murder in question dates back to October 20, 1926, when one Charles O. Westcott, 63 years of age and scion of General Grant, opened his door at 909 S. Cochran St. only to met by a gun-wielding assailant. Blam! Blam!—one to the heart, one in the stomach. Unfortunately for Charles’ son Carl, Charles’ dying words to his new wife were “Carl shot me.â€Â

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Apparently Carl, 40, was vexed that his father left a $300,000 ($3,486,687 USD2007) trust to the aforementioned new wife Hazel. And then there was the matter of the $100,000 trust that Carl’s grandfather was to leave to his son Charles…but with Carl’s father Charles out of the way…it would go straight to Carl.

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Detectives didn’t really buy Carl’s long and rambling alibi, involving a gambler’s den at Seventh and San Pedro, and a dance hall on Hill off Sixth. Nor did they take his alibi’s verification for much, given as it came from a bootlegger and some other underworld habitués. Despite Carl’s regal upbringing, he’s a part-time barber with a record, having done time in Folsom and Stillwater on forgery charges.

And so today begins Westcott the Younger’s trial. The crux of the trial comes down to the mustard seeds found in his trouser cuffs—the assassin was spotted escaping through the the vacant lot to the north (now 905 South Cochran, not built upon til 1928), and dang’d if Carl wasn’t found with a few inconspicuous mustard seeds and a half-dozen broken blades of grass, indentical to those from the lot, in his cuffs. (Westcott also contended that he tore his trousers at the knee while tripping on the rough steps of that Sixth Street dive; investigation revealed those steps to be carpeted; the prosecution points to a plank with in the lot with matching fibers.)
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He is convicted March 2, and March 9 sentenced to life imprisonment at Folsom; two more trials on points of law (and a botched suicide attempt) failed to free him. But his March 1929 sanity trial got him sprung from Folsom and committed to the State Hospital at Norwalk, to be held until such time as he was mentally competent to go on trial again for the murder charge.

As there’s no further mention of Westcott again, we can only assume he elected to stay put.

Physician, Kill Thyself

February 17, 1927
Santa Ana

zappedThe widow Alice Hanmore has a bone to pick with Evangelists, or, more specifically, the College of Medical Evangelists.  Truth be told, evangelists should be, oh, evangelical, and leave the application of Röntgen rays to the professionals.  

In March of 1926 Alice’s husband M. J. Hanmore, a Fullerton oil worker, began experiencing stomach pains and loss of appetite; Drs. Claude E. Steen, Emerald J. Steen and John A. Whalen of the CME/White Memorial Hospital decided that an intensive course of that ever-beneficial ionizing radiation would do the trick.  Today, Alice is charging in court that “negligent and unskillful” employment of X-rays resulted in severe fatal burns—she’s asking for $30,000 ($348,669 USD2007).

(Our evangelical docs Steen & Steen will make the papers again in March, charged of malpractice by one Mary A. Greene of Fullerton—she goes in for an ingrown toenail, so they take that portion of the nail.  So far so good.  Steen & Steen subsequently amputate her big toe.  Then they amputate much of her leg.  Further operations result in anthropy of Mary’s thigh muscles.  She’ll ask for $25,000.)

We’re Saved!

February 16, 1927
Los Angeles

narcoheadlineThose junkies and hopheads that once provided the occasional bruise on this perfect ripe plum that is Los Angeles—shall be no more!  Though alcoholism was cured in 1908, drug addiction still remains to blight the landscape.  But Narcosan has arrived to save the day!  

Drs. E. H. Anthony and Benjamin Blank, their committee of peace officers and other physicians in tow, have at their disposal the first shipment from New York of this new European wonder drug.  

Any addicted Angeleno can trot down to Blank’s offices in the Quinby Building, Seventh and Grand, and take the cure free of charge.  They’ve got fifteen addicts lined up to undergo treatment and are looking to administer to at least another ten, so get down there you, you narc-addled fiend!

(Despite liberal Narcosan administration to the lucky souls who so evidently deserved it,  apparently the wonder drug didn’t work out so well.)

The Internet of Yesteryear

readallaboutitFebruary 10, 1927
Los Angeles

Ho!  Wuxtry!

