Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history
SUBJECT'S DESCRIPTION--Age 30. Height, 5 feet, 5 inches. Weight, 125 pounds. Dark brown eyes. Light brown hair. Slight scar on left side of jaw.
Any person with information as to subject's whereabouts is requested to contact her mother, Mrs. Dessie Fentiman, 15138 Banderia Ave.,* Paramount, Phone: MEtcalf 3-6611.
It was midafternoon and sticky warm and I stopped in a dull and empty cafe to make a phone call.
The booth was across from the soda counter--about 10 feet from the jukebox, which was silent. As I stepped into the cubicle the waitress looked at me and gave a shrug of her shoulder, significant of I don't know what.
I closed the door and dialed.
A woman answered.
"Hello," she said, slowly.
"Mrs. Fentiman?" I asked.
She said yes, it was. Speaking. I explained that I had received her letter. "About your missing daughter."
"Oh yes," she said. The words came slowly, in monotone.
Then our question-and-answer session began. She told me that it had been more than seven years.
"Then she married and came to California," she said. "Lived in Oakland and Grass Valley. That's where she separated from her husband--Grass Valley. Then she came to Long Beach."
(A couple of times, I glanced at the lone waitress. She was staring at me, disinterestedly. Like there was nothing to stare at).
Mrs. Fentiman continued to answer my questions.
"She wasn't much of a hand to write," she told me, "so I was about the only one who heard from her.
"She'd done waitress work and done beauty operator. Liked to dance a lot."
(The waitress, maybe 25, walked toward the jukebox).
"A son of mine," Mrs. Fentiman continued, "saw her in San Pedro not long before she stopped writing. She told him she was going to marry this boy Johnnie and go to Alaska."
I asked her if she knew Johnnie.
"No," she answered. "Judy wrote me about him, though. She worked keeping house for his parents in Long Beach. A very nice boy, she always said." Her voice came sadder, now.
(The waitress was walking away from the jukebox. Voices and music jumped out after her. In rock 'n' roll beat they cried: "Gonna find her... Gonna find her...")
"I never did know," Mrs. Fentiman continued, "what Johnnie's last name was.
"If I just only knew their names."
"Mrs. Fentiman," I asked, talking over the music, "what did your daughter's last letter say?"
"That she was coming to see me. In two weeks. Finally a couple years later, I came out here.
"Police been looking, but we can't find a trace."
(The beat of the song was building. "And if she's hiding up on blueberry hill... Am I gonna find her, child... You know I will...")
"I can't believe she's living or she'd write me," Mrs. Fentiman sighed.
"I hate to feel that way but I can't help it."
(The record was finishing up. "No matter where she's hiding... She's gonna hear me coming... I'm gonna walk right down that street... Like Bulldog Drummond...")
I told Mrs. Fentiman that I'd see what I could do and I hung up. I stepped up from the phone booth and nodded to the waitress.
She nodded back. "The Coasters," she said.
I smiled, wondering what she was talking about.
"The Coasters," she replied, motioning toward the jukebox. "Really rock, don't they?"
ps. Dessie L. Fentiman died July 25, 1976, in Shasta County, according to California death records. She was 71.
*Banderia has since been renamed Hayter Avenue.
Sept. 29, 1957
Fifty years ago, The Times included Bible stories in the Sunday comics with a strip titled "Tales From the Great Book," drawn by John Lehti. This is a sample of his work, telling the story of Ruth and Boaz.
Greg Armento, history librarian at Cal State Long Beach, dropped me a note about early uses of "smog" in The Times. He noted that on March 29, 1914, The Times said:
"[Kokomo Times:] The esteemed Weather Bureau has sprung a
new one. It is the word 'smog,' and it means smoke and fog. The bureau
explains that very frequently there are times when this mixture is
apparent in the atmosphere, and it considers the new word a great
"Very well, 'smog' let it be. But why end there? Let's call a mixture of
snow and mud 'smud.' A mixture of snow and soot 'snoot,' and a mixture
of snow and hail 'snail.' Thus we might have a weather forecast:
"Snail today, turning to snoot tonight; tomorrow smoggy with smud."
