The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: July 1, 2007 - July 7, 2007

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Matt Weinstock

Matt_weinstockd July 3, 1957

 We have on our hands today a taxpayer in that happy frame of mind known as irate.

He is enraged because he finds himself helpless at fighting City Hall.

Half a dozen years ago he bought a home in the Hollywood Hills. It wasn't new, but he and his wife envisioned that it could be made into their dream home.

They put every cent they could spare into modernizing it and worked like slaves repainting, landscaping and putting in brick walks. They even went to night school to learn of cabinetwork. It was a labor of love.

About a year ago, a bulldozer appeared nearby and carved out a ledge on the hillside and soon there was erected a house sometimes referred to as "chicken coop modern." It was promptly sold.

A few months later, the same builder put up another and sold it and now a third is under construction.

1957_0628_ad_stack The indignant homeowner and his neighbors complained about these cheap, unorthodox homes. They were particularly irked because the builder seemed able to get away with certain techniques in construction that they had not.

They learned that the only restriction on building in the section was that homes must cost not less than $5,000. The ordinance so stating went into effect in 1923. The law is ridiculously outdated, of course. You can hardly build a garage today for $5,000.

Here's the angry homeowner's plaint:

"A man who buys a home to live in is at the mercy of these fast-buck guys who grab up vacant land and build these chicken-coop homes on speculation. It's beside the point that such houses cause the neighborhood to decline and run down property values. What is needed down at City Hall is a new conception of home ownership. It's about time they rewrote the property and building laws to protect the homeowner. But he's only the poor chump who gets nicked for every tax raise. Nothing is ever done for him. He's stuck."

Is that an echo I hear?

THE BEAUTY contest season is upon us. Everywhere you turn, it seems, smiling girls in unswimmable swimsuits are parading. Don't get me wrong, I'm not knocking it.

Once such event was held in a mountain resort a few days ago and as a bevy--I think the word is bevy--swished past the judges a boy of 5 was overheard by Lee Austin inquiring in an awed voice:

"Mommy, are you going to do this too?"

THE FLOWERS will continue to bloom in the spring, the birds will continue to be on the wing, but things will not be the same up on Mulholland Drive, for lo these many years a hallowed rendezvous for neckers.

About a week ago, advises Carol Sugar in horror, they put a traffic signal at Mulholland and Beverly Glen Boulevard. Imagine young couples trying to whisper sweet nothings in the moonlight as a traffic light winks green, yellow and red at them. It could give them a complex as if Big Brother were watching.

TRAFFIC casualties are hardly news any more, they're taking for granted--except by the victims and their loved ones.

William DeLair took his wife to an Eastern Star meeting a few nights ago at Masonic Hall on Daly Street. He was waiting outside for the meeting to end so he could take her home when he was struck by an auto and killed. In this case the tragedy was deeper than most. Mrs. DeLair is blind.

MISCELLANY-- Big uproar among the ladies who save Green Stamps. They're discovering inflation has hit the premiums and for their precious books of stamps they get, say a two-quart stew pan instead of a three-quart one. . . Statistic for tomorrow: In 1903, according to the Safety Council, 466 persons were killed by fireworks, 400 in auto crashes. Last year one person died of fireworks injuries, approximately 40,000 in auto crashes. . . When the boss returned from his vacation the other day in a midtown office the help was all wearing black mourning bands on their sleeves as a gag. He didn't think it was funny.


The Daily Mirror commuting challenge

 

1957_0703_map

July 3, 1957
Los Angeles

We complain about traffic all the time. But how much worse is driving in L.A. than it was in 1957?

We can find out.

Best of all, you can help!

You might be surprised by some of the results. I was.

In July 1957, the Auto Club of Southern California announced the results of a survey that examined commuting times over 17 routes in Los Angeles comparing freeways and surface streets. The Auto Club praised the freeways for faster trips and noted that it took less time to get to work in the morning than to get home in the evening. All distances were measured from the Auto Club headquarters at 2601 S. Figueroa.

Freeway_crash

(Travel time was unchanged between 1936 and 1957 even though the number of cars had tripled, according to the Auto Club. And commuting was about to get better because of the new freeways, club officials said). 

Here's how you can help: Pick one of the routes, send me your time and I'll post it. Note: All drives in the 1957 survey were conducted during weekdays from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

In the meantime, I'll be sampling a few of the routes myself. Check back and see how I'm doing. Here's one surprise: So far, driving at off-hours last weekend, I beat the commuting times from 1957 by a few minutes.

Let me say that again: So far, driving at off-hours in 2007 has been FASTER than the commuting times from 1957.

