The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: June 3, 2007 - June 9, 2007

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Matt Weinstock

Matt_weinstockd June 5, 1957

Municipal collection of combustible rubbish began Monday in a vast area including Hollywood and, human nature being what it is, the results were slightly startling.

Householders seized upon the opportunity to get rid of all sorts of rusty and dusty stuff stored for years in garages, including broken birdcages, wicker baby buggies, old tires, beat-up suitcases, ruptured easy chairs and worn-out girdles.

Their attitude was plain. They're paying for the service and they intend to make the most of it.

The Fire Department naturally is delighted by this wholesale unloading. Much of the junk is a potential fire hazard.

The rubbish collectors, nursing aching backs, figure it's all part of the job.

Their bosses would say only that the collections were "unprecedentedly heavy."

In the event anyone is interested, the stuff is burned in two city incinerators--one on Lacy Street and Avenue 21, the other on Gaffey Street in San Pedro--and also dumped in Toyon Canyon in Griffith Park.

Toyon Canyon is a cavity of 5,000,000 cubic yards, will take approximately five years to fill and never seemed so appropriately named as now.

Note: In April 1957, the city of Los Angeles began collecting combustible rubbish as it moved toward a ban on incinerators, which were outlawed as of July 1, 1957 for businesses, motels and apartment houses, and Oct. 1, 1957, for homes. The Toyon Canyon Landfill closed in 1985.

TV hypnotizes dog



June 5, 1957
Beverly Hills

"OK, 261 S. Maple, Beverly Hills. This is the place.

"Hi, Mr. and Mrs. Bloom?"

"That's us."

"We're from The Times. You the folks with the dog that watches TV?"

"Yes. Do you want to see him?"

"Actually, we'd like to see him and take his picture."

"Come on in."

"Thank you. Is he watching TV now?"

"Right now he's in the backyard."

"OK, where's the TV set?"

"In here.... Have a seat."

"Why don't you tell us what happened?"

"Well, there isn't much to tell. On Monday night, we were watching television and there was a show about a hypnotist. And the dog was sitting in his chair, right there, and he suddenly sat up and got very, very stiff."

"So Mrs. Bloom, what did you do?"

"I waved my hand in front of his eyes and he didn't react. So I told my husband, 'I think he's dead. Call the police.' "

"Call an ambulance," said Mr. Bloom.

"So you called the Beverly Hills police?"

"They said to call the Humane Society."

"And what happened next?"

"They said to throw some water on him. I got a towel and wet it down and put it on him, you know, but it didn't do any good."

"I see. What happened next?"

"Our son, Phil, came home and the dog finally moved."

"And then what?"

"And then nothing. Just back to normal."

"I see. I wonder if we could get a picture of the dog watching television."

"Why certainly."

"What does he like to watch? 'Lassie?' 'Rin-Tin-Tin?' "

"No... I don't think so."

"Hm. This was Monday night?"


"How about if we go through the listings to see if I can jog your memory?"

"Leave It to Beaver?"

"No, it was later than that."

"I Love Lucy?"


" 'December Bride?' 'Voice of Firestone?' "

"I'm sorry, I wish I could be more help."

"Channel 2 news with Clete Roberts?"


"Here it is: Channel 7. 'Mask of Dijon.' Erich von Stroheim. Refusing to work, a magician uses hypnotism for evil purposes."

"That must be it."

"May we get a picture of the dog watching television?"

"Of course."

"OK, Mrs. Bloom, how about if you stand there and look at the dog?"



Ps. Somehow the Times reporter forgot to ask the dog's name. I'd like to think he was named Ch. Tampa Chatsworth Devonshire III. But they called him Spot.

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Soldier kills woman



June 5, 1957

Until the moment he pulled the trigger on that day in January, Spc. 3rd Class William S. Girard of Ottowa, Ill., was a just bored 21-year-old soldier with an IQ of 90 guarding a machine gun on a firing range.

Until the moment Girard pulled the trigger, Naka Sakai of Somagahara, Japan, was just a 46-year-old wife and mother of six children from an impoverished village scavenging shell casings from the range.

Maybe as a warning, maybe out of boredom, Girard had his companion, Spc. 3rd Class Victor N. Nickel, throw some empty cartridges out on the firing range. As Sakai and the other scavengers scrambled to pick up the precious brass, Girard fired a warning shot: a spent casing from a grenade launcher mounted on a borrowed M-1 rifle. But the casing struck Sakai, killing her and touching off an international furor.

1957_0604_girard Beyond those few facts, the case is cloudy. According to the scavengers, some soldiers treated them well and saved empty brass for them while others threw spent cartridges in the bushes "as if they were feeding chickens," one said. Still others played a game of luring the scavengers and then shooting over their heads to frighten them away, according to a story by writer John Hersey.

