William Wrigley’s Ocean Marathon

January 16, 1927
Palos Verdes Peninsula, CA
 
georgeyoung
In 1919, the heavily insured William Wrigley Jr. bought a controlling interest in the Santa Catalina Island Co., and sought to promote his lovely little island getaway.  And what better publicity stunt for the Roaring 20s than a contest of endurance?  Yes, a winter swim from Catalina to Point Vicente would be just the thing for those flagpole-sitting, dance marathoning types.
 
Wrigley offered a prize of $25,000 to the first man to finish the January 15 channel swim, and $15,000 to the first woman. 
 
The Wrigley Ocean Marathon attracted over 100 competitors, including a 17-year-old Canadian boy named George Young.  Young held several Canadian swimming records, but was too poor to afford a ticket to Los Angeles.  He did, however, have a friend with a motorcycle, and together they made the long haul from Toronto.  The bike broke down in Arizona, where Young was picked up by a honeymooning couple, who drove him the rest of the way.
 
His perserverance paid off.  Around 3am on January 16, after swimming for nearly 16 hours, Young was declared the winner of Wrigley’s challenge.  In fact, he was the only competitor to finish the race.  With water temperatures hovering in the 50s, over 2/3 of the contestants dropped out after just a few hours.
 
Young caused a stir when he emerged from the surf in the nude.  The modest Young said, "We put a covering of graphite over the grease before I put on my bathing suit to help keep out the cold… I had taken off my bathing suit when I was two and one half miles from Catalina, and I forgot that grease and graphite were my only covering as I rose out of the water."
 
Two women, Margaret Hauser of Long Beach and Martha Stager of Portland, OR, were awarded prize money, despite not completing the race.  Only a mile from the finish line, Hauser was pulled from the water by her husband/trainer after 19 hours and 26 minutes, making her the contestant who lasted the longest.  When Wrigley heard the news, he said, "Shucks!  That’s too bad.  Give them each $2500 for their remarkable attempts."
 
Sadly, Young’s career fell apart soon after the race.  His manager turned down a $250,000 movie offer, believing he could get more money.  But there weren’t any other offers, and Young never again recaptured his glory he enjoyed as "The Catalina Kid."
 
Those interested in the endurance contests of the era may also enjoy Geoff Williams’s new book, C.C. Pyle’s Amazing Foot Race, which recounts the misadventures of the 199 men who ran from Los Angeles to New York City in 1928.

Sailor’s End

January 15, 1927
Los Angeles

The body of a young man, dressed in sailor’s togs, was found today by four children playing in an open field near Eighteenth Street and Point View Avenue. The youngsters reported their gruesome discovery to the police, who identified the man as Henry Von Bulo.

Von Bulo was the third member of a love triangle gone tragically wrong. (Do they ever end happily?) Last month, Curran C. Samuels, age 40, shot his wife, then turned the gun on himself. He died. The missus, though pierced by a bullet that entered her ear and exited her mouth, survived. While in the hospital, Mrs. Samuels told detectives that her husband had probably killed her friend, Henry Von Bulo. She even led them on an unsuccessful search of the vicinity in which his body was eventually found. Mrs. Samuels believes that Von Bulo was killed on December 15, as he did not keep an appointment in Long Beach on that day. Three days later, Mr. Samuels shot his wife near Rossmore Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard "where she was engaged as a box-lunch saleswoman."

Despite the fact that Von Bulo was dressed in sailor’s clothing and Mrs. Samuels’s assertion that he was a member of the merchant marine, Von Bulo’s stepfather declared that the young man had purchased the uniform and shoes last month in Oakland. He also suggested that his stepson might be the victim of a "bootlegger’s war," but declined to further elaborate.

To Do: Prune Your Roses in Memory of Beth Short

Gentle reader,

Today is a terrible day in Los Angeles history, the 61st anniversary of the morning when Elizabeth Short, soon to be infamous as the Black Dahlia, was discovered dead and cut in two in a vacant lot in Leimert Park. Each January 15, our friend and Dahlia-ologist Larry Harnisch likes to prune his roses and think of Beth. Richard already pruned our roses this morning, and as they come back to lovely life we will remember this little lost girl. She would have been 83 years old, had she lived.

On Sunday, the Esotouric bus rolled south from Vroman’s Bookstore with a full bus of charming people for the debut of Richard’s new manifestation of our flagship tour THE REAL BLACK DAHLIA. We were seen off by the delightful Queen Mickie, taking a break from her Doodah Parade preparations to christen the bus with champagne… bubblebath! Then we headed downtown, to explore the psychology and deep mysteries of Beth Short’s last hours, visiting the places she frequented, examining the characters who touched her, in life and in death and coming to some understanding of who this strange girl was and what brought her to Los Angeles and her early death.

