Just An Old-Fashioned Girl … Driving the Getaway Car

An Old-Fashioned GirlMarch 18, 1927
Los Angeles

Police are searching for “bandit queen” Rose Berk with renewed effort after today’s arrest of one of her henchmen, Fred J. Cook. Berk (aka Rose Buckingham, aka Rose Burke) is suspected of masterminding more than half a dozen “feminine lure” robberies during the last week alone. During the course of these hold-ups, Berk pretended to be a helpless female seeking “assistance in starting a stalled automobile.” She was perhaps particularly suited to this role because, “unlike the usual type” of bandit queen, Berk was described by police as “homely, awkward in her manner and so old-fashioned that she still wears her hair long.”

However out of style she may have been, Berk evaded capture by the L.A.P.D. On April 13, 1927, she was behind the wheel of the getaway car when a group of hold-up men, Fred Cook among them, robbed the Seaboard National Bank on Wilshire Boulevard of $21,000. The hapless Cook was arrested two years later, when in August 1929, he was recognized on a visit to Rose Berk, then jailed in Indianapolis. Alas, her trail goes cold here—we’ll never know if she finally bobbed her hair.

Modeling the “old-fashioned” look is one of the winners of the Times’s Mary Pickford look-alike contest in 1924.

Modes of Banditry, 1927

February 28, 1927
Los Angeles

Drivers in lonely climes like Topanga Canyon have recently been distressed when stopping to check on a "possum bandit" found napping in the middle of the road. Of course when the do-gooder leans over the prone figure, he leaps up with a gun, steals their valuables, and races off much faster than any marsupial.

Meanwhile, at 317 1/2 South Berendo, two dandified thieves of an agonizing refinement relieved Albert Zigman of $125 cash and $700 in jewels in his own apartment. The victim described one man as having kept his hands in his pockets while gazing at a picture on the wall, as the other flicked cigarette ashes from his lazy perch on the davenport. Shortly afterwards, they relieved neighbor Michael Kreel of his extraneous possessions before slipping off into the night with a yawn and a whip of their cashmere scarves.

The Apple Box Kid and Miss “I Love L.A.” of 1927

February 8, 1927
Los Angeles

The fourth in a series of bold daylight robberies of outlying classrooms has been reported at the Lillian School, near Holmes and Slauson Avenues. As a room full of terrorized seven-year-olds covered their ears and quaked, a tall, very slender negro relieved their teacher, Mrs. Ruth Hanna, of her handbag, which contained $20 cash. His weapon was neither gun nor knife, but his horrifying facility with curse words and threats. The criminal is suspected to be one William Tyler, known to police as "Stealing 24" and "The Apple Box Kid."

Meanwhile, in darkest Lankershim, Isabel Suaze, 15, is in hiding after hearing her parents’ plans for the family to return to their former home in Arizona. The girl is such a California booster, she’d rather become a street urchin than leave L.A. Here’s to a most discerning young lady!

Everybody Has to Fall Some Time

Luther Green headline

February 4, 1927
Los Angeles

A police dragnet is closing in on the killers of Luther H. Green.  A member of the Los Angeles Stock Exchange, Green was slain outside of his home at 1053 Bonnie Brae, as he attempted to thwart the hijacking of his $10,000 [$120,710.34 current dollars] stash of pre-prohibition booze. He was able to fire a single shot from his rifle before being mortally wounded by the burglers.

According to Chief of Detectives Cline, six men have been implicated in the aborted liquor heist. It is believed that the ringleader of the failed raid may be the notorious crook, Harry “Mile-Away” Thomas. Mile-Away’s mouthpiece, Attorney S.S. Hahn, told cops that he had conferred with his client and, “…he was not only a mile away this time, but sixteen miles away”. Harry and several of his confederates would soon be arrested in connection with Green’s murder, but none of them would ever stand trial for the crime.

