Good Help Is Hard To Find

May 11, 1927
Los Angeles

Most liquor raids are tedious affairs, a pack of lit-up salesmen here, a couple sobbing college boys there. But once in a while, officers make a raid that’s just kind of special.

One such operation was on a blind pig at 3120 South Main Street, allegedly run by Mrs. Ocio Walsh. Mrs. Walsh was taken into custody on charges of possession of liquor and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, while 38-year-old Frank Jones was charged with drunkenness and Robert Maschold, 37, with vagrancy.

That delinquency charge? See, Mrs. Walsh has a 14-year-old daughter, Mary Zella. Great kid, really responsible. When Sgt. Kynetto and Officers Wolf and Pound busted in they found a scantily-clad Mary Zella pouring a bottle of hooch down the sink. Mama sent her up to dress, the the clever minx hopped out a second story window and skedaddled.

Where’s she gone? Maybe back to the convent, from which Mama recently removed her to help out with the family business. Like I said, great kid.

How Men Turn To Crime

May 4, 1927
Los Angeles 

Facing a sixty day sentence for bootlegging before Municipal Judge Tunney, Euell Thomasson appealed to the court’s mercy in light of his rather unusual personal history.

He had, Thomasson swore, been gainfully employed by a creamery company which sent a troupe of live, chained bears around town in its wagons as an advertising gimmick. Naturally, being bears, they were inclined to get cranky on the road, and one day one lunged at Thomasson and took a healthy bite out of his thumb.

This left him unable to work, and his employers refused to pay any compensation. So he began selling alcohol, a trade which apparently calls for but one working thumb.

It is a judge’s job to weigh the facts and mitigating circumstances in cases complex and peculiar. Judge Tunney determined the value of a bear-bitten thumb to be ten days, and sentenced the prisoner to fifty days in stir. 

With Time Off For Being So Enterprising

May 3, 1927
Pomona 

Some call it extortion; we call it a rather clever short con. C.L. Jackson and R.W. Hedgreth, both 48 and old enough to know better, approached service station operators Harold K. Hemmingway and Norman Bliss in the guise of being Prohibition officers, and asked where ’round here one could wet one’s whistle. After being informed of the details, Jackson and Hedgreth threatened to alert the real Prohibition men of the illegal info being spread, and demanded a pair of tires, gasoline and $25 cash to keep quiet. But Hemmingway noted the serial numbers on the bills and called the law, and the crooks were soon nabbed.

Justice U.E. White must not have thought much of the victims in the case, for he sentenced the men to six months in County Jail, which he promptly suspended for good behavior. 

Meanwhile, in Reno, Nevada’s first short residency divorce was granted to Sophia M. Ross of New York, who braved the desert winds and cultural drought for three months so she could be freed of her Albert, who ate mashed potatoes with his hands.  

A Perfect Hostess

April 24, 1927
Los Angeles 

Consider if you will the American bootlegger, that rat among rats, profiteer and fiend, feeder of poison to nice kids who hardly deserve to go blind or mad, lose their teeth in a brawl or crack their skulls in a crash. In time, some will become respectable, send their sons to Harvard or even the White House, but not now. We all know what bootleggers are like… don’t we?

Maybe not. Consider Hattie Mitchell, address unprinted, who appeared in Municipal Judge Turney’s courtroom to face charges of dispensing fire water to quite an array of gentlemen. The twist? She served her liquor in her bedroom, while laid up with a broken leg. The whiskey bottles stayed under the covers getting warm when they weren’t being poured, and the government’s man never saw money change hands, but all the same–a speakeasy, right there in her sickroom, not to mention the impropriety of a half-clothed woman serving liquor to men who weren’t family! 

It was all too much for Judge Turney to take, and so the (formerly?) supine lady was sentenced to six months in jail and a fine of $500. But here at 1947project, we salute a gal with the gumption to ensure a steady stream of visitors to her sickbed, and are already planning our own future recovery, which will include daily specials, jukebox music and popcorn shrimp served promptly at 4pm.   

Not Exactly the Welcome Wagon

April 13, 1927
Pasadena 

Col. Frank Benedict is moving up in the world. Recently named one of six "minute men" prohibition officers and presented with a patrol car capable of hitting 80 mph (!) for late night liquor hunts, he’s also taken possession of a new home on exclusive Terrace Drive in Pasadena, just a jig from Millionaire’s Row.

