Wanderlust At Sea

manfound!October 7, 1927
Long Beach

Between Christ’s wanderings in the deserts of Jericho, and Kidder’s huddlings in the gardens of Glendale, there was Robert Sankey.  

Sankey, 44, a prominent Riverside contractor, was in a splendid mood September seventh last; he had no domestic or financial troubles, and bid his lovely wife and 13 year-old daughter goodbye that morning in his home at 270 Bandini Avenue before a trip to Laguna Beach.  He made it to Laguna Beach, and picked up $12,000 ($132,359 USD2006) in cash which he had been paid by the Colton School Board for the construction of Colton High School.

Sankey then told friends he was going for a swim, and left his bag, clothing, glasses and  shoes at a hotel near the beach.  From there he disappeared…the sea was dragged repeatedly for his body, but to no avail.  Had the briny deep swallowed Sankey?  And what became of the money?  And what’s this?—a few days ago, some Sankey acquaintance came forth and reported having seen Sankey on a Seattle-bound boat a day or two after the disappearance.

Today, Mrs. Paul McKenzie peered nervously through the window of her home at 4010 Massachusetts, Long Beach.  There was a dazed, raggedy man wandering aimlessly up and down in front of her house for the better part of two hours.  When she got up the nerve to confront the torn and tattered stranger, all a-jibber-jabberin’ to himself, it was, you guessed it, her brother, Robert Sankey.  Oh no, he insisted, I’m Andrew Borg.

Well, the Borg, I mean Sankey, had only $500 left (in checks issued by a Seattle bank) of the twelve grand, and even less of an idea as to where he’d been or what he’d done.  He could only confirm that his clothes had been given to him by “the skipper,” and that he’d been to sea in a small boat with two men and a woman.

Further investigation revealed that Sankey recently boarded the steamer Evanger at San Francisco (booking passage to Buenos Aires as “Andrew Borg, grain dealer, Witchita, Kan.”), but put ashore at San Pedro the day he reappeared in Long Beach.

Sankey remains in his Borgian state at Seaside hospital, where Riverside county authorities are vexed with Seaside staff; the Sheriff is itching to serve two warrants on Sankey, each charging sixteen counts of violating the State wage law, but the pesky physicians demand that officers wait ‘til Sankey’s physical condition permits such activity.

Whether amnesia or grift, please bear in mind…steer clear of small boats, and beware "the skipper."



Didn’t Read Her Wilfred Owen


October 6, 1927

“Only because of a kind fate which guards the lives of children at play was Virginia Mae Pike, two and one-half years of age, alive today…” …or so reads the lead from this story.  Oh sure, that’s got to be it, it’s all thanks to some rather specialized application of Fortuna Primegenia.  

Seems Mr. and Mrs. George Pike tented their home at 365 West Truslow Avenue, into which fumigators pumped pure cyanide gas.  According to the medical experts, two breaths of the lethal fumes would kill a grown man, and here Virginia Mae stood erect in the stuff for two minutes.  There she was, inside the tent, still upright but unconscious, when they pulled her out, gave her some mouth to mouth, and off she went.

There are only four possible explanations:

a)    you cannot kill what is already dead; therefore, she is a zombie.  She will eventually chomp on her parents, who will in turn infect others—this should probably be dealt with.  Unfortunately for the Pikes, decapitation remains the best proven method for dealing with a zombie.

b)    she is wampyear.  Or vompyure.  Or however one spells “vampire” to make it phonetically accurate.  This should also be dealt with.  Again, traditional methods apply.

c)    she is a suprahuman.  Virginia Mae should be spirited away to a secret military base to breed an army of bioresistant super-soldiers, of course.

d)    the Pikes hired crummy fumigators.  

At least these are more probable explanations than the kindly consort of some damn Moiraes, #4 certainly so should you shave down the argument with Occam’s razor.


But don’t say we didn’t warn you. 

