Patricide Interrupted

February 15, 1927
San Pedro

It’s a mysterious case indeed that enmeshes Mr. Alvin Hyder, wealthy inventor of diesel engines and proprietor of the motorship Nora, working the Channel Islands trade, and his daughter Nora Thomas, 22, wife of a local grocery man.

Seems that Nora went into her father’s room at 2315 South Grand Avenue and shot daddy in the head with a .38, before creeping back to her home at 2224 South Grand. Hard-headed Alvin did not die, but repelled the bullet with the force of his personality, sending the leaden lump on a one way trip off his cheekbone, around his face and into the back of his neck, where it remained. Following treatment at San Pedro Emergency Hospital, Alvin returned to Grand Avenue to reflect upon all that had brought him to such a place.

Nora, meanwhile, was arrested and charged with attempted murder. She pled not guilty, with local tongues wagging that this was really all about Nora’s baby who had died, or maybe $10,000 of her father’s money that she thought ought be hers.

But in May, the girl was released after the DA declared he had insufficient evidence to convict. Perhaps dad and daughter reconciled in time to take advantage of the Cabrillo Beach grunion run, the dates for which were published in today’s papers. It’s the least a captain can do for his ship’s namesake.

[update, July 2008: A descendent of the Hyder family kindly emailed with some additional information to add to this rather mysterious tale. We are always so appreciative when folks with personal knowledge write in to share it.

"Alvin was washed overboard off of his fishing boat the Nora II about 1936. A large sneaker wave overturned the boat off of San Nicolas Island. The Coast Guard responded, but his body never turned up. He was 56. His children Nora, Buster, and Alva are all gone now. Nora passed away at age 91 in 1995. She did not discuss her reasons for shooting her father until her 80s. Buster died in ’94 at age 87. Alva died in ’98 at age 73. In 1993, a book was published by the Santa Cruz Island foundation, edited by Marla Daily, entitled "Occasional Paper Number 6." She interviewed Buster about our family homesteading on Santa Barbara Island from 1914 to 1929. The National Park Service built a little museum onto the ranger house out there. In 1993, the TV program "California’s Gold" did a half hour program on our family reunion and the opening of the little museum. We had 3 generations there. So, there is a little update to your newspaper clipping."]

Snow Davis, aka Harry Harpon, aka “The Sticker”

February 13, 1927
Chinatown 
 
dopeslayerThe headline read, "TORTURE DEN AND POISON PEN OF SUSPECTED DOPE SLAYER BELIEVED FOUND," and the story itself contained six missing girls, a basement torture chamber, and a "trick" pencil that could turn into hypodermic needle, chock full of poison, with the flick of a finger.
 
The villain was none other than Snow Davis, aka Harry Harpon, aka The Sticker, a dope fiend who’d done time on poison charges in three state prisons in as many years, and had twice been a murder suspect.
 
It’s all quite a lot of build-up for a story that ultimately came to nothing. 
 
The Chinatown den was discovered when undercover agents heard groans in its vacinity.  Their report was passed along to the feds, who prompty raided the joint.  In addition to the "poison pencil," Snow Davis’s known weapon of choice, they found piles of women’s clothing and a stack of newspaper clippings from New Orleans.
 
However, any former inhabitants had fled.  Investigators had been hoping to link Snow to the January disappearances of six girls between the ages of 15 and 20, but it must have been wishful thinking.
 
Snow Davis, aka Harry Harpon, aka The Sticker, gets out of Los Angeles unscathed, and the Times never mentions him again. 

Paper Hanging with the Stauber Sisters

The Stauber SistersLos Angeles
February 12, 1927

The sad story of Blanche and Grace Stauber was revealed today when the sisters, ages 44 and 51, respectively, landed in the poky after a trip to Judge Baird’s court. It seems the college-educated spinsters fell on financially hard times after they moved to California in 1910 from their native Kansas. After their pleas to friends and family for monetary assistance went unheeded, Grace started forging checks. She did her best to keep knowledge of her wrongdoing from younger sister—they were daughters of a Methodist minister after all. But when Blanche inevitably discovered her sister’s malfeasance, she made a pragmatic decision: they would “join forces in an effort to keep themselves above poverty” and, above all, avoid being separated from one another.