Of course Proquest is a wonderful tool for such research on language. And with just a bit of digging, we can find even earlier references to smog. A July 30, 1905, article in the Chicago Daily Tribune credits the word to Dr. Des Voeux of London's Coal Smoke Abatement Society.
According to the wire service article from the New York Herald, Des Voeux proposed the word at a public health congress held in London to discuss the city's polluted air. According the article, Des Voeux said the name of London should be changed to "Smog" because the air was so dirty.
"If the obsolete kitchen fire were abolished there would be less smog," the article says. "In fact, Des Voeux professed to be able to detect three distinct diurnal smogs--breakfast, lunch and dinner smogs." His novel solution was to use the London underground as a gigantic exhaust system to pump out pollution and bring in fresh air.
Des Voeux is sometimes given credit for coining the term, but alas, as soon as we crown him with this accomplishment, we must snatch it away, for there are even earlier usages.
A Jan. 19, 1893, article in the Los Angeles Times credits an unidentified "witty English writer":
"The fact that the death rate of London has recently almost doubled, going to over thirty in the thousand, is sufficient attestation of the evil effects of the dense, black fog which hung over that city for six consecutive days not long ago.
These visitations, which a witty English writer once designated by the name "smog," represent a condition of the atmosphere when it is saturated with moisture and charged with soot and the fumes of sulfur and carbonic acid gas from the chimneys and smokestacks of the great city. It has long been known that they are harbingers of disease.
Not long ago, a story writer of the grewsome school published a sketch in which he had all the people of London suffocated in one of these fogs, with the exception of one man who made his escape by using a Yankee device for manufacturing ozone."
As interesting as all this may be, the waxing and waning popularity of the "N-word" in The Times over the years is a far more fascinating and relevant pursuit. I hope to write more about the "N-word" in a later post, for it went in and out of fashion regularly, nearly disappearing from the paper during World War I and vanishing for several years during World War II.
Several people have noticed that the postcard of The Times Building in the earlier entry doesn't show the eagle. So I queried Carolyn Strickler, a friend and former head of The Times History Center.
She says the post-bombing structure was an entirely new building, not a reconstruction. According to the clips, this structure (the third Times Building) opened in 1912 on the second anniversary of the bombing and the eagle was placed on the parapets overlooking the northeast corner of 1st Street and Broadway. The eagle was taken down and re-gilded before being installed on the current Times Building on June 27, 1935.
Here's the eagle being hoisted into position on July 18, 1912:
The eagle is visible in this photo of the building taken in August 1912:
Conclusion: The postcard publisher removed the eagle.
And here's the eagle in 1935:
I also found this poem written shortly after the bombing:
Although I don't often post items from EBay, these are exceptional: Two historic postcards of The Times.
The first shows the presses. Perhaps regular readers at the Olympic Plant can shed some light on the equipment. (Personal note: The Times Building has never smelled the same since they took out the press line. Nothing in the world smells like ink mist).
Postcard No. 2 shows The Times Building on the northeast corner of 1st Street and Broadway. The tower was added when the building was reconstructed after the 1910 bombing by labor radicals. This is why it's titled "The New Times Building."
Bonus fact: At one time, the newspaper marked the Oct. 1, 1910, anniversary of the bombing with a moment of silence and rites at Hollywood Memorial Park Cemetery, now Hollywood Forever Cemetery.
Attention art sleuths: A close examination of the Redwood ad reveals this startling detail!
Yes, that's right! According to this 1960 ad, the "famed 'Poker Dog' original oil paintings" were on display at the Redwood. And the paintings were insured for $25,000 ($167,025.46 USD 2006), in case they were stolen, perhaps by some inebriated newsman in search of a souvenir for his desk.
Let's ignore, just for the sake of argument, that for $167,025.46 you could buy a shipping container of "Poker Dog" reprints, and look into this.
