Was He The World’s Most Understanding Husband?

Mrs. CarnevaleFebruary 5, 1927
Venice

The twisted tale of Avalona Carnevale began last December 8, when the 30-year-old housewife from Venice made a phone call to her jeweler husband, Vincent. She couldn’t meet him in Los Angeles after all; he should take the street car home. And with that, she disappeared—-dressed in what was described as an expensive fur coat and wearing $1800 worth of jewelry (almost $22,000 today). Vincent waited two weeks, then reported her missing, along with her car.

Police originally suspected foul play. Then, on January 13, the Times ran excerpts from a letter Avalona had written to her parents the previous week. “Honestly, Mama dear,” it read in part, “I have wanted so badly to let you know I am all right. As you know, I have been perfectly miserable the last few years and I was never contented. The climax came and I simply ran away from everything and everybody.” She was happy now, living in Long Beach with “a real he-man” named Bob. Bob, in turn, enclosed a note telling Avalona’s parents that she was “in safe and devoted hands.”

Happy, safe, devoted—-it sounded perfectly peachy. Until today, that is, when Avalona made a statement to the police testifying that she had been lured from home by “a Barnes City circus employee” who kept her in such a state of constant intoxication that “she was by turns both unable and fearful to leave him.” It started with a few drinks in the circus man’s room. From there they went to a hotel in Culver City, where more alcohol was consumed. Her “mind was somewhat clouded from that moment on,” she told police, but her drinking buddy eventually pawned one of her bracelets for $25, which he then spent on liquor. They went to San Francisco and later to Oakland. Avalona didn’t contact police in those cities because the man beat her frequently, and she was afraid he would kill her if she tried to leave him. Eventually she did, seeking refuge in the home of Mr. and Mrs. A.M. Chisholm. Mr. Chisholm sent a telegram to Vincent Carnevale a week ago, informing him of his wife’s whereabouts.

That letter to her parents, the one telling them how happy she was with her “he-man” in Long Beach? Avalona told police she “faintly remembered” writing it.

Her husband retrieved her from Oakland (both the car and the jewels were gone) a few days ago. “She is my wife; she is in my home—-that, I think is all the evidence you need of my intentions,” Vincent Carnevale told newsmen.

It was a noble sentiment, but it turned out that Carnevale had signed and sworn to a divorce complaint on January 31—-the day after he received notice that his wife was in Oakland. But just as Avalona couldn’t quite remember writing that damning letter to her parents, Vincent was sketchy about the divorce papers, which were filed with the court on February 7—-in error, according to Carnevale. “I did not mean to have the complaint filed,” he told the Times. “I’d forgotten all about it in my worry and joy at finding her [his errant missus] again. As far as I’m concerned, the matter is now a closed book.”

And so it remains.

Pass the Bromo, Please

January 1, 1928
Los Angeles

A year ago prohibition agents observed that "last-minute calls for holiday cheer" skyrocketed on New Year’s Eve, so this year detective chief George Contreras and his men staked out area roadhouses. When "suspicious-looking characters" drove up, they were searched. Five flivvers were confiscated and thirty bootleggers arrested—and yet heads are splitting all over Los Angeles this morning for, despite the last minute roundup, the hooch flowed freely last night.

Indeed, by 7 o’clock this morning, the Coroner’s Office and Receiving Hospital listed two dead, eight critically—perhaps fatally—injured, and another seventy people slightly hurt in booze-fueled traffic accidents, including a pedestrian who was "partially scalped" in a hit-and-run at 39th and Vermont.

Over at 1827 W. 78th Place, Justus Gunn woke up after the party he and his wife hosted for their friends and discovered that his wife was missing. Gunn told police he "retired [or passed out?] as the guests were leaving" and didn’t notice the little woman was gone until this morning. Friends didn’t know where she was, and Gunn declared there had been "no quarrels or disagreements which might explain her sudden departure." There was no further mention of Mrs. Gunn in the pages of the Times, so whatever the cause of her disappearance, it probably wasn’t criminal.

More ominously, 14-year-old Florence Ellison left her father’s house (723 Bonnie Beach Place) yesterday afternoon to visit her mother (522 Clifton Street). Around 7:30 last night, Florence rang the doorbell at 620 South Wilton Place and told C.R. Morrison she was lost. Morrison drove Florence to the streetcar, gave her directions, then returned home and called Florence’s mother. But Florence never arrived.

Epilogue: Florence Ellison was found, fatigued and possibly drugged, on January 2. She told police that after becoming lost, she joined the New Year’s celebrations downtown where she met cabdriver Edmund D. Kearney at about midnight. They had drinks, and after a drive through Chinatown, Florence spent the night at his apartment. Kearney was held on suspicion of contributing to the delinquency of a minor. No information was given as to just how Florence spent New Year’s Day.

Two Strikes … And The Wife Steps In

December 4, 2007
Los Angeles

Like many people, Mr. and Mrs. Harry Franklin of 181 Griffith Avenue like to have a little nip now and then, a simple pleasure made exceedingly difficult these dry days. Of course, there are ways of getting around the Volstead Act, but these often prove risky. Just what the cops were doing in the Franklin family bathroom on November 2, the Times didn’t reveal, but the lawmen discovered eleven pints of whisky there.

This week, the Franklins came before Municipal Judge Sheldon. In an unusual move, Ludie Franklin, Harry’s wife, asked to be substituted for her husband as the defendant in the case. Harry, it seems, had already been twice convicted on liquor charges. If found guilty a third time, the judge could send him up the river for year or two. Judge Sheldon agreed to this novel plan and Ludie went before the jury, who found her guilty as charged and sentenced her to forty days in the clink. Let’s hope Harry had a nice, dry celebration for her when she got out.