Above right, a freeway wreck and gawkers' block courtesy of the Los Angeles Police Department. Note that in 1957, the LAPD had jurisdiction over the local freeways rather than the Highway Patrol.

OK, let me know. I'm eager to hear your experiences!

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Matt Weinstock

Matt_weinstockdJuly 2, 1957

You simply have no idea of the hazards of journalism.

The city desk got a call from a woman on East 6th Street who proudly announced that she had become a great-grandmother at 48.

This was indeed unusual and worthy of words, a picture and perhaps a subsequent appearance on TV, which was probably what great-grandma had in mind.

Unfortunately, a checkup of the facts disclosed that the new great-grandchild's mother, 15, hadn't quite received a proposal of marriage from the father.

 

Paul V. Coates--Confidential File

Paul_coates July 2, 1957

This is a twist story--a reverse mystery.

I've been presenting, for the past few months, weekly missing persons cases on file with local sheriffs and police. Each started with a living, active person, surrounded by apparent normalcy.

Next came the disappearance. And last, the search--into the subject's background, personal habits, likes dislikes, associates.

On investigation, the missing person nearly always becomes a very known quantity.

Today, however, comes the switch.

To start, go back to the afternoon of April 7, 1957, when four boys were scrambling along the brush incline of the Crestmore Cement Co. property, three miles west of Riverside.

They were on their way fishing, but their plans met sudden interruption.

They stumbled upon a body. And they went, instead, to the Riverside County sheriff's office.

1957_0702_ad That was three months ago.

Immediately sheriff's investigators determined that the victim had been dead about three weeks. And that cause of death was a gunshot blast in the chest.

Two days later, when enough data had been collected, an emergency all-points bulletin was sent out.

The victim was described as male white American, late 20s or early 30s, 5 feet 10 inches, 160-170 lbs.

It was determined that the victim had brown hair, but the body's advanced state of decomposition left the color  of eyes and complexion unknown. No discernible scars or moles could be found.

There was also broadcast, however, the description of physical evidence at the scene:

The victim wore a white T-shirt and blue Wrangler pants. He wore socks but no shoes. Wrapped around his head was a pink military-type shirt. A bed pillow had been placed on his chest and then the entire body had been wrapped in a white muslin sheet and a green chenille bedspread.

Brown electric light cord bound his head and feet. A small braided rope was wound around his waist.

So where's the clue?

Riverside sheriff's deputies, directed by Det. Cmdr. Robert Presley, began a patient investigation.

From the start, they knew it would be a tough one.

Clue by clue, they attacked it.

CLOTHING: No laundry marks. In the pink shirt there was a ballpoint pen with the words "Cisco Ice Blower Service, Cisco, Tex."  A check with the sheriff of Eastland, Tex., revealed that some 800 similar pens had been distributed by the company, mostly to truck drivers.

FINGERPRINTS: Lab tests showed that the victim's hands had been encased in cloth containing lye in an effort to destroy prints.

But eight out of 10 prints were established and print copies were immediately circulated locally, at the state level, to the FBI, to Canada. No luck.

MISSING PERSONS: Local and state bureaus were checked. Hotels and rooming houses were checked to see if a guest had departed without notice, or possibly leaving some property behind around the 17th of March. Local papers published the victim's description. No response.

TEETH: The following description was included in the all-points bulletin:

Some evidence of pyorrhea. Dental restorations appear to be well done, carved and finished. Space between the upper front teeth. Upper left first molar is an alloy in the mesial and distal pits. Lower left second molar has an occlusal buccal filling. Lower right first and second molars have occlusal fillings. One huge cavity upper right third molar.

Such information will possibly serve well later for positive identification after tentative identification is made.

"A false dental plant solved one for us last year," Lt. Presley told me. "Through it, we identified the body of a woman 13 months after we discovered it.

"And," he added positively, "we found her killer, too."

Faith journey

 

1957_0702_hed

1957_0702_loudd_mug July 2, 1957
Los Angeles

I wonder what the preacher told worshipers at Mount Tabor Missionary Baptist Church in Miami about his faith journey. Did he talk about his years with the San Diego Chargers and the Chicago Bears? Or maybe it was his time with the Patriots, becoming the first African American assistant coach in the American Football League.

He could have spoken of his time as head of the Florida Blazers in the World Football League. Or being a football star at Blackshear High School in San Angelo, Texas; or Jefferson High School in Los Angeles. He might have talked about being an All-City player or making All-American at UCLA.

The minister might have talked about being the "All-Pro Pastor" who hosted a sports show broadcast on closed-circuit TV at the Miami-Dade County Jail.

The Rev. Rommie Lee Loudd Sr. might well have talked about serving three years in prison on drug charges. Maybe Loudd even spoke of his six months in jail for molesting three teenage boys in 1957 when he was working as a counselor at Juvenile Hall.

