Home, home on deranged

May 7, 1927
Mint Canyon

Mrs. Vera Sharp, aka Mrs. De Font, is a 35 year old widow and a resident of Mint Canyon. She is also a woman of many talents: artist, sculptress, ranch owner and cattle rustler. Mrs. Sharp stands accused of rustling a heifer, butchering it, then barbecuing and serving it to the patrons of her roadside restaurant, the La Jolla Lodge.

The primary evidence in the case against Mrs. Sharp consists of the hide of the doomed animal, which was discovered in a well, and a few satisfied diners at her roadside eatery.

Mrs. Sharp and a friend, Mr. Archie Cooper, a former deputy sheriff, allegedly pilfered the unfortunate beast from Mr. Guy B. Carson‘s ranch in Palmdale.

Why did Vera and her accomplice herd the illegally obtained bovine through the nighttime streets of Palmdale to meet its fate? Was she so determined to grill a taste treat for the patrons of her restaurant that she risked arrest? Was she attempting to lure a restaurant critic to the lodge? Or was she planning a romantic dinner?

Apparently, the Mint Canyon gourmand is also accused of breaking into the home of M.S. Cairns to steal clothing and silverware – must haves for an intimate dinner of barbecued heifer a deux with that special man.

Mrs. Sharp, accompanied by her attorney municipal judge-elect Dudley S. Valentine, appeared in court to deny the charges against her. She has been released on $3000 bail. Is she as innocent as she claims, or is that a smear of BBQ sauce on her chin?

Bon appetit, Vera.

And You Say You’ve Got it Rough


May 6, 1927
Huntington Beach

Mr. Henry Graw:  orphaned at four, never knew his real name, went to Alaska and struck it rich.  Lost all that money in Seattle.  Then he married, and then she died. 

So he came to Huntington Beach and secured a good job with a company that quickly folded and as such didn’t pay him.  He found a less-good job, but at least it paid, until a pipe fell and crushed his hand.  So he got good and drunk to deal with the pain in his soul (and hand) and promptly landed in the hoosegow.  

After relating this saga, acting City Recorder of Huntington Beach, Andrew Wilson, elected to release Graw on probation; Graw stated to the court that he is leaving for Alaska as soon as possible.

Flood World

May 6, 1927
Coolidge America 

Let’s keep abreast of the rising waters, shall we?  The men in top-hats and diamond stick-pins are upset that cotton and cotton related goods are on the downswing, and the decline of trade/farmwork/rail freight is destroying the country, and the dollar is weakening.

Of course, the less elaborately garbed cannot muster quite the concern: 


But enterprising folk around Memphis have begun erecting tree houses in the great cottonwoods and willows, where they build their stills to keep a thirsty populace sated.  Sheriff Knight has seized a dozen giant hooch-hatcheries from the treetops, placed there by ingenious bootleggers.

Here in the southland, the Orange County Fruit Exchange began sending citrus, and the stars came out to raise 125g’s (1,475,000 USD2005).


Delicious Nuts

May 5, 1927
Around the Globe

Los Angeles, world renowned for its disproportionate share of eccentrics, was reminded in the press to-day that she is not alone when it comes to the care and feeding of such.

House of Brunswick-era London was of course known for feverish devotees of Joanna Southcott, domestic servant turned prophetess, who claimed supernatural powers and dictated prophecy in rhyme.  (Southcottians numbered over 100,000 at one time but practically disappeared overnight in 1890.)  On Southcott’s death in 1814 she left a mysterious box to Rebecca Pengarth, sole companion, who promised it would never be opened except in a national crisis and in the presence of twenty-four bishops.  (The episcopate were pressed to open the thing during the Crimean War, and again during the Great War, but they demurred.)  Southcott claimed to be “the mother of the new Messiah,” and you wouldn’t want to screw that up, so don’t worry, the National Laboratory of Psychical Research didn’t open it; they had it X-rayed.  Noted psychic investigator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle declined an invitation.  The box, after an application of the ol’ Röntgen, showed it to contain a skull, scissors, a horse pistol, a beaded bag, rings, coins, pins, some other whatnot, and what appears to be a roll of manuscript.  Could that hold the secret of messianic return?

Well, no.  When finally opened, the parchment turned out to be a lottery ticket. (And there was in fact no skull—everybody knows that when you cobble together a Mystery Box, you include a skull.)  Southcott descended into House of Windsor-era obscurity, save for the attentions poured upon her by the Panacea Society.

cometSpeaking of the Great War, it was announced today in Washington by by Dr. F. Homer Curtis, founder of the Order of Christian Mystics, that blame for the World War was to be placed solely on gaseous trails left in the earth’s atmosphere by Halley’s comet in 1910.  It seems the gas made humanity nervous and suspicious; and, he noted, if there’s a World War in 1929, you can blame the Pons-Winnecke comet. 

