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.

Christmas Cheer in a Razorblade

monroy

December 27, 1927
Los Angeles

Carlos Monroy, 35, was that precarious combination, a glazier and lush, and the missus no longer wished to live with him. So Anita, 29, took Carlos Junior, 10, and moved in with mama, Antonia Barron of 626 East 36th Place, while Carlos stayed with his mother and brother at 2915 New Jersey Street.

It being Christmas, Carlos found himself missing his family, and dropped by the Barron home, with a bottle of whiskey and a long line of apologies. Anita didn’t want to hear it. She intended to be divorced, and further, she and her sister Leonora were going downtown to shop. Would he please leave?

Anita went to the bathroom, and Carlos followed her in, where he drew a razor from his coat pocket and slashed at her throat. Anita ran, bleeding and screaming, through the spare bedroom and into the dining room. Carlos finished her off there, then turned the blade on himself. Their son and the Barron women were witnesses to the carnage, then called for aid, though it was far too late for anything but tears.

Hickmaniana

January 23, 1927
Los Angeles

hangingaround

Following up yesterday’s story about whether one Ray McCoy was lynched for looking too much like Edward Hickman…

The verdict of the Coroner’s jury?  Jail officials and other prisoners, all vindicated.  Nevertheless, it seems that Ralph “Ray McCoy” Fuller raised the ire of Angelenos in the grip of Hickman fever, whose Hickmanmania (Hickmania?  Hickmentia?) led an angry mob to chase down and beat Fuller something fierce, believing the twenty year-old to be Hickman, after Fuller robbed a store at 242 South Main and was chased two blocks on foot.

Fellow prisoner Fred Meadows told the Times that once in the hoosegow, the sullen and reserved Fuller was regarded as just another popped burglar.  Meadows related how he and the boys started playing “Sundown” in an outer tank and when he returned, Fuller had hanged himself with Meadows’ scarf.  (Must be nice to have scarves.  And pianos.)

In other lynching news, any and all information regarding Hickman’s departure and route from Pendleton (where he was exhibited in a cage like a circus animal) to Los Angeles County Jail is being kept under strict secrecy.  

damnyoufriedrich 

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

sadfasdfasylummotherfurorfasherimgadfadqueerquirksleepsmosherconfessionescapedattackflaw2flightouttaindictmentsdfasdf hicktaked

 auto

 

 guns

Matthew 5:16 Goes Electric

 shedslight

captfixitDecember 16, 1927
Sawtelle

 

Los Angeles Police Captain W. L. Hagenbaugh feeds more juice into the stills of Sawtelle than he gets from them; after he raids the moonshiners and chops up their contraptions of copper and coil, he fashions fixtures and floor lamps for his new nine-room Spanish job up on Comstock in Westwood.

 

 

Recently, materials from three forty gallon bootleg stills, lined in some very fine silver, have been reclaimed from their sinful ways and turned toward this honest enterprise.

 

This writer’s inquisitive interests now satisfied—yeah, you’re green, I get it—my acquisitive interest takes over:  where are these shades now?

 

 

‘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.

God Granted Him the Serenity

 killsself

francisDecember 8, 1927
Pasadena 

The next time you need to go to a 12-step meeting, or better yet a full detox, or just be hospitalized for that durn’d dementia praecox, do yourself a favor and head on over to Las Encinas. Take in the rolling lawns, the mature trees, and gorgeous hundred year-old shingle cottages.  Watch as Dr. Drew administers kindly words to one or more Osbournes, and perhaps they’ll put you in the bungalow where W. C. Fields drank and breathed his last.  Then tell us if you happened upon the ghosts of Francis Stevens and his sons Georgie and Francis Jr.  

Francis E. Stevens was a Prominent Pasadenan—Vice-President of the First Trust and Savings Bank of Pasadena and the First National Bank of Pasadena, member of Pasadena’s War Finance Committee, a man with a newly built home and a…lovely family.  

