The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: June 2007

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I'm glad you folks are linking to me, but I'm quite curious as to what you've said as your site is restricted.

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Victor Segno--man of mystery



Aha! EBay has  another envelope addressed to A. Victor Segno of the Segno Success Club, 701 N. Belmont.

Segno, author of such books as "The Law of Mentalism," "How to Be Happy Though Married" and "How to Have Beautiful Hair," was a mentalist with a simple scam: For a $1 a month, he would send out a mental "success wave" twice a day. And it was quite successful--for him. In a few years, he was able to build an elaborate center in Echo Park (now demolished, apparently).

The Power of Thought
by A. Victor Segno

"I hold it true that thoughts are things
Endowed with bodies, breath and wings,
And that we send them forth to fill
The world with good results--or ill.

That which we call our secret thought,
Speeds to the earth's remotest spot,
And leaves its blessings or its woes,
Like tracks behind it as it goes."

"We awaken in another
Just the thoughts our minds contain.
If we're kind, we win their kindness,
If we hate, they hate again.

We pass on to brother mortals
The vibrations of the soul,
And the knowing ones receive them,
As they search from pole to pole."

"We build our futures thought by thought,
Or good or bad, and know it not--
Yet so the universe is wrought.

Thought is another name for Fate,
Choose, then, thy destiny and wait--
For love brings love and hate brings hate."

--The Law of Mentalism, A. Victor Segno, Los Angeles, Calif., 1902

Here's more about him at the 1947project.

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Valley blaze



1957_0625_potter June 25, 1957
Los Angeles

A 50-foot tower of flames fed by 7,000 gallons of pressurized liquid propane being transferred from a truck to a storage tank was snuffed by a 28-year-old man who said it was no big deal.

Gerald D. Potter, a heating fuel executive living at 14847 Lassen, may have saved a block of businesses at Sepulveda and Oxnard boulevards, as well as untold lives, but he said: "It would have burned out after a while anyway."

Potter heard news reports of the blaze on the radio and drove to the American Butane Co. storage yard, 5919 Sepulveda Blvd. As firefighters provided a protective cover of spray, Potter turned a total of 10 valves on the tanker truck and in the storage yard to quench the flames.

The only reported injury was second-degree burns suffered by firefighter Paul B. Ruddick of Engine Co. 39 when he shut off another valve.

Note: The original estimate of 15,000 gallons of propane was later reduced to 7,000 gallons.

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Paul V. Coates--Confidential File

Paul_coates June 24, 1957

SUBJECT'S NAME: Delbert Wilson Miller.
SUBJECT'S DESCRIPTION: Age, 60. Height, 5 feet, 10 inches. Weight, 155 pounds. Bald, rim of gray hair. Glass right eye. Tattoo: "IRMA-DELL" upper right arm. Tattoo of swastika on left forearm.

Any person with information as to subject's whereabouts is requested to contact Sgt. Ketcherside, Missing Persons Section, Los Angeles Police Department.

Large cities have swallowed up persons before.

But never has a metropolis done a job more thoroughly than it did with Delbert Miller.

Fact and circumstance make his disappearance a near impossibility.

Yet, he's gone.

And no one, in six months of thorough search, has even a hint as to where or why.

Miller is a blind man. He never left his room at the St. Regis Apartments, 237 S. Flower St., without a friend to guide him.

Yet, on Jan. 17, he walked out alone. And vanished.

I talked last week with Miller's daughter-in-law, Mrs. LaJune Miller of 2963 Partridge Ave.

She told me many things about the missing subject: his habits, his disposition, his dependency on others.

1957_0624_ad Which might offer a clue as to his whereabouts. I don't know.

Miller, his daughter-in-law told me, was an independent sort of man. But age had mellowed his quick temper. And blindness had limited his activities.

"My husband and I tried several times to get him to live with us," she said. "But he'd always go back to Flower St. That's where all his old cronies were."

Sometimes, she said, he'd stay with them for a month or so, but always, with a firm, "I'm just in your road here," he'd return downtown.

And have dinner with his son and daughter once or twice a week.

Mrs. Miller and her husband carefully traced the final known movements of the missing man. So did the police.

It was learned that he left his room on the morning of Jan. 17 to shop at Grand Central Market with a friend.

The friend later reported that he returned as far as the Third Street tunnel with Miller. Then Miller said he could find his way alone and they parted.

But Miller reached his room. He put his groceries on the table, stepped out, locked the door, and was never again seen.

The rotting groceries and meat were found a few days later.

"It was like he was planning on coming right back," said Mrs. Miller.

She and her husband spent the next six weeks in the neighborhood.

