Caution, Smoking May Be Hazardous to Your Health

Caution headline

December 3, 1927
Long Beach

Financial woes had driven 23 year old Clarence Martin to his breaking point. He rented a room at 555 East Seaside Blvd. in Long Beach, and resolved to end his life.

The young man turned on the gas and waited in the dark for the Big Sleep. Moments before he lost consciousness, he had a sudden change of heart and shut off the lethal fumes. Was Clarence’s epiphany the result of a glimpse into his family’s future without him, such as George Bailey experienced in “It’s a Wonderful Life”?

Did Clarence breathe a sigh of relief at his escape from death and begin to make plans for the upcoming holidays? Did he think about the wife he’d left in Gardena? She was probably worried sick because he hadn’t come home. Maybe he was going to phone her and let her know he would be with her soon, but decided to sit and smoke a cigarette first.

Lighting the cigarette was Clarence’s last act in this world. There was a terrific explosion which blew the door and windows out of the room. He was horribly burned, and later succumbed to his injuries at Seaside Hospital.

Born Out of Tragedy

August 22, 1927
Van Nuys

orphan One August night in 1927, Edgar Burnett of Van Nuys shot his wife, then turned the gun on himself, leaving their four children orphaned.  The children were separated, and taken in by different families.  Eleanor Ray Burnett, 7, was adopted by a wealthy Anaheim family; Ermie Jean, 3, was sent to Toronto to live with Miss Myrtle Hendrie; and Edgar Jr., 16 months, went to a Van Nuys family.

And today, the Burnett’s newborn daughter, Nona Lee, was adopted by Patrolman James Hayden of the Van Nuys police station and his wife.  Nona was only 5 days old at the time of the killings, and the babe had been in her mother’s arms when Edgar Burnett fired the fatal shots.  In 1927, it was reported that the Hayden’s would rear Nona "never to know the tragedy of her early life," or about her brother and sisters.

However, at some point, the Hayden’s must have decided to tell Nona the truth about her past.  And it seems a good thing they did.

You see, on Halloween night, 24 years later, 24-year-old Louis Shandra wrote a note, and went to his estranged wife’s apartment.  The note read, "I am going to kill my wife and myself tonight.  I love her more than anything else in the world."

guntragedyShandra had recently served 30 days for beating his wife, Carmela, who had moved into her own place while Shandra was in jail.  He went to the apartment at 808 E. Palmer Ave., Glendale, and shot Carmela to death with a rifle in front of the couple’s 2-year-old son, Bobby.  Then, Shandra went into another apartment in the building, and killed himself.

A Ventura housewife married to Deputy Sheriff Warren Paul read about the tragedy in Glendale, and was so moved that she and her husband offered to adopt the child themselves.  Nona Hayden Paul told the Los Angeles Times the circumstances of her early childhood and said, "I wondered what would happen to that poor little boy.  I talked to my husband about it and we’ve decided we’d love to raise him on our own."  Warren Paul agreed readily – he, too, had been adopted as a child.

No word on whether the adoption ultimately went through, or whether Mrs. Paul was ever reunited with her lost brother and sisters.  Here’s hoping. 

Death at Sea

September 26, 1907deathinsea

Dan Bulkeley was a Pasadena man, well educated and of financial means, living with his cousins Lucy and Jennie Bulkeley at 58 North Pasadena Avenue.  Every summer since ’95 they’ve passed the season in a tent house on Sumner Avenue in the city of Avalon, on the Banning Brother’s Isle of Santa Catalina, off the Los Angeles coast.

Lucy and Jennie departed for Pasadena today and Dan, despondent at being left alone, engaged the launch Adelade to take him on a fishing trip.  Near the Seal Rocks, Dan stood up and told the boatman that there were letters to be found under the seat, and that his pockets were filled with rocks.  With that, Dan Bulkeley stepped from the boat and into the Pacific, his final home.

There was one letter to Lucy, one to the boatman containing five dollars, and another to a J. L. Wegman containing fifteen dollars, and instructions regarding taking down his tent.

Speaking of the briny deep, what was the biggest story of September, 1907?  Why, that honor would go to the maiden voyage of the mighty Lusitania, wherein supremacy over the sea was regained by Cunard over the Hamburg-American line.

Of Boxing and Booze

August 14, 1907julepnomore
Los Angeles

Colonel and Cracker alike are swarming our borders!

Dateline—The Peach State—Sherman’s march to the coast was less an indignity than that done by the last state election:  all liquor establishments are to be outlawed on January 1.  Now the march is of capital out of Georgia—an estimated $3,000,000 in taxes and licenses in 08.  As the steady, self-righteous hand of the WCTU has not as yet clamped itself upon the great metropolis of Los Angeles, wholesalers and barmen alike are arriving en masse.  

Those in the LA liquor trade welcome our Reb brethren, at least so that they may assure their bit by securing locations and concessions for the newcomers.  The local liquor lobby has hit up City Hall for an extension of the Liquor Zone, and has petitioned to increase the number of saloons in LA to 250.