To the U.S. military, Girard was acting while on duty and thus under American jurisdiction while Japanese officials insisted that Girard shot Sakai during a rest period, making him subject to local laws. After deliberations, U.S. military authorities decided to surrender Girard to Japan for a civilian trial, provoking furious protests from U.S. veterans groups like the American Legion.

According to Hersey, Girard was  "a short, slight, sandy-haired man with a faded scar on his forehead, a prominent nose and wide-flying ears, a thin-lipped mouth and weak chin. He leaves his mouth open much of the time in court. Before the killing, Girard was a kind of bumpkin clown. He drank quite a bit and ran up petty debts in the Japanese shops near his camp."

Girard's Japanese wife was a hindrance and help. Haru "Candy" Sueyama was born in Formosa and came to Japan as a teenager, where she worked various jobs before meeting Girard as a bar hostess. "Her kind is deeply scorned by the Japanese," Hersey said, describing her as small, freckled and brighter than her husband. Still, she paid the traditional visit of condolence and apology to the Sakai family on behalf of her husband.

The trial revealed the unbridgeable gulf between Japanese and American customs. "Girard will never look apologetic enough to the Japanese," Hersey wrote. Americans, even sensitive Americans--and Girard cannot be charged with overdeveloped sensitivity--simply do not have it in their tradition to fall to their knees and bow to the floor in abject humility, either literally or figuratively."

Even an attempt to present money in a condolence gift misfired and seemed to be nothing more than "a materialistic American attempt to buy off justice," Hersey wrote.

Girard, who was reduced in rank to private, was ultimately found guilty and given a three-year suspended sentence, a lighter punishment than he might have received in a court-martial, U.S. legislators noted. On his way home to Ottowa in December, Girard was booed by other soldiers. At her first American Christmas, Candy Girard told a reporter: "I'm just happy. I'm just happy."

Akikichi Sakai and his six children received $1,748.32 ($12,527. 21 USD 2006) in consolation money for the death of his wife. He said: "I do not thank you for it."

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Paul V. Coates--Confidential File

Paul_coates_2 June 4, 1953

Harold Leader is not a man of few words.

Or minced words.

He is one of a group of persons who are planning, shortly, to start a house of ex-cons in Los Angeles.

And he has every belief that the house will be a credit to our community and may someday be the ignitive spark for a new national approach to the problem of criminal rehabilitation.

The idea for a house of ex-cons does not belong to Mr. Leader. It is, rather, the outgrowth of a study of rehabilitation problems by the American Friends Service Committee.

The study was stimulated by one shocking fact:

That 85% of the nation's prison inmates are repeaters.

I talked with Leader about the proposed house this week but before we really got into the plan, he made a few other beliefs of his quite clear.

"Today's penal systems," he told me, "are illogical and expensive.

Leader_clip_2 "A man goes to prison because he is incapable of dealing with situations. And his prison experiences make him even less capable.

"When a man commits a crime, it usually shows that he doesn't have the necessary personal qualities to cope with society."

The personal qualities which Leader enumerated were:

1--Pride in himself

2--Acceptance by others.

3--A feeling that his contributions are worthwhile.

And this, according to Leader, is what our penal system does to a human being:

"First, we convict him. Saying, in effect, 'You are no good.'

"Second, we remove him physically. Reject him.

"Third, we refuse to permit him to work competitively while in prison.

"And finally, the man is kicked out of a secure prison society and tossed back into the same society which he couldn't cope with in the first place."

Leader, a retired industrialist, told me that he has no pretensions that a "halfway house" for ex-convicts would solve all this.

"The plan of the Friends Society is merely to demonstrate that an ex-convict, given proper environment and monitorship, can readjust."

"How many ex-convicts would you take in?" I asked.

"Probably 10. With living quarters, that is. And each would stay for periods from 60 to 90 days. The first couple months are when most men, if they are going to repeat, do repeat."


"Because they walk out of prison into a very hostile atmosphere. They are ex-cons. They are rejected for credit, rejected for employment and rejected for social acceptance. Many of them, because of their original problems, exaggerate the hostility."

"How," I asked, "would a home such as you propose help them?"

"Primarily, by providing the environment in which human beings can grow. The club will merely be a vehicle through which they can exercise their positive ideas.

"It will, of course, provide a haven and place of relaxation where they can drop their defenses against society.

"It will be for them to use as they wish. Any organized efforts toward employment or public relations programs or the like must be started by the ex-convicts themselves."

I asked Leader if the club would be restricted to residents.

He said it would be open to all ex-convicts.

"Aren't many ex-convicts forbidden by parole regulations to associate with other ex-convicts?"

"The Friends Society has been working on the project for more than two years. The program was planned with encouragement and aid from top penal officials.

"They see the need and are 100% willing to go along with us. We've also cleared with local police."

