Only in LA: Peat Fires, Mature Mermaids and Baboon Co-Pilots

August 10, 1927
Los Angeles 

At Hauser and Jefferson today, Vernadine Burke and Margaret Goesman, both 16, sank up to their ankles in the burning peat that was combusting merrily away beneath the surface. In trying to extricate themselves, the horrified girls also scorched their hands. They were treated at Receiving Hospital and released.

At the Biltmore, manager and VP James Woods was deftly fending off the insistent demands of Captain J.M. Burman, mariner, aviator and San Pedro resident, that the hotel back his scheme to fly from Japan to Los Angeles with his pet baboon as his co-pilot. Burman states he is ideally suited for such a flight because he knows all the Pacific mountain peaks by which he and his monkey pal would steer.

And in Venice, Mrs. Anna E. Van Skike was planning to celebrate her 67th birthday with a 25-mile swim from Point Dume back to her home shore, in recognition of the good health that regular swimming has brought her. Her doctors declared she had tuberculosis at 55 and would surely die, but swimming chased the lung blots away for the Oklahoma native. Hundreds turned out in 1924 to watch the lady dive off the Venice pier, swim ten miles along the shore and sing the "Star Spangled Banner" from the waves on her return.

This is Van Skike’s seventh birthday distance swim, and her longest, and will be done with the support, encouragement and liberal doses of hot coffee from lifeguards Slert and Kinney, who will row their boat in the wake of the olive oil-coated "aged mermaid." She’ll begin the feat at 2am and hopes to be home in time for dinner, though she often quips she would "rather swim than eat" and avoids fried food and pastry for their waterlogging effects. She prefers the pre-dawn hours for her feats, as the water is calmer then, and she is subject to seasickness in heavy surf. She has founded a distance swimming club, and recommends the activity to all.

anna e van skike

Exclusive! Flapper Fashions Lead to Arrest, Disease

August 7, 1927

Bathing Beauty of 1927

Grandma knew better than to show her ankles on the street, but today’s young Jezebels think nothing of flaunting bare knees, backs, and arms in the public square. In a pair of exclusives to the Los Angeles Times, reporters covered the scourge of flapper fashions.

In woodsy Ellenville, New York, Chief of Police Ross bluntly described the problem facing his village. "They really don’t wear enough clothes, the girls who come here for the summer," he said today. Not that the town fathers objected to "short dresses and low-necked gowns, or even bathing suits" as long as the wearer appeared "to have at least a vague interest in swimming." Herein lay the problem. "Somehow a fad got started . . .," Chief Ross explained, "and now half of the girls are running around the streets dressed only in swimming trunks and blouses." On the streets, mind you, where children and the good town fathers might see them—and where no swimming ever took place. "Others wear some little jumpers that look like men’s track pants, sweaters and sandals," the law man continued, perhaps evidencing a more than professional interest in the topic. But woe to these sun-worshippers and their fans: Mayor Wells plans to call a meeting of city trustees next week to pass an ordinance compelling "the girls to wear more clothes."

Meanwhile, in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, Dr. Hoye E. Dearholt today announced that "[s]cantiness in women’s dress is primarily responsible" for a rise in "the white plague" of tuberculosis among young women. According to Dr. Dearholt (chief of staff at the Wisconsin Tuberculosis Association), girls and young women between the ages of 15 and 25 who diet to attain fashionably boyish figures and then dress in revealing clothing lower their resistance and set themselves up as easy prey for the disease. "There is a point in the race for scanty clothing at which a girl must stop, lest the body be chilled too much and weakened," the doctor noted before calling for "dress reform." Fashions "somewhere between the petticoat days of two decades ago and the extreme flimsiness of the present day dress would be ideal," he noted.

One only hopes Mayor Wells, Chief Ross, and Dr. Dearholt didn’t live to see the advent of the miniskirt and monokini in the 1960s.

I Did Not Have Sex with that Woman!

Jacobson Headline

August 6, 1927
Los Angeles

Councilman Carl I. Jacobson was arrested in a morals raid at 4372 Beagle Street in the company of a woman who said her name was Mrs. Councilman JacobsonHazel Ferguson, but who later admitted her real name was Mrs. Callie Grimes.

The married councilman insisted that he was framed and that the raid was the underworld’s retaliation for his much publicized crusade against vice in the city.

Jacobson, who lives in a small bungalow at 3014 Terry Place with his wife of thirty years, told cops that he had called upon Mrs. Ferguson to discuss a matter of street assessments with her. He said Mrs. Ferguson had telephoned him at his home and asked him to look over her property to see if it was worth paying the assessments.

When he arrived for their meeting Mrs. Ferguson poured two cocktails, and then moments later all of the lights in the house went out. It was then that police announced themselves and placed Councilman Jacobson and Mrs. Ferguson/Grimes under arrest.

The four arresting officers, Captains of Detectives Wallis and Williams, and Detectives Lucas and Raymond related a version of events substantively different from Jacobson’s account. They stated that they went to the Beagle street house, watched through a window and then observing what they felt constituted criminal behavior, crashed down a door to arrest the couple on morals violations. The arrest of Jacobson and Grimes begs the question: why were four high-ranking LAPD officers creeping around in the shrubbery with their noses pressed to a window like four Peeping Toms?

The case against Jacobsen would drag on. Jacobson would be tried twice on morals charges. In the first trial the jury would vote 9 to 3 for acquittal; in the second trial the jury would be evenly divided and the DA would decide against trying him for a third time. Mrs. Callie Grimes would confess to her part in the frame-up, and then recant. Grimes along with the four officers who conducted the raid would be tried for conspiracy, and the charges against them would be dismissed in 1929.