Of course, PW passed by again in ’33 and ’39, and no one suffered from that, did they?

AP feature: Crime tours take passengers through LA’s criminal past

by Jacob Adelman for the Associated Press (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)

Kelly at Marlowe's Office Building

Above: Kelly Kuvo, the Blonde Dahlia  

LOS ANGELES — A dismembered wannabe starlet. A girl buried under her family’s home. A rattlesnake used as a weapon.

The scenes of those crimes are stops on a series of Southern California bus tours that eschew the usual stars’ homes and theme parks to offer passengers a peak at the region’s dark side.

"They’re aimed at the history geek sort of people," said Kelly Kuvo, who wears a black veil and other vintage accouterments during the trips she leads for tour company Esotouric.

The company’s "crime bus" tours plumb the grisly, blood-soaked pasts of now quiet Southern California neighborhoods and nondescript strip malls.

Similar trips elsewhere take passengers deep into cities’ gory pasts, including Washington’s "Bad Olde Days" chronicling crime in the nation’s capital and "Sinister London" that follows the steps of Jack the Ripper.

"When people die in a place, it does change that place forever," said Esotouric guide and co-founder Kim Cooper. "Just because the people wandering around the neighborhood may not be aware of it, it doesn’t mean it’s not a good idea for people who are interested in history to revive those memories."

John G. Cawelti, who writes about the seductiveness of violent crime tales in his book "Mystery, Violence, and Popular Culture," said the tours play into people’s fears of death and catastrophe.

"We live in an age where the worst kinds of things can happen to anybody," Cawelti said. "Walk down the street and something blows up and all of a sudden you lost your life or lost a leg. The fact that somebody else went through this becomes a surrogate – a magical way of charming away the fear of the possibility."

Esotouric’s most popular tour explores 1947 Los Angeles by zeroing in on the murder of Elizabeth Short – a.k.a. "Black Dahlia" – who came to Hollywood in search of fame but wound up the victim of an infamous unsolved murder.

One stop is a ground-floor storefront on a desolate downtown street that now boasts a sign reading, "Club Galaxy – 100 Beautiful Girls."

In 1947, when it was a bistro called "The Crown Grill," it was the last place Short was seen before her dismembered body was discovered miles away in a south Los Angeles neighborhood.

"She was friendly with the bartenders and with some of the waitresses, so people recognized her and remembered her," Cooper said. "The problem of course is that everybody at the Crown Grill immediately became suspects."

Passengers are also introduced to lesser known crimes from the same year, such as the attempted carjacking in Hollywood of an 18-year-old movie theater cashier named Ginevra Knight, who shot her assailant dead.

"It’s the criminal history of 1947 L.A. and how women felt going out at night in the hysteria of an unsolved murder," Cooper said.

The "Blood and Dumplings" tour through San Gabriel Valley suburbs, meanwhile, passes the home where a young bride-to-be was buried in 1969 by her uncle after he shot her to death in a jealous rage at the end of their affair.

It also cruises by an intersection where a man named Raymond James bought a rattlesnake he let bite his wife in 1935 so he could cash in on her insurance policy. When she didn’t die, he had an accomplice finish the job by drowning her in their fish pond.

Esotouric grew out of a Web log Cooper started in 2005, when she set out to retell a true-crime tale from each day of 1947. She and her collaborators soon started offering tours of those scenes and the sites of other crimes.

A tour that revisits the life and literature of Raymond Chandler, whose fictional characters inhabit the region’s underworld, was added to the menu of crime junkets when the company was started earlier this year.

Tour participant Bob Nickum, 59, a school district business manager, said seeing the sites of past crimes made him look at familiar places in a new way.

"It’s just very interesting to drive around the area and to see things I may have passed by many times and maybe not known what happened there," said Nickum, who, like most passengers, lives in Southern California.

"It makes things a little more interesting – vivid – to know about something that intense that took place in a calm, peaceful neighborhood," he said.


Nathan Heather and Kelly

Nathan Marsak, chess shark Heather and Kelly at the Hotel Barclay

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

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.  

Who’s the Most Perfect Baby of All?

