Drunken Geezer Shoots Pal, Self

January 22, 1927
Altadena

Mayhem ruled the backyard at 1795 Beverly Drive in Aladena this morning, when two 70-year-old pals ended a friendship of almost two decades with a gun. It all started when little Jimmie Jamison, 8-year-old grandson of George Ehret, heard noises from the cellar. The youngster investigated, and discovered Nicholas Tuck drunkenly stumbling around a pile of boxes in the basement. Tuck usually occupied a cottage at the rear of the lot, but for reasons unknown (but probably having to do with his alcohol-soaked condition) climbed through a small side window into the cellar at the main house. He then discovered all the doors were locked—and he couldn’t get back through window. “Let me out and I won’t hurt you,” he told Jimmie, who obligingly opened the cellar door for grandpa’s drunken buddy.

Meanwhile, George Ehret, armed with a heavy cane, was headed to the backyard to see about all the commotion. When Tuck, climbing out of the cellar, saw Ehret, he pulled a gun (or so Ehret says). As the two men scuffled, “the gun exploded,” lodging a bullet in Ehret’s thigh. Tuck then fired a shot at Ehret, but missed. He ran a few steps, placed the muzzle against his own head and pulled the trigger. He is close to death.

Ehret told police that Tuck was a mean drunk, and had on more than one occasion threatened him with a gun. He is expected to make a full recovery.

Bad, Bad Bert Best

Bad Bert HeadlineBad Bert

January 21, 1927
Los Angeles

Edward W. Xanders (aka Bert Best) was extradited from Portland, Oregon today to be tried for a series of robberies and burglaries committed in Los Angeles over the Christmas holidays.

Lindley mansionXanders spent most of the day with sheriffs, trading quips and calmly confessing to a litany of misdeeds. He admitted to burglarizing the home of John Lindley near Azusa (see photo), and he has also said that he and his crime buddy, Ray E. McCoy, robbed famed boxing manager Jack Kearns.

It was through his confession that police learned that Xanders and McCoy had stopped Kearns’ car on a lonely road near the beach. While the stick-up was in progress, a policeman had approached the car to see if the men needed assistance. McCoy jabbed a gun into Kearns’ ribs and told him to keep quiet, or die. Always the glib talker, Xanders chatted with the cop, offered him a cigar, and sent him on his way.

Xanders admitted to police that he had been in court a few times during 1926. He stated that he had been granted probation on a charge of assault with a deadly weapon. It was during that case that he had told the court that a childhood head injury had led him to a life of crime. According to his story, ever since he had received the blow to his noggin, he has had an irresistible urge to commit crime. Based on an alienist’s report, the judge recommended that Xanders, if willing, should undergo an operation to relieve pressure on his brain. Xanders declined to have the surgery.

With the nasty pressure still on his brain, it wasn’t long before Xanders was in court again. In making his plea for probation, he said that he’d been offered employment for two years on a ship headed for the South Seas. The judge felt compassion for the youthful crook and gave him four years of probation, on the condition that he would accept the job and sail off into the sunset (and out of this jurisdiction) for at least two years. Of course Edward never boarded the ship; he stayed in Los Angeles and continued his crime spree.

Edward is still a young man, and his penchant for crime may easily lead to another crack on the cranium. Maybe a second smack upside the head will put him on the straight and narrow.

Local Man Sets Record

January 20, 1927
Los Angeles

A short notice in the paper today about Sidney (or Sydney) Adams who, on August 2, 1925 (most likely) mortally shot his wife Annie in their home at 1234 East Twenty-First Street.

august25Despite there being a chance for a difference—Adams steadily asserted that the woman committed suicide—on October 12, 1925 it took a Los Angeles jury a record twenty-five minutes to send him to the gallows.  (This being in part or wholly dependent on Adams’ race seems obvious—writ large as he’s routinely described as the “giant negro,” a term of which Times seems unusually fond.)

Hangings were on the mind of all Californians as executions ushered in C. C. Young’s gubernatorial regime. The previous four years of Friend Richardson’s governorship were marked by constant rejections of eleventh-hour appeals for executive clemency; in a show of consistency Young had five executions in the first five weeks of his stewardship and saw that each one went through unchallenged.  

payspenalty

There were six sitting in San Quentin’s death row when S. C. Stone  joined the bunch on January 6, 1927—making it lucky number seven.  Adams’ departure today took it back down to six.

