The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: January 2008

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Feb. 1, 1908

Legal troubles among the Daughters of Pocahontas (white members only!) land in court ... Imported grass seed from the Sahara is to be planted in the California desert ... The Odd Fellows discuss a convention in Los Angeles ... A leaky gasoline pipe is blamed for a fire at the Crescent Creamery and Butter Co., 241 Winson St. ... A woman is fatally injured after she absent-mindedly steps in front of a streetcar at Pasadena Avenue and Avenue 56.


 

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Matt Weinstock

Jan. 31, 1958

Matt_weinstockd It is generally conceded that newspapermen have an infinite capacity for nonchalance, irreverence and wryness. No one is sure why. Maybe it's the interesting people they don't meet.

Anyway, several reporters were reminiscing the other day and they recalled a couple of minor classics involving this attitude.

One had to do with the time Chris Claussen was assigned to cover an important event at Mt. Palomar. Returning from the observatory, Chris realized he had a deadline problem.

HE STOPPED at a newspaper office in Escondido or Oceanside or somewhere down there and asked if he could use a typewriter. He intended to write his story then phone it collect to his paper, the L.A. Daily News.

As he went to work the staff crowded around to watch. Here was the big-city reporter on display. One young reporter in particular watched intently.

After a few minutes Chris, now with Caltech's Jet Propulsion Lab, inquired softly, "Does it bother you to have me typing while you're watching over my shoulder?"

THEN THERE was Sunday morning, Dec. 7, 1941--the fateful day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. it was also Darr Smith's first day on the job as assistant city editor.

1958_0131_movie_ads As first reports of the attack came through, Manging Editor Phil Garrison (now ME of the Antelope Valley Ledger-Gazette) phoned from home and asked Smith (now with an L.A. collection agency) if he thought the staff should be rounded up and brought in early.

"Oh, no," said Darr in one of the understatements of all time, "I don't see any local angle to it."

COUNCILMEN Ernest Debs and James Corman yesterday concluded their