The newspapers--and certainly The Times--were squeamish about certain types of sex cases and did very little reporting on this incident. There are few details, and if Loudd hadn't been a football star, the paper probably wouldn't have reported it at all.

According to The Times, he and another suspect, Benjamin F. Kelly, were working at Juvenile Hall when they were arrested, along with Lindsay M. Gerren, on charges of abusing three boys, ages 12, 13 and 15.

 

1957_0702_loudd_pass

He was arrested April 1, 1957, at 2630 S. Bronson Ave. along with two men who were apparently his roommates and were later released. Kelly was identified as living at 1779 W. 22nd. St. and Gerren lived at 4627 Saturn St.

Loudd "assertedly intimidated the boys with his identification card, which he had not surrendered, according to Detectives Kay Sheldon Cuttrell and George Kellenberger," The Times said. Loudd and Kelly were given six months in jail while Gerren was given 90 days in jail and two years' probation.

We don't know how Loudd summed up his life. Maybe he talked about repentance... and forgiveness... and salvation. But when Loudd died in 1998 at the age of 64, the Rev. George McRae of Mount Tabor said: "He was an example of how a person can fall and get up and fall again and get up again and keep moving."

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Pepe Arciga

July 1, 1957

1957_arciga_3In the midst of clapping castanets, kicking heels and flying Spanish skirts during a whirlwind visit to La Golondrina one night last week, I asked a question of Mexico's attorney general, Lic. Jose Aguilar y Maya.

"Senor Procurador, in view of Mexico's aggressive road-building program, do you think there's a possibility of your government enacting legislation which would exclude visiting Americans from landing in jail if involved in automobile collisions?"

The attorney general, native of the romantic city of Guanajuato and certainly one of Mexico's ablest men of law, did not answer that one right away.

He adjusted his glasses and, in the semi-darkness, I could see that here was a man whose face indicated kindness and understanding. Also, it seemed, here was a man who could walk out of a spot, smilingly, and with no effort at all.

"Don Pepe Arciga," he said after one swallow of his drink, "as you know, Mexico is undergoing right now the greatest expansion program of its history.

"Many things are happening today to the country. Progress is outdistancing everything, everything, including many facets of federal and state legislations.

"In some areas of Mexico, traffic laws receive from authorities certain interpretations. In other areas, traffic laws also differ."

And just as I began to relate an incident in which two Angelenos and personal friends of mine--Arturo and Juanita Castro--were forced to pay exorbitant fines plus damages, plus medical fees after  HAVING BEEN HIT broadside at an intersection in Guadalajara by a man driving a military jeep, Senor Jose Aguilar y Maya broke in:

"Indeed, these are unfortunate incidents. I will make every personal effort, upon my return, to explain to the proper authorities the need for corrective measures."

Within minutes, the distinguished visitor and his party of friends got up and left.

I'm sending this column, of course, to Licenciado Jose Aguilar y Maya, Procurador General de la Republica Mexicana.

If it serves to remind him of our conversation, I'll be content.

If it serves to help in establishing the "corrective measures" he spoke about, who could ask for more?"

Mientras tanto, Senor Licenciado, fue para mi un gran placer haber conversado con vosotros!

In Rome, II

July 1, 1957
Los Angeles

The late Art Buchwald, continued.
1957_0701_buchwald

Literary diversions

On the Fourth of July, 1910, in Reno, Jack Johnson defeated James J. Jeffries to become the first African American heavyweight champion of the world. In 1931, at the age of 53, he was working out every day and spending his evenings at the Maxime,  Central Avenue at 41st Street.

Rex Beach wrote of Johnson's victory: "He who had never been knocked down, was knocked down repeatedly. He who had never been knocked out, was knocked out."

Here's Johnson's version of the fight:

Page 1

1931_0705_johnsona
Page 2
1931_0705_johnsonb

Prowler terrorizes L.A.

 

1957_0701_prowler

July 1, 1957
Los Angeles

Detective Sgts. W.R. "Bud" Schottmiller and J.B. Close of the Hollywood Division have little to go on after a prowler broke into an apartment to rape a young woman somewhere on Irving Boulevard (the newspapers, incredibly, did not give the victim's address this time--more about this later).

Maybe he was the same man who killed Marjorie Hipperson, or the one who killed Ruth Goldsmith--and maybe not. Maybe he was even the same man who broke into an apartment on Fountain and struggled with a woman before leaving.

All police know is that he came up the fire escape and broke in through French doors about 3:30 a.m. There are some fingerprints on a 10-inch steak knife that he left in the apartment, officials say, but only enough to eliminate or implicate possible suspects.

To be continued...

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