May 2, 1927
Los Angeles


While attending medical school in Philadelphia, Dr. Maud Wilde was horrified by the number of mothers who brought their children to the college dispensary suffering from illnesses that could easily have been prevented.  This, coupled with high infant mortality rates in the United States, convinced her that something must be done.  In 1927, roughly 6% of infants born in California did not survive to their first birthday.

perfectbabyAnd so, Baby Week in Los Angeles was born.  The program began in 1916 under Wilde’s direction, with the sponsorship of the Los Angeles District Federation of Women’s Clubs and the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce.  Features included lectures, educational booths, and most importantly, a physical screening for Los Angeles children under the age of 6.  By 1927, over 88,000 children had been measured, weighed, and tested for a variety of disabilities, as well as malnutrition by Southern California doctors.

To infuse the proceedings with a little more fun, the Baby Show was introduced, and quickly became the centerpiece of Baby Week.  Any mother whose child had been screened, and earned a “score” above 90% was invited to enter them in the contest.  Of the 400 babies entered in this year’s competition, 8-month-old Lorene Phillips scored the highest – 99% perfect.

Dr. Wilde placated the audience, saying, “Of all the 88,000 babies we have examined, not one has scored 100%.  To produce 100% perfect children, we must have 100% perfect parents.  However, we must not be discouraged.  It is possible that at the next show one of you mothers will exhibit the perfect baby.”

The Street Crime of the Day

May 1, 1927
Los Angeles 

In the Times today, a round-up of street crime incidents calculated to terrorize city residents, or at least discourage freelance musicians, good Samaritans and lingering outside a lady’s home in an open car–sheesh, buddy, get a room.

Clarinetist Antonio Cili thought he was being hired to play a gig when three gentlemen picked him up at Sixth and Broadway, drove to Fourth and Pecan, tossed him from the car, beat him silly and stole his instrument and $20.

Jennie Emerson of 2611 Vallejo Street was nearly run down in the street while crossing at Daly and Manitou in Lincoln Heights, and while recovering her wits confronted by the armed driver and his pal, who threatened to kill her before stealing her purse.

A bandit robbed J. Maganuma of $40 cash and a serving of chop suey at his restaurant at 4911 South Broadway. It was not reported if Mr. Maganuma spat in the food, but we certainly hope so.

A. Eisner was carjacked at First and New Hampshire, forced to drive to Sixth and Lucas and relieved of his $100 stick pin, $40 watch and $8 cash. Maybe it’s Eisner’s home address of 5579 Santa Monica Boulevard or the fancy stick pin that gives this brief tale the whiff of rough trade, or possibly we just have dirty minds.

Joseph Michael, while strolling by a doorway near First and Main was lassoed by a couple of rope-wielding miscreants who strangled Michael into unconsciousness and stole $35, this just two blocks from Central Police HQ.

Kindly Arthur Roper was driving along (now defunct) California Street near Figueroa when he spied a fashionably garbed young lady in apparent distress in the middle of the road. He stopped to lend aid and her friend hopped onto Roper’s running board with a revolver, which was clapped to Roper’s chest while the gal riffled his pockets of $53 cash.

And then there was Jacob L. Johannes of 228 South Rodeo Drive, who was sitting in a car with Miss Marie Boucher outside her home at 5806 Carlton Way when a fiend with a revolver relieved the lady of a $1000 fur coat, $75 watch and $50 bar pin. Johannes lost $6 cash. Buddy, you can’t afford a room… or Miss Boucher.  

Now be careful out there! 


Nearer My God to Thee






April 30, 1927
Los Angeles

Nice funeral today for Harry “Mile-Away” Thomas at the Gulik Funeral Parlor.   A few days ago Mile-Away—the gangster known for always having been a “mile away” from whatever crime for which he was arrested—was boosting bootleg hooch and a car from the garage of Ora Lawson, 1408 West Thirty-Fifth Street

mileawayOfficers responded to her call about a prowler, and when they arrived, acclaimed hijacker Thomas went for his piece.  The cops opened up with a machine gun, a sawed-off shotgun and two large-caliber revolvers, and yet the twice-arrested-for-murder, “King of the Hi-Jackers” Mile-Away Thomas, filled with pounds of buckshot and slugs, ran from the garage straight at the cops.  

Mile-Away had been in the news just this last February, implicated in the murder of stockbroker/bootlegger Luther Green at Green’s home.  Cops chased Mile-Away around Los Angeles for two weeks before arresting him and, while detectives said on the stand they were certain it was our boy, he was let go for lack of evidence.

At the funeral today, upperworld and underworld hobnobbed, gawked at by the public throng, and Mile-Away’s lady friend, fellow carreer criminal Betty Carroll, swooned and collapsed for the collected.  The cortege moved on to Forest Lawn, and the crowd dispersed.  

Think of Mile-Away, won’t you, the next time you’re down near 35th and Normandie, where his ghost, bloodied but unbowed and his clanking not with chains but from a belly full of bullets, is charging at you with final terrifying resolution, coming to hi-jack your soul.