Baby Farm

 

March 10, 1927
Bellflower

baby farm headline

Police received a tip that next to the home of Ray Foss in Bellflower, several people had been observed burying something that may have been the body of an infant. Thankfully, no bodies would be found. Police had discovered however, that Ray had an outstanding felony warrant from 1925 for operating a "baby farm" in Moneta (near Gardena). The fear of being nailed on the baby farm charge loosened his tongue, and Ray Foss began to relate a sordid tale of baby trafficking, illegal adoption, an alimony racket, bigamy, and narcotics addiction.

Ray told the cops that a woman being held in County Jail on forgery charges under the name of Minnie Williams was actually his wife, and that she had been the proprietress of the Moneta baby farm.

The baby farm had come to the attention of the authorities in 1925 when Minnie sold a baby girl to a woman who gave her name as Mrs. Johnson. The infant was found to be blind, and Mrs. Johnson returned the child and demanded a refund. The child later died. Mrs. Foss gave the woman $25 in cash, and in lieu of the remaining $35, she gave her another baby! Ray and Minnie fled a short time later to avoid standing trial.

During the next two years Minnie trafficked in babies, ran an alimony racket, and fed her drug addiction. She provided infants for women to carry into court when seeking alimony. Prior to being identified as Minnie Foss, she’d tried a variation of the alimony con in Judge Hardy’s court. Using the Williams alias, she made an emotional plea for probation on the forgery charge, alleging that she was about to become a mother. The court soon discovered that she was not actually Minnie Williams, and that she was wanted in the Moneta baby farm case. With the masquerade over, Mrs. Foss began to confess to Deputy District Attorney Costello.

Things got off to a strange start when Minnie was asked to state her name for the record. She told the Deputy DA that her last name was really Hines, not Foss. She said that she’d married Ray Foss when she was only 15 years old, and then met Clarence Hines in 1921. The three lived together in a ménage a trois until Foss left. Minnie claimed that she then married Clarence, but never went to the trouble or expense of divorcing Ray.

How did Minnie end up trafficking in babies? According to her, she was in fact, a "serial adopter". In 1922 she had noticed a newspaper ad about adopting a baby. She said that she went to the Mexican quarter near the Plaza and met with a couple who told her that they had a child they couldn’t keep. Minnie took the baby home and passed him off to Clarence as his own child. She told him that the child had been born to her while she was away in Burbank!

Clarence may have been a very dim bulb, because over the next few years Minnie said that she brought home several other infants including a set of twins, and that she had informed him that he was the father! According to Minnie, Clarence never questioned her about any of the babies, so she continued to adopt.

Maybe Clarence wasn’t quite as gullible as Minnie had thought, however. When questioned by police, Clarence told a slightly different story. He said that he’d known that his wife sometimes placed “not wantedâ€Â babies. He also told investigators that he was aware of a black trunk which may have been used to store baby clothes or as a coffin for some of the unwanted babies. The trunk was later found at a home near Bakersfield that had once been occupied by Ray Foss.

baby farm trunk

When the trunk was examined by police it was found to contain baby clothes, a hypodermic needle, and a marriage license issued to Ray Foss and Minnie Magnolia Williams. Also found in the trunk were approximately twenty-four photographs of young girls and babies.

Even though Minnie said that she’d adopted the infants, the most likely scenario was that she occasionally kept unwanted babies born to women in her care. Where did all of the babies go? Police traced many of the children to foster parents who subsequently adopted them. Several infants remained unaccounted for.

Although there were many unanswered questions – particularly regarding the fates of the infants who could not be found, Deputy DA Costello dropped the baby farm charges because Minnie and Clarence had confessed everything to his satisfaction – including an addiction to narcotics for which Minnie was treated with Narcosan. The DA’s office couldn’t pursue the bigamy charges because the statute of limitations had run out.

Minnie pleaded guilty to issuing a fraudulent check and was given a sentence of from one to fourteen years in prison. Clarence received a similar sentence.

We’re Saved!

February 16, 1927
Los Angeles

narcoheadlineThose junkies and hopheads that once provided the occasional bruise on this perfect ripe plum that is Los Angeles—shall be no more!  Though alcoholism was cured in 1908, drug addiction still remains to blight the landscape.  But Narcosan has arrived to save the day!  

