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Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: May 20, 2007 - May 26, 2007

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Neumann on the Mideast, Part 16

Note: In early 1957, The Times sent UCLA professor Robert G. Neumann on a six-week tour of the Middle East. Neumann, who was later the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and Morocco, wrote these stories upon his return. His son, Ronald, is U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.

Part 16, March 27, 1957


Matt Weinstock

Matt_weinstockdMay 22, 1957

A group of newspapermen yesterday were discussing the angry outbursts which have filled the air following a certain telecast--and the irony thereof.

Over the years, sensitive public officials and law enforcement officers have been wary of newspapermen because they occasionally touched on sore subjects in print.

More mature public servants, of course, accepted, ignored or laughed off such typographical embarrassment.

But the sensitive gentlemen turned in relief to the big eye in the living room for consolation and what appeared a more favorable display of their deeds.

In recent months, however, some TV personalities, anxious to extend their audiences, have thrown off all restraint in presenting scandalous material.

Now those public officials realize they never had it so good as when they dealt fairly with the press. Newspapermen omitted turning over many rocks under which lurked ugly facts on the grounds of libel, responsibility and good taste.

With the irresponsible TV boys, however, and there are only a few, the sky's apparently the limit.

Drivers' Ed Theatre

"None for the Road," 1957

Bad things happen when Jerry Landon comes home from college--and to the lab rat that's the heavy drinker.  Featuring the Aetna Drive-a-Trainer.   

Swimsuit issue

The women's page. Note the "early American" ashtrays and telephone stands. And closing the Mexican border to juveniles? Well, that might cut into business at the Half-Way House. A swimsuit and Ray-Bans? Classic 1950s.


Pepe Arciga

1957_arciga_3May 22, 1957

Give or take a match, professional boxing in all of Southern California has been almost totally in the hands of gloved warriors of Mexican descent for, say, the last 25 years.

This monopoly, if you want to call it such, is no mere accident. It is no scheme on the part of anyone, much less promoters. It is no design of convenience, period.

Mexican fighters, born here or yonder, possess a peculiarity which, with the possible exception of glovers of Irish ancestry, isn't always typical of battlers in general.

That peculiarity, my friends, is very basic. It consists of one utterly simple fact: Integrity to the fullest extent.

Translate this into Cauliflower Alley language and they'll tell you, quite candidly, that those "Mexican kids are all action, plenty of guts with never a thought about tank jobs."

One quick glance at the recent past of top-rated Mexican ring stars will bear out the contention.

Look at Tampico-born Baby Arizmendi. Or Mexico City-born Rodolfo Casanova. Or Los Angeles-born Manuel Ortiz. Or Durango-born Enrique Bolanos.

Butch_waxOr Mexico City-born Raul (Raton) Macias and Ricardo (Pajarito) Moreno. Or Laredo-born Kid Azteca.

All of them individuals who enriched and never tarnished the sometimes shadowy profession of I-punch-you, you-punch-me, let's-get-paid.

Even now, when old aficionados of the boxing game sadly shake their heads to moan the fact that "the game ain't what it usta be," Mexican fighters--particularly those of the Mexico City crop--keep sticking out their heads to proudly proclaim that theirs is no dying sport.

For proof, look at your calendar and mark the date of May 23 (when "Pajarito" Moreno and Jose Luis Cotero clash) as a date when Los Angeles will see perhaps the greatest battle of featherweight fury cooked up here since Arizmendi's heroic duels versus Henry Armstrong.

But, now, the inevitable question mark surrounding the overwhelming participation of Mexicans in pro boxing.

Is there a reason why there should not be, in professional boxing circles, a referee, a judge, a commissioner of Mexican extraction?

Tonight, under the joint sponsorship of the Council of Mexican Affairs and the local chapter of the American GI Forum, the absence of officials of Mexican extraction from boxing circles in California comes up for serious discussion and comment.

Attorney Henry Lopez and Frank X. Paz will conduct proceedings which, needless to say, will be highly interesting.

