The Case of the Randy Chaplain

Orville I. Clampitt

October 25, 1927
Culver City

Orville Clampitt cannot, it seems, stay out of trouble. First there was that business last year with the euphoniously-named Miss Lucille Swallow out Kansas way, and the San Francisco court martial the then-Army Chaplain (and "Beau Brummel of the Presidio") endured over accusations of "objectionable conduct" in violation of three of the articles of war. These charges were brought by the lady after she discovered that Clampitt, who was otherwise a delightful companion, was married with a quartet of kids.

Lucille Swallow

"I forget when I first met Capt. Clampitt," Miss Swallow told reporters after eluding Army minders, "But he was awfully nice. He used to take me out for walks and to picture shows and to dinners. The question as to whether he was married never came up."

During the court martial, Miss Swallow produced love notes from the accused, and there was testimony that he had deliberately disguised his handwriting. But then several surprise witnesses appeared to claim Miss Swallow was "out to get" Mr. Clampitt because he’d refused her demands for money, and he was found not guilty.

He promptly retired to Santa Cruz, where he registered as "William Jones" in a hotel where a "Mrs. Jones" was also staying. It was bad publicity over this indiscrete act that resulted in Clampitt being dismissed from Army service, and the offer of a $50,000 motion picture contract for himself and his photogenic horse Red Head.

But no, said Clampitt, he wished only to return to Vancouver, where his wife and children waited. That was April. And today, he was picked up by Culver City police, following the arrest of boy burglar Spencer Farley, discovered in the act of looting the Schwartzkoph manse at 1725 Gardena Street, Glendale.

Farley told officers that his home address was Orville Clampitt’s car, in front of Clampitt’s home at 215[?] Silver Ridge Avenue, and that he was stealing so he could give gifts to Clampitt’s 13-year-old daughter. It seems the whole family has relocated, in hopes of starting a new life. Clampitt stated he’d been hired as actor John Gilbert’s double, a claim denied by Gilbert’s studio.

When questioned, Clampitt admitted he was allowing Farley, 15, to live in his car, because the boy claimed his mother threw wild parties and refused to let him sleep at home. While he thought it weird that Farley wouldn’t tell him where he lived, he was sympathetic to the boy’s plight… at least until he discovered that the kid was taking his car out at night! Stolen golf clubs and various trinkets were seized from the Silver Ridge address.

Clampitt will be released tomorrow when it’s determined he knew nothing of Farley’s thefts. Henceforth he disappears from the public record save for an April 1929 theater review of his cameo in Edward Horton’s play "The Hottentot," at the Majestic Theater. Red Head the horse had a leading role as the comic foil to Sam Harrington, who masquerades as the famous jockey who shares his name, and eventually must ride the fearsome Hottentot in a race. After each show, crowds gathered on Broadway to watch Clampitt ride Red Head, now mild as a merry-go-round pony, away from the theater and, we hope, home to his wife and kids.

More Tales from the Tinderbox

This Weekend Last
Los Angeles

Running around, hosting the Dahlia tour on Saturday and taking photos of the trash incinerator in the backyard of the house next to Greene and Greene’s Merrill House on the Pasadena Heritage tour on Sunday, left me precious little time to blog, but don’t think I was totally shirking my responsibilities to you, dear reader.  I still found time to put my feet up and flip through the paper, and on seeing Joan’s posts this morning, was reminded of a couple tales…

Re:  She Who Must Be Obeyed, perhaps Frederick Mason should’ve married Mary Agnes Morgan:

mute

As James P. Morgan told it to Judge Bowron, the first twelve years of their marriage went along just swell, until one day in Agnes was struck dumb.  She moved her effects to another room, and from there shuffled about in silence, cooking meals and soundlessly accepting her meager Saturday allowance.  James finally asked for a divorce on the charge of desertion.  Quipped Bowron, “Most extraordinary—never heard of the like.  I know men who would say you were blessed beyond imagination.”  