Those mockery-making purveyors of pasquinade Pi Delta Epsilon are at it again—it’s the new issue of the Razzberry!  Not to be confused with a Bruinite’s Hell’s Bells, the Razzberry is the Trojaninny’s main road to mirth, and boulevard to bellylaughs!  

Yes, the new ish of USC lampoon rag The Razzberry is out, and you should pick one up.  You’ll know the rag by its scent of scandal and journalistic tinge of yellow.  And by those gents dressed as prison inmates hawking ’em!  (As jailbirds stand, you see, in direct opposition of all that college and higher education hold dear, these lettered loons gave gab garbed as hostages…of hilarity!)

But be stout of heart…”Stories range from an exposé of supposed corruption to accounts of wild orgies staged in fraternity houses.” 

I’m sure those stories were just somethin’.  Of course reference to the fraternal wild orgy failed to carry the same import eighty years ago as it does to-day.  And the cub reporter of USC’s 1927 scandal sheet could only conjecture that in the future, there’d be no lack of diverting folly to make with the waggery over!

The REAL Aviator

February 9, 1927
Los Angeles

deathdefyinSure, while we’ve repeatedly reported to you about blindfolded drivings—today was announced something that actually guarantees splintering wood and crunching metal.  

Finley Henderson has a really good idea:  dive an airplane from a height of 1,000 feet, clip the wings from the machine between two telegraph poles, and crash into a bungalow with the remains of his plane at sixty miles an hour.

Don’t worry:  he wears the shoulder and shin guards of the football field, the breast pad of the baseball umpire and a catcher’s mask.  Kids, try this at home.  Above your home.  Into your home.

Sponsored by Earl L. White and KELW!  Come on out to Burbank’s Magnolia Park and watch the fun!

FearlessFinleyFor the record, when the stunt was performed on February 20, Finley emerged unscathed, smoking a cigarette.  And then noted for the wowed crowd and boys of the press “The stunt is easy if you know how to do it.”

Finley made the news again in June, when, at the Glendale Airport Air Rodeo, just as he was stepping into his plane (this time, to crash into a barn), in front of all those eager spectators, United States Deputy Marshal Charles F. “Spoil Sport” Walsh served Finley a summons.  Hot on Walsh’s heels were pansy Capts. Walter F. Parkin and William B. Breingan, of the recently created Aeronautics Branch, United States Department of Commerce (oh, Mary), there to enforce their writ of injunction restraining Finley from performing the stunt.

Apparently, these hi-falutin’ aeronautics fellows have just made stunting within five miles of a regularly established and operated air line against the law…apparently also is flying a plane that is wholly unsafe, and is likely to collapse upon the audience when in flight.

But wasn’t that part of the thrill?  No wonder we went into a depression.

The Great Stock ‘n’ Roll Swindle

February 9, 1927
Los Angeles

bunkoIt’s a pretty simple scheme. 

You own some stock.  I approach and inform you that your stock is about to hit bottom.  I suggest a trade—your stock for some of mine.  The stock I’m offering you is about to go up, up, up, ya see.  (Honestly, that’s the long and short of my plan; we swap my stock worth a penny for your stock worth a dollar—your greed does all the heavy lifting.)

When Mrs. Frances L. Derby of 502 North Ardmore was approached by some very nice men, she parted with 102 shares of John C. Frey & Assoc. worth $1,020, and 124 shares of California Guarantee Assoc. worth $498, and in exchange was given 4,700 shares of Silas Frank Mining.  The Very Nice Men “talked down” her crummy old stock and represented the mining company stock as being worth $1 a share—when in fact it was worth 1 cent a share, or $47.  Mrs. Derby was no ordinary rube, though, got wise, and alerted the authorities.

The aforementioned pleasant fellows being Leon F. Wessling, 36, and J. L. Johannes, 38.  Detective Lieutenants Davis and Edwards of bunko detail say these two have, from their brokerage firm—a prestigious suite of offices in the Merritt Building—similarly swindled Los Angeles residents out of $75,000 in the past week.

According to Wessling and Johannes’ records, the duo finagled $18,000 out of one poor old widow alone.

Sad, true, but at least in a few years there’ll be a lot less stock to swindle.