See photos from this tour here:
https://blackdahliavromans1-13-08.notlong.com/

And see Queen Mickie in the Doodah Parade next Sunday:
https://www.pasadenadoodahparade.info/

This Saturday, 1/19, we offer my personal favorite of our true crime tours, BLOOD AND DUMPLINGS, a criminal and gastronomical excursion into the deeply bizarre criminal and cultural history of the San Gabriel Valley. Meet lions and nazis and hypodermic-jabbing lesbians, religious zealots obsessed with pyramid power, a lesser-known Manson Family victim, James Ellroy’s iconic murdered mother Geneva, Phil Spector and his hillside castle, deadly trailer parks and actual sea monsters, who will keep you company as you gobble down a dumpling feast from 101 Noodle Express, one of Jonathan Gold’s top LA restaurants. Join us do, and reserve your spot today by emailing me or buying online at https://www.esotouric.com/bnd-1-19-08

As always, we offer 15% off for KCRW members, and a $30 discount when you purchase a 4-tour Season Pass, which can be applied retroactively for folks who have ridden a recent tour. Email for more info or visit the website to reserve your spot on the unpredictable floating LA think tank that is the Esotouric bus.  

yrs,
Kim

Upcoming Esotouric bus tour schedule (new tours starred):
Sat Jan 19- Blood & Dumplings San Gabriel Valley Crime Bus Tour
San Jan 26- Weird West Adams Crime Bus Tour
Sat Feb 2- Where the Action Was Hollywood Rock and Roll Tour
*Sat Feb 16- Wild Wild West Side Crime Bus Tour
*Sat Feb 23- Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles: The Many Downtowns
*Sat Mar 1- Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles: Route 66 (on Banham’s birthday weekend)
*Sat Mar 8- Raymond Chandler’s Bay City (West Los Angeles Chandler tour)
Sun Mar 9- Haunts of a Dirty Old Man: Charles Bukowski’s Los Angeles (on the anniversary of his death)
Sat Mar 15- Vroman’s Bookstore presents Pasadena Confidential

We’re so hungry, we could eat a sheep

eat a sheep headline

January 14, 1927
Taft

Hut, two, three, four – an army of field mice is on the march in Taft, and like most armies, this one travels on its stomach.

Despite being low on the food chain, or maybe because of it, field mice are crafty little creatures, and they can rapidly assess a situation before taking action. While cutting a wide swath through Taft, the mouse invaders spied a small sheep that was confined in a pen and unable to escape. Hundreds of rodent soldiers felt their mousedar vibrate. They swarmed the helpless animal and devoured it on the spot.

Not all mice are evil sheep snacking marauders. On November 18, 1928, Walt Disney would introduce an adorable animated anthropomorphic mouse in the cartoon, “Steamboat Willie”. Nobody would ever look at a mouse in quite the same way.

Is a Woman Ever Really Sorry?

shotbywife 

January 13, 1927
Los Angeles

mabelGeorge and Mabel Drummond had nothing if not a tempestuous wedded life.  Married ten years, hitched when George was fifteen and Mabel twenty-one, their stormy union included many a sterling instance, including the time a jealous Mabel held George in a chair at gunpoint for three hours while she threatened to shoot him with every passing moment.

Today, after the usual morning argument in their Alhambra home, George announced he’d had his fill, and moved his stuff out to go shack up with…a widow.  Tonight Mabel followed George to 335+1/2 West 42nd Street, where George was involved with one Mrs. Helen Salyer. 

Along for the ride Mabel had taken her old friend the pistol.

In fairness, Mabel did, on the sidewalk in front of Helen Salyer’s house, give George one last chance, asking him to come back to her.  George approached and said, firmly, no.  With that, Mabel shot him in the stomach; the force of the blast turned him around and Mabel shot him again in the back.  Mabel walked back to her car, got in, and sat calmly there until authorities arrived.  

helenMabel was arrested by Detective Lieutenants Brown and Adams of University Station, who found her composed, and that she could only comment that if she couldn’t live with him, no-one could.  When asked if she felt any regret, she replied:

“Is a woman ever really sorry?”

(With no defense offered other than the “unwritten law,” on May 19 she was ordered held to Superior Court for trial by Municipal Judge Rosencranz on charges of assault with intent to commit murder.  She told the court “I shot him because I loved him” and reiterated “sure I shot him—if I couldn’t live with him I wasn’t going let anyone else live with him.”  The jury, out an hour, gave her a full acquittal on May 24.)