It worked like this. Blanche and Grace would move into a small town somewhere in southern California. They’d rent a house, and Blanche would write a check in the amount of $300 to $600 (roughly $3,600 to $7,200 in today’s currency), drawn on a bank in another city. Grace would take the check to a bank in their new town, where she would open both savings and checking accounts, depositing half the check in each. Thus funded, the sisters went on a shopping spree, buying merchandise and often receiving change on their purchases. They’d be gone before the bank opened the following day.

Over the years, Blanche and Grace Stauber passed worthless checks to the total tune of about $25,000 (almost $300,000 today) in twenty-five different towns. The sisters “prayed frequently” for the success of their nefarious operations, prayers that appear to have been granted as they eventually opened a store in Palms to dispose of their hot items.

Judge Baird remanded the “elderly” sisters to General Hospital, where it was determined they were sane, though lacking in “moral appreciation.” Blanche and Grace faced possible sentences of from two to twenty-eight years in San Quentin, but it was said their greatest fear remained being separated.

Update: Blanche and Grace Stauber were each sentenced to serve one year in County Jail for forgery and issuing checks without sufficient funds. They were also sentenced to five years’ probation on a separate forgery charge. The sisters didn’t go quietly: they “told probation officers they felt the church owed them a living” and only started passing paper when it didn’t come through.

Stone Cold

Stone Cold Headline

February 11, 1927
Los Angeles

Valentine’s Day is coming up and most couples will celebrate their love with cutesy cards, candy, and maybe some pre-prohibition champagne.Margaret Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Fillmore will not be among the celebrants. Margaret Fillmore has filed for a divorce. Their love has turned as cold as a stone floor.

Margaret had said that she was annoyed by Hugh’s refusal to give her money, and by his arrogant attitude. But she may have been willing to overlook everything if it hadn’t been for the stone tile.

In her divorce papers Margaret claimed that Hugh had bankrupted her by insisting that she use tile, manufactured by his company, in the home they were building (and she was financing). Margaret claimed that all of her money had gone into the construction of the house, and that the additional $2000 [$24,142.07 current USD] that it cost for the custom tile had left her destitute.

HughHugh was thinking only of the advertising potential of having the tile in his home, especially since his sister-in-law was the actress Mary Miles Minter. Perhaps Mary would bring some of her Hollywood cronies over to see the tile. She still had lots of friends in town, even though she had featured prominently in the 1922 mysterious, and still unsolved, slaying of director William Desmond Taylor.

Margaret is having none of it – she’s determined to end her marriage. All she wants now is a divorce and an inexpensive carpet. Sadly, the road to true love is often a rocky (or stony) one.

The Internet of Yesteryear

readallaboutitFebruary 10, 1927
Los Angeles

Ho!  Wuxtry!

Those mockery-making purveyors of pasquinade Pi Delta Epsilon are at it again—it’s the new issue of the Razzberry!  Not to be confused with a Bruinite’s Hell’s Bells, the Razzberry is the Trojaninny’s main road to mirth, and boulevard to bellylaughs!  

Yes, the new ish of USC lampoon rag The Razzberry is out, and you should pick one up.  You’ll know the rag by its scent of scandal and journalistic tinge of yellow.  And by those gents dressed as prison inmates hawking ’em!  (As jailbirds stand, you see, in direct opposition of all that college and higher education hold dear, these lettered loons gave gab garbed as hostages…of hilarity!)

But be stout of heart…”Stories range from an exposé of supposed corruption to accounts of wild orgies staged in fraternity houses.” 