 

Angels My Eye

waituntilspringbanditosFebruary 3, 1927
Seemingly Everywhere

It was another olla podrida fulla banditry in Los Angeles, which bubbled over and burned something fierce at El Molino and Ninth when a gent approached Frank Merlo, robbed him of $50 ($551 USD2006) cash and forced him to swap clothing.  

Elsewhere, a truck containing $4,000 worth of cigars and tobacco, parked in front of the Glaser Brother’s establishment at 1028 Wall Street, just up and disappeared; a burglar capable of squeezing through a window not more than seven inches wide entered the Wrede Drug Company at 1327 Fairfax and made off with $200; persons unknown jimmied a rear door of Brunswig Drug at 4922 Santa Monica and btained $500 worth of cigarettes and delicious narcotics.

In residential news, Mrs. Elba Burdick was lightened of $1,000 worth of clothing, rugs and pesky jewelry that were cluttering up her place at 232 Carmelina Avenue; Nathan Lack now lacks one $600 diamond stickpin, formerly in residence at 831 South Harvard; Torato Nishlo was relieved of $500 in jewelry from 925 Hemlock; Dr. H. C. Hill of 806 Golden, also relieved of $500 in jewelry; Nathan Berger, of 2010 Brooklyn Avenue, also relieved of $500 in jewelry; and loot valued at less than $300 was pilfered from a dozen other residences, according to police reports.

Daylight is a good time to work as well—Sam Stone got his register rifled while looking the other way, Stone Furniture Company, 2711 Brooklyn Avenue.

IamtheyeggmanBut fret not people of Los Angeles!  The bulls have pinched (another) gang of li’luns, ages 15 to 18, who now make the Alhambra pokey their new clubhouse.  Their leader was busting into the home of an F. R. Lee on North Wilson when popped, and quickly gave up his younger cohorts—they of reputable local families—and location of purloined rugs, cameras, revolvers, and the black masks (cute—last year) they wore during their heists.  The youth of these masked marauders may account for the ability to slip through Wrede Drug’s tiny window.  Unless it was those fabled fascistic interwar little people.  

A Second Engagement

January 2, 1927
Los Angeles

FoeOBurch

The good people of Los Angeles were reminded today of a quieter, simpler time—a time known as "1921".  A magical time of Teapot Domes, and Tulsa Tumults, and shotgun blasts to the face.  We collectively remembered the sensational trial of Arthur C. Burch and Madalynne Obenchain, dismissed following jury disagreements, regarding the August 6, 1921 Beverly Glen shooting and .12 gauge buckshot that took apart J. Belton Kennedy’s head.  (And now, our obligatory Kennedy "Gaelic For Ugly Head" Kennedy evidence:  the shots were fired from a clump of bushes [California:  growing better grassy knolls since 1850]; the first shot missed; there was a beautiful woman at the scene, and mysterious tramps…anyway.)

TwoMenSeems that J. Belton’s father, John D. Kennedy, of 844 South Westlake, never got over the death of his son, or the exoneration of the accused.  So today the sixty two year-old is in court on the charge of assault and battery.  He headed over to the Terminal Warehouse Building on East 7th where Burch worked in the insurance game.  As Burch was innocently hauling some fire extinguishers from one place to another, he suddenly heard “I’ve been waiting a long time but now I’ve got you!” – and was then struck in the face and seized by the throat, but was rescued before he felt the last bit of life choked from him.  

Authorities were summoned, and said Kennedy the Elder, later, “The affair occurred when my emotions overcame me.  I have no regrets and will gladly account for my actions at the proper time and place.  When I went in the building no such idea entered my mind, but when I saw him [Burch] coming down the hall I could not restrain myself.
“This is the fist time I have met him fact to face since his trials for the murder of my boy.  At the sight of him I was seized with a frenzy and choked him until he began squealing and they came and separated us.”

“I believe he has some pathetic obsession toward me,” Burch declared.

Mrs. Obenchain, living in seclusion in Los Angeles, declined to comment on the matter. 

On February 21, John D. Kennedy changed his plea from not guilty to guilty and Municipal Judge Richardson gave him thirty days, suspended, with the caveat:  that if Kennedy saw Burch coming, Kennedy was to “go to the other side of the street.”

That, Kennedy said, he could do.