Prominent personalities from the sports and civic world will await the sound of the gong at 8 p.m. at Casa del Mexicano.

The eight-second mandatory count will not be in effect. Not even for Pepe, who'll be there wearing 60-ounce gloves. And plenty of collodion.

I'll be my own referee. Gracias.

Missing, but not forgotten

Note: I recently received this request for information--lrh

I was living in South-Central Los Angeles in the early 1960s and attending Lillian Street Elementary School. My sister and I walked home with her friend Cassie, who stood out among the predominantly  Hispanic and African American neighborhood. She was very blonde and  blue-eyed, and about 9 or 10 years old  Her dad lived off of 65th avenue and drove a catering truck for a living, always giving us leftover donuts that he did not sell that day.

The police came to our house late in the afternoon, saying she never made it home. We had walked with her to 64th Street where we lived and then she walked on.

I would like to know more about what happened; if the case was ever solved. I have never  been able to even find an article on this on the Internet, but the sheriffs did tell me about 15 years ago that the case was never solved.

Can you find out more about her, her last name or any possible leads?  It has haunted me all these years. Her family moved out of state after the kidnapping, I think there were four kids in the family.   


Lydia Butler

Email me

From the archives

The Los Angeles Police Commission protests the Mickey Cohen broadcast, May 22, 1957


From the City of Los Angeles Archives

Neumann on the Mideast, Part 15

Note: In early 1957, The Times sent UCLA professor Robert G. Neumann on a six-week tour of the Middle East. Neumann, who was later the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and Morocco, wrote these stories upon his return. His son, Ronald, is U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.

Part 15, March 26, 1957


Paul V. Coates--Confidential File

Paul_coates May 21, 1957
The note was found next to the man's body. It was addressed to the dead man's sister.

"Dear Fanny," it read. "I am sorry to say goodbye, but it is best this way. I leave all I got, clothes and other items, to you.

"The Social Security money will pay final expenses. You take care of it.

"My best to all of you. Your loving brother, Paul."

Police who searched Paul's apartment found one lone penny, plus many matchbooks and other giveaway items bearing the names of Gardena gambling establishments.

They learned through investigation that the man had been gambling, almost compulsively, for many weeks and his losses were heavy.

The story of Paul's suicide appeared in the papers three months ago.  [Note: I was unable to locate it--lrh]

And I know at least two men who clipped it out and saved it.

Because they--one a carpenter, the other a salesman--brought me the clippings yesterday.

"I wish," said the carpenter, "that we could have known the man. We might have been able to help him."

"How?" I asked.

The carpenter answered: "Just by knowing him and talking to him. He had the same problem we once had, and after all, we helped ourselves. Just by becoming acquainted with our own kind of people."

Then the carpenter gave me a brief account of the last 20 years of his life:

1957_0521_ad_schweitzer "I first became interested in the horses in about 1936. And by 1939 I was hooked. That's when I started making a habit out of missing work or taking afternoons off, saying I was sick--and then racing out to the track.

"But it wasn't long before that became too boring. So I moved to Reno--family and all--where I could bet all four tracks at the same time. I'd be listening to the race calls and playing cards at the same time."

The salesman's story was different.

"With me, it was cards. For 10 years solid, I played."

He mentioned, as an example, one poker session in Seal Beach.

"I got there Friday afternoon," he said, "with my paycheck--just like always. And I sat on that chair for 50 hours straight. I ate a little, but I didn't even get up to go to the men's room.

"The only reason I finally quit was because the game broke up."

I asked what changes gambling made in his life and he laughed.

"Everything. When I'd get my paycheck I'd refuse to use it for food, clothes or a good car. I had to have it to gamble, and I dressed like a bum and ate crackers and cheese.

"I was physically shot and lost interest in everything. I began having serious marital troubles and my friends--well, we just didn't have anything in common anymore."

It was, said the carpenter, just about the same with him. He had tried to quit a number of times.

"But you finally did quit," I said. "When?"