1947project podcast #12

The time travel bloggers share notable events of December and January 1927, including tales of poisonous liquor, hypercritical papas, NIMBYism in historic South Central and a millionairess tied up and left to die in a sack. Then there’s Crimebo the Clown’s sad recollection of all the ill-advised nastiness he failed to accomplish in 2007, and two new sponsors, one promising untold riches for customers who raise Huguenots in their back gardens.

Stream it now on Moli, or via archive.org or itunes

Cowboys and Indians

January 10, 1927
Unincorporated Los Angeles

Sheriff’s officers responded to a desperate cry of murder after a corpse was found by oil field workers digging ditches in Brea, but when they investigated they determined it was merely the aged skeleton of an Indian, disinterred from his ancient grave. The corpse was reburied without ceremony, and the diggers advised to avoid the spot in the future.

And in another Sheriff’s case with a fresher body, the peculiar suicide by gun of Charles Norton, shopkeeper at 1760 East Slauson, was explained away rather ingeniously. Why was the man found dead in his bed in the store’s back room, when his brother said he had no reason to do away with himself? Deputy Sheriff Hackett believes the cause was a nightmare, triggered by the story "Shooting Mad" in the Wild West-themed magazine lying beside the dead man. Hackett suggests Norton dozed off while reading, dreamed a gunman was in the room, reached under the pillow for his own weapon and inadvertently shot himself. Stranger things have happened in Los Angeles.

Poison—Everybody’s Doing It!

poisonJanuary 8, 1927
Los Angeles

Yesterday’s news told of poison booze victim Dennis Cavanaugh. Now it looks like everybody’s trying to get into the act. Take, for example, Mrs. Helen Delamere, who in court papers filed today claims that her husband, P.F. Delamere, has been trying to poison her for several years. First there was the time he tried to get her to eat some poisoned pie. Mrs. Delamare’s nurse wouldn’t let her—but when the nurse ate it (waste not, want not!), she became ill. When on several occasions Mrs. Delamere consumed chicken and soup prepared by her hubby, sickness followed. And when Mrs. D, her sister, and mother nibbled on sandwiches made by the sinister Mr. D—-you guessed it—-the ladies were seized by illness.

Even Aimee Semple McPherson has been gripped by the poison fad. Suspicion was aroused today when a man hurried into a downtown messenger bureau carrying a brown package tied with purple string addressed to the evangelist and marked “rush delivery.” The man then refused to leave the office until the package was dispatched. Due to his erratic behavior, the delivery service sent a messenger boy out with the package, but instructed him to double around the block. The sender (who paid in cash and did not state his name) followed awhile, then disappeared. In the interim, the police were called.

The officers immediately suspected “an infernal machine,” but when the package and a burning dynamite cap were placed side by side, nothing happened. The cops thereupon opened the box and discovered it was filled with candied figs—sweetmeats now suspected of being poisoned. They await analysis by the city chemist.

Death Potion No. 5

January 7, 1927
Los Angeles

Death Potion Headline

Bending the Volstead Act to the breaking point is de rigeur among the smart set, with an evening of drinking rarely resulting in anything worse than a queasy stomach and a screaming headache the next day.

Dennis J. Cavanaugh (22) and his companions Walter Scott and “Tex” Scott went out last night to do a little carousing. The young men began their evening by stopping off to buy a couple of pints of rum at a store on East Ninety-Second Street, run by the Henkins brothers, Clay (46) and William (48).

Where the young men went to party after purchasing the hooch is not known, but by this morning Walter was in critical condition at his home, “Tex” was very ill, and Dennis had been found dead on the front lawn of a house at 1847 Roosevelt Street – his body reeking of alcohol.

Whether they knew it or not, the Henkins brothers had sold the boys poison liquor. They are currently in jail facing manslaughter charges.

Buying illegal booze is dangerous – it’s like playing Russian roulette. But it becomes even more frightening when people like Wayne B. Wheeler, advocate of the Anti-Saloon League, come out in support of allowing the government to use poison to enforce Prohibition.

On January 1st of this year, the new government formula (“Formula No. 5”) for denaturing industrial ethyl alcohol went into effect. The formula doubles the amount of poison which manufacturers are required to use. Bootleggers sometimes buy industrial ethyl alcohol and substitute the original label with one of their own. Only three drinks of the libation may cause permanent blindness.

Many in Congress have demanded that the government stop legalized murder. The Secretary of the Treasury recently announced that he is opposed to the use of poison to enforce the law, but that “Formula No. 5” will remain until a non-removable, non-poisonous denaturant can be found by government chemists.