The Street Crime of the Day

May 1, 1927
Los Angeles 

In the Times today, a round-up of street crime incidents calculated to terrorize city residents, or at least discourage freelance musicians, good Samaritans and lingering outside a lady’s home in an open car–sheesh, buddy, get a room.

Clarinetist Antonio Cili thought he was being hired to play a gig when three gentlemen picked him up at Sixth and Broadway, drove to Fourth and Pecan, tossed him from the car, beat him silly and stole his instrument and $20.

Jennie Emerson of 2611 Vallejo Street was nearly run down in the street while crossing at Daly and Manitou in Lincoln Heights, and while recovering her wits confronted by the armed driver and his pal, who threatened to kill her before stealing her purse.

A bandit robbed J. Maganuma of $40 cash and a serving of chop suey at his restaurant at 4911 South Broadway. It was not reported if Mr. Maganuma spat in the food, but we certainly hope so.

A. Eisner was carjacked at First and New Hampshire, forced to drive to Sixth and Lucas and relieved of his $100 stick pin, $40 watch and $8 cash. Maybe it’s Eisner’s home address of 5579 Santa Monica Boulevard or the fancy stick pin that gives this brief tale the whiff of rough trade, or possibly we just have dirty minds.

Joseph Michael, while strolling by a doorway near First and Main was lassoed by a couple of rope-wielding miscreants who strangled Michael into unconsciousness and stole $35, this just two blocks from Central Police HQ.

Kindly Arthur Roper was driving along (now defunct) California Street near Figueroa when he spied a fashionably garbed young lady in apparent distress in the middle of the road. He stopped to lend aid and her friend hopped onto Roper’s running board with a revolver, which was clapped to Roper’s chest while the gal riffled his pockets of $53 cash.

And then there was Jacob L. Johannes of 228 South Rodeo Drive, who was sitting in a car with Miss Marie Boucher outside her home at 5806 Carlton Way when a fiend with a revolver relieved the lady of a $1000 fur coat, $75 watch and $50 bar pin. Johannes lost $6 cash. Buddy, you can’t afford a room… or Miss Boucher.  

Now be careful out there! 


Nearer My God to Thee






April 30, 1927
Los Angeles

Nice funeral today for Harry “Mile-Away” Thomas at the Gulik Funeral Parlor.   A few days ago Mile-Away—the gangster known for always having been a “mile away” from whatever crime for which he was arrested—was boosting bootleg hooch and a car from the garage of Ora Lawson, 1408 West Thirty-Fifth Street

mileawayOfficers responded to her call about a prowler, and when they arrived, acclaimed hijacker Thomas went for his piece.  The cops opened up with a machine gun, a sawed-off shotgun and two large-caliber revolvers, and yet the twice-arrested-for-murder, “King of the Hi-Jackers” Mile-Away Thomas, filled with pounds of buckshot and slugs, ran from the garage straight at the cops.  

Mile-Away had been in the news just this last February, implicated in the murder of stockbroker/bootlegger Luther Green at Green’s home.  Cops chased Mile-Away around Los Angeles for two weeks before arresting him and, while detectives said on the stand they were certain it was our boy, he was let go for lack of evidence.

At the funeral today, upperworld and underworld hobnobbed, gawked at by the public throng, and Mile-Away’s lady friend, fellow carreer criminal Betty Carroll, swooned and collapsed for the collected.  The cortege moved on to Forest Lawn, and the crowd dispersed.  

Think of Mile-Away, won’t you, the next time you’re down near 35th and Normandie, where his ghost, bloodied but unbowed and his clanking not with chains but from a belly full of bullets, is charging at you with final terrifying resolution, coming to hi-jack your soul.

Vaseline Burglars, Beware!

April 1, 1927
Los Angeles






The fifteen year-olds just won’t stop! (Cf. yesterday’s post.)  When the Vaseline Burglar (no, not one who steals Vaseline, nor are there untoward connotations) broke into the home of Mrs. Julius Rehak to grease up Mary Rehak’s engagement ring-encrusted hand, telling her “keep quiet or I’ll throw acid in your face,” little did he know he’d come in contact with redoubtable 15yo Wilma Rehak, who told him to throw up his hands.  As he was not immediately forthcoming, from her steady hand a six shooter erupted with a terrific explosion, missing the interloper by inches, and sending him into precipitous flight.