In the evening, the gentle scents of jasmine, orange blossoms and datura perfumed the air… but beneath them, Benedict detected a heavy, sweet and larcenous odor, the unmistakable tang of sour mash a-brewing. Sniff, sniff, sniff went the revenue man, until he found himself three doors down, outside #146. Local and federal agents were called, and the raid that followed netted Frank Meyers (real name Joseph Mendella) in the act of tapping a 300 gallon still, 140 gallons of steaming mash and equipment valued at $50,000.

Mendella must have had juice, and we don’t mean joy juice. The case lingered until March 1928, when he was convicted of possession of a still and the mash, fined $500 and sentenced to just thirty days in jail.  

No Mermaid She

venice grand canal 1905

April 10, 1927
Venice 

It was motorist S.H. Henry who saw it first, bobbing in the Grand Canal with slow, horrible motions. He leaned in and saw a middle aged woman’s body, fully clothed save for her hat, bound round with rope. He ran for the cops. When they hauled her out, they found there were no ropes, but long strands of seaweed that had caught round the body as it floated through the gentle waterways.

A bruise on the brow suggested violence, but ultimately it was determined that the victim, Mrs. Margaret Kelly of Chicago, had killed herself after long despondency over ill health. Perhaps she vainly hoped the balmy winds and lovely vistas of Venice-by-the-Sea would sooth her worries. She had  $207 cash when found, more than enough for her passage first to Sharp & Nolan undertakers (beachside specialists in these messy water cases), thence to Chicago and the afterlife.

Only Your Studebaker Knows For Sure

April 2, 1927
Los Angeles

tonyheadlineOn this Spring day in 1927, investigating officers were pavement-pounding in the Italian neighborhoods, attempting to scare up information about the April Fool’s Day discovery of one murdered Antonio (Tony) Ferraro.  But there was no talking to be had, and the crime scene revealed nothing in the way of tell-tale fingerprints or any such evidence, and so Tony Ferraro remains another unsolved Los Angeles gangland slaying.

Tony Ferraro was 34, married, and an erstwhile bootlegger.  He had given up the bootlegging game back in January when officers knocked out his elaborate still at 532 South Soto St.  Thereafter he had gone into the olive oil business–the evening of March 31 he set out from his home at 2724 Cincinnati St. with six one-gallon cans of the unctuous stuff (only to return for his funeral a week later).  On the morning of April 1 a passerby’s attention was attracted by the stream of blood pouring forth from the back seat of Ferraro’s Studebaker, parked at 659 Kohler St.  

ferraroandwifeRobbery was not the motive, as Ferraro’s diamond ring, watch, money clip and olive oil were unmolested.  Persons unknown entered Ferraro’s car, where he was beaten with a tire iron (his bruised hands indicating he put up a strong fight) and then shot in the head once with a .38 and twice with a .32.  The body was then pulled from the front seat and lain across the olive oil in the back.

Ferraro was a Matranga relative and Los Angeles bootlegger who had had some problems with his business partners.  In September of 1925, someone dynamited a vacant two-story building Ferraro owned at 2729 North Main; eight months later the home of his cousin, Victor Pepitone, 317 West 77th St., was dynamited; five months thereafter the home of Jim Mussacci, Ferraro’s business partner, 675 Lamar St., was destroyed in a dynamite explosion.  The news from April 2 hints that Ferraro may have recently talked to authorities and implicated two former liquor trade associates, resulting in their arrest, but that clue went nowhere.  Attempts to quiz the widow Constance resulted in her continued protestations that Tony had no enemies anywhere.

ferraroscarOn April 5 the Times reported a rumor that Ferraro’s car had been seen the night of the 31st in Chinatown between when he set off from home at 6 p.m. and when the car was first spotted at 10 p.m. at Sixth and Kohler, but placing the killing in Chinatown didn’t make solving the murder any more possible or probable.  That day Ferraro was released from the Coroner’s to his home once more; the cinematic mind must imagine properly florid gangland sendoff, with bouquets from those Wright Act violators Tony double-crossed.  

