The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: June 10, 2007 - June 16, 2007

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Traffic forecast

They said it:

City Councilman Edward R. Roybal: Chavez Ravine is "the worst possible place for a major league park." Roybal said he favored Wrigley Field or a location in East L.A., predicting that putting a baseball stadium in Chavez Ravine would lead to terrible traffic.

Visions of tomorrow

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June 13, 1957
Los Angeles

There was a time when IBM's standard office equipment included signs that said "THINK." Although  William B. Thompson was an economist with Prudential Insurance, rather than IBM, he was certainly thinking about the future. He couldn't have been more wrong, but at least he was thinking.

Thompson predicted that by 1990, California would be desalinating sea water using electricity generated by atomic power ("as plentiful as the water," the Mirror said).

In fact, the reclaimed water would be so plentiful that the "Colorado River Aqueduct may eventually have the function of delivering converted sea water inland, rather than carrying water to the coast," Thompson said.

The initial price, 12 cents per 1,000 gallons, would be too costly for farmers, but affordable for cities, Thompson said.

And with the assuredness of true visionary, Thompson said: "At the very least, we can expect the freeing of water from the Owens and Colorado rivers for agricultural purposes."

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Paul V. Coates--Confidential File

Paul_coates June 12, 1957

"Marijuana," you don't say out loud.

You whisper it.

Because, in the last few years, it has become a hysterical word.

And the hysteria has reached a point, today, whereby guilt can be decided by association.

But the danger of any tight control is that it can envelop innocent people.

People like Al Hoffman, a licensed radio engineer whose story was brought to my attention yesterday.

On April 24 of this year, Hoffman's car was taken by an actress friend. And while he was sleeping, she was arrested with a friend of hers on charges of violating the State Health and Safety Code.

They were several miles from Al's house when picked up, but they were in Al's car. Police say that the actress' friend was smoking marijuana. Both the actress and her friend were booked.

It happened at 5 a.m., and by 6 detectives were at Al's home.

They woke him up, he says, and searched his place. Then they took him to the station for questioning.

Here's what has happened to Al Hoffman since then:

1957_0612_ad His car, a 1953 Lincoln, has been confiscated by the state of California. There's a good chance that he won't get it back.

He is no longer a Miami, Fla., special deputy constable. His credentials were revoked, Al says, when police here contacted the Miami constabulary and explained that he was "mixed up in a narcotics mess."

His automobile insurance was revoked. "I notified my insurance company about what had happened and they immediately canceled my policy."

Al's story sounded slightly incredible to me.

But I checked it out with the attorney general's office and it adds up.

Section 11610 of the State Health and Safety Code states that if an occupant of a vehicle, or the vehicle itself, possesses narcotics, the vehicle will be seized and turned over to the Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement.

It will be kept by the bureau until forfeiture is declared or release ordered.

That the owner permitted his car to be borrowed in complete innocence makes no difference.

The state can legally steal his car.

Hoffman's car was taken seven weeks ago. He has been trying, vainly, to get it back ever since.

Yesterday, I discussed the case with an agent of the attorney general's office forfeiture section.

He said that a forfeiture complaint was being issued against Hoffman's car and that such complaints usually took between eight and 12 weeks. "I think Hoffman's forfeiture is being issued today," he said. "But understand, it's not against Hoffman. It's against the car."

After the complaint has been issued, Hoffman has 20 days to interpose an answer. To say why his car shouldn't be seized.

If he doesn't, he loses his car. If he does, the case must be tried within 30 days.

But even then he stands a good chance of losing his vehicle to the state. He wouldn't be the first person to do so.

He could appeal, of course. But by carrying his case up to the Supreme Court, he'd soon find that legal expenses were running twice the value of the car itself.

There's a good possibility, I've been told, that such forfeiture is unconstitutional.

But so far, no public-spirited citizen has been willing to invest a couple grand to find out if he could win back a thousand-dollar car.

Economically, it's unsound.

The forfeiture law was effected because narcotics traffickers were moving around with frightening ease.

But it's webbing innocent bystanders, and even car dealers--conditional sellers.

I asked a narcotic agent yesterday what effect it was having on the movement of the pushers themselves.

He shrugged. "Now they drive $50 clunks. Cars they can afford to lose."


Hollywood's peeping Toms

June 12, 1957
Los Angeles

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Frank Gehry, please note

 

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Downtown Los Angeles: Huge, efficient and beautiful with 52-story skyscrapers and subways, the hub of a developed area stretching from the Mexican border to Pismo Beach.

Part 1

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Part 2

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Sex slaying suspect

 

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1957_0612_dahlquist June 12, 1957
Los Angeles

An illegal U-turn at Sunset Boulevard and Virgil Avenue at 1 a.m. led to the arrest of Charles Lawrence Dahlquist, a 6-foot-5, 211-pound fugitive from Chicago wanted for questioning in the sex slayings of three boys in 1955.

In searching the car, Officers Mel Tousseau and A.J. Sauro found a stolen license plate. Under questioning, Dahlquist, who had been working as a golf caddy, admitted stealing the car in Hollywood four months earlier.