One of the detectives, Harry Raymond, would leave the LAPD and become a private investigator. He’d turn up again in the news as the victim of an attempted assassination by car bomb, in a 1938 corruption scandal involving Los Angeles Mayor Frank Shaw, members of his administration, and the LAPD.

What Next…a Garter Belt and Stockings?

 

Rubber Heels

August 6, 1927Horse Heels
Los Angeles

 

You’ve been tossing and turning all night, when finally in the wee hours of the morning you drift off to sleep – only to be awakened minutes later by the clatter of horse’s hooves on the pavement outside of your bedroom window. How many times has this happened to you? Well, if you are lucky enough to live along the route of Crescent Creamery your uninterrupted slumber is now assured. The dairy is providing their 600 horses with heels made of corrugated rubber which they say is good for the horse, and better for the insomniac.

“Good night, sweet Prince,
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest”
– Act 1: Scene 2 Hamlet, Shakespeare

Kneel Before Me… Peasant!

Anna Anderson

August 6, 1927
La-La Land

"A lie told often enough becomes truth." –Vladimir Lenin

On July 17, 1918, Bolshevik authorities, led by Yakov Yurovsky, shot Nicholas II and his immediate family in the cellar of the Ipatiev House in Ekaterinburg, Russia. Since then rumors have circulated that one of the Romanovs, Grand Duchess Anastasia, had miraculously survived assassination.

The woman in the photograph on the right is Anastasia Manahan aka Anna Anderson. Anna was a patient in a mental hospital in Dalldorf, Germany until another patient said that she recognized her as royalty. Anna would spend the next 57 years of her life claiming to be Anastasia. Neither her supporters nor her detractors would be able to substantiate Anna’s claim during her lifetime. Several years following her death, DNA tests would finally prove that she was not a Romanov.

Circus freaks and balloon walks

August 3, 1927

On this slow news day, readers of the Los Angeles Times were treated to a pair of interesting stories on page A8. The first was a five paragraph reprint from American Druggist magazine introducing Ben D. Rinehart, acting pharmacist for the Ringling-Barnum & Bailey circus. You probably never stopped to think that a 600-pound fat lady might need three times the normal dose for a sleeping potion to work, but Ben has. He’s also proud of his rickets treatments for elephants, who consume quarts of cod liver oil and are wrapped in bandages the size of bedsheets.

More whimsical still was the piece entitled "How To Walk On Air." How, you ask? Why, via that new and enervating sport of Balloon Jumping, as proposed in The Forum Magazine. Just grab hold of a big balloon with just slightly less lift than your weight and LEAP, over buildings, lakes and elephants with rickets! Mr. (wait for it) Frederick S. Hoppin is convinced that we’re at the outset of an age of shoulder-mounted gaspacks when everyone will have the ability to gambol about bearing just a portion of their natural weight. "Our whole present-day world would be turned upside-down. Legislatures will be busily engaged in passing laws prohibiting people from leaving the earth too freely, or rules for the right of way up and down and sideways, or regulations against landing on the head of a fellow citizen or planting a foot on any part of him as you rise. And then there would be the new rule of etiquette: should you pass over or around a lady?"

All right, class: discuss. 

The minute my back was turned, you drank all the hair tonic.

Two Black Crows

August 2, 1927
Hollywood 

A line stretched halfway down the block from the lobby of the Pantages Theater as eager fans waited their chance to be amused by Moran and Mack, popular blackface performers better known as Two Black Crows. Once they got inside, the audience enjoyed such trifles as a man who played Liszt on the banjo, a tap dancing sister act and the great Van Cello, who balances barrels on his feet.

Moran and Mack were a great hit, and indulged the cheering crowd with two skits, a comic boxing match and Mack’s signature "lazy shuffle." The evening closed with a screening of Colleen starring Madge Bellamy, in which Irish people were painted with a brush nearly as broad as the tar-dipped one that coats Two Black Crows. Just another night of fun and frolic in Movietown USA!  

Hear Two Black Crows in action here.

New Car Blues

new car blues

“… Is that its horn sounding
through the night or something darker
that needs to speak? “New Car Blues” – Charles Fishman

Los Angeles
July 23, 1927

World renowned psychologist, astrologer, palm reader, and clairvoyant Ralph Wagner, is shown in the photograph above being congratulated by his brother after purchasing a sporty new Chandler Royal eight roadster.

Mr. Wagner boasts an impressive roster of achievements as a psychic. He foretold the World War back in 1908, and he predicted the recent Weepah gold strike in October of 1926. During the past five years more than 54,000 Angelenos have consulted the palm reader for advice!

Ralph was dazzled by the performance of the vehicle and having read the palms of dozens of Chandler owners, he considered it a great buy, even though at prices ranging from $1495 to $2375 ($17,901.51 to $28,438.85 USD 2007), it was costlier than many other automobiles. Ralph was so passionate about his purchase that he raved, “…after having investigated the stability of the Chandler factory I knew that I was making no mistake in buying a Chandler, for their financial statement reads as solidly as the rock of Gibraltar.”

Poor Ralph – bad vibes must have jammed his psychic radar…or maybe the stars were out of alignment. By 1929, parts for his snazzy roadster would be difficult to find. Chandler’s best year was 1927 when they sold over 20,000 cars – one of them to our psychic friend. Anticipating continued stellar sales, the car maker expanded too quickly and by the end of 1928 they were over $500,000 ($5,987,126.44 USD 2007) in debt. Chandler was purchased by Hupp Motor Company in 1929 and vanished from the planet.

Will someone please check on the rock of Gibraltar, and give us a call?

“… In time the Rockies may crumble,
Gibraltar may tumble,
There’re only made of clay…” – George Gershwin