Lunch Lady, Give Me a Scotch!

October 2, 1927
Bell

To twenty-first century eyes, the headlines make it sound like a retro-ironic hipster bar for postmodern cocktail sippers: "Liquor ‘Cafeteria’ Found. Raiders Say Drinks Made to Order in Bell House." Anybody feel a spree coming on?

Well, before you round up the gang and head on over, there’s one thing you should know about the house raided under the direction of Chief George Contreras this weekend: the top-shelf booze it poured was fake. That’s right, the "’Scotch’ whiskies of aristocratic highland brands, ‘fine old Kentucky Bourbons,’ ‘Gordon’ gin and other rare liquors of ancient lineage" were mixed up in the back room out of cut alcohol and glycerin—as the customer waited, no less.

Dry raiders found a complete bottling plant on the premises as well as printing plant where labels mimicking those of famous brands were created. Fifty gallons of the alcohol used as a base were secreted underground in the yard.

It’s All Fun Until Somebody Gets Shot

September 18, 1927
Inglewood

“A huge bowl of punch made from high-proof bootleg whisky” stood at the center of a drunken brawl that left one man near death and another on the lam early this morning. When an employee of the automobile wrecking plant located at 10636 Hawthorne Boulevard arrived for work around 8:00 a.m. today, he found Inglewood real estate developer H.C. Mitchell lying in a pool of blood at the back of the garage. Though badly wounded, Mitchell identified plant owner A.H. Van der Mark as his assailant. Officers have yet to verify that Mitchell, who remains in critical condition at Milton Hospital with gunshot wounds to his right lung and leg, is a former official of the Ku Klux Klan. Meanwhile, Van der Mark has disappeared.

Eyewitnesses told different stories, but all agree the shooting occurred after a long night of heavy drinking at Van der Mark’s home (also the site of the wrecking plant). Mr. and Mrs. Charles Proctor told police the party was in full swing when they arrived, with guests freely partaking of the whisky punch. By 3:00 a.m., only the couple, Mitchell, Van der Mark, and Grace Haynes (a widow and the “asserted sweetheart of Van der Mark”) remained. Everything was rosy until Van der Mark allegedly told Mitchell that the latter’s habit of reporting bootleggers to the authorities “would make no difference in their regard for each other.” Apparently these were fighting words, for a scuffle began shortly thereafter. The combatants were separated, but Van der Mark returned with a .22 caliber rifle. The fight recommenced, three shots rang out, Mitchell fell to the kitchen floor, and the Proctors skedaddled. Police believe Mitchell then walked from the kitchen to where he was found in wrecking plant. Neither of the Proctors was held after making their statements.

Grace Haynes, on the other hand, is being held in County Hospital as a material witness. She claims the severe bruising about her head and body was caused by Mitchell, who she says arrived at the party looking for trouble. He had several fistfights with partygoers smaller than himself, including Van der Mark, who wound up knocked out—and presumably unable to avenge his lady’s honor. Haynes’s brother (he wasn’t there, but the Times was happy to interview him anyway) says his sister told him Van der Mark was passed out, not knocked out, but either way, “He was cold when Mitchell pitched into another member of the party and this man got a rifle and shot him.” And who was this man with the rifle? Why, none other than Mr. Charles Proctor. Haynes also told her brother that while everybody else at the party was more or less blotto, she herself was completely—totally!—sober.

To recap, of the five people present at the end of last night’s wild party, three claim Van der Mark shot Mitchell, one claims Proctor did the deed, and the fifth hasn’t been seen since the incident occurred.

In perhaps not unrelated news, the Times reports that the state now holds sixth-place in the nation for the number of “feeble-minded” persons admitted to institutions this year—or, as a headline summed up: “CALIFORNIA IDIOTS GAIN IN NUMBERS.”

Signs of the Times

November 5, 1907boozesign
Los Angeles

Just as an innocent toke of reefer leads to a lifetime of laudanum addiction, everybody knows that electric signs lead to…neon!

Neon wouldn’t be introduced to the United States until 1923 (specifically, at the Earl C. Anthony Packard dealership, 10th & Hope Street).  That first reefer toke, though…that was the electric sign…

Property owners of 1907 argue that electric signs, particularly those of the swinging variety which jut from the façades of buildings, make the streets look tawdry.  Moreover, they nullify the illumination systems on principal business streets, and will become eyesores and nuisances.

The Mayor, however, is outspoken in favor of electric signs.  They illuminate business thoroughfares, and are an ornament to the city.  A man of vision, our Mayor Harper.

But what to do, then, with the Jim “de champ” Jeffries’ new saloon sign on South Spring?  He has had one built and installed, swung over the sidewalk, “bearing in letters as big as one of his mitts the magic pugilistic name.”

While this type of signage violates numerous and sundry City ordinances, the Board of Public Works has ignored similar signs in the downtown area that advertise cafés and theaters, who are crying foul in that municipal authorities have allowed such signs to hang for the last year.  Because of Jeffries’ transgression, he and all other sign owners received letters from the City Attorney demanding the removal of any and all projecting signage, the worry being that should these signs become commonplace, “the sidewalks would be converted into tunnels darkened and obstructed by a covering of advertising signs.”

Moreover, a proposed ordinance shall prohibit signage advertising liquor.  Can this be?

Mayor Harper stands firm.  What will become of our city?

electricyouthHere’s a vision of the future:  electric signage along Broadway, ca. 1920, as pictured in, uh, this book.