Dahlquist, of 1735 W. 6th St., fled Chicago while free on $4,000 bail in a case involving the molestation of a 15-year-old boy. While a fugitive, he was indicted in that molestation case and became a suspect in the sex slayings of John Schuessler, 13,  his brother Anton Jr., 11, and their friend Robert Peterson, 14. Anton Schessler Sr. died of a heart attack less than a month after the killing.

According to Chicago investigators, police chemists identified material under the slain boys' fingernails as peat moss and fertilizer as is used on golf courses. The Cook County Sheriff's Department said that the boys' bodies "were thrown like bags of potatoes" into a ditch, which "would suggest that at least two persons or one very powerful person did it," according to the Mirror.

The Times never followed up on the Dahlquist story. However, in 1995 a former stable hand named Kenneth Hansen was convicted in the killings. Hansen was retried and convicted again in 2002. His case is under appeal.

 

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Retired Chicago Detective James A. Jack wrote a book about the case titled: "Three Boys Missing." Elmer H. Johnson and Carol Holmes Johnson have also written a book on the case: "Shattered Sense of Innocence." Gene O'Shea, meanwhile, has written "Unbridled Rage" on the case.

Important warning: I have not read any of these books and list them merely for informational purposes. Given my experiences on the Black Dahlia case, I am highly suspicious of anything purporting to be a "true" crime book. Such works are often highly fictionalized, full of mistakes and usually not worth the paper they are printed on.

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1957 Chevy

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In February 1957, after adding 300,000 square feet, the General Motors' Van Nuys plant (note: it's really in Panorama City) began making station wagons and convertibles.  A spokesman says the plant is producing 150 cars a day in five different models and shipping them to dealers in eight Western state.

A Bel Air Nomad for sale on EBay provides a nice example of how to decode the 1957 Chevrolet VIN tag, which was welded to the driver's door pillar post. (You always wanted to do this, right?)

In this case, the car's VIN is VC57J211710.

So we have: VC, which means the car was originally a 2400 model with a V-8 engine.

57 is the year the car was made.

J indicates where the car was assembled, in this case, Janesville, Wis.

211710 is the car's serial number. 

Chevrolets made in Los Angeles were indicated by an L. In other words, if the car had been made in Los Angeles it the tag would read: VC57L

Thanks to Danchuck Manufacturing for the information.

 

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Photograph courtesy of Sakowski Motors

Random shot

Figueroa Street, Highland Park

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Photograph by Larry Harnisch Los Angeles Times

Paul V. Coates--Confidential File

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June 11, 1957

Our national concern for the plight of soldier William Girard has, from the start, struck me as oddly misplaced.

As well as I can understand it, we're upset because the United States has failed to stand behind the young soldier. And has, instead, given a foreign country permission to decide his fate.

Suddenly, it's a matter of monumental importance.

And absurdity.

Because if soldier Girard's personal well-being were the issue, common sense would tell us to stop worrying right now.

And be thankful that Japan, rather than the United States Army, is going to handle the case.

Now that the soldier's killing of a Japanese housewife has achieved global notoriety, whoever gets the case will be forced into a backbreaking lean toward justice.

If Japan tries him, that country will be in the delicate position of having to prove to us, and the world, that its justice is pure and impartial.

It's an interesting fact that since the U.S.-Japan treaty permitting the latter country to try our soldiers went into effect, American servicemen have committed more than 14,000 infractions of Japanese law.

And that all but about 400 of them were turned over to the U.S. military for trial.

Of even greater interest, however, is the fact that there are, at present, some 40 U.S. servicemen in Japanese prisons, convicted by Japanese courts.

They are there for crimes as serious as murder and rape.

But the most severe sentence yet passed on any of them was eight years' imprisonment.

It's fairly obvious that Japan has made a conscious effort to prove to us that its justice is tempered with mercy.

1957_0611_girardBut what would happen if Girard were suddenly thrown back to us--and his fate became our responsibility.

The whole big mocking world would be watching us.

Especially Asia.

And it would be our obligation to prove that we play no favorites, either.

The tendency, I fear, would be to throw the book at Girard.

And he would end up as a martyred pawn for our desperate effort for friendly foreign relations.

It's my personal feeling that American soldiers, when told to serve on foreign soil, should be disciplined by our own government.

But we made a treaty with Japan, granting that country certain judicial rights.

And a review of American history shows that when we sign a piece of paper, we do so with the intention of living up to our signature.

Japan's national bitterness in the Girard case, coupled with the recent trouble in Formosa, is worth a pause for thought.

Can we, who try so hard to be liked, be botching matters up so badly in Asia?

I asked the question of Dr. Bob Pierce, president of World Vision Inc., this week.

Pierce, a frequent Far East visitor and the man directly responsible for the establishment of a permanent aid program for 8,600 Korean orphans, denied that we were.

"It might be more accurate," he said, "to call us victims of the rise of nationalism now sweeping Asiatic countries.

"In Japan, for example, the people can once again see possibilities for national achievement."

"Are we," I asked, "standing in their way?"

Pierce nodded uncertainly. "In a way. They still remember us as conquerors, and as such, we're a hindrance.

