God Granted Him the Serenity

 killsself

francisDecember 8, 1927
Pasadena 

The next time you need to go to a 12-step meeting, or better yet a full detox, or just be hospitalized for that durn’d dementia praecox, do yourself a favor and head on over to Las Encinas. Take in the rolling lawns, the mature trees, and gorgeous hundred year-old shingle cottages.  Watch as Dr. Drew administers kindly words to one or more Osbournes, and perhaps they’ll put you in the bungalow where W. C. Fields drank and breathed his last.  Then tell us if you happened upon the ghosts of Francis Stevens and his sons Georgie and Francis Jr.  

Francis E. Stevens was a Prominent Pasadenan—Vice-President of the First Trust and Savings Bank of Pasadena and the First National Bank of Pasadena, member of Pasadena’s War Finance Committee, a man with a newly built home and a…lovely family.  

Lovely enough, but not entirely.  His wife Elizabeth was prominent socially, certainly, and of his 16 year-old daughter Carol’s charms there can be no doubt.  But his sons…little George, 14, has been almost an invalid since birth, and “backward”.  And as such the entirety of Francis’ hopes and expectations for the future rode on his namesake, Francis E. Jr., 20.  Unfortunately, the star pupil at Univeristy of Michigan, where Francis Sr. had attended school, Francis Jr. crashed his car into a telephone pole near Ann Arbor and suffered a basal fracture that affected his mind, landing him what looked to be a permanent place back in Pasadena…at Las Encinas Sanitarium.

And so Francis Sr. did what any concerned, dutiful father would do.  He went to work at eight a.m., made light and cheery conversation the cashiers, and made certain all was in order; then went home to fetch George to take him off to James A. Garfield Grammar School (once at the NE corner of S. Pasadena and California Street).  This he did, and the two sat outside the school, talking in the car, until about 9:15, according to witnesses.  Then they drove off, to where, we’ll never know.  All we know is that Francis Sr. shot George in the head.  And then arrived at Las Encinas at 10:15.

weeksofplanning

Francis left George’s corpse in the back seat covered in a laprobe, and walked to administration to inquire after his other son.  He chatted with the attendants, then made his way to the bungalows.  He went to the bungalow where Francis Jr. lived with his male nurse, Frank B. Schaefer, and handed Schaefer a well-wrapped package, instructing him “Don’t let anybody have these and don’t open them until you hear from me.”  And with that he and his son took a lovely walk around the grounds.

thetenniscourtThey walked and talked along the shady paths and across sun-dappled lawns until they came to the tennis court in the rear.  It was 12:15 when father pulled out and brought a pistol to his son’s temple and fired.  He was then seen sliding the barrel into his mouth and pulling the trigger, his body crumpling directly next to his son’s.

Some time after the excitement of having the wife and daughter brought to the sanitarium, and the bodies had been removed, that someone thought of having the Stevens sedan hauled away.  It was only then an attendant noticed the slow moving stream of blood oozing over the fender.

The package Stevens gave to Schaefer contained securities, bonds, his will, multitudinous letters to banking concerns indicating that their finances were in order (which checked out just fine), and the ashes of Sylvia Stevens, a daughter he’d lost and cremated some time ago.

The funeral for the Stevens men was held shortly thereafter, though in spirit, the trio were still, of course, at Las Encinas.  

Hair Today…

October 27, 1927
Los Angeles

naughtygirl

Of course we know that pigtails have gone the way of the dodo for the li’l ‘uns, torn asunder by the terrible rake of modernity, but we never thought the bob would be stomped extinct by carnality and venality, modernity’s ugly little twins.  But the bob is gone!  Long live the permanent wave!

Here, five year-old Dottie Landvogt, of the Seventy-Sixty Street Landvogts, sits at Johanna’s Permanent Wave Shop in the Pantages Building on Broadway.  She’s hooked up to one of those Charles Nessler contraptions—a crazy of octopus holding two-pound brass rollers on a system of counterweights, suspended from a chandelier; the curlers, filled with a Borax paste reagent, are electrically heated to 200+ degrees to boil and steam the hair and, because Nessler didn’t have a shop in Los Angeles, this was probably one of the many cheap knock-off machines.  Which meant Dot likely ended up with a nicely burned scalp to match her ‘do.

But such is the price of beauty.

By the time Dorothy is ten, heatless waves will be all the rage, so we wish her the best of luck in still having hair. 

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

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 

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. 