If, by some fantastically unlikely quirk of fate, you've never seen one of these pictures, which hang in every bar, pool hall and rec room in America, they look like this:
In fact, the paintings (above, "A Friend in Need") were done by Cassius Marcellus Coolidge, and have been reproduced on calendars, wall clocks, decks of cards, drink coasters, bobblehead writing pens, needlepoint kits and figurines:
I have no idea what the Redwood hung on its walls in 1960, and whether the restaurant had any Coolidge originals is a question I can't answer. The location of Coolidge's 16 originals, done about 1903 as calendar art for Brown & Bigelow, is unclear. A pair of originals sold on EBay for $590,400 in 2005 and several other, as yet unidentified, originals have sold at auction over the years.
Obviously, a (nonalcoholic) field trip to the Redwood is in order. In the meantime, surely there are some veteran patrons who can fill me in. You know who you are. And perhaps some art historian at the Getty would like to offer an opinion on the enduring popularity of the "Poker Dogs" series.
Here's a satiric look (at least I think satiric, though one never knows) about secret meanings in the "Poker Dogs" paintings.
ps. Now that I have found an L.A. connection to the "Poker Dogs," I feel almost guilty making fun of the clown paintings in Brian De Palma's "The Black Dahlia."
Sept. 27, 1957
Aug. 12, 1957--A 19-year-old youth was stabbed and seriously wounded last night as he fought to say an 11-year-old girl from criminal attack in Hollenbeck Park. The youth, Edward Gandara, and Jesus Rodriguez, 16, routed the molester, who escaped after driving a penknife into Gandara's abdomen. The knife was removed at Lincoln heights Receiving Hospital.
Gandara told police: "He stuck me in the middle but I kept on fighting until he ran away."
It was a few days ago. Eddie was just out of the hospital. He and some of the guys were sitting around and making talk.
"They sure wrote you up nice in the papers," one of the guys told Eddie.
Eddie laughed. "Man," he said, "they sure tell some lies."
"What do you mean?" he was asked.
"I mean," he answered, "like they said I kept fighting after I got stabbed. I know I didn't, man. I know."
"What did you do, then?"
"I ran. I ran all over the place. It hurt and I just kept running back and forth and all over the place.
"I ran out into the street and this car was coming right at me. He didn't even have time to hit the brakes. He climbed the sidewalk and just missed a phone pole and kept right on going."
"He missed you?"
"Yeah," said Eddie. "He missed me. And then the cops came and started asking me a mess of questions and I kept telling them, 'Look, I got a knife sticking in my stomach, get me an ambulance, man.' "
Eddie stopped, only to be prodded again by the question:
"How long before the ambulance came?"
He shrugged. "Half-hour, maybe. Two guys was holding me, and I kept telling them if it didn't come soon I'd pull the knife out myself."
The rest of the group laughed.
Then, without emotion, he added:
"One of the blades had a hook on it. A can opener, like.
"It wouldn't," he concluded, "pull out."
There was a mass grimace, like everybody felt it.
"Finally," Eddie said, "the ambulance came. Man, it was a long time. And all the time the cops kept saying 'What did he look like?' 'What was he wearing?' "
"Cops," somebody mumbled.
And the subject changed to them--bad cops, good cops, any cops. But after a few minutes it was back to the knife in Eddie's stomach.
"Did they pull it out when the ambulance got there?"
Eddie shook his head. "They helped me into the back and some guy got in with me. I said to him: 'Aren't you going to give me something? It hurts bad, man. Aren't you going to pull that knife out?'
"So he pulls out a pad of paper instead. 'What's your name?' he asks me. I say 'What?' and he says 'Your name and address.'
"So I pull out my wallet and I throw it. Hard. I catch him a beauty right in the eye.
"By the time we reach the hospital," he continued, "the guy's got a big bruise and a nurse asks him what happened."
It was a funny situation and everybody laughed.
Then Eddie told about the hospital, how he couldn't remember what happened the first week, how some of the nurses were pretty fine but how they were always waking you up.
"They wake you up to give you sleeping pills," a friend put in.
"How about the bill?"
"Pretty big," said Eddie, "but I want to thank you guys for the blood."
It took 11 pints to keep Eddie alive. The guys gave eight of them.
