4:34? No Loophole

runDecember 15, 1927 

Miss Grace Shannon, national secretary of our own YWCA, has just returned from Turkey, and good news:  there’s no Dumb Doras there!  Sure, it’s all right for a man to have four wives (“to which every good Mussulman says ‘Amen,’” chuckles Ms. Shannon), but the crafty gals there under Atatürk (we say atagirl!) have found some loophole that goes on to contradict such (referring to the famous Koranic Koran 4:3/Koran 4:129 Paradox).  Yes, it seems the new republic’s progressive divorce laws and campaigns for women’s sufferage have made it a veritable heaven on earth for the gentler gender.  

Just think, another eighty years of progressive thinking will do a world of wonder for women!

This Ain’t No Party…

Petting Party Headline

August 13, 1927
Los Angeles

These days a petting party can be dangerous in more ways than one…just ask Dagmar Carlson.
 Dagmar Carlson
Dagmar Carlson, 324 South Rimpau Street, and her escort, William Wade were necking in his car when a trio of bandits appeared and held them at gun point, relieving William of his wrist watch, billfold and a notebook.

As a witness for the prosecution Dagmar told Judge Baird, “When they stuck that gun in my face and told me to stick up my hands, that’s just what I did.”

Five men have been implicated in a series of petting party hold-ups, but only three have been charged with robbing Dagmar and William. The three men are: Jack Olympus, Clyde Thomas and Elmer Smith.  The remaining members of the gang, Orville Kindig and Maurice Schott, were ordered to be held on two other counts of robbery. Deputy DA Crail said that seventeen more counts of robbery will be filed against the men within the next few days.  Each of the crooks is being held on $10,000 bail ($119,742.53 USD 2007).

Petting party bandits continued to be the scourge of dark side streets and remote lover’s lanes all over the country. One of the most famous criminal cases in the history of Los Angeles would be that of notorious “Red Light Bandit”, Caryl Chessman. Chessman, reform school alum and former prison escapee, would be paroled in December 1947. On January 23, 1948 he would be arrested on seventeen counts of robbery, kidnapping and rape.

Legal maneuvering and numerous appeals, particularly regarding the application of California’s “Little Lindbergh” law, would keep his case in the courts for twelve years. He wrote four books while on death row, all became bestsellers. His case achieved so much notoriety that many famous people including Aldous Huxley, Ray Bradbury, Eleanor Roosevelt and Billy Graham, petitioned Governor Edmund G. Brown (an opponent of the death penalty) for clemency on the death row inmate’s behalf.

Caryl Chessman

Over the years he was granted eight reprieves – but Chessman was finally strapped into the chair in San Quentin’s lethal gas chamber on May 2, 1960. As the chamber filled with cyanide the emergency telephone rang, but the call came seconds too late to stop the execution.

The Real Black Dahlia on the BBC’s Pods and Blogs show

Tim Coyne of The Hollywood Podcast rode along on The Real Black Dahlia crime bus tour and prepared a cool little piece for BBC 5’s Pods and Blogs program (or programme, if you will) explaining Beth Short and our fascination with 1947 LA and the odd characters in her orbit to a nation that doesn’t know the case.

Here’s a link to the MP3 of Tim’s interview with Nathan and me. 

It’s all in how you tell it

May 25, 1927
Venice

Seems a traveling sewing machine salesman dropped by Mrs. L.K. Sitton’s home at 1004 Electric Avenue and, when she complained of a slight headache, mentioned that he was an expert in Swedish massage and offered to relieve her.

The Times reported that "He fled… when his victim screamed and her husband returned unexpectedly." Though we wonder if perhaps things didn’t happen quite in that order.

In any event, Robert S. Harrell, 41, was arrested at San Juan and Sixth Avenue on charges of attempting an attack on the lady.

A Last Letter

April 9, 1927
Los Angeles
motherwrites
Three years ago there occurred one of the most gruesome crimes in Los Angeles history—the slaying of May and Nina Martin, twelve and eight.  They disappeared from their home at 2854 South Mansfield on the evening of August 23, 1924.  On February 5, 1925, their battered and strangled bodies found were found by rancher Leo Saulque while he planted oats on the Anita Baldwin estate.  “I have prayed to God that He might enable me to find my children,” said Mrs. Paul Buus, the girls’ mother.  "My prayers have been answered—now I’ll pray that the brute who lured them away and then killed them will be caught—and God will answer my prayers.”

One Scott Stone, a night watchman in the Glen Airy district where Mrs. Buus and the girls lived, was meanwhile arrested on a charge of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.  Circumstantial evidence linked him to the Martin slayings and on October 1, 1925 he was indicted for murder.  It seemed that Mrs. Buus’ prayers had been answered.

