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.

Beware of the Goat

December 12, 1927
Glendale, CA
deaththreatsThree Glendale families found interesting missives in their mailboxes this week, and they weren’t no holiday wishes.

The Van Pelt family received a note reading:  "You are to be killed tonight at 10pm sharp."

The Westons were warned, "Highway bandits will rob your house tonight."

And then, the cryptic letter received by the Simingtons:  "Beware of the goat.  He is watching you."

Today, Glendale police revealed that two bored 12-year-old girls named Dorothy Alman and May White were responsible for the threats which kept the neighborhood "on the verge of nervous spasms for several days."

The two said they wrote the letters on a lark.  Today, these shenanigans would probably get a kid put on some kind of watch list, but in 1927, the preteen terrors were turned over to their folks.  The detectives on the case didn’t report the particulars of how the girls’ parents responded to the news, but said that "it sounded like a-plenty."

A Close Shave


showoffOctober 13, 1927

Last week we told you of the extrahuman feats of two and one-half year-old Virginia Mae Pike.  And now, collector of tale of childhood freakdom, comes two and one-half year-old Jimmy Baker Bogart.

The Pikes were fond of fumigators; the Bogarts, rusty razors.  They’d leave them lying around until they’d accumulate sufficient rust to look tasty enough, one supposes.  In any event, just such a brown’d blade seemed worth experimenting on with a new set of teeth, so li’l Jimmy bit off a chunk of Gillette. Though Mrs. Bogart pulled the major portion of our erstwhile whisker remover from Jimmy’s mouth, she watched a good piece of it go south.  The hastily summoned physician, apparently seeking to avoid the imperative and serious operation, put JB on an oatmeal and potato diet and that was that; the razor remain was satisfactorily dissolved within.

One wonders if li’l Jimmy grew up to develop a pathological aversion to the “safety” device, or if, conversely, having developed a taste and his inclination, went on to ingest the objects for a living.


“Death Dinner” — the Dinner That Killed!

July 25, 1927
On the evening of July 6, 1927, Glendale inventor John H. Carson settled down to a dinner of stew and strawberry preserves with his wife and business colleagues.  Around 10 that evening, he complained of severe pain, became faint, and began to perspire profusely.  He eventually slipped into a coma and died on July 11.

Initially, the cause of death was ruled as heart disease, but Carson’s widow insisted that he’d been in excellent health before sampling her cooking.  The circumstances were indeed strange, and Mrs. Carson was insistent enough that an autopsy was performed.

visceraToday, Dr. A.F. Wagner, county autopsy surgeon announced that a quantity of arsenic had been found in Carson’s viscera.  An inquest was ordered, with Mrs. Carson and J.E. Walker, Carson’s business partner appearing as key witnesses.  And of course, the Times gave the whole thing a clever name, just in case the story had legs.

At the inquest on July 26, Mrs. Carson testified that J.E. Walker, her husband’s business partner, had given her a box of candy and a bunch of bananas, which she’d feared to be poisoned.  Walker was outraged at the suggestion, saying that since he stood to make 50% off of the oil pump Carson had been developing, it was certainly in his best interests for Carson to remain alive.  Then, a bit cruelly, he added that he’d given Mrs. Carson a reducing recipe along with the candy because he thought she was "too fat."  Then again, the woman had all but called him a murderer, so I guess he was entitled to a little snippiness.

Walker was also asked whether he’d hoped to get Carson out of the way so he could marry his widow.  Walker icily declared that he already had a wife, and had no desire to marry Mrs. Carson.

Oddly, Carson said that she’d wrapped up the candy and bananas, given them back to Walker, and told him to burn the parcel in his incinerator without telling him what it contained.  When asked why she’d done this, Carson said that she hadn’t wanted the parcel littering up her kitchen.

Though there was certainly something fishy about this case, investigators were unable to piece together enough evidence to prove a murder had taken place, and the inquest was closed on July 29, 1927, less than a week after it was opened.  In fact, just about the only thing that was established was that Carson had most likely NOT committed suicide or consumed the arsenic accidentally by drinking from an irrigation ditch near an oil well.  Just how 40 grains of arsenic got into his belly remains a mystery. 

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.

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.