The Postal Inspector Always Rings Twice


September 11, 1927

Surely, oh, surely there are some very happy mailmen in Glendale today: a consignment of waterlogged ladies stockings are hung to dry around the post office. Whether they were similar to the Paris Clocked Chiffon Hosiery (in colors like French Blonde and Ecstasy) advertised by Bullock’s recently or simple utilitarian cotton, the Times does not say.

Shipped by the Thieme Hosiery Company to a store in Crescent City near the Oregon border, the stockings were removed from the train and transferred to a “stage” for delivery to their final destination. Alas, though the thought of a macho Wild West wagon filled with ladies’ finery is a pleasing one, the stage was in fact an automobile. The driver probably would have faired better with a team of horses, for after a sudden cloudburst, he was forced to abandon both car and cargo in a flash-flooded stream.

The stockings soaked in the creek for four days, after which the consignee returned them to the shipper. The Glendale post office notified the Thieme Hosiery Company, who refused to accept the soggy, but insured, package and declared they would collect the damages.

Now everyone awaits the postal inspector. “It is expected that the affair will be straightened out after several reams have been covered with correspondence, at a large outlay of time and money,” sagely notes the Times.

A chunk of bog and thou

September 7, 1927
Los Angeles

When, oh when, oh when will something be done to soothe the smoldering peat fires that spill noxious smoke and gas from the vicinity of Jefferson and Hauser Streets in the Baldwin Hills? For more than two years the fire has crept inexorably deeper into the peat beds, and now twelve acres are burning just under the topsoil, endangering the health of 200,000 local lungs and the ankles of any local foolish enough to tramp through the booby-trapped fields. Forget the living! What of the mummies?!

Former City Councilman Mallard has issues a plea on behalf of his neighborhood that the City Council take this "rank poison" threat seriously and extinguish the blaze immediately. He even tells them how to do it: through steam shovels that can expose the burning beds, so water can be introduced. Of course, Mallard’s suggestion that the fire be fought in the manner of William Mulholland’s aqueduct project—get it done first, then get the permits—seems in retrospect to be in somewhat less than good taste, but the St. Francis dam disaster is still six months away, and the Mullholland name an untarnished example of Angeleno ingenuity.


In New York City, pioneer developer Gaylord Wilshire has died. In recent years, he devoted himself to promoting an electric "health belt" of his own invention, the “I-ON-A-CO.”

The Killer on Page Six

September 3, 1927 Marmola
Los Angeles

Not all crimes are reported on the front page – and not all criminals are gun toting bandits. It may seem like a slow news day, but lurking on page six of the Los Angeles Times was this innocent looking advertisement for the diet drug Marmola. In the future the drug will be exposed as a possible killer!

Let’s hop into the time machine and travel to 1938… The public was fed up with products that promised the world, but delivered illness, disfigurement, and death. A Senate subcommittee was formed to investigate the outrageous claims of some over the counter medications. Following the subcommittee’s recommendations, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act on June 25, 1938.

Attorneys for Marmola challenged the constitutionality of the law. They insisted that people had the, “inalienable right of self-medication”. The judge who reviewed the case disagreed stating that the legislation was enacted to, “make self-medication safer and more effective”. Marmola toned down its claims but remained on the market. Finally in the early 1940s the FDA, believing the drug to be dangerous, seized dozens of packets while they were in transit to La Crosse, Wisconsin. The drug went on trial in Madison, Wisconsin in 1943.

fat girlsA young woman from Chicago came forward with a horror story that left courtroom watchers in tears. She told the judge that she had purchased Marmola because she was tired of her weight being the subject of cruel taunts by her classmates. Her excess pounds began to melt away, but she had also developed some nasty side effects. She hadn’t known that she was taking desiccated thyroid in toxic amounts. By the end of seven months she was vomiting regularly and her weight would eventually plummet to a cadaverous 50 pounds! At the time of the trial she was deathly ill with persistent symptoms of hyperthyroidism.

Due in large part to the girl’s testimony, Marmola was finally pulled from drugstore shelves.

Diet elixirs such as Marmola aren’t quaint artifacts of bygone days. Just spend any Saturday morning watching today’s television infomercials hawking diet drugs and quack devices, each promising to transform you from a flabby couch potato to a sculpted body beautiful.