I’m sure those stories were just somethin’.  Of course reference to the fraternal wild orgy failed to carry the same import eighty years ago as it does to-day.  And the cub reporter of USC’s 1927 scandal sheet could only conjecture that in the future, there’d be no lack of diverting folly to make with the waggery over!

The REAL Aviator

February 9, 1927
Los Angeles

deathdefyinSure, while we’ve repeatedly reported to you about blindfolded drivings—today was announced something that actually guarantees splintering wood and crunching metal.  

Finley Henderson has a really good idea:  dive an airplane from a height of 1,000 feet, clip the wings from the machine between two telegraph poles, and crash into a bungalow with the remains of his plane at sixty miles an hour.

Don’t worry:  he wears the shoulder and shin guards of the football field, the breast pad of the baseball umpire and a catcher’s mask.  Kids, try this at home.  Above your home.  Into your home.

Sponsored by Earl L. White and KELW!  Come on out to Burbank’s Magnolia Park and watch the fun!

FearlessFinleyFor the record, when the stunt was performed on February 20, Finley emerged unscathed, smoking a cigarette.  And then noted for the wowed crowd and boys of the press “The stunt is easy if you know how to do it.”

Finley made the news again in June, when, at the Glendale Airport Air Rodeo, just as he was stepping into his plane (this time, to crash into a barn), in front of all those eager spectators, United States Deputy Marshal Charles F. “Spoil Sport” Walsh served Finley a summons.  Hot on Walsh’s heels were pansy Capts. Walter F. Parkin and William B. Breingan, of the recently created Aeronautics Branch, United States Department of Commerce (oh, Mary), there to enforce their writ of injunction restraining Finley from performing the stunt.

Apparently, these hi-falutin’ aeronautics fellows have just made stunting within five miles of a regularly established and operated air line against the law…apparently also is flying a plane that is wholly unsafe, and is likely to collapse upon the audience when in flight.

But wasn’t that part of the thrill?  No wonder we went into a depression.

The Great Stock ‘n’ Roll Swindle

February 9, 1927
Los Angeles

bunkoIt’s a pretty simple scheme. 

You own some stock.  I approach and inform you that your stock is about to hit bottom.  I suggest a trade—your stock for some of mine.  The stock I’m offering you is about to go up, up, up, ya see.  (Honestly, that’s the long and short of my plan; we swap my stock worth a penny for your stock worth a dollar—your greed does all the heavy lifting.)

When Mrs. Frances L. Derby of 502 North Ardmore was approached by some very nice men, she parted with 102 shares of John C. Frey & Assoc. worth $1,020, and 124 shares of California Guarantee Assoc. worth $498, and in exchange was given 4,700 shares of Silas Frank Mining.  The Very Nice Men “talked down” her crummy old stock and represented the mining company stock as being worth $1 a share—when in fact it was worth 1 cent a share, or $47.  Mrs. Derby was no ordinary rube, though, got wise, and alerted the authorities.

The aforementioned pleasant fellows being Leon F. Wessling, 36, and J. L. Johannes, 38.  Detective Lieutenants Davis and Edwards of bunko detail say these two have, from their brokerage firm—a prestigious suite of offices in the Merritt Building—similarly swindled Los Angeles residents out of $75,000 in the past week.

According to Wessling and Johannes’ records, the duo finagled $18,000 out of one poor old widow alone.

Sad, true, but at least in a few years there’ll be a lot less stock to swindle.

 

The Apple Box Kid and Miss “I Love L.A.” of 1927

February 8, 1927
Los Angeles

The fourth in a series of bold daylight robberies of outlying classrooms has been reported at the Lillian School, near Holmes and Slauson Avenues. As a room full of terrorized seven-year-olds covered their ears and quaked, a tall, very slender negro relieved their teacher, Mrs. Ruth Hanna, of her handbag, which contained $20 cash. His weapon was neither gun nor knife, but his horrifying facility with curse words and threats. The criminal is suspected to be one William Tyler, known to police as "Stealing 24" and "The Apple Box Kid."