One Hump or Two


September 2, 1927
San Francisco 

May 26, 1976.  On that day I was exposed to Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Save Hollywood, an event that catapulted my nine year-old brain into a fantasy world of 1920s Los Angeles, an event that pushed the movie I’d seen the previous weekend into the back of my psyche.  That previous picture still roams around and pokes its stinky, furry head out once in a great while.  Like now.  That cinematic masterpiece was called Hawmps!

The 127-minute F-Troop episode that is Hawmps! (wherein camels, or “hawmps,” as Slim Pickens calls them, win slim Pickens’ heart, and Jack Elam chews scenery, and look! there’s Denver Pyle) concerns itself with the role camels played in opening the western territory, courtesy of the United States Army.

With the War Between the States, and subsequent demise of the Camel Corps, Bactrians and Arabians were set loose, and feral camels became the stuff of legend.  Authenticated wild camel wanderings by and large ceased in the early 1900s.

But yesterday, September 1, a group of San Francisco financiers—A. C Mattel, Robert F. M. Duncan, William Leib and Lloyd Stevens announced their intention to hunt camels in the deserts of Arizona.  The paper discusses briefly the history of just why there happen to be camels therein (according to local historians, a hundred camels and sixty Arabs were imported from Arabia, but the plan failed because the Arabs disliked their jobs and went home; far be it from me to doubt the local historian of 1927, but it’s interesting to compare this account with Wikipedia’s).  “Backers of the proposed expedition in search of survivors expect historians and scientists to be interested in the venture.”


Then, today, the collected adventurers were contacted by one Arturo Carillo, who, thirty-three years ago, while making a mail trip from the Harqua Hala to the Vulture mine, captured what he considered “the last of the camels." Unable to find a buyer for the animal, he turned it loose.  This has heartened the intrepid camel seekers, and there are many more; A. C. Mattel, of the Honolulu-Consolidated Oil Company, said he has been swamped with letters from sportsmen all along the Pacific Coast seeking the chance to join the expedition.


No follow-up, unfortunately, as to the outcome of our dashing, pith-helmeted bankers’ trip into the blistering wasteland (it’s also unclear as to whether they planned to merely observe, or capture the camels, but I fear their intent was just to blast the poor beasts with their Remingtons for some rec-room head-mounting). 

Durn’d Blacklegs At It Again







September 1, 1927
Our Water Supply

Claude Van Norman knew he might run into a truculent possum once in a while—maybe he’d turn it into a bear, make a better story for the boys down at the saloon—but when the superintendent of the Lone Pine division of the Aqueduct was making his rounds, and kicked a box of gelatin complete with coiled fuse and caps, he probably thought, I didn’t sign up for this.






















Now why in heaven would anyone carelessly leave that dynamite lying around?

Wrightwatch ’27

flwAugust 26, 1927
Madison, Wisc.

Frank Lloyd Wright was a favorite son of Los Angeles, where he threw off the Prairie mantle and began creating his kooky indigenous-flavored block houses (e.g., Storer, Millard, Ennis, Freeman) in contrast to the Spanish Colonial (or, say, Egyptoid Tudor Chateauxesque) prevalent in the Southland’s early 20s, before he said to hell with LA and lit out for his cursed home, Taliesin.  

There was much architectural buzz about Mr. Wright in 1927, as he’d already designed a theater model for Aline Barnsdall, who announced in January that she’d build the structure as part of her eight-acre “city cultural center” gift to Los Angeles of her own FLW Hollyhock House and property.


When the Smart People of to-day tour FLW’s block houses and consider his play of light over form, and gauge its relationship between the zig of Meiji woodblock prints and the zag of Walter Burley Griffin’s green thumb, they probably aren’t informed that ol’ FLW had a lurid past fit for any tabloid-worthy favorite son of Los Angeles.