"We'd drive over in the early evening. Sometimes we'd knock on doors, asking questions. Sometimes we'd approach strangers on the street. They'd look at us like we were crackpots.

"And sometimes, around midnight, we'd drive home and no sooner would we get there than my husband would say to me:

" 'Let's go back. Maybe he'll be there.'

"And we'd go back and look and wait some more--until 2 or 3 in the morning."

Meanwhile, the police continued a thorough investigation.

They checked relatives, hospitals, hotels, mental hygiene clinics, the FBI. They, too, quizzed neighbors. They distributed circulars and placed his fingerprints on FBI file.

Mrs. Miller found one possible clue--but so far it's done no good.

"The landlady told me," she said, "that a stranger came asking for my father-in-law just three days before he disappeared.

"He was a tall, slender gentleman, well dressed and in his 40s."

I asked her about the swastika tattoo on Miller's arm.

"Oh, he was so ashamed of it. He'd had it for years--long before Hitler--and he used to talk quite often about having it removed.

"Just because of it, he'd always wear long-sleeved shirts."

Before we finished our conversation Mrs. Miller admitted, hesitantly, that in desperation she had gone to a fortuneteller for help.

"I don't believe in them, but I had no place else to go."

"What," I asked, "did the fortuneteller say?"

"That we'd hear from him very soon," she answered.

"But that--that was over two months ago."

Now showing!

June 24, 1957
Los Angeles

Now playing at the Million Dollar: "Tropicana" and  "Serenata en Mexico."


Seven Samurai

Trivia note: Akira Kurosawa's "Seven Samurai" premiered in Los Angeles at the late Linda Lea Theater in 1956.


Literary diversions

Ross Macdonald, Jan. 15, 1972

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

Part 4

Dead end



June 24, 1957
Los Angeles

Police Capt. Walter R. Koenig was out walking his dog in the 5500 block of Green Oak Drive, where it dead ends in the Hollywood Hills, when he found Baby Boy Doe. 

He was 1 to 3 months old, and someone had wrapped him in blankets and put him in a cardboard box. An animal discovered Baby Boy Doe and dragged him out. "Police said the baby's legs are missing and one appears to have been cleanly severed with a sharp instrument," the Mirror said. He had been dead three or four days.

Koenig told investigators he had seen a young couple in the area a week earlier. When he questioned them about what they were doing, the man asked for directions and they left, Koenig said.

Rest in peace, Baby Boy Doe.

Koenig joined the LAPD in 1938, a watershed year in Los Angles politics because it marked the recall of Mayor Frank Shaw and the reform administration of Fletcher Bowron. In 1964, he became the police chief in Torrance. In 1969, shortly before reaching retirement age, Koenig accepted a teaching job at Georgia State University.

In an extremely rare honor for a police officer, the American Civil Liberties Union paid tribute to Koenig with its Courage of Conviction award. "As chief of police, Koenig, while enforcing the law firmly and fairly, always displayed an awareness of the rights of the individual as embodied in the Constitution," the ACLU said.

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1957_0623_weidner June 23, 1957

John, 42, runs a health food store on North Lake Street in Pasadena and lives at 861 Elizabeth St., The Times says in a feature story. Born in Holland, he is like many Europeans who came to America after World War II.  "I love it here," he says. "You have a spirit of freedom and liberty which is lost in Europe." 

But the man behind the counter at the health food store is different from most Americans in several ways: He's a Seventh-day Adventist. He's a member of the Order of the British Empire. He holds the French Croix de Guerre, the U.S. Medal of Freedom and the Dutch Order of Orange-Nassau.

His name is John Henry Weidner and for his heroism in saving more than 1,000 people from the Nazis, he will eventually be honored by Israel as one of the Righteous Among Nations. John's life makes for quite a story. His father, a Dutch Reformed minister, and sister died in concentration camps and John was tortured by the Gestapo, escaping from the Nazis five times.

But what interests us about him now is something other than his actions during the war.

Let's jump ahead 10 years. One of his regular customers, a woman named Mary, will ask John to hire her son as a stocker and delivery boy. He's a troubled young man and like John, a refugee--an Arab Christian from Jerusalem who is having a hard time fitting into American society. He's had a few odd jobs, but nothing has worked out. Since he's a small man, he even tried being a jockey at Santa Anita, but ended up filing a disability claim because he suffered a head injury when he was thrown by a horse.

Mary, a member of the Greek Orthodox Church, had taken her son to St. Nicholas, the Syrian Orthodox Cathedral, in Los Angeles; First Nazarene of Pasadena; and finally First Baptist Church of Pasadena, where she enrolled her son in Sunday school and a group for teenagers. The Baptists sponsored Mary's older sons for entry into the U.S. But the young man didn't like the Pasadena Baptist church, saying that the other teenagers were too frivolous in a place intended for reading the Bible and praying.