"They want to be leaders in their part of the world, but they figure the first necessary step is to impress us.

"Exaggerated incidents like the Girard case are expressions of the cumulative frustrations of the people"

I asked Pierce for his opinion on the treaty which will let Japan try Girard.

"Missionaries," he answered, "must be prepared to accept the consequences of foreign laws.

"But with soldiers, it's not the same. They're not necessarily there because they asked to be."

Strangler attacks

 

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1957_0611_hipperson June 11, 1957
Los Angeles

We're parked outside a two-story apartment house at 3737 Los Feliz Blvd. It's late, after 1 a.m. I'll warn you before we go in: I hate this case. I can't say I like any of them, but this one I hate. It's pitiful and tragic and I wouldn't blame you if you wanted to go for a cup of coffee instead.

You sure? OK, come on then. That's her sedan parked at the curb.

This whole area is a hot spot for peeping Toms: It's all apartment houses with bedrooms at the back facing dark alleys. About half a dozen women live here and they all say they have seen men at their windows and that someone has been rattling their doorknobs in the middle of the night. The landlady filed a report not long ago that somebody was stealing underwear off the clothesline and about a year ago, a woman in Apartment 6, next to the murder scene, said some prowler slid a note under her door:

"If you are lonely and want some company, why don't we get acquainted. I am not trying to scare you. I think you and I could have a good time together.

"I'm young and so are you, so let's not waste our time. A friend, I hope."

Another neighbor says a man broke in and choked her last September, but that he ran away when she started screaming.

I figure the guy may have been watching our victim and knew she was living alone. Until a few days ago, she had a roommate--another nurse--but the woman moved out because the victim was getting married to a doctor. She had just come home from a wedding shower when she was killed.

I told you it was nasty.

Notice the front door is locked and chained. She was careful. Not quite careful enough, maybe, but pretty careful. The roommate, Margot Wright,  says that about six months ago, a young man barged into the apartment while she was lying on the bed. Wright told police that she grabbed her purse off the nightstand and the man laughed and ran.

Our victim is named Marjorie Lucille Hipperson, 24, and she's a nurse at Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital. A few hours ago, the staff gave a wedding shower for her and her fiance, Dr. Walter Deike, who's an intern so he spends a couple nights a week at the hospital. In fact, he got called away from the party, so Marjorie wrote him a note before she left:

"Dear Walter: I hope you don't have too tough a night. Get a lot of sleep.

I love you.

Marjorie."

Let's go around the back. Here's where he got in: She left the kitchen window unlocked. Police will find the screen over in the garage of a neighbor who lives at 3745 Los Feliz. Let's go in. Don't touch anything. They're going to find prints all over the place. Notice the apartment hasn't been trashed as it would be if there was a burglary. 

She was a tidy one. Here's the sweater she wore to the party, washed and stretched out to dry on the drainboard. The rest of that outfit is hanging in the closet. OK, here's the living room. You can see she's laid out her clothes for the wedding trip to Chicago and is getting ready to move. The rent runs out in a couple of days and the telephone has already been disconnected.

You sure you don't want to turn around? OK, let's go in the bedroom.

Well, that's her, poor thing. You can see her arms and legs are bruised from fighting with him. Her hands might have been bound at some point, but they're not tied now. White nightgown bunched up around her neck, left arm doubled up behind her back and her right arm stretched out. She's been strangled with a nylon and gagged with a blue washcloth held in place with another nylon, just like the Ruth Goldsmith case, remember? Yeah, she was raped. He apparently didn't steal anything. There's loose money on the bureau and in the drawers.

Nope, nobody heard a sound.

We better get going. In a little while, Dr. Deike is going to start wondering why she hasn't shown up for work. Remember, the phone is disconnected. He's going to come over. He'll see her car at the curb and know she's home. When she doesn't answer the door, he'll come around back and crawl in the kitchen window.

And then he'll find her here.

Walter will remarry--eventually. A woman named Joan. But five years later, he'll be gone too. He's going to go out swimming in Mendocino Bay and drown.

I told you, I hate this case.

 

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Let's drop by Mountain View Cemetery in Altadena on our way back and pay our respects.

To be continued....

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Suicide on Crenshaw

 

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1957_0610_norris June 10, 1957
Los Angeles

Elsa Klumbis O'Neil saw no hope. The 37-year-old woman wanted a divorce from her husband, Mark, who was due back in a few days from a voyage with the merchant marine. But since she wasn't a U.S. citizen, she was afraid of being deported to Lithuania.

Officer T.R. Norris (at right in 1948, with a robbery suspect) arrived at O'Neil's apartment, 1821 S. Crenshaw Blvd., after landlord Eugene Smith reported a disturbance. Norris had been called to the apartment once before for the same reason and after talking to O'Neil, he went out to the hallway to speak with Smith while Smith's wife kept an eye on O'Neil to keep her from killing herself.

Seeing her chance, O'Neil ran to the bathroom, locked the door and jumped from the second-story window. She was pronounced dead at Georgia Street Receiving Hospital.

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Literary diversions

Ray Bradbury, Jan. 19, 1958
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