Lovely enough, but not entirely.  His wife Elizabeth was prominent socially, certainly, and of his 16 year-old daughter Carol’s charms there can be no doubt.  But his sons…little George, 14, has been almost an invalid since birth, and “backward”.  And as such the entirety of Francis’ hopes and expectations for the future rode on his namesake, Francis E. Jr., 20.  Unfortunately, the star pupil at Univeristy of Michigan, where Francis Sr. had attended school, Francis Jr. crashed his car into a telephone pole near Ann Arbor and suffered a basal fracture that affected his mind, landing him what looked to be a permanent place back in Pasadena…at Las Encinas Sanitarium.

And so Francis Sr. did what any concerned, dutiful father would do.  He went to work at eight a.m., made light and cheery conversation the cashiers, and made certain all was in order; then went home to fetch George to take him off to James A. Garfield Grammar School (once at the NE corner of S. Pasadena and California Street).  This he did, and the two sat outside the school, talking in the car, until about 9:15, according to witnesses.  Then they drove off, to where, we’ll never know.  All we know is that Francis Sr. shot George in the head.  And then arrived at Las Encinas at 10:15.

weeksofplanning

Francis left George’s corpse in the back seat covered in a laprobe, and walked to administration to inquire after his other son.  He chatted with the attendants, then made his way to the bungalows.  He went to the bungalow where Francis Jr. lived with his male nurse, Frank B. Schaefer, and handed Schaefer a well-wrapped package, instructing him “Don’t let anybody have these and don’t open them until you hear from me.”  And with that he and his son took a lovely walk around the grounds.

thetenniscourtThey walked and talked along the shady paths and across sun-dappled lawns until they came to the tennis court in the rear.  It was 12:15 when father pulled out and brought a pistol to his son’s temple and fired.  He was then seen sliding the barrel into his mouth and pulling the trigger, his body crumpling directly next to his son’s.

Some time after the excitement of having the wife and daughter brought to the sanitarium, and the bodies had been removed, that someone thought of having the Stevens sedan hauled away.  It was only then an attendant noticed the slow moving stream of blood oozing over the fender.

The package Stevens gave to Schaefer contained securities, bonds, his will, multitudinous letters to banking concerns indicating that their finances were in order (which checked out just fine), and the ashes of Sylvia Stevens, a daughter he’d lost and cremated some time ago.

The funeral for the Stevens men was held shortly thereafter, though in spirit, the trio were still, of course, at Las Encinas.  

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.

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.

Ho, Ho, Ho and a Case of Scotch

case of scotch headline

November 12, 1927
San Simeon Marion Davies

Federal Agents John H. Vail and Charles E. Cass received an anonymous tip about two mysterious vessels moored off the coast of San Simeon. The agents were told that each of the ships was carrying a large supply of illegal liquor. The informant either didn’t know, or wouldn’t say, to whom the liquid holiday cheer was supposed to be delivered. Could the booze have been intended for a party at Hearst Castle hosted by publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst and his actress companion Marion Davies? If so, it would never arrive.

After nightfall the agents went down to the beach and hid themselves behind some boulders. Their evening’s surveillance was rewarded when they observed several shadowy figures hauling crates off of one of the ships and stacking them on the sand. Moments later, the concealed feds heard two cars roll down from the road to the waiting cargo.

The cops believed that the first car to leave the beach was meant as a decoy, and allowed it to proceed to the highway unmolested. However, before the second automobile could get very far it was overtaken by police. Inside was known bootlegger Earl Simpson with his passengers…thirty-two cases of scotch.

Simpson was arrested on the spot and taken to jail, but was soon released to an enigmatic stranger who posted the necessary $2000 ($23,964.37 USD 2007) cash bond. 

The ships are believed to be on their way to San Pedro. Maybe they’ll make a successful drop this time. We hope so – holiday shopping is thirsty work.