Meanwhile, in darkest Lankershim, Isabel Suaze, 15, is in hiding after hearing her parents’ plans for the family to return to their former home in Arizona. The girl is such a California booster, she’d rather become a street urchin than leave L.A. Here’s to a most discerning young lady!

Anything for a Bust

February 6, 1927
rumsquad Over the weekend, the District Attorney’s crackerjack Prohibition task force proved beyond the shadow of a doubt their devotion to the cause.
Then again, after the theatrical busts they staged, it’s also possible that rum squad head George Contreras and his men simply craved adventure, danger, or an excuse to wear women’s clothing.
The fun started when Contreras and two of his agents entered a home while dressed as telephone repairmen.  When they were unable to find the hooch inside, they flung open the chicken coop in the backyard, and were greeted by three full-grown lions.
Yes, three full-grown lions.  In a chicken coop.
All three men promptly vaulted over the fence, and sought shelter across the street.  Here, they discovered A. Hernandez’s 25 gallon still, and arrested him.
The lions were pets, they later discovered, though “not particularly fond of strangers.”
After the lion incident, Contreras dressed two more of his agents up in women’s clothing and took them joy-riding to 217 E. 61st St..  Here, he pulled up to the home of a suspected moonshiner, Raymond Manley, and asked for “some liquor for the girlfriends.”  When Manley brought out a bottle, police raided the place and discovered an enormous still, 180 gallons of whiskey, and 39 barrels of mash.
So, to sum up:  a man crafts a tasty beverage by hand, and goes to jail for his trouble, while the man who raises adult lions, in a chicken coop, no less, walks free.  And our rum squad seems to enjoy playing dress-up a little more than the average adult probably should.
Up is down, left is right.  Sheesh.

Call for Contributors to the new 1947project site

Gentle reader,

1947project, a Los Angeles based time travel blog dedicated to unearthing forgotten crime stories and peculiar happenings from the city’s past, is seeking extraordinary contributors to research and write a blog entry once or twice weekly for one year.

On March 18, 1947project will launch a brand new site that offers a fresh spin on the time travel blog theme. The selected contributors will get a sneak peak at the site in question, to give them a little time to bone up on the material.

Potential contributors should be witty, concise writers and skilled researchers, with a passion for Los Angeles social history and an interest in true crime. We also welcome contributors who can write knowledgably on such subjects as architecture, city planning, entertainment, transportation, business, fringe religion and other topics that have been featured in past 1947project blog entries. Skill using or building digital maps is a big plus. You do not have to live in Los Angeles.

To get an idea of what we do, please browse this site.

There is no pay, but the successful applicant will have the opportunity to promote their other work on the site, be mentioned in press releases, get free seats on occasional Esotouric bus adventures and occupy a central spot on a website that has become a must-read for fans of L.A.’s offbeat past.

To apply for a spot on 1947project, please do the following by March 12:

1) ensure that you can access the ProQuest archives of the historical Los Angeles Times, either through the LA Public Library website (you will need a library card), by using the LAPL in-library computers, or from another source. You can call your local public or university librarian for help. Note that ProQuest access is essential for this project.

2) please submit the following application materials, pasted into our contact form:
a) a writing sample of 300-500 words, in which you take the basic facts of Marie Prevost’s 1937 death (Google it) and turn it into a 1947project-style blog entry. Imagine you are telling the story to a neighbor who hasn’t yet heard what’s happened, writing it up in a letter home, or submitting a story to a scandal magazine—whatever tone feels right to you. Feel free to use snappy period slang, make suggestions about what might have taken place, and place the dead woman into historical context.
b) your resume
c) an explanation of why you are interested in being a 1947project blogger and what you feel you will bring to the project.
d) how often can you contribute, one or two posts a week?

We look forward to hearing from you!

Kim Cooper, editrix
1947project