And oh, the joys of sweet, innocent youth.  You’ve read about the pyro predilections of Joan’s Bakersfield brats—let’s throw kidnapping into the mix.

hazelsworld

You know, in your neighborhood, were an infant to be kidnapped, everyone would go apeshit, and there’d be feds everywhere, and News Chopper 5, and so forth.  Over in Boyle Heights, they just sigh, and trudge over to Hazel Oden’s house, 2706 Wabash Ave.  It seems that Hazel, eight, one of thirteen children, suffers from a mother complex that compels her to steal any tiny infant she sees unguarded; she will nurse and rock the baby for a time and presently forget all about it.  (Just like a real mother—how cute!)  Policewoman Georgia Robinson had to make the trudge on the 21st to go fetch one Estella Richmond, two months of age, who was sleeping in her buggy outside her home one moment and was wheeled off to Hazel’s the next.  Hazel has been sent to Juvenille Hall for observation, where she will be examined by psychiatrists to determine whether or not her impulses may be controlled.

Unfortunately, it would be another forty-six years before Hasbro introduces BabyAlive

Nice try, bub

October 18, 1927
Los Angeles 

Lewis J. Patterson married Marie Misuraca in the morning in judge’s chambers, then sent wifey off to work with plans that they would meet for lunch. We can imagine her morning, chattering gaily with colleagues, showing off her ring, perhaps passing around a photograph of her groom. Then the trip from office to restaurant, giddy with excitement to see him again.

And over a meal the contents of which we do not know, his graceless announcement that the marriage wasn’t exactly legal, since whaddayaknow, he hadn’t gotten around to divorcing the last Mrs. Patterson, but that shouldn’t stop them from setting up house and marrying for real sometime in the future, should it?

According to the lady, it surely should. She appeared today before Judge Sproul and said, "He asked me to wait around until he could get it and then marry him over again. I told him that was not the way I married, and everything was off."

The Judge agreed. Annullment granted. (Marie seems to have landed on her feet: in October 1928 the Times published announcement of her marriage to Carl J. Lawrence. We can only hope there was no first Mrs. Lawrence lurking around to complicate things.)

A Mysterious Suicide in Elysian Park

October 16, 1927
Los Angeles

His body was propped against a tree with a shotgun’s muzzle placed against what remained of his head. He had pulled the trigger with his toe. The note was terse: “Suicide. No dependents. No estate. No heirs. Please notice in New York World on Oct. 30th to print. $2 inclosed [sic]. Body to science, in reserve, or cremate.” It was signed “Anton K. Windsor.”

But who was the man found by police in Elysian Park shortly after daybreak this morning? Despite the carefully printed signature on the note, police doubted his name was Anton Windsor. If it was, why had he cut all the laundry marks and labels out of his clothing? A shears and razor blade used to do the job were still in his pocket. Identification had also been removed from a Masonic apron neatly folded in an inside pocket.

He was rich, according to detectives who cited his expensive gray business suit and outing cap, his soft hands with their careful manicure, and his face—”that of a man accustomed to easy living.” They speculated that his request to have his death noticed in the New York World two weeks from now was a message to someone “arriving from Europe shortly before that date” or perhaps he wanted to announce his death “in connection with some public event, possibly the settling of an estate.”

Another clue to his identity (the Times referred to it as the “only clew”; they apparently didn’t count his Masonic affiliation) was the “ancient” J. Manton & Co. shotgun he used.

Who were you, Anton K. Windsor?

A Close Shave

 heeats

showoffOctober 13, 1927
Glendale

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.

allgrowdup 

Stormy Marriage for a Stormy Night

October 12, 1927
Los Angeles

Officer J.R. Reybuck had issues. Last summer, when he fought with his young wife, he thought he could resolve their troubles by choking her, snatching their baby son William, and running off to Yuma, Arizona, from which calmer perch he suggested she might join him and they could work everything out.

Lillian Reybuck had other ideas, and obtained a restraining order. She and her baby were living with her brother, Herbert, and mother, Mrs. Fred Hendricks at 914-and-three-fourths West Seventeenth Street, and that was where J.R. came today on one of his twice weekly visits. He was holding the child when he brought out his service revolver and shot his wife dead as she sat sewing in the front room. When her mother ran out of the kitchen, he took a couple of potshots at her. Mrs. Hendricks escaped out the door.

Reybuck unloaded a single shot through the left temple of baby William, killing him instantly. He then reloaded, leaned against the wall in front of his slain wife, and blew a hole through his brain.

He had blamed his mother-in-law for poisoning his wife against him.

Didn’t Read Her Wilfred Owen

 fatesatwork

October 6, 1927
Fullerton

“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.

KarenCooper1927

But don’t say we didn’t warn you. 