But Mrs. Buus had trouble—as did others, including the DA—with the concept that Stone would go to the gallows after having been convicted without evidence beyond reasonable doubt.  She wrote Governor Young, pleading for Stone, and asking the executive to relieve her of the misery that would follow the execution.  And so Stone, on the very morning of his hanging, March 10, 1927, had his sentence commuted to life imprisonment.  (Jack Hoxie stated that he was “mighty, mighty glad” for the decision to spare his stepson’s life.)

Today Mrs. Buus wrote a belated but nice letter to Stone, saying she was happy his sentence had been so commuted.  Where her heart went from there we do not know.

And in Black Dahlia news…

You may think you’re up on your Black Dahlia lore, but you might have missed two recent books that take very different approaches to the case. First, there’s the memoir from Jacque Daniel, "The Curse of the Black Dahlia." Daniel was daughter and secretary to police psychiatrist Paul de River, whose involvement in the case was tinged with controversy. See her site for ordering info and her rebuttal of the claims in Donald Wolfe’s recent, worthless contribution to the genre.

Then there’s "Exquisite Corpse" by Mark Nelson and Sarah Hudson Bayliss, which takes as gospel the Steve Hodel theory of mutilation murder as homage a l’art moderne, and digs into the notion of the posing and abuses of Beth Short’s body as a Surrealist art piece. While not quite as loopy as Gareth Penn’s "Times 17" (Zodiac Killer as earthworks artist), it does sound rather outré.

Medium Image

A Little Miss Understanding

April 27, 1907
Los Angeles
 
To Carl Tabbert, it seemed a mere triviality that when eloping with his intended to Santa Ana, that the wife-to-be swear she was eighteen years of age in order to secure a marriage license.  Today, Tabbert is in Los Angeles Superior Court, charged with rape.  In actuality, blushing bride Virginia Spencer was all of thirteen.
 
Tabbert pleaded guilty, having been persuaded that he broke the law, of which he admitted some ignorance.  While vaguely aware he had committed some offense, he had not believed it was in any way serious.  While he awaits further hearings—wherein witnesses are expected to testify to his good character—his child-bride has been placed in the Truelove Home.

Virtue Stolen, Innocence Lost

March 20, 1907
Los Angeles 

Revealed today, with the arrest of M.M. Martinez, proprietor of the Esmeralda Club at Amelia and Ducommon Streets, is a terrible tale of innocence stolen. Several young girls are willing to testify that their virtue was taken from them by Martinez and club regulars following the introduction of drugged champagne into their tender mouths.

Inside the walls of this vile palace of sin unfolded the debauchery of Miss Nellie McCarthy, 668 Date Street, and Miss Julia Wood, 812 South Wall Street. Both girls are just 17 years old, and are telling their stories to Proscecuting Attorney Adcock, and are willing to repeat these horrors for a jury. The girls are being "sent to Whittier" because their parents do not know what to do with them.

Martinez’ arrest came about at the insistence of the mothers of the broken blossoms, who declared their children were pure and lovely in character before they began attending social events at the noisome venue.  

 

Editrix’ note: "sent to Whittier" is a euphemism that was apparently familiar enough to the readers of the 1907 newspapers to require no further elaboration. By reading numerous c. 1900 stories that included the phrase, most dealing with delinquent and sexually promiscuous youths, I discovered that Whittier was the location of the State Reformatory (above), opened in 1891; it operated as the Fred C. Nelles School through 2004, and is currently being redeveloped as a residential/commercial project. Henceforth I will threaten Nathan that he will be "sent to Whittier" should he misbehave.

Police Grill Pin Boy in Winters Whack

March 13, 1947 Los Angeles Detectives questioned James Joseph Tiernan Jr., 30, tonight about his movements Monday night, both before and after the time he claimed that Evelyn Winters, 42, left his hotel room at 912 W. Sixth Street. Winters turned up dead just after midnight Tuesday in the railyard at Ducommun Street, her clothes in disarray, with a blood alcohol level of .28, a nearly fatal proportion. According to Dr. Frederick Newbarr of the Coroner’s Office, cause of death was blows to the head, exacerbated by the extent of her drunkenness. Tiernan was arrested the next day at the bowling alley at 924 S. Olive Street where he was formerly employed.

Captain Jack Donahoe is following up on Tiernan’s story. Tiernan admits to knowing Winters–a former movie industry legal secretary fallen on hard times–for about two years. He says he met her on Sunday at the public library, then took her to his hotel room. They both liked reading, and alcohol. On Monday night, they were drinking together in the Sixth Street room. Winters left alone between 7:30 and 8 pm. Tiernan stayed in, and that was the last time he saw his
friend Evelyn.

Nathan’s take on the case is here.

Confidential to 1947project readers: 1947 has been an incredible year, and we hope to see you over at our new digs real soon, where the subject is 1907.

The Winters of Our Discontent

Note: Kim’s take on this case is here.