More than a decade prior to the invention of Teflon ®, the often busted but rarely convicted non-stick felon would be released on the charges stemming from the Green killing. His lucky streak would end on the evening of April 21, 1927. Harry would be caught in a sting and gunned down by the law as he attempted to steal an expensive automobile from a private garage at 1408 West Thirty-Fifth Street.

Riddled with machine-gun bullets, buckshot, and slugs from police revolvers, Harry staggered from the garage and collapsed in the arms of a uniformed officer. Mile-Away’s last words before he succumbed to his injuries were “Everybody has to fall some time.”

Angels My Eye

waituntilspringbanditosFebruary 3, 1927
Seemingly Everywhere

It was another olla podrida fulla banditry in Los Angeles, which bubbled over and burned something fierce at El Molino and Ninth when a gent approached Frank Merlo, robbed him of $50 ($551 USD2006) cash and forced him to swap clothing.  

Elsewhere, a truck containing $4,000 worth of cigars and tobacco, parked in front of the Glaser Brother’s establishment at 1028 Wall Street, just up and disappeared; a burglar capable of squeezing through a window not more than seven inches wide entered the Wrede Drug Company at 1327 Fairfax and made off with $200; persons unknown jimmied a rear door of Brunswig Drug at 4922 Santa Monica and btained $500 worth of cigarettes and delicious narcotics.

In residential news, Mrs. Elba Burdick was lightened of $1,000 worth of clothing, rugs and pesky jewelry that were cluttering up her place at 232 Carmelina Avenue; Nathan Lack now lacks one $600 diamond stickpin, formerly in residence at 831 South Harvard; Torato Nishlo was relieved of $500 in jewelry from 925 Hemlock; Dr. H. C. Hill of 806 Golden, also relieved of $500 in jewelry; Nathan Berger, of 2010 Brooklyn Avenue, also relieved of $500 in jewelry; and loot valued at less than $300 was pilfered from a dozen other residences, according to police reports.

Daylight is a good time to work as well—Sam Stone got his register rifled while looking the other way, Stone Furniture Company, 2711 Brooklyn Avenue.

IamtheyeggmanBut fret not people of Los Angeles!  The bulls have pinched (another) gang of li’luns, ages 15 to 18, who now make the Alhambra pokey their new clubhouse.  Their leader was busting into the home of an F. R. Lee on North Wilson when popped, and quickly gave up his younger cohorts—they of reputable local families—and location of purloined rugs, cameras, revolvers, and the black masks (cute—last year) they wore during their heists.  The youth of these masked marauders may account for the ability to slip through Wrede Drug’s tiny window.  Unless it was those fabled fascistic interwar little people.  

Does Not Necessarily Result in Better-Smelling Bandits

January 30, 1927
Los Angeles, CA
 
banditry 
Today was a good day to be a bad guy in Los Angeles, and a profitable one, too.  Calls to police flooded in from the terrorized, the carjacked, the held-up, and the home invaded, for a total of 16 robberies and 30 burglaries in a single day.

Poor Catherine Schmidt, a clerk at the Van De Camp bakery at 3601 Sunset, was robbed for the second time in a single week.  The scar-faced stick-up man made off with $17, and Catherine recognized him as the same guy who’d rifled through her register just a few days previous.

Drug store owner Charles A. Elliott had already closed up shop when bandits struck, and was spared the indignity of having a gun waved in his face.  However, his safe was cracked and $300 liberated, along with 22 pints of medicinal whiskey.  Pharmacy grade — nice!

John S. Smith was held up at Mulholland and Laurel Canyon, and dragged from his car.  When the thugs discovered that Smith didn’t have any money on him, they swiped his hat and coat and cut his ignition wires.  Jack Olonglin was also stranded roadside when a carjacking pair set up a roadblock at Yale and Wilshire, and took $300 and two suitcases of clothing from him before disabling his auto.