Brotherly Lumps

East Los Angeles
October 5, 1927

Found wandering in a dazed and bloody state near Ninth and Dacotah, all attorney Frank Sweeney could say to police in the Georgia Street Station was "please don’t hit me!" Taken round the corner to the hospital, he was discovered to have a possible skull fracture.

In a moment of clarity, Frank suggested officers talk to his sister-in-law Mrs. Jack Sweeney at 101 South Bunker Hill Avenue (a now lost street, one tail of which remains). The lady promptly admitted that Frank had been over the night before and had said unpleasant things about her, whereupon her Jack knocked him into the stove. Why yes, he had suffered head injuries in the fracas. But gee, a skull fracture? He must have gotten that after he left.

Entirely possible, of course. Bunker Hill’s not known as the Historic Skull Fracture District for nothing!

Come on Vacation, Leave on Probation

Come on Vacation Headline

October 1, 1927
Los Angeles

Police will be working twelve hour shifts until the men who robbed the Merchant’s National Trust and Savings Bank, at Fifty-Seventh Street and South Broadway, of $5000 ($59,746.26 USD 2007) are in taken into custody.

During the brazen daylight robbery, six unmasked bandits threatened more than forty bank employees and depositors with shot-guns and revolvers.

Witnesses told officers that the gunmen drew up behind the bank in a large, expensive black sedan. Five men piled out of the car and walked to the front of the building, while the driver of the getaway car pulled around and parked right in front of the bank doors. Bank interior

Waving a shotgun, the first crook entered the bank. He made no attempt to halt several terrified bank patrons as they ran screaming from the bank seeking safety.

One of the men stood lookout on the sidewalk, while the remaining thieves rushed into the bank lobby brandishing their weapons and shouting at everyone to hold up their hands. Bank manager R.C. Elliott was struck by one of the gunmen and forced to lie on the floor. The other employees were unmolested, and the customers were not robbed. Two of the crooks jumped behind the counter and forced the tellers to lie on the floor. The men then pointed their weapons at the prone employees, and proceeded to empty the cash drawers. Having made their withdrawal, the gang fled to the waiting automobile which then careened north down Broadway at a high rate of speed.

One of the tellers, W. Ord, raced to his car and followed the fleeing bandits several blocks before losing sight of them in traffic at Forty-Sixth Street and South Broadway. He managed to obtain the license number of the car, which had been reported as stolen only a few nights ago.

Police have concluded from the gang’s modus operandi that they are from the east, and not among the locals currently wreaking havoc in a city-wide crime wave. The law won’t rest until the miscreants are brought to justice. So…if the bad guys are here on vacation, they’d better pick up a Hollywood snow globe and a crate of oranges, and head for home.

Drink a Toast to Death!

Drink a Toast to Death Headline

September 30, 1927
Long Beach

Take a spurned sweetheart, a former girlfriend, one love rival, two bottles of beer and a revolver, and you have the recipe for an evening in hell.

Frances Curnow was at home with her new beau Edward Teel when there was a knock at the front door. Edward went to answer and found that he was staring into the business end of a revolver held by Frances’ former flame Russell Bishop, a Signal Hill oil worker.

The oil man wasn’t making a social call, he was bent on revenge. He barged through the door and then forced the frightened couple into his car at gunpoint. He told them that he was going to “take them for a ride in the country” and then kill them.

With the muzzle of Bishop’s revolver pressed against the back of his head, Edward drove to a secluded place, stopping only once to buy some beer.

When they arrived at their destination the gunman made the couple get out of the car. Thrusting a bottle of beer into Frances’ trembling hands, and then he handed another beer to Edward. “Drink and be merry, for tonight you die.” With that sinister toast, the apparently doomed lovers drank their beers. The rejected swain then tried to compel his victims to embrace each other in a final farewell. Frances refused, and Bishop began firing – wounding Edward in the abdomen and the leg. Leaving Edward in a pool of blood, Bishop vanished into the night.

Supporting her injured boyfriend, Frances managed to get to the side of the road. Detective Sergeants Kirkpatrick and Blunt were transporting a prisoner from Pomona to Long Beach when they caught Frances in the headlights of their car, waving and pleading for assistance. She was sobbing hysterically but otherwise unharmed. Edward was rushed to Long Beach Hospital where he is said to be recovering.

Bishop is believed to have driven to a lonely spot and committed suicide.