Caveat emptor.

Have a Zesty Labor Day!

September 3, 1927
Los Angeles

If you’re planning to escape the heat this Labor Day by going boating on Lake Arrowhead, don’t forget to take along your radio!


One Hump or Two


September 2, 1927
San Francisco 

May 26, 1976.  On that day I was exposed to Won Ton Ton, the Dog Who Save Hollywood, an event that catapulted my nine year-old brain into a fantasy world of 1920s Los Angeles, an event that pushed the movie I’d seen the previous weekend into the back of my psyche.  That previous picture still roams around and pokes its stinky, furry head out once in a great while.  Like now.  That cinematic masterpiece was called Hawmps!

The 127-minute F-Troop episode that is Hawmps! (wherein camels, or “hawmps,” as Slim Pickens calls them, win slim Pickens’ heart, and Jack Elam chews scenery, and look! there’s Denver Pyle) concerns itself with the role camels played in opening the western territory, courtesy of the United States Army.

With the War Between the States, and subsequent demise of the Camel Corps, Bactrians and Arabians were set loose, and feral camels became the stuff of legend.  Authenticated wild camel wanderings by and large ceased in the early 1900s.

But yesterday, September 1, a group of San Francisco financiers—A. C Mattel, Robert F. M. Duncan, William Leib and Lloyd Stevens announced their intention to hunt camels in the deserts of Arizona.  The paper discusses briefly the history of just why there happen to be camels therein (according to local historians, a hundred camels and sixty Arabs were imported from Arabia, but the plan failed because the Arabs disliked their jobs and went home; far be it from me to doubt the local historian of 1927, but it’s interesting to compare this account with Wikipedia’s).  “Backers of the proposed expedition in search of survivors expect historians and scientists to be interested in the venture.”


Then, today, the collected adventurers were contacted by one Arturo Carillo, who, thirty-three years ago, while making a mail trip from the Harqua Hala to the Vulture mine, captured what he considered “the last of the camels." Unable to find a buyer for the animal, he turned it loose.  This has heartened the intrepid camel seekers, and there are many more; A. C. Mattel, of the Honolulu-Consolidated Oil Company, said he has been swamped with letters from sportsmen all along the Pacific Coast seeking the chance to join the expedition.


No follow-up, unfortunately, as to the outcome of our dashing, pith-helmeted bankers’ trip into the blistering wasteland (it’s also unclear as to whether they planned to merely observe, or capture the camels, but I fear their intent was just to blast the poor beasts with their Remingtons for some rec-room head-mounting). 

Loathe Thy Neighbor

Red Wagon Murder principles Galloway & Christian

August 30, 1927
Mar Vista

Little Donald Galloway traded his red wagon to neighbor girl Naomi Christian for a bag of butter beans, but he didn’t tell his mother Madge. When she saw Naomi with her boy’s toy, she was steamed—yet another imposition from those terrible Christians, newly arrived Kentucky farm family, outsiders, interlopers. Wasn’t it enough, how they’d caused such a fuss about the pigeon coop, then insisted the Galloways keep back from the common fence? Well, she’d show Naomi Christian… and she snatched that wagon away! (She’d already cooked the beans.)

Naomi’s mama retaliated by relieving the Galloway kids of a tricycle, and the mothers met in the street and came to blows, Mrs. Galloway coming out the winner. Just another day at 3715 Barry Avenue.

When Walter Galloway, 37, came home that night, his wife had a full report on all the neighborly shenanigans. The next evening, the Galloways prepared to pick their kids up from the golf links, but first Galloway went looking for Christian, and when he couldn’t find him, used some raw language to neighbor Mrs. H.K. Cassidy. (He might have used rougher language still, had he known the Cassidys had loaned Thomas Christian a handgun, "for protection.") Mr. Cassidy objected to Galloway’s caddishness, and the two tussled in the Cassidy yard at 4040 East Boulevard.

Galloway lost. Then he rejoined Madge in the car, where upon they saw Thomas Christian, 52, stomping down the block. Galloway said they might as well see what the fellow had to say, maybe straighten everything out. Christian leaned into the car with one foot on the running board and Galloway asked, "So, Old Man Christian, who’s the boss in your house, you or your wife?"