"About three years ago. I knew a few others who wanted to quit and we used to talk about it together. Finally, with two other men, I made an agreement that we'd call each other every time we got the urge.

"So, when one man phoned another, the second would say, 'Wait for me and I'll go with you.' Then we'd get together and talk until the urge left."

It worked. The group assumed the name Gamblers Anonymous and took in a few more members.

"Naturally," explained the carpenter, "we can't help anybody who doesn't want help."

The salesman is one of the latest. He joined six months ago.

"I had even tried psychiatric help before that," he told me. "No luck. I had to find somebody who lived my problem just like I did--and who could understand me."

The salesman recalled that the first time he met the carpenter they reminisced about old Gamblers' Alley in Reno--a narrow alleyway behind the clubs where men in tattered clothes would rush up to strangers to plead for half a buck to try again.

"When I left him that night I said to myself:

"At last, I met a gambler who doesn't gamble. That's what I am going to be.

"So you can see," he concluded, "that for all of us it's strictly a matter of self-preservation."

Mickey Cohen talks

Mirror critic Hal Humphrey's take on the Mickey Cohen-Mike Wallace affair.


Boyfriend kills waitress



To Whom It May Concern:

My name is Linda Pyne and I am writing on behalf of my husband, Richard D. Pyne.

As an infant he was abandoned by his parents.

He did know that his mother was murdered in Los Angeles and knew the year that she died as he did have a copy of the death certificate. Through research of a friend he did learn who killed her and where it took place.

According to the death certificate this happened on 8/15/56. Yes, I know this was 51 years ago, but he needs to put closure on this matter.

If possible we would like to find out if there were any more newspaper articles on this matter and would like to find out what happened to the accused man, John Federoff.

I will pay any fees necessary to obtain this information. Due to the distance I am requesting assistance in finding information. Our adult children are curious about this matter also.

I am enclosing a copy of the newspaper article from the Los Angeles Times and a copy of Virginia Mae Pyne's death certificate.

I thank you in advance for any information you may be able to give me.



He sat at the lunch counter of the Owl Drug Store, 8490 Beverly Blvd., for 90 minutes, walked behind the counter, pushed a waitress aside and shot his ex-girlfriend five times. Two motorcycle officers who were using the pay phone heard the gunshots and captured John Federoff [or Tederoff], 37, of 2205 W. 6th St.

According to police, Federoff kidnapped and assaulted Virginia Mae Pyne, 5533 Hollywood Blvd.,  the week before, but she refused to press charges.  He told police they had lived together at 349 S. Rampart, but "she took all my money and left me with nothing but bills." 

On Nov. 30, 1956, Federoff pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and was sentenced to five years to life in prison. No further information is available in The Times. 

California death records list a John A. Federoff, who died Aug. 6, 1996, at the age of 76.

I hope this provides some answers, and perhaps, a bit of closure.

Email me

Matt Weinstock

Matt_weinstockd May 20, 1957

It is characteristic of our pueblo to blow up a typhoon over matters which might more wisely be handled quietly and in proper perspective. For instance, the fuss over the impending arrival of the Brooklyn Dodgers.

As one who spent many a hot summer afternoon as an eager boy picking up empty soft-drink bottles after the baseball games at old Washington Park, then at Washington Boulevard and Hill Street, to earn a pass for the next day's game, I wish to cast a dissenting and slightly scornful vote. I don't think it's quite that wonderful.

We have two good ball clubs, Los Angeles and Hollywood--good enough to hold their own against the second-division clubs in both major leagues. Yet not enough people support them. Whence cometh, then, this assurance they will support the Dodgers?

Let's face it--this is a stay-at-home town with a widely scattered population. For those who choose not to stay at home there are too many other things, more exciting than baseball, to do and see.

And all the synthetic excitement and double talk over whether they'll play at the Coliseum or Wrigley Field or Chavez Ravine is mostly a bunch of guys talking to each other.

Certainly it's news that the Dodgers are coming, if and when they come. But not THAT much news.


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