"How about your prospective neighbors?" I asked.

"When we select a site we'll discuss the entire project with them."

"Won't the fact that 85% of our prison inmates are repeaters scare them?"

"It should," said Leader. "It should scare them into realizing that everyone wants to help the ex-convict go straight.

"Except," he added bitterly, "when they're asked to help."

Note: Harold Leader died Feb. 16, 1980.

Plane crash kills 4



9410_gullo_ambulance June 10, 1957
Los Angeles

The street is quiet and the house is unremarkable. A neighbor's small collection of emergency vehicles might be the only unintentional clue that something terrible ever happened on Gullo Avenue.

The death toll would have been higher, authorities said, if pilot Harry Smith of Chico hadn't cut the ignition on the Piper Tri-Pacer moments before it went down over Pacoima, hitting the edge of a home where the Worth family was having a birthday party.

In addition to Smith, who owned a construction company, the crash killed Terrence Lockhart, Robert Peterson and Owen Wallis. "Firemen had to literally tear apart the crumpled fuselage to reach the bodies of the victims," The Times said.



Photographs by Larry Harnisch Los Angeles Times
9410 Gullo Ave., Pacoima, Calif.

Ed Rauch, a neighbor, said: "The plane was about 2,000 feet up when I heard the engine cough and I looked up. It went into a roll and one wing collapsed backward. Then it nosed over into a dive and the pilot gunned the motor, then cut it. The plane dived straight down. It was silent and kind of eerie. The pilot had no chance to guide it away from buildings."

Fortunately, the plane only clipped the edge of the home.  Five feet closer and it could have wiped out an entire family: Barry Worth and his wife, Mary; their children Katherine, Danny and Harold; Worth's sister-in-law, Erica, and his mother-in-law, Katie Bauchwitz, and father-in-law, H.E. Bauchwitz.

1957_0610_pix The fatal crash renewed calls for new flight restrictions for the San Fernando Valley, where a transport plane and a jet fighter collided over Pacoima on Jan. 31, 1957, killing three Pacoima Junior High School students and five airmen and injuring 70 others.

Other Valley plane crashes:

  • May 28, 1957: A plane crashes after taking off from Van Nuys Airport, killing the pilot.
  • Jan. 21, 1956: A plane crashes near Eton Drive and Richard Street in Burbank, killing the pilot.
  • Sept. 10, 1955: A plane crashes in Reseda after striking some power lines, killing the pilot and a passenger.
  • Jan. 31, 1955: A plane crashes near Lockheed Air Terminal, killing three people.
  • May 21, 1955: A plane crashes into a canyon in the Verdugo Hills, killing the pilot and passenger.

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Dust to dust?

Richard Schave, one of my friends from the 1947project, writes that the duplex at 826 S. Berendo, were John Fante wrote "Ask the Dust," is slated for demolition.

Read more about it here.

And here's a slide show on the Fante building.

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Random shot

I passed this car -- covered with computer keys -- on the Golden State Freeway on my way to the site of a Pacoima plane crash.

Photograph by Larry Harnisch Los Angeles Times

Asian gang war



June 4, 1957
Los Angeles

Meet the city's Japanese American gangs: The Black Juans, the Dominators, the Koshakus, the Ministers, the Algonquins and the Little Gents.

Unfortunately, The Times wrote very little about them. One exception was a 1970 story about the Yellow Brotherhood, a self-help group founded to help get gang members off drugs and back in school.

One unidentified founder, a former gang member, said: "The kids aren't happy. The parents are working so hard to give the kids the things they didn't have but they are thinking in terms of material things. Not love."

Tadashi Nakamura's 2004 film on the Yellow Brotherhood won an award for best documentary short at the San Diego Asia Film Festival.

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Dear friends at Model Minority: I'm pleased you're linking to this post, but I would prefer to know what's being said.

Sincerely, Larry Harnisch

Paul V. Coates--Confidential File

Paul_coates June 3, 1957

SUBJECT'S NAME: Lester Eugene Davis.

SUBJECT'S DESCRIPTION: Age 42. Height, 6 feet. Weight, average. Light brown hair. Brown eyes.

Any person with information as to subject's whereabouts is requested to contact his daughter, Barbara Davis Chilton, 11812 Philips St., Lynwood.

Barbara Davis Chilton is 16 years old. She's slim and blond and soft of speech.

She's a pretty girl and looks her age, but her demeanor tips off an early maturity of her mind.

When I talked to her the other day, I sensed that the maturity wasn't easy in coming. And that it had only recently arrived.

Before meeting Barbara, I had received a letter from her sister-in-law giving me a little background on the girl and her missing father.

"Barbara," the letter said, "has never seen her father and I feel that if she could find him she would have the happiness she honestly deserves."

The letter stated that Barbara came from a broken home and that her father had made attempts to see his daughter when she was young.