"So finally," Eddie continued, "when I got out I went over to Lincoln Heights to get my wallet back--that I threw at the guy.
"I told the girl who I was and she said she remembered about it. She went and got it and came back.
"So then she asks me... " Eddie started to laugh.
"OK," said somebody. "What did she ask you?"
"She asked me," answered Eddie, "have I got any identification."
Sept. 27, 1957
I never thought the time would come when I would write an ode to a single-chamber incinerator but here I am, doing it. Well, not exactly an ode but maybe a panegyric or at least a paean.
After Monday, householders can no longer burn, not even on unsmoggy mornings or calm evenings.
By official edict, the backyard incinerator has become a villain, convicted of contributing to the delinquency of smog and sentenced to death.
I don't know about other people but I shall miss carrying the kitchen wastebasket daily to the ugly but inoffensive furnace and putting a match to the contents.
There was a sense of accomplishment in seeing a mess of crumpled paper and junk mail addressed to "Occupant" being reduced to ashes.
I always gave it the full treatment. As a confirmed fire watcher, I stayed with the incinerator in fair weather and foul to make sure it burned clean and didn't smoke up the neighborhood.
But henceforth all the flotsam and jetsam that accumulate around the house must be submitted to municipal collectors.
Only one problem remains--what to do with the darned old thing.
QUOTE AND UNQUOTE--A lady asked the pianist in the bar of an Altadena restaurant if he "knew anything by Jules Verne" and, reports Bill Morgan, he caught on quickly and obliged with "Around the World"... The Ubiquitous Reporter, as an anonymous postcarder identifies himself, reports hearing this first-row echo in a burlesque house: "Hold everything, Novita, until I wipe my glasses!"
DID YOU NOTICE the ad on the back page of Life showing a college couple saying "Winston tastes good" and a passing prof finishing the sentence, "AS a cigarette should"?
Let us not assume the Winston people finally yielded to the grammarians, outraged by "like" used until now. More likely, they decided to make the most of the teapot tempest over the grammatical error as a further, good-humored exploitation pitch.
SPEAKING OF words, the Hayward Hotel coffee shop has a sign, "Slunch," apparently a contraction of supper and lunch and not to be confused with "Brunch," breakfast and lunch. "Slunch" is specifically interpreted on the sign to mean a coffee break. If we get any more of them, under whatever name, we'll be snacking about every hour on the hour.
IT'S TOO LATE to do anything about it, with the deadline for the Dodger decision Sunday, but Jim Miller of Whittier wonders why the city executives didn't do as the Inglewood City Council did when the question of a racetrack came up. A postal card vote was taken, all registered voters receiving them. The people voted for the track.
AT RANDOM--Culver City Cully says one of the bad features of the five-day week is that the Sunday drivers are also out on Saturday... Pat Disberry tells of the motorist who came upon a woman standing beside a small foreign car and asked, "Had an accident?" "No," she replied acidly, "I always turn it over on its back when I have to change a tire"... A restaurant on Hill Street near 7th which recently closed has its windows soaped pending new occupancy. And then the other day a sign was posted on it, "Another downtown L.A. improvement."
Sept. 27, 1957
Thomas Lee Anglin's first mistake was buying a gun so his wife could protect herself. His next mistake was arguing with her while she was holding the loaded .22-caliber pistol. His third mistake, which was almost his last, was trying to call her parents during the argument.
Anglin, 2584 N. Brighton St.,* Burbank, a 21-year-old electrician at Lockheed, was in fair condition at St. Joseph Hospital after being shot in the abdomen when his 20-year-old wife, Bertha, tried to hit the telephone out of his hand with the gun.
The Anglins, the parents of an 18-month-old girl, had been arguing for two days but refused to discuss the matter with police in detail. Neither of them would say why they were arguing and Thomas refused to implicate his wife in the shooting. Bertha was charged with assault with intent to commit murder.
All she would say was: "I was only trying to keep him from calling my folks" and "I didn't know it would go off."
The Times never followed up on the case.
*This address doesn't exist. Here's the Zillow listing for 2542 N. Brighton.