Silence is golden, and so’s the shooter’s hair

January 17, 1927
Hollywood

When the doc refused to keep things quiet after treating oilman Grover Lawler’s (happily superficial) bullet wounds at his home in the Dickerson apartments at Berendo and Beverly, Lawler told visiting cops that he’d shot himself. No, he would not produce the weapon. Damn, won’t you flatfoots let a guy recuperate in peace?

Grauman Court apartments, Melrose & Kenmore

Not so fast, Grover. You wouldn’t know anything about reports that a hysterical blond woman armed with a .38 had fired wildly at a car bearing two men and a woman tonight, just six blocks from your place, at the Grauman Court apartments at 4428 Melrose? No? Because G.A. Hessman, resident, has described the incident thoroughly, and turned over the gun that the woman threw into the grass at his feet when she was finished.

Grover reconsidered, and admitted some dizzy dame had shot at him as his party left a dinner engagement at the Melrose address, but refused the identify his assailant. Perhaps recognizing that Mrs. Lawler, now playing nurse, would provide better punishment than the law allowed, the officers went on their way.

Sailor’s End

January 15, 1927
Los Angeles

The body of a young man, dressed in sailor’s togs, was found today by four children playing in an open field near Eighteenth Street and Point View Avenue. The youngsters reported their gruesome discovery to the police, who identified the man as Henry Von Bulo.

Von Bulo was the third member of a love triangle gone tragically wrong. (Do they ever end happily?) Last month, Curran C. Samuels, age 40, shot his wife, then turned the gun on himself. He died. The missus, though pierced by a bullet that entered her ear and exited her mouth, survived. While in the hospital, Mrs. Samuels told detectives that her husband had probably killed her friend, Henry Von Bulo. She even led them on an unsuccessful search of the vicinity in which his body was eventually found. Mrs. Samuels believes that Von Bulo was killed on December 15, as he did not keep an appointment in Long Beach on that day. Three days later, Mr. Samuels shot his wife near Rossmore Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard "where she was engaged as a box-lunch saleswoman."

Despite the fact that Von Bulo was dressed in sailor’s clothing and Mrs. Samuels’s assertion that he was a member of the merchant marine, Von Bulo’s stepfather declared that the young man had purchased the uniform and shoes last month in Oakland. He also suggested that his stepson might be the victim of a "bootlegger’s war," but declined to further elaborate.

We’re so hungry, we could eat a sheep

eat a sheep headline

January 14, 1927
Taft

Hut, two, three, four – an army of field mice is on the march in Taft, and like most armies, this one travels on its stomach.

Despite being low on the food chain, or maybe because of it, field mice are crafty little creatures, and they can rapidly assess a situation before taking action. While cutting a wide swath through Taft, the mouse invaders spied a small sheep that was confined in a pen and unable to escape. Hundreds of rodent soldiers felt their mousedar vibrate. They swarmed the helpless animal and devoured it on the spot.

Not all mice are evil sheep snacking marauders. On November 18, 1928, Walt Disney would introduce an adorable animated anthropomorphic mouse in the cartoon, “Steamboat Willie”. Nobody would ever look at a mouse in quite the same way.

Is a Woman Ever Really Sorry?

shotbywife 

January 13, 1927
Los Angeles

mabelGeorge and Mabel Drummond had nothing if not a tempestuous wedded life.  Married ten years, hitched when George was fifteen and Mabel twenty-one, their stormy union included many a sterling instance, including the time a jealous Mabel held George in a chair at gunpoint for three hours while she threatened to shoot him with every passing moment.

Today, after the usual morning argument in their Alhambra home, George announced he’d had his fill, and moved his stuff out to go shack up with…a widow.  Tonight Mabel followed George to 335+1/2 West 42nd Street, where George was involved with one Mrs. Helen Salyer. 

Along for the ride Mabel had taken her old friend the pistol.

In fairness, Mabel did, on the sidewalk in front of Helen Salyer’s house, give George one last chance, asking him to come back to her.  George approached and said, firmly, no.  With that, Mabel shot him in the stomach; the force of the blast turned him around and Mabel shot him again in the back.  Mabel walked back to her car, got in, and sat calmly there until authorities arrived.  

helenMabel was arrested by Detective Lieutenants Brown and Adams of University Station, who found her composed, and that she could only comment that if she couldn’t live with him, no-one could.  When asked if she felt any regret, she replied:

“Is a woman ever really sorry?”