Despite a collective Angeleno fondness for drink, it is the civic duty of 1947project to provide a temperance lesson:

Some years ago, Harry Stuart was a pugilist of renown, his nose broken repeatedly in the ply of his noble trade.  Then, as a barkeep on West Third, he was LA’s authority on the pugilistic arts, and oft served as referee for Tom McCarey’s Fight Club, which held forth in the old Hazard’s Pavilion (in 1907 the site of the great Auditorium facing Central Park).  Stuart was famous for the way he yelled “b-r-e-a-k!” that amused spectators; his downfall was an unpopular decision in the ring which awarded a trophy to colored boxer Billy Woods, over Al Neil.

Bad luck turned worse after Stuart built a fight club at the westerly end of the Third Street tunnel, which prompted uproar from the tony neighbors.  The City Council passed an ordinance confining such clubs to a certain district in the Eighth Ward.  To make matters all the more discouraging, Stuart was stung by a spider on his left eye, destroying the sight thereof.  

He found menial employment soliciting monies for a weekly publication, and after collecting nearly $100 ($2,052 USD 2006), decided to go on the drinking spree to end all drinking sprees.  It lasted three weeks.

After the money was gone and the booze was consumed, he wrote notes to his wife in San Francisco, the Los Angeles Coroner, and his employer.  In them he stated that drink had put him “down and out” and that he had nothing to live for.  From his note to the Coroner:  “Booze has been the cause of my downfall, and I am daffy…my wife will meet the expense of having my worthless body burned.”

Stuart, after losing his last fight, this one to a bottle, swallowed a solution of bromide in his Bunker Hill room at 244 North Grand.

The Mysterious Ms. Pulva

June 23, 1907
Los Angeles


pulvaheadlineWhat can one say about pretty young Eva Pulva?  She lived in a lonely cottage on West Fifty-Fourth, and though her mother and sister lived on East Fifty-Seventh, she told people she had no kin.  Her gentleman friends knew little of her.  The police knew her best of all—watching as she, a ward of the probation department, came to the verge of trouble via men of low character.  But she’d secured her nice little cottage, and things seemed to be going well…

…until she shaved her head and disappeared.  The cops looked for her to offer her protection from whatever trouble she was in, but didn’t find her until she had a self-inflicted bullet in her chest.

Her note read “Dearest Sister:  You will find my trunk at 2739 Budlong avenue.  Please don’t tell the lady you are a relative of mine.  I told her I had no relation.  So let me go knowing that one person on your Sunny Earth don’t think me a liar.  I am sorry I don’t leave espense money but (I belong to a gang that have my money) and when they hear I am goine most likely you will get it.  Don’t tell mother.  I wrote anything.  Put me anywhere sister.  I do don’t care where.  I know you understand and my dear I am no good here…I am a coward to live but not a coward to die.”

A Family’s Curse

June 9, 1907
Los Angeles

Olga Miller was a comely young thing who worked at the Hotel Rosslyn and was considered quite attractive despite the scar on her temple from shooting herself in the head.

One day she fell ill and was taken to County Hospital, where she went into convulsions and died after a visit from Richard Hardy, who forced his way into her room and made her drink a glass of milk that police suspected was poisoned.

But her death was only the beginning of the complicated story, a morbidly Victorian tale that includes murder, insanity, false identities, suicides and fears of body snatching.

Shortly after Miller died, officials learned that she was actually Bertha Beilstein, the daughter of John Frederick Beilstein, a wealthy Allegheny, Pa., businessman and politician. Before his mysterious death in 1897 (some people suspected Bertha of poisoning him in a fit of insanity), he wrote a will putting all his money in a trust for his heirs as long as she was alive.


News N’ Notes

May 13, 1907
Los AngelesCheck the barometer: rising suicide, murder and drunkenness let us know there’s a good chance of 1907 to-day.Lena Rossester lived in a bungalow at 604 Vitmer with a younger man–some would say her son, but the gentleman won’t give his name and begs that Lena’s recent fatal carbolic cocktail be suppressed by the press (no such doing here!); D. Orlackey made a move to murder his family at 1021 E. 54th, but his wily wife locked him in the closet until authorities could arrive; and Thomas Dunn, of no fixed address, made a bed of the Hollywood Electric tracks until rudely awakened by the fender of a trolley that took a good chunk out of his head (he’ll be fine–nothing a visit to the oft-mentioned Receiving Hospital can’t fix).

Ah, the touchstones of our time.

Eye of a Needle

May 2, 1907
Los Angeles

Wealthy real estate mogul Russel C. Carter, 939 Denver Avenue, was at 74 in the winter of his years, though comfortably retired. Despite his vast holdings he brooded over ailments real and imagined and obsessed over the idea he would become helpless, an issue he confided only to his son, Spring Street haberdasher Norman Carter.

So, when his wife left the house to-day to go about her day’s business, R. C. barricaded himself in the barn, secured a rope to both a beam and his neck, and leaped off a stairway. When Mrs. Carter returned at 6:30, the patriarch nowhere to be found, neighbors were enlisted to break down the barn door, where she found her husband still swinging.

She was prostrated with grief and is now under the care of physicians at son Norman’s home at 3616 Flower Street.

While there is much to say about the moneyed class and their admirable relationship to self-determination, this writer merely wishes to send his condolences to the family of an Angeleno with vision.