Drs. E. H. Anthony and Benjamin Blank, their committee of peace officers and other physicians in tow, have at their disposal the first shipment from New York of this new European wonder drug.  

Any addicted Angeleno can trot down to Blank’s offices in the Quinby Building, Seventh and Grand, and take the cure free of charge.  They’ve got fifteen addicts lined up to undergo treatment and are looking to administer to at least another ten, so get down there you, you narc-addled fiend!

(Despite liberal Narcosan administration to the lucky souls who so evidently deserved it,  apparently the wonder drug didn’t work out so well.)

News of the Day

December 22, 1927
Los Angeles

Let’s put up our feet and see what’s gone on in the world this day.  Not much.  The odd curiosity or two.   
hemp
According to our concerned friends at the paper, it seems the Mexicans are making a menace of themselves, using flowers of the “hemp” plant as some sort of habit-forming drug (they’re such a resourceful people!).  Apparently the Imperial Linen Products Company has blanketed the Imperial Valley with the stuff.  Well, I’m sure the State will sort this one out to everybody’s satisfaction.

 

 

onelastcigOh dear, here’s another fellow who just couldn’t resist a final cigarette.  Seems J. B. Smith left the wife at his Glendale home and checked into the LaViolette Hotel on North Maclay in San Fernando.  He brought with him a stack of goodbye letters indicating his fears about going mad, and a loaf of bread—not for snacking, but for soaking in water and wadding into the wafty windows and drafty doors (my hat off again to the resourcefulness of our Southlanders).  Of course, no-one banks on the dang’d jets taking so long.  Thankfully J. B. also brought along a pack of smokes to pass the time…the hole blown in the wall was six feet in diameter.  J. B.’s smoldering remains lived long enough to say goodbye to his wife at the hospital, but not much longer than that.

ostrichmanAnd oh my, it seems one of my favorite attractions of the stage, Sidney Barnes the Human Ostrich, has expired in New Orleans.  After complaining of stomach pains, the Homo Struthio underwent an operation to remove a cigar box full of bolts, carpet tacks, razor blades, washers and nails from therein—Barnes did not emerge alive.  Guess growing up to be a carnival side can be rough, kids!

 mistakenidentity

And what do have we here…a Coroner’s inquest will be held at 1:30 today to determine whether Ralph McCoy, in City Jail on suspicion of robbery, actually hung himself in his cell or was killed by fellow prisoners—it seems McCoy bears (well, bore) a resemblance to one William Edward Hickman.

Oh yeah.  Hickman.  Some mention in the paper about him, too.

vaunted thanksfoild

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 guns

‘Tis the Season for Rum Running and Shoot Outs…

tis the season headline

December 10, 1927
Los Angeles

According to police there are several rival gangs of bootleggers known to be in the city for the Christmas holiday season, and a full blown gang war may be in the offing.

Cleo Bush, 37 years old, of 813 Flower Street, may have become the first casualty in the battle. In his own words, he was “called out” of the Glycol Products Company at 953 South Bixel Street by two men. Cleo told Captain of Detectives Cahill that he recognized the men as enemies who had been trying to “get” him for the last two years, but in true gangland style he refused to identify them. The unnamed assailants fired five .25 caliber rounds at Cleo, striking him once in the back. Cleo is in critical condition at Georgia Street Receiving Hospital following emergency surgery to remove the bullet that penetrated his right lung.

Cleo advised the cops to stay out of his business. He said he’d settle his own affairs. “I’ll attend to those birds when I get out of here,” he said, “and if I don’t, well, that’s all in the game.”mrs evans

Five people were detained as material witnesses to the shooting: Mrs. Lelia Evans, 28, her husband, Lew Evans, 32, of 508 Union Drive; Jim Riley, 31, of 1130 Trenton Street; Claude Haggle, 27, of 1110 Ingraham Street, and Edward C. Young 34, of 1085 Lewis Street, Long Beach. None of the witnesses were willing to identify the shooters. There was a neighborhood witness to the crime; Mr. G.E. Christie of 945 South Bixel Street. He told police that he heard the shots and went outside in time to see two men flee the scene in a roadster.Omar Lipps