The Hot Roddin’ Bartimaeus

January 27, 1927
Los Angeles

elasticizeHayward Thompson toured Los Angeles today, and pronounced on KFWB this evening (through the courtesy of the Times and Gartzman, Inc, your friendly local Oakland distributor) that driving through Los Angeles was going to be a snap.  Without the use of his eyes, of course.  Seems he doesn’t need them—Thompson was blinded when a German shell took out part of his brain at Bois de Belleau, and then miraculously regained his sight—and he’s been able to read, golf, shoot rifle matches, since then, while blindfolded.

Thompson, 47 years of age though who reportedly looks 30, has made 332 paroptic public exhibhibitions, in every great city of America and Europe, and will make this, his Los Angeles trip, at one hundred miles, his last.

Thompson states that he has more competition here than anywhere else in the world.  “Driving around Los Angeles I find a good many blind drivers,” he said.  “I even encountered one who was blind drunk.”

On January 31st, his 333rd exhibition (spooky) Thompson was blindfolded by Deputy Chief of Police Spellman, and did indeed motor one hundred miles through the congested centers of Los Angeles, Hollywood and Pasadena, obeying all signals and laws, without a hitch.

And now he’s ceased.  He’s had to stop because in having only two layers of skin (as opposed to the three you and I have), in conjunction with the fasting he must undergo to sharpen his dermoptic wits, has proven bad for his health.  

In retirement, Thompson plans on devoting the rest of his life to hypnotizing people over the radio, via Mesmer’s system of suggestion.

Belshazzar only had a Thousand

January 26, 1927
Los Angeles

Scientists and composers
, having long toiled in vain to produce color symphonies, have been bested by, of course, an ingenious Angeleno.  

tomorrowtheworldLeo Geasland, an electrician at the El Patio Ballroom, has finally perfected the synchronization of color and music.  

Geasland’s invention consists of a ten-key keyboard on his right, and a switchboard on his left.  These he operate in rhythm to the orchtestra, throwing changing rhythmic combinations to 6,000 incandescent bulbs.  With an unlimited combination of 280 major colors, he controls 1,800 rose, 1,500 red, 1,000 amber and 2,000 blue lights.  (Green was omitted from Geasland’s color scheme because of its effect on the complexion; this we applaud.)  The contraption’s 1,400 wires and 100 circuits is about adequate to light a city of 30,000.  Writes the Times, “As the fingers of Geasland move over the keys, the colors flash and dance on the walls, ceiling and pillars of the ballroom in perfect synchronization to the music, producing an effect of beauty and harmony that is unusual.”

Because there were no contemporary accounts of what it was like to witness the spectacle of the “color piano,” I’m just going to go ahead and make one up:

Woodrow Harrelson, an employee at Imperial Valley Hemp, waxed rhapsodic about the new process.  “It was swell, I’ll tell you.  We heard—saw?—‘Tiptoe Through the Tulips’ and ‘Breezin’ Along with the Breeze’ and such, and some zorchy new rags like the ‘Kinkajou.’  But when they banged out that new Jelly Roll Morton jazz, we said, hotcha!  Even the long-hair stuff was the berries, and how!  Who woulda thought Busoni would make you all nutty?”  Judging from Mr. Harrelson, it is apparent that a peculiar side-effect of the Color Piano is a glassy quality and "bloodshottedness" of the eye.

ElPatio1927In a 1933 article about Geasland’s apparatus, it’s noted that the blind and deaf are admitted for free every Monday evening to the Rainbow Gardens (the El Patio became the Rainbow in 1930, and thereafter the Palomar Ballroom).  The deaf would dance to the base and time beats of the music in rhythm to the lights, as other lights would carry on the harmony.  The blind could just dance to the music, but Geasland declared that they, too, were noticeably affected by the lights they could not see.  “They seem to feel them,” said Geasland.  “Often a blind couple will get right under a circle of the base lights and keep dancing around and around right there.  I have watched them many times, and feel sure they feel they rhythm of the lights they cannot see.”

Geasland goes on to say that in time, big orchestras everywhere will have light players as well as instrument players.  “They make rhythm visible…so they help people feel and appreciate the music.”

Sadly, on October 2, 1939, the bass viol player dropped his resin rag on a 150-watt floodlight during Lionel Kaye’s “daffy auction,” and the Patio/Rainbow/Palomar burned to the ground, Gaesland’s invention therein.