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.