Cleo recovered and was released from the hospital, but he continued to keep mum regarding the names of his assailants. Following an anonymous tip, Mr. Omar Lipps, 28, of 438 South Union Drive, was picked up by cops and confessed to the shooting. A trial date was set but Cleo took a powder and the case never made it to court. Lipps maintained that Cleo owed him $400 [$4,803.13 USD 2007] after losing to him in a craps game, and he was adamant that the shooting had nothing to do with rum running.

opium flutes

 

 

Epilogue

There were no further mentions of Cleo Bush in the LA Times after 1928 – the man knew how to vanish. Omar Lipps probably should have disappeared too, but instead he stayed in the area, frequented the same old haunts, and got into more trouble. He was arrested during a vice raid in April 1930 for possession of a complete opium outfit.

April of 1931 would find Omar caught in another police raid – this time of a dope pad at 187 South Alvarado Street. Equipment to accommodate half a dozen opium smokers was confiscated, along with pipes ingeniously constructed from flutes!

Omar obviously had a bad opium jones because he was arrested for a third time on January 3, 1935, for narcotics violations. He was holding a lamp, hose, and a small brown bottle containing yen shee. Yen Shee is the residue left in the opium pipe’s bowl and stem after the opium has been smoked.  Think about THAT the next time you have a “yen” for something.

Good Find is Hard to Help

 wereallwoundedbysomeone

December 2, 1927
Hollywood

theclimaxMrs. Margaret Pumphrey, 27, of the Milner Road Pumphreys, was standing in her bedroom of her hillside home, preparing to go downtown, when she was approached by her white-jacketed butler.  He asked if there were any further orders.  Mrs. Pumphrey said there were none.

With that, her servant—Richard R. Ewell, 30—developed an “insane gleam” in his eye and approached further…whereupon Mrs. Pumphrey noticed the .45 automatic in his hand.  

The chase—and fusillade of shots—began!  Mrs. Pumphey fled through a bathroom and into an adjoining bedroom, through a hallway and down the stairs, but there’s no running from the staff.  They know the house better than you do.

The mad pursuit and firearm blasts continued from room to room to room until Margaret managed to lock herself into a downstairs bedroom.  Ewell fired several shots into the door to break the lock, but once he heard the window open, he ran around the house to catch her escaping.  And catch her he did—as he climbed into the window, he shot her in the side as she ran screaming out the door.  

The screams alarmed neighbor Mrs. Johnstone, who came running (with her two maids in tow [also suitably armed?]) and Ewell fired upon them from the home’s entryway—but Ewell, realizing that the alarm had been raised and his game discovered, put the barrel to his head and sent his brains all over the foyer he’d kept so spotless the three months he’d been under the Pumphrey’s employ.

Mrs. Margaret Pumphrey (could Kaufman & Ryskind have scripted a name of greater puffery?) suffered more from shock and fright (as visions of FLW’s former servant surely flashed through her head) than from her injury; she was rushed to Hollywood Receiving and was treated for the superficial wound and released.  

According to LeRoy Bird, with whom Ewell lived at 4307 Hooper Avenue, Philadelphia native Ewell was an industrious man of good character and habits and never had any previous trouble.  Detective Lieutenant Mahoney contends that Ewell had probably been crazed by dope, especially as he’d been out the night before and had acted strangely in the morning.

Ewell leaves a widow, Inez Ewell, in Kansas City.  Because his death was self-inflicted, there was no inquest over the body.  A small notebook was later found in Ewell’s possessions, and it was greatly hoped by Captain of Detectives Slaughter to contain names of prominent Hollywood people and information about dope trafficking; but sadly for Slaughter, “the only names in the book, the officer declares, are those of negresses and it is devoid of anything referring to narcotics or trade in the drugs.”

So why did Richard Ewell snap?  If only we had some sign.

Of weeds, critters, beards and burning

November 15, 1927
Los Angeles

All around town, the news is notable.

Off in Owensmouth (Canoga Park to you crazy modernists), the citizens complain there are so many stray dogs in the streets, it’s worse than Constantinople. Consider the deep valley as your next exotic vacation spot.

Mrs. Andria Reyes, 34, has eleven children and a husband who won’t work, and they all have the munchies. That’s more or less the excuse she gave Judge Westover for her small marijuana farming operation.