But had never succeeded.

1957_0603_chilton "The girl's life hasn't been an enviable one," the sister-in-law wrote. "She has lived in foster homes, with relatives and friends and has a long record for running away."

The letter also mentioned that last December Barbara ran away from a foster home again--to marry 21-year-old Jack Chilton.

"Her marriage has been approved by the court now," it said, "and has every possibility of being a very happy one."

The letter left a few questions unanswered.

And I asked them of Barbara.

"First of all," I said, "tell me all you know about your father."

She told me that her parents split up shortly before she was born.

"He stayed in the Inglewood area for a while but eventually, I've been told, went to Indianapolis. He was a race car mechanic."

She added that his mother, Linda Davis, used to live in San Bernardino.

"But I don't know if she still does."

I asked Barbara where she received her information.

"From neighbors, and some from my mother's parents."

"Did your mother ever talk about him?"

"No. She didn't want me to see him."

"Do you think she knows where he is?"

"No, not any more."

"Barbara, your sister-in-law wrote me that you've never seen him. Is that right?"

"That's...," she started. "I don't know. Once, when I was living with my mother on Inglewood Avenue a man came to the house who might have been him. I was 10 at the time."

"What happened?"

"I was in the bedroom when the doorbell ran. I went to answer it but my mother told me to go back into the bedroom and close the door.

"My mother and the man talked in the living room and I heard her ask him:

" 'How did you find us?' "

"I opened the door a little bit and peeked at him."

"What did he look like? I asked.

"He looked..." she began. Then she broke into a smile. "At least I think he looked quite a bit like me.

"I asked my mother and she said it was just a friend."

"Does your mother know that you're looking for your father now?" I asked.

Maybe Barbara didn't hear the question.

"You know," she said, "if I could find him I think he'd like Jack, my husband.

"You see, Jack is a mechanic too."

Matt Weinstock

Matt_weinstockd June 3, 1957
An alumnus of a large social fraternity has received a letter from national headquarters in Indianapolis alerting him to a "major crisis in California."

Under this particular fraternity's laws, Negroes and Orientals are not eligible for membership.

The crisis centers about Assembly Bill 758, now under consideration by the Committee on Education.

It proposes that effective July 1, 1959, "No state-owned college or university nor student council or student assembly thereof, shall recognize for official campus activities any student organization, fraternity, sorority or other private student organization which restricts its membership on the basis of either, race, color, religion or national origin."

If this legislation passes, the Greek-letter fraternity warns, it will affect chapters at Berkeley, UCLA, San Jose, Fresno and Davis.

"Opposition to AB 758," the letter continues, "carries with it no implication of racial bigotry or disagreement with the persisting ideal of the ultimate brotherhood of men. Those opposed feel that progress toward that ideal will be limited rather than encouraged by the legislation proposed."

The alumnus is urged, if he agrees with this philosophy, to make his view known to his friends, his representative in the Legislature and to Assemblyman Vernon Kilpatrick of Lynwood, sponsor of the bill. The letter concludes:

"There is no time to be lost, and the issue is vital--not only to our fraternity, but to freedom-loving Americans everywhere. We are counting on you."

The alumnus, who among other things learned tolerance while a university student, is resigning from the fraternity.

Stravinsky turns 75



June 3, 1957
Los Angeles

Los Angeles celebrates the 75th birthday of one of its most famous emigre composers with a concert at UCLA and  a party in Beverly Hills. Calling him "the dean of the world's music composers" (recall, for starters, that Dmitri Shostakovich and Aaron Copland are still alive), The Times announces a concert honoring the man who wrote "The Rite of Spring," "The Firebird" and "Petrushka," although none of those works are performed in his honor.

Stravinsky_house Instead, the Los Angeles Music Festival, headed by film composer Franz Waxman, featured "The Symphony of Psalms," conducted by the composer.  The concert at UCLA's Royce Hall also included the U.S. premiere of "Canticum Sacrum" and the world premiere of "Agon," conducted by  Stravinsky's Boswell, Robert Craft, as well as Stravinsky's arrangement of Bach's "Von Himmel Hoch" and "Symphonies for Wind Instruments."   

Stravinsky received a scroll from the City Council and a telegram from President Eisenhower. Aldous Huxley read a tribute praising "the perpetual dawns in Stravinsky's work," The Times said.

One of the large mysteries about Stravinsky's years in Los Angeles is where he lived. A little detective work shows that he had a home at 1260 N. Wetherly Drive in West Hollywood. When I drove over to find it one weekend last year, I ended up talking to a man who had grown up across the street in a house he eventually inherited from his parents. He recalled that as a youngster he met Stravinsky and shared some pleasant little stories. To me that is one of the ultimate L.A. moments.

Photograph by Larry Harnisch Los Angeles Times

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