"I’ll show you whose boss!" said Christian. That’s when he showed the gun. "I’ll show you whether I’ll shoot or not! When I shoot, I aim to kill!" And he did. Mrs. Galloway pulled her husband over to her side and bravely scooted under him and to the wheel, closer to the gunman. "Drive, honey, drive," urged Galloway, and she did, to Culver City Hospital. It took him three days to die, but he did today.

They called it the red wagon slaying, and the trial was notable for little Naomi taking the stand and swearing Mrs. Galloway had told her mother that one day she’d wake up a widow, and for the huge grin the defendant wore in the dock until the judge admonished him to knock it off.

In the end, the jury has to decide if Galloway had opened his car door and led Christian to believe he must shoot in self defense. They didn’t buy it. Or maybe they’d just had enough of the whole crazy neighborhood. The sentence: 1 to 10 years in San Quentin, and yet more ammunition for folks who believe you’d have to be nuts to live west of Western.

Persian Pussy Comes to Hollywood

Persian Headline

August 27, 1927

Future dwellers, don’t think we can’t see you smirking. This computational device works both ways you know. Drag your minds out of the gutter and we’ll tell you a cute story about a girl and her…cat.

Lydia Dixon is a stage actress from New York with an unusual reason for coming to Hollywood – her 18 year old Persian cat. The elderly white fluff ball was finding Gotham City winters too harsh, so when Lydia wrapped up a show on Broadway she made arrangements to vacation in Southern California with her favorite feline.

Lydia hadn’t considered working here but after spending a short time enjoying our glorious climate she wasWild Westcotts delighted when she was asked to play a role in the stage comedy, “The Wild Westcotts”. She accepted the part and can currently be seen on stage at the Vine Street Theater.

Lydia has said that she sometimes gets homesick for New York, but until her cat breathes its last she plans to stay right here in Tinseltown.

See, we told you it was a cute story. Shame on you!

Objects of Obscure Significance

Gentle reader, Lynn Peril and I have contributed to a new anthology of stories and photographs of objects which their owners invest with meaning beyond the visible. Taking Things Seriously is edited by Joshua Glenn and Carol Hayes, and includes oddities from the collections of Luc Sante, Tony Millionaire, Bill Griffith and dozens of other living magnets for interesting oddities, among them a bagel burned by Christopher Walken. For more info, or to purchase a copy, kindly click below.

Guess Who…

Guess Who Headline

August 20, 1927
Los Angeles

Esther and Wilber Ebermayer weren’t playing a silly children’s game when Esther called out “Guess Who” – she was reading the inscription from the back of a small photograph she had found tucked inside of her husband’s watch case. Guess Who Pic

Esther had expected to find her own picture in the case so she was surprised, hurt, and angry when she discovered the coyly inscribed photo of an unknown woman smiling back at her.

Friends to whom Wilber had shown the photo informed Esther that he had been describing the woman as his future bride – once he’d managed to rid himself of his current ball and chain.

The wronged wife immediately sought a divorce from her faithless husband. “Well,” she told Judge Sproul, “if that’s the way he feels about it, he is rid of me right now as far as I’m concerned”.

Memo to Wilber: buy yourself a wristwatch.

Where Will You Be on March 10, 1933?

where will you be headline

August 13, 1927
Los Angeles

Eminent geologist Dr. Robert T. Hill has stated unequivocally that Southern California is in no danger from earthquakes.

In his keynote address to the Building Owners and Managers’ Association, Dr. Hill told the group that “there is not a thread of evidence on which to hang a prophecy of an earthquake in this district”. He went on to say that “our occasional little earth tremors merely give me a little thrill in the day time or rock me sounder to sleep at night”. Dr. Hill’s assertion that the Los Angeles area is seismically stable was music to the ears of association members who have been vigorously protesting recent insurance rate increases. The geologist characterized the insurance carriers as “alarmist”.

Well, Dr. Hill, dial ahead six years and set your “alarmist” for 5:55 pm on March 10, 1933 when a sizeable earthquake will devastate sections of Long Beach and kill 115 people.

Dr. Hill was conspicuously absent from local newspapers following the Long Beach quake – not even a “no comment”. We hope he wasn’t spending time in this building – whatever it was.

Long Beach Quake