And up in heaven, the special cloud reserved for unsolved LA homicide victims—Harry Katz there waiting with a martini—added one more.

ferraroburial 

Odd Masher Nabbed In Expo Park

Grace Kenny (Jerry) McFarlane headline 1927

March 29, 1927
Los Angeles 

Busted in Exposition Park on a vagrancy charge after aggressively flirting with passing fillies, licensed chauffeur (read: cabby) Jerry McFarlane was dumped in the men’s tank at the Central Jail, where fellow inmates quickly noticed what booking officers had not: trash-talkin’ "Jerry" was actually Grace Kenny McFarlane, 22, blonde and biologically female.

She was promptly pulled from the cell and plopped in front of an L.A. Times photog, who snapped a pair of mirror image pix highlighting the two sides of fair McFarlane, and a reporter whose all-too-brief interview revealed the unique philosophy of the Jazz Age youth.

"It’s much more fun to be a man. Besides, I get along better, too, and the life is freer and easier." Except, of course, when it lands one in the pokey. "I wish I could get out and get back with the gang. I was going to take a frail out the night I was arrested. It’s lots of fun to take a girl to a dance or a show and not have them get wise." And even more fun, we’d wager, when they do.

Grace Kenny (Jerry) McFarlane 1927

For more on the secret homosexual shadow worlds of early 20th century Los Angeles, see Daniel Hurewitz’ Bohemian Los Angeles and the Making of Modern Politics or Faderman and Timmons’ Gay L.A.

In Indiana, There Is No Beer

Feb. 14-26, 1907
Los Angeles

The Rev. Ervin S. Chapman, a Presbyterian minister who heads the Anti-Saloon League of California, has won a victory through an address that persuaded an Indiana judge to rule that saloons are unconstitutional.

Chapman concluded his series of points by saying:

Our national Supreme Court, in decisions which it has rendered, has designated the liquor traffic as mala in se [wrong in itself] by characterizing it as

Harmful to material prosperity.
Injurious to life.
Destructive of manhood.
Disastrous to peace and happiness.
Fatal to morals and.
Productive of crime and misery.

That court having thus characterized the liquor traffic will surely declare that traffic mala in se and hence unlawful and incapable of being granted legislative standing or protection by any branch of civil government either national or local.

Whenever the public mind has become sufficiently enlightened and the public conscience sufficiently quickened to justify and make effective such a decision our national Supreme Court, which has always led public sentiment respecting this question, will place its brand of outlawry upon that traffic which McKinley characterized “as the most degrading and ruinous of all human pursuits.â€Â

Los Angeles saloonkeepers shrugged their shoulders and said they believed the ruling would have no effect on them.

The Times quoted one bartender: “ ‘Stop saloons unt drinking!’ one barkeeper screamed in astonishment. ‘Go vay. You might as well try to stop kissing.’ â€Â

Chapman died in 1921, two years after the passage of the Volstead Act.

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Court Briefs


Feb. 7, 1907
Los Angeles


A Child’s Testimony

Charles Babbitt is sentenced to 30 days in jail on charges of domestic violence after the testimony of his 6-year-old son. “Papa hit me with a whip and it cut my head,â€Â the boy said. “Then he hit mama.â€Â “The man blinked his eyes and said that he did it because he was drunkâ€Â The Times says.

Ross’ Widow Arrested

Mary Ross, whose husband was killed by Officer Hoover, is fined $50 after being arrested in a raid on a rooming house that was selling liquor without a license. Ross was among the women seized at the establishment of Mrs. Mary Cooper, 261½ S. Los Angeles St. William Ross, who fatally shot Officer C.A May, was buried in potter’s field, The Times says.

Fined for Blind Pig

Frank Stadler pleads guilty to running a blind pig called the Mechanics Club, 1466 Channing St., and is ordered to pay a $50 fine.

Chinese Lottery Case

E.S. Patton is sent to jail after failing to pay a $50 fine for selling Chinese lottery tickets. Patton is the first white man to be fined for such sales, The Times says.

A Familiar Face

Patrol officers recognized J.W. Mason, who had just gotten out of jail, and watched as he found “a drunken, well-dressed man and lured him into a doorway,â€Â The Times says. He was given 20 days in jail for disorderly conduct.

Lmharnisch.com
Lmharnisch.blogspot.com

E-mail: lmharnisch (AT) gmail.com