The Imaginary Friends of the Monkey Mask Bandit

Ingenius LA Bank Heist, 1927 March 30, 1927
Los Angeles

Afterwards, when they examined the attic, they found evidence that he’d hidden for days up there, nourishing his evil plans with a diet of orange juice and liquor, quietly scheming during banking hours, constructing his army of robot helpers after everyone went home.

Ah, yes, the robot helpers. These were artificial arms with toy guns in their “hands,” constructed with ropes and weights to smash through the ceiling of the Merchants’ National Trust and Savings Bank branch at 24th and Hoover just as the robber, clad in a hideous monkey mask, confronted his prey. Who would dare take on the robber while unseen, if strangely still, friends held the room at gunpoint?

And so it was that the robber, Luger in one hand and .22 in the other, held up Manager Philip Simon and five employees and relieved Simon of about $8400 in bills prepped for the day’s banking. He was hard to ID beneath the gruesome cheesecloth monkey mask covering the upper portion of his face, but his victims noted that he was a small man, with a distinctive jaw and thick foreign accent with which he called some of them by name, apparently having spied on the workers during his time above.

This was the second peculiar robbery to befall Merchants’ National in less than a week;  on March 25, two cliche Old West cowboys armed with .45s ambled into the branch at Jefferson and San Pedro and courteously relieved the cash drawers of about $2000 after suggesting customers and staff find comfy spots on the floor.

As for our mad attic genius, he made a clean getaway, and his identity remained mysterious until November 2, 1929, when officers stopped a man named Pete Marzec (aka Pete Nanzec), 33, while he was walking near Seventeenth and Main. They asked if they could open his suitcase, and Marzec obliged, but around the time they pulled out his gun, rope ladder and mask collection, he made a dash for a nearby fence. He didn’t make it; a bullet through the gut sent him to Georgia Street Receiving Hospital in critical condition. Later, more burglary tools and guns were found in his room nearby at 1622 Santee Court.

Marzec recovered in time to be indicted on the 1927 job and an earlier bank robbery that netted $12,600. Despite the claims of a confederate that he was in Kansas City at the time of the crimes, Marzec was damned by the discovery of guns recognized by his victims, masks matching those worn in the robberies, and a notebook in which the dates and amounts taken from the banks was noted in Polish.

Marzec was a three time loser who as Michael Blevika had escaped from a New Mexico Prison in 1922, so his conviction came with a minimum sentence of 14 years in Folsom Prison. Superior Judge McComb, perhaps in recognition of the extra robbers unable to be tried for the crimes, doubled the sentence to 28.

Marzec appealed on the grounds that it was unfair to convict someone of both burglary and robbery for the same crime, but was denied, and shuffled off to prison, where we trust he built many imaginary friends to protect himself and keep off the lonelies in the long, dark nights.

Thrift Pays?

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.

Give Them What They Ask

April 28, 1907
Los Angeles
That is the call of the tamalera, they known to those of us who reside in the Hispanic neighborhoods, a siren song that wakes us to church, to industry, but mostly to meat and masa in husk.  But treat these folk well; James Couts, a sash and door worker playing a game of ball at 38th and Santa Fe yesterday, was knifed repeatedly by a tamale peddler after some trouble about payment.
In other news, the rash of burglaries continues to increase as Fiesta nears.  A. C. Nagle was brutally assaulted, and robbed of his diamond ring and Elks pin, at Ocean Park last night.  Rings were stolen from 936 East 31st, and silverware and clothing from 210 East 16th
Nearer town, in a restaurant on North Main Street, James Selagar and Pedro Fierros fought a furious knife duel, sending both, after their arrest, to Receiving Hospital for treatment.

More Fun with the Second Amendment

April 18, 1907
At a poolroom in Watts (where, it is said, liquor is sold without a license), Mr. H. E. Welch became involved in a domestic disagreement with his wife Myrtle.  Accordingly, she beat him with a pool cue and then shot him twice in the head. “I”™m used to being shot at,” said Mr. Welch later this evening while being attended to at Receiving Hospital.  “My wife has a lot of disorderly friends and the poolroom is full of these nowadays.  The gun with which she shot me was in my pocket and she took it from me.”