Thrift Pays?

schoolchildren
March 28, 1927
Los Angeles
 
A classroom of children from the Thornton Avenue School learned a little something about the value of a dollar this afternoon when they witnessed a hold-up outside the Merchants Trust and Savings Bank at 25th and Central.
 
Harry Harris, the bank messenger for City Dye Works (3000 Central Ave.), was accosted at gunpoint by two bandits and relieved of the $3000 deposit he was about to make for his employer. When guns were brandished, the children "set up a din of screams and wails that would do justice to the most powerful siren."  However, their cries did nothing to dissuade Harris’s attackers.  After being robbed, Harris commandeered a civilian vehicle and followed the getaway car four blocks east on 25th before losing the bandits. 
 
The school group had been taking a class trip to the bank to make their monthly deposits as part of the Los Angeles Banks School Savings Association’s "school thrift plan."  While similar programs existed elsewhere in the country, the Los Angeles plan differed slightly, in that it sought to give the children more face time with their local bankers.  Students were given home safes, passbooks, and made their own deposits.
 
Perhaps as a result of this hands-on approach, Los Angeles schoolchildren had the largest average savings accounts in the country. In 1927, 184 elementary and junior high schools in Los Angeles participated in the program, and students had close to 1 million dollars socked away in Los Angeles banks.

A Page From the Past


March 3, 1907
Los Angeles

Stroll into the Los Angeles Public Library on Central Avenue with me for a moment, over to the children’s section. The librarian says there are about 15,000 to 16,000 books, only half of what is needed, because about third of them are checked out every month.

The most popular titles are “Little Women,â€Â “Little Menâ€Â and “Old-Fashioned Girl,â€Â The Times says. Although the library has 25 copies of each book, it’s rare to find them on the shelves.

Among boys, Civil War stories are the most popular, “the Henty books, Barbour’s athletic tales, ‘Tom Sawyer’ and Dunn’s Young Kentuckian series of which there are a dozen copies each in stock,â€Â The Times says.

“The children delight to search through the card catalogue and select their books,â€Â The Times says. “It is interesting to watch the youngsters as they stand, pad and pencil in hand, and with a grownup air of importance, write down the names of the books they want.â€Â

The story describes several young library patrons, but this is the one that stays with me:

“One of the constant patrons of the juvenile department is a tall, pale-faced lad who walks on crutches. A cruel accident so injured him that he is unable to attend school, but he has found an excellent substitute in the serious study of electricity at the library.

“He greedily devours everything he can lay his hands on about electricity. Day after day this delicate, white-faced boy pores over the books. He talks intelligently about induction coils, ohms, volts and motors.

“ ‘I intend to be an electric engineer,’ he declares as he limps away on his crutches. And the chances are that he will be.â€Â

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The Public Guardian


Sept. 27, 1907
Los Angeles

Ringling Bros. manager Charles Davis said farewell to Los Angeles, leaving $50 ($1,026.18 USD 2005) and some choice words for local authorities.

Child welfare officer Robert W. Reynolds spent several days attending the circus to ensure that there were no performances by underage children (The Times is a bit vague, saying younger than 16 in one story and younger than 12 in another).

And the Dog Came Back

May 7, 1907
Fullerton

Constable Edwards has a bulldog that his children have been playing with for two years. A neighbor’s child was over a few days ago and was bitten on the arm. Instead of taking responsibility for raising a beastly child that doesn’t know not to torment dogs, the evil neighbor requested of City officials that the dog be killed.

The City Marshall went to the home of Mr. Edwards and rightfully requested that Mr. Edwards be more careful with the dog in the future, while the neighbor still held that the dog be killed. The Marshall departed but the neighbor kept at it, and dog owner Edwards finally consented to have the dog murdered.

The neighbor walked the dog down the Fullerton railroad tracks and shot him. The dog rolled over and after a few minutes stopped kicking. The neighbor returned to town and reported that the deed was done.

That night in the Edwards home the mantle clock ticked in earnest in its dreadful march to midnight when, moments before it chimed twelve, there was a scraping at the door. Mrs. Edwards opened it. “Is this the ghost of the dog or am I dreaming,” she said to herself. Mr. Edwards rubbed his eyes and nearly toppled over as he joined his shocked wife in watching the dog crawl toward them–coming slowly forward–until as the dog shook his head a ball fell from his jaw. Mr. Edwards says the dog will live. Hopefully it will finish off that family next door.