K.E. Winters, laundry truck driver, was stalled at Avenue 37 and Dayton when he was set upon by another would-be robber.  However, as Winters  handed over the money, he whipped up a hard luck story about not being able to cover his bills as it was.  His assailant took pity on him, and returned the money, saying, "Oh well.  I guess I’m too soft-hearted to be a bandit anyway.  Slip me enought to buy a bed and some eats and I’ll let you go."

Can’t believe that one worked, but nicely played, Mr. Winters.

Cop Killer

cop killer headline

January 28, 1927
Los Angeles

The hunt is on for a cop killer. Traffic Officer Parley Bennett was mortally wounded when he attempted to halt a robbery at Brodin Millinery Company. Bennett was attempting to pull out his revolver when he was shot by the bandit. His weapon discharged as he fell, but fortunately no one was injured by the stray slug. Officer Bennett was dead before he hit the floor.

Services for the slain officer would be held at the Brown Brothers Las Flores Chapel, 935 West Washington Street, and he would be interred at Evergreen Cemetery.

Parley’s widow, Elizabeth, received $1,000 [$12,071.03 USD 2007] worth of police insurance, and merchants on Los Angeles Street (where Bennett died) passed the hat and collected a total of $1,071 for the bereaved woman.

While the fallen officer was being mourned, more that 150 policemen searched in vain for his slayer. Chief of Detectives Cline stated that the search for Parley’s killer would continue indefinitely.

Although 250 suspects would be taken in for questioning, none of them would be positively identified by witnesses to the shooting. There would be the usual sightings of men answering the description of the desperado, but each suspect would ultimately be released. Eventually the leads would dry up, and Officer Bennett’s murder would remain unsolved.

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.

The Bell/CHCI3 Stradivarius Colligation

December 30, 1927
Redlands

kloro-formWell-known automobile distributor Lawrence S. Ferguson, 20 San Gorgonio Drive, was called to the telephone today.  A hoarse-voiced “Mr. Morris” declared that his auto had broken down five miles outside of town and that Lawrence’d better come quick.  Apparently Lawrence always does as he’s told, because he hot-footed it out of town.

But the hoarse-voice chap wasn’t five miles outside of town; he had instead hightailed it over to Lawrence Ferguson’s home.  Hoarsey and a buddy paid a visit to the abandoned Mrs. Ferguson, where they stuffed a large wad of chloroform-soaked cotton in her mouth and nostrils, knocking her out and, according to authorities, did so nearly permanently, which would have added murder on top of robbery, and making prank phone calls.

The robbery part, incidentally, netted the robbers three diamond rings worth $1,800 ($19,854 USD 2006) plus a silver saxophone, some jeweled wristwatches, overcoats, the money hidden in the mattress (how many times do we have to tell you people?) (and not in the Bible, either) and Mr. Ferguson’s revolver.  And his Stradivarius, valued at $400 ($4,411 USD 2006).

Hickmaniana

January 23, 1927
Los Angeles

hangingaround

Following up yesterday’s story about whether one Ray McCoy was lynched for looking too much like Edward Hickman…

The verdict of the Coroner’s jury?  Jail officials and other prisoners, all vindicated.  Nevertheless, it seems that Ralph “Ray McCoy” Fuller raised the ire of Angelenos in the grip of Hickman fever, whose Hickmanmania (Hickmania?  Hickmentia?) led an angry mob to chase down and beat Fuller something fierce, believing the twenty year-old to be Hickman, after Fuller robbed a store at 242 South Main and was chased two blocks on foot.

Fellow prisoner Fred Meadows told the Times that once in the hoosegow, the sullen and reserved Fuller was regarded as just another popped burglar.  Meadows related how he and the boys started playing “Sundown” in an outer tank and when he returned, Fuller had hanged himself with Meadows’ scarf.  (Must be nice to have scarves.  And pianos.)

In other lynching news, any and all information regarding Hickman’s departure and route from Pendleton (where he was exhibited in a cage like a circus animal) to Los Angeles County Jail is being kept under strict secrecy.  

damnyoufriedrich