John will hire the young man and discover that he is bright, pleasant and witty, eager to please and so honest that John will trust him to handle some of the store's banking. The only problem is that the young man is extremely sensitive to anything that seems like criticism.

"He had a lot of pride, a lot of arrogance," John's wife, Naomi, will say. "We were always careful how we gave him an order. If you gave him an order he didn't like he became very resentful."

Still, John will reach out to the young man whenever he has a spare moment at the store. But the young man will be a test. "I would like to be like you but I cannot," he will tell John. "There is no God. You see in Israel what happens to the Arab. There is no God. How can you have a God?"

The young man and John will also argue over the Six-Day War, comparing Israel's victory to the actions of the Nazis. "You think Jews can't be cruel too?" he will ask John.

Eventually, there will be a dispute. John will insist that there was a misunderstanding and try to make amends, but the young man will be adamant and quit his job.

Shortly after that, on a night in June that's the first anniversary of the Six-Day War, the young man will go to the Ambassador Hotel, where Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy is celebrating his victory in California primary.

Sirhan Sirhan, who once earned $2 an hour as a stock boy at John Weidner's Pasadena health food store, will be waiting in the pantry of the Ambassador Hotel's kitchen--with a .22-caliber, eight-shot Iver Johnson revolver.


"I think he was a man of revolt," John will say of Sirhan. "He was a kind of anarchist against society, against law and order, against those who possess. Against those who have more than he has and are more successful in life."

"In America, freedom does not exist,"  Sirhan told John.  "I agree with the violence." 

John H. Wiedner died in 1994. He once said: "During my father's lifetime he taught me, my family, his parishioners and the community that the most important quality in a human being was to love, respect and treat our fellow man as we wished to be loved, respected and treated.   

"I was a witness to the barbaric treatment of the Jews by the Nazis. I personally observed the crushing of the skull of a Jewish infant who was torn out of the arms of its mother. I was determined to heed the teachings and example of my father and I did everything that I could to save as many lives as possible."

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Saturday morning cartoons



It's Engineer Bill on the Cartoon Express! (But who is Skipper Frank? That's a new one on me).

Here's a couple of Bob Clampett cartoons:

"Porky in Wackyland," 1938. Wiki entry here.

"Russian Rhapsody," 1944. Wiki entry here.

Disney's "Der Fuehrer's Face," 1943.  Wiki entry here.

And Chuck Jones' "What's Opera Doc," 1957. Wiki entry here.

Matt Weinstock

Matt_weinstockd June 22, 1957

By now, presumably, people who voted for the $40,000,000 bond issue to extend the city's park and recreation system and expand the zoo know that $2,000,000 of the money will go for roads into Chavez Ravine, where someday the Brooklyn Dodgers may have a ballpark.

Apparently many of them didn't know it on election day.

In fact, they were unaware of this allocation until the matter came before the City Council this week and was steam-rollered through there too.

Suddenly, indignation has taken hold.

A woman writes:

"I can't figure the voters. Maybe they live in boxcars and pay no taxes. Maybe their kids can pick up the tab. My husband and I sweat blood to get our house paid for. But, oh boy, we've got to have more taxes, no matter how unjustified, just so the politicians can take a bow on bringing major league baseball to Los Angeles. I feel like a dancing bear with a ring through my nose."

Another letter:

"That was a real sneaky job, letting the taxpayers foot part of the bill to bring the Brooklyn Dodgers, a private, moneymaking enterprise, to Los Angeles."


"No one has asked my opinion about the baseball situation in L.A. But here it is: Dodgers go home!"

ONE OF THE big problems of the day is what's going to happen to backyard incinerators when they're outlawed.

The other day, G.B., a Hollywood apartment dweller, put the question to the landlady:

"I'm going to leave it exactly as it is," she said firmly. "About the time I'd get it torn down the Supreme Court will declare the law unconstitutional. I figure the people who make incinerators aren't going to give up without a fight. They'll take their case to the highest court in the land."


June 22, 2007
Los Angeles

I got on the Red Line at the 7th and Figueroa station last night to find two teenage boys with skateboards at one end of the car. They called out an odd warning for all of us to keep our feet out of the aisle. "This is a dangerous car," they warned. We soon found out the reason. One of the boys was sitting astride his skateboard and as we left the station, the forward motion sent him shooting down the length of the car.

He did the same thing when the car came to a stop, shooting back to the front. This continued at each stop until the boy hit someone, thus ending the game until they got to Union Station.

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