1947:  a lot of women-killing, a lot of booze. It’s enough to turn one into a teetotaling sub. Almost. And here, a woman killing herself. With booze. Nowadays, her family would call up A&E and she�d be on Intervention. Perfect fodder for the show–someone: somewhere once, nowhere now. Our identified family member has hit bottom. Get them into treatment. God, give me the strength to blame those who did this to me, to accuse those who didn’t, and the wisdom to know the difference…a lifetime of coffee, cigarettes and forced clapping after each and every utterance. Evelyn Winters was described as “brilliant” by those who knew her, a legal eagle for the studio system since she was 23, til her alcholism caught up with her and she was shitcanned from the film colony at 37. Was there sensitivity training in the workplace for those who still suffer? This is 1947. The only place you’ll be happy, joyous and free is in the afterlife. For more information about alcohol, ask a parent or teacher! Or go here. The elephant in the copy room went to the elephant graveyard: skid row. Where does a homeless 800-lb. gorilla sleep? Anywhere it can. And so forth. Evelyn’s last known address–September, 1946–was here, at 2822 Rowena:

But in the months prior to her assault and murder she had been living in the beer parlors on Hill and Figueroa, keeping what was left of her belongings in a liquor store. She was out carousing, divorced, jobless, though with, I’d wager, a mind still keen and ticking, before she was found nearly nude, beaten, and dragged for some way, near the Ducommun Street railroad right-of-way, here: Evelyn, homeless, now has a homeless encampment on her site. So, then there’s this Tiernan character. He’s twelve years Evelyn’s junior. A former employee of the Angelus Bowling and Billiard Recreation Center, which is now a parking lot: (for more on prewar bowling alleys, go here) — he takes Evelyn to the Albany Hotel at 912 W. Sixth. He drinks with her there for a day and change and, if he is to be believed, she departs between 7:30 and 8pm. She is found at 12:10am. The Albany, where she may have had her last drink, or did not, is gone: (Sanwa Bank Plaza, AC Martin, 1990) Never did find a vintage image of the Albany; some flavor of the wiped-out neighborhood–one block west: And one block east: But why the hotel room? We don’t know. Tiernan didn’t live at the Albany. He lived at the Armondale, at 728 South Flower. Its site today: First off, what, already, is up with the Armondale Hotel? It has that “built on Indian burial ground” cachet that money can’t buy. Perhaps it was simply built over one of those giant magnets. The kind that attract ne’er-do-wells. The place had trouble attached from the get-go. Dale Carleton, developer and proprietor of the spanking-new 1914 Armondale, is sued by wifey Marie for a sizable share of his $250,000 net worth. Mrs. Carleton names a Ms. Helen Williams–Armondale telephone girl whose duties apparently went above and beyond the working of switchboard–as correspondent. 1919. Wilbert Garrison, 28, son of a wealthy publisher in New York, drove across country with a buddy and they holed up in the Armondale. A week later Wilbert left in his room his money, valuables, and a note indicating that he did not want to be a burden on others, and as such was ending his life. Despite the best efforts of the Nick Harris detective agency (who calls the cops in 1919), Wilbert is never found. 1930. Mrs. Louis Valenzuella, 40, ex-wife of Deputy Sheriff Valenzuella, is found dead in the Armondale of a suspected drug overdose. 1939. Washed-up boxer Louis Menney, 22, Armondale resident, is tackled by a priest after he sexually assaulted a 62 year-old woman in a church at 9th (now James M. Woods) and Green. Turns out he’d–moletsed? raped?–the papers will only mention “morals offenses”–a nine year-old in the church as well. Moreover, he’d done his business with a six year-old girl on the corner of 11th (now Chick Hearn) and Georgia, and also kidnapped and robbed an Agnes M—– and sexually assaulted a Margaret L—– in a church on West Adams; since the kidnapping charge is death penalty territory, we can only hope the Armondale’s most famous resident ended up in the proper hands. 1948. Francis Sylvester, of the Armondale, works across the street at the Western Union at 741 South Flower. Sylvester wires untold sums in care of himself to small outlying towns, where there are no Western Union offices, and destroys the records of the transactions. And 1965. Percy Hatch, 65, who had been in the hotel since 1957, started talking crazy-talk. As in, a loggorhea of obscenities for two straight weeks. Behind the Armondale registration desk was manager Nancy Furlow, 62, who, finally fed up with her repeated warnings, reached for the phone, and was shot dead by Hatch with one bullet. Hatch therewith turned the gun on himself. Shortly thereafter the Armondale was felled and a rather ill-advised Broadway was built on the site. Now a Macy’s, it resembles a Dawn mall on a slow day. For more on this exercise in brown, please go here. Tiernan had been reading with Evelyn at Central Library for a couple years. They would read, or shack up and drink, and maybe he’d talk bowling and maybe she’d talk law, but probably not. Neither he nor anyone else was ever charged. And so goes the final post of 1947. Soon there will be another liquor-infused ladykilling, and another, and Evelyn will be forgotten by all but her mother and best barfly pals and her killer, and God willing, she will become part of us.