1120 East 32nd Street was burning, and Mrs. Frankie Weaver, 64, escaped unharmed. But once on the street, she realized she’d forgotten her canary Dickey. Back into the flaming second floor she charged, only to fall back, burned, inconsolable, without her little pet. They found her on the neighbors’ porch, badly injured but unaware of herself, gazing mournfully into the fire, and took her to Georgia Street for treatment.

And in Wahperton, North Dakota, comes the passing of Hans Langseth, who had not cut his beard since July 14, 1875. It measured 17 feet when he breathed his last, and he could not only wear it round his neck like a muffler (mmm, sexy!), but traveled the world as a circus exhibition and won the 1922 world’s longest competition at the Days of ’49 celebration in Sacramento. We hear these things grow posthumously, so let’s call Hans’ crowning glory 17 feet, 1 inch. Huzzah!

High Times

 

high times headline

October 15, 1927 Hunter S Thompson
Los Angeles

When you can’t legally purchase a fifth of Jack Daniels, what can you do to get a buzz and have a little fun? Well, if you are Mr. Raymond Rice, 40, of 1935 Orchard Avenue, you will get higher than a kite by guzzling significant quantities of products loaded with ether such as hair tonic, shellac, and canned heat, and then you’ll go for a drive. Maybe the next time Raymond gets hammered on ether he’ll stay at home. Officers Meyers and McClellan spotted him blocking traffic with his automobile and cited him for being intoxicated.

Forty-five years from now gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson will say it best in his remarkable novel “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”: “There is nothing in the world more helpless and irresponsible and depraved than a man in the depths of an ether binge.”

Wrightwatch ’27

flwAugust 26, 1927
Madison, Wisc.

Frank Lloyd Wright was a favorite son of Los Angeles, where he threw off the Prairie mantle and began creating his kooky indigenous-flavored block houses (e.g., Storer, Millard, Ennis, Freeman) in contrast to the Spanish Colonial (or, say, Egyptoid Tudor Chateauxesque) prevalent in the Southland’s early 20s, before he said to hell with LA and lit out for his cursed home, Taliesin.  

There was much architectural buzz about Mr. Wright in 1927, as he’d already designed a theater model for Aline Barnsdall, who announced in January that she’d build the structure as part of her eight-acre “city cultural center” gift to Los Angeles of her own FLW Hollyhock House and property.

barnsdall

When the Smart People of to-day tour FLW’s block houses and consider his play of light over form, and gauge its relationship between the zig of Meiji woodblock prints and the zag of Walter Burley Griffin’s green thumb, they probably aren’t informed that ol’ FLW had a lurid past fit for any tabloid-worthy favorite son of Los Angeles.

For example, while married to Catherine Wright, he fell in love with another woman, one Mamah Borthwick.  Catherine wouldn’t divorce him, so Wright abandoned her and the six kids and went galavanting around Europe with Mamah.  On his return, Catherine still wouldn’t divorce him, so Wright brought scandal to Spring Green, Wisc. by shacking up with Mamah.  This was sorted out in short order when one of his domestics decided to utilize a Wrightian architectural principal—one door for all purposes—which made it easy to axe-murder seven people trying to flee a Taliesin you’d just set on fire.  And Mamah was one of those so axed.   

Catherine finally divorced Frank in 1922 on charges of desertion, so he could marry his new love, a morphine addict named Miriam Noel.  They married in 1923, separated in 1924; Wright began seeing Petrograd Ballet dancer Olgivanna Lazovich Milanov (thirty-three years his junior) in 1925 and was thereafter arrested in 1926 for violating the Mann (White-Slave Traffic) Act.  Oh, and Taliesin burned again, though this time without anybody being hacked to bits.

frankgettingpopped
Frank getting popped by the feds, 1926 

divorceThe lucky Wright-drama followers of 1927 were treated to tales of Frank and Miriam’s divorce.  Today, Miriam was awarded $6,000 ($66,179 USD2006) immediately, $30,000 (330,889) in trust, and $250 (2,757) a month for life.  The cash settlement and Wright’s promise that he "would lead a moral life" preceded the court decree.