(With no defense offered other than the “unwritten law,” on May 19 she was ordered held to Superior Court for trial by Municipal Judge Rosencranz on charges of assault with intent to commit murder.  She told the court “I shot him because I loved him” and reiterated “sure I shot him—if I couldn’t live with him I wasn’t going let anyone else live with him.”  The jury, out an hour, gave her a full acquittal on May 24.)

1947project podcast #12

The time travel bloggers share notable events of December and January 1927, including tales of poisonous liquor, hypercritical papas, NIMBYism in historic South Central and a millionairess tied up and left to die in a sack. Then there’s Crimebo the Clown’s sad recollection of all the ill-advised nastiness he failed to accomplish in 2007, and two new sponsors, one promising untold riches for customers who raise Huguenots in their back gardens.

Stream it now on Moli, or via archive.org or itunes

Why Didn’t God Accept Cain’s Sacrifice? Because He Wasn’t Abel.

January 5, 1927
Albany, New York
aliveandwell
Cain is alive and well (jeepers, the life span of these antediluvians) in the land of Nod York, East of Eden, or at least Schenectady…seems that one Harry Cain was engaged in a phone call, and was having some trouble making himself understood to the person on the other end of the line.

Finally the landlady came to the rescue.  “CAIN,” she shouted into the telephone, “C-a-i-n.  You know, the man that killed his brother.”

That set off the other party on the phone all right…murder!  The police were summoned and Harry Cain was in jail in a matter of minutes.  It took hauling the landlady in some time later to explicate the whole mess.

Still, I’d keep an eye on that Lamech character.

Holy City Hi-Jinks

sued headline

December 31, 1927
Los Angeles Evelyn Rosenkrantz

Mrs. Evelyn Rosenkrantz has claimed in court that her dream to become the Queen of Holy City, California was reduced to ashes and bitter tears when the City’s self-anointed King, William E. Riker, retracted his marriage proposal. Evelyn is asking for $500,000 ($3.5 million USD 2007) in damages for breach of promise. The woman who would be Queen stated that William had sweet talked her in to posing as his wife. She said that they resided at a “love cottage” on 3679 Motor Avenue, Palms City.

Evelyn was not the first woman ever to have been disappointed by William. About 20 years ago, he fled to Canada to avoid bigamy charges. It was there that the former palm reader founded "The Perfect Christian Divine Way”. To achieve perfection, devotees adhered to a strict credo of celibacy, abstinence from alcohol, white supremacy and communal living. To make it easier for his disciples to concentrate on their spirituality, Riker required them to turn over all of their money and worldly possessions to him.

William RikerWilliam and his followers returned to California and set up his “New Jerusalem” near Los Gatos. Surprisingly, he never got around to building a church in Holy City, but he did manage to construct a gas station (which sold “holy water” for over heated autos), restaurant, and an observatory where visitors could view the moon for ten cents. Located on the Santa Cruz Highway, Holy City became a tourist destination and was eventually bringing in over $100,000 ($1.2 million 2007 USD) annually. Tourists were lured by signs with such catchy slogans as: "See us if you are contemplating marriage, suicide or crime!" and "Holy City answers all questions and solves all problems!" Riker sign

Things went so well that the city incorporated. There would eventually be a Holy City Post Office, newspaper, and radio station, KFQU. The radio station would lose its license in 1931 for “irregularities” (maybe it was the call letters).

Evelyn would lose her breach of promise suit, but she and William would tangle again in a couple of years.

In the spring of 1929 Evelyn was serving a life sentence in San Quentin for being a habitual criminal (her final conviction was for passing bad checks in Oakland). She swore in an affidavit that back in 1927 she had witnessed Riker strangle a Mrs. Margaret White to death in the cottage on Motor Avenue. Evelyn told the court that Mrs. White was another of Riker’s abandoned wives. Nothing would come of Evelyn’s affidavit, and she likely spent the rest of her life in prison.

Riker became known as “The Comforter” and made four failed attempts to become governor of California. He would be arrested in 1943 for his pro-German sentiments – he was writing letters of support to Adolf Hitler! Defended by well known attorney Melvin Belli, who constantly referred to his client as a “crackpot”, Riker managed to skate on the charges. The ungrateful crackpot would sue Belli for defamation of character, and lose.

Riker made it to the ripe old age of 93, when he shocked his few remaining followers by converting to Catholicism shortly before his death in 1966.

If you’re interested in owning a piece of California history, Holy City went on the market in 2006 with an asking price of $11 million. Maybe it’s still for sale.