Don’t &#*% With the Librarian

librarytheftThese days, if you make off with a stack of library materials, the Los Angeles Public Library will report your thieving name to a collections agency.  But library bandits of yesteryear like 20-year-old Clyde M. Thompson faced much stiffer penalties.

A librarian at LAPL noticed that the copy of Eugene O’Neill’s controversial play All God’s Chillun Got Wings was at large, and traced the missing copy to Thompson.  About 30 library books were found in Thompson’s home at 1406 E. 110th St., and he was sentenced to 60 days in jail, 2 days for each stolen book.

samuelwardlawDuring the 1920s, the Los Angeles Public Library employed detectives to investigate thefts and mutilation of library material.  A 1929 Times article featured the efforts of Special Investigator Samuel Wardlaw, a man as hardcore as he was humorless.

He interrogated patrons in the stacks when he observed them hiding books, and once used a sorority pin to track down a young woman who tried to sneak a rare volume of Chaucer out under her coat.  While he seemed to have a soft spot in his heart for the children he captured, Wardlaw regarded most library patrons with a certain degree of contempt.  He said, "Sometimes I think the Los Angeles Public Library must be on the mailing or calling list of every crank and eccentric in the West."
While the library detectives frequently visited people at home to reclaim stolen books, it was rare that criminal charges were pursued.  No particular reason was given for poor Clyde Thompson’s exceptionally harsh sentence.

Hallowe’en Hi-Jinx

October 31, 1907vandals
Los Angeles

Everyone loves Hallowe’en high jinks—the artfully tossed toilet tissue, the odd splattered egg.  In 1907, of course, kids were simpler.  They just caused railroad collisions and overturned buildings.

That the honest pleasures of simple thievery and gunplay would suffice:  Mrs. W. Baker of 1211 Westlake Blvd. lost her potted plants, and her front gate, in fact numerous complaints came from the Westlake district of purloined porch furniture, and again, mysteriously, missing gates.  Horse and buggies were stolen, and young men fired their guns at random, and we assume that a jack-o-lantern may have been smashed.  But can a good time go too far?

Rail-greasings were the order of the evening’s festivities, as twenty-five yards of rail were greased at Santa Barbara and Vermont Avenue, causing the collision of two street cars; passengers were jolted, but none were injured.  Similarly, a Grand and Downey Avenue car collided with a Vermont car, and a Vermont car crashed into a Redondo car, and a West Eleventh Street car slammed into a Grand Avenue car—Los Angeles Railway called out 100 men, fitted with sand and rags, to identify and correct grease traps and prevent further hooliganism.  Pacific Electric men found oiled rails at two spots in Pasadena, and corrected the traps before more mayhem ensued.  A  tie was also placed across the Downey Avenue line, and a straw dummy was set up between the rails of the Pasadena short line.

Most remarkably, some students of Archimedes used a lever to overturn an entire real estate office.  The 12×20 foot structure, at Avenue 46 and Pasadena Avenue, was filled with $500 ($10,261.79USD 2005) in new furniture that realtor W. H. Gilbert had recently purchased for his home; after overturning the building the vandals set about smashing all the furniture.  

And so went another Los Angeles Hallowe’en, filled with holiday release.  One wonders if there wasn’t a budding Sylvestre Matuschka in the spirited mix.

Our Struggling Authors

In grappling with a novel about life in prison, writer Ernest Filer of Chicago decided that he should experience imprisonment for himself , thus he hatched the idea of breaking a window so he would be sent to jail.

He selected a small pane of glass at a cigar store and heaved a rock through it, assuming that he would be let off with a reprimand, a day or so in jail and an order to pay the cost of replacement.

The Cook County judge, however, took a dim view of his literary endeavors and