With a cushy settlement like that, you’d think that’s the last we hear of Miss Miriam.  You’d be wrong.  She spends the next few years loudly proclaiming Wright’s brutality and repellant morals, with much effort expended in Washington attempting to get Olga deported.  In a typical Miriam moment, July 14, 1928, she is arrested on a charge of malicious mischief after breaking miriaminto FLW’s rented La Jolla home while he’s up in Los Angeles:  “So thorough was the wrecking that the colored maid in charge of the house in Wright’s absence collapsed from the shock and was taken to the Scripps Memorial Hospital.  ‘About fifteen minutes more and I would have leveled the place,’  Mrs. Wright is said to have told police when arrested…damage to the La Jolla home is estimated at about $1000…Mrs. Wright smiling pleaded guilty and following the court action, swore out complaints against her husband and Olga Hinzenberg, also known as Olga Milanoff, charging them with being lewd and dissolute persons.”

Miriam finally expires in 1930.

We’ll keep you posted on all breaking FLW news. 

I’d keep an eye on that Schindler character if I were you. 

Unclear on the Concept

July 6, 1927
Los Angeles 

Memo to Officer Fritzler of the Los Angeles police: next time you pull a guy over at Twelth and Main because you think he’s driving drunk, don’t tell him to drive you over to headquarters so you can throw him in the pokey.

Oh, everything might go just find as far as the police are concerned, but when you show up in Judge Wilson’s court to defend the arrest, you’ll be roundly chastised for letting someone you believed drunk remain in his car, because… Officer… the point of the drunk driving laws it to get drunks out from behind the wheel, not to turn them into chauffeurs for cops!

Since Fritzler clearly believed Fred Heegal was capable of driving safely through downtown traffic, and no test of drunkenness was given, the charges were dismissed, for this case and a similar one involving Officer Neff against C.A. Peterson.

Hooray for Hollywood!

Rose Host Headline

July 2, 1927
Hollywood

“Hitch your wagon to a star.” — Ralph Waldo EmersonRose Host

A blue-bound copy of Emerson’s essays, 50 cents, and the clothes on her back were all that Miss Rose Host had with her when she stowed away aboard the Panama Pacific liner “Manchuria” bound for Los Angeles. If Capt. William J. Munroe hadn’t been so understanding and hadn’t allowed her to earn her passage by stamping passenger forms for the ship’s purser Leo Gallagher, she may never have made it.

Rose’s picture appeared today in the Los Angeles Times accompanied by a story about her Hollywood dreams of gold and fame. A beauty contest winner in her home state of New York, Rose believes that a successful career in tinsel town is within her grasp.

Fast forward six months. Rose landed a bit part in the film “Shootin’ Irons” with Jack Rose and JackLuden. See – that’s Rose in the photograph, nothing more than a silhouette. Her part was so small she wasn’t even mentioned in the credits, and her Hollywood dreams ended with one picture. Rose Host the actress was not heard from again.

Maybe she became an English professor, sharing her love of Emerson with idealistic undergraduates. Let’s hope so, because when a Hollywood dream becomes a nightmare you have Jack Luden’s story.

Jack and Rose were both in their 20s when they made “Shootin’ Irons” together. Jack was an heir to the Luden’s cough drop fortune, but he was young and it was Hollywood so he tried his hand at acting. He was a handsome guy and Paramount planned to feature him in westerns as they’d done with Gary Cooper. Unfortunately for Jack, “Shootin’ Irons” wasn’t a success and by 1930 the studio had either dropped him or he’d walked away from his contract to pursue a life as a junkie.

How he spent the years between 1930 and 1936 remains something of a mystery, but by the 1940s the thrice married Luden had a monkey on his back the size of Cheeta on steroids. He drifted in and out of the movie business – and trouble, for the next decade.

During those six lost years Jack evidently acquired a taste for the seamy side of life. Busted several times for shoplifting to support his heroin habit, he was known to have said "a crooked buck is sweeter than an honest dollar." Jack, it seems, was an unrepentant sinner.

Finally in 1951 he was sent to San Quentin for drug possession and passing bad checks. Nine months into his sentence Jack dropped dead of a heart attack. He was 49.

 “Come on and try your luck
You could be Donald Duck
Hooray for Hollywood!”
— Johnny Mercer