For example, while married to Catherine Wright, he fell in love with another woman, one Mamah Borthwick.  Catherine wouldn’t divorce him, so Wright abandoned her and the six kids and went galavanting around Europe with Mamah.  On his return, Catherine still wouldn’t divorce him, so Wright brought scandal to Spring Green, Wisc. by shacking up with Mamah.  This was sorted out in short order when one of his domestics decided to utilize a Wrightian architectural principal—one door for all purposes—which made it easy to axe-murder seven people trying to flee a Taliesin you’d just set on fire.  And Mamah was one of those so axed.   

Catherine finally divorced Frank in 1922 on charges of desertion, so he could marry his new love, a morphine addict named Miriam Noel.  They married in 1923, separated in 1924; Wright began seeing Petrograd Ballet dancer Olgivanna Lazovich Milanov (thirty-three years his junior) in 1925 and was thereafter arrested in 1926 for violating the Mann (White-Slave Traffic) Act.  Oh, and Taliesin burned again, though this time without anybody being hacked to bits.

Frank getting popped by the feds, 1926 

divorceThe lucky Wright-drama followers of 1927 were treated to tales of Frank and Miriam’s divorce.  Today, Miriam was awarded $6,000 ($66,179 USD2006) immediately, $30,000 (330,889) in trust, and $250 (2,757) a month for life.  The cash settlement and Wright’s promise that he "would lead a moral life" preceded the court decree.

With a cushy settlement like that, you’d think that’s the last we hear of Miss Miriam.  You’d be wrong.  She spends the next few years loudly proclaiming Wright’s brutality and repellant morals, with much effort expended in Washington attempting to get Olga deported.  In a typical Miriam moment, July 14, 1928, she is arrested on a charge of malicious mischief after breaking miriaminto FLW’s rented La Jolla home while he’s up in Los Angeles:  “So thorough was the wrecking that the colored maid in charge of the house in Wright’s absence collapsed from the shock and was taken to the Scripps Memorial Hospital.  ‘About fifteen minutes more and I would have leveled the place,’  Mrs. Wright is said to have told police when arrested…damage to the La Jolla home is estimated at about $1000…Mrs. Wright smiling pleaded guilty and following the court action, swore out complaints against her husband and Olga Hinzenberg, also known as Olga Milanoff, charging them with being lewd and dissolute persons.”

Miriam finally expires in 1930.

We’ll keep you posted on all breaking FLW news. 

I’d keep an eye on that Schindler character if I were you. 

Hot Toddy


August 25, 1927schoolteaching

It was announced today that a plucky schoolmarm from Back East is cast as female lead in Paramount’s big western outing this year, “The Gay Defender.”  She’ll be working with Richard Dix, who’s portraying Joaquin Murrietta in this colorful Gold Rush saga of ’48, filmed in our own Central California!

Well, that’s an exciting story, you say.  But so began the acting career…of doom!

I was seven years old when I found my purpose in life—to chase braless, acid-tongued women.  And what set me on this career path?  I’d just seen Monkey Business, where I witnessed Lucille Briggs…as portrayed by Thelma Todd.



Thelma and me, 1931. 










Thelma, you two-fisted, drunken, nymphomaniacal brainiac Yankee; the pinups portray her as syrupy kute, but those of us with Thelma in our blood know you as the sexier, smarmier Dorothy Parker.  And whomever may have a penchant for Hollywood’s Babylonian side couldn’t do better than delve deep into the mysteries of Ms. Todd—did Roland West lock her in the garage, the Lincoln’s motor running?  Was she whacked by Lucky Luciano over sex and gambling interests at her Thelma Todd Café on PCH?  Was she killed by her ex-husband, notorious womanbeating, bootlegging pimp Pat DiCicco?  For all the grime and gore you can shake a stick at, go here.

Though don’t believe everything you read there—like the repetition of that fictitious Luciano business from Hollywood Babylon—and while they mention Thelma’s funeral at Forest Lawn, true, her 3:30pm December 19 private service was at Wee Kirk o’ the Heather, remember, when you see images of her casketed, they’re from when she lay in state at the (recently closed) Pierce Brothers mortuary on West Washington that day from 8am til 1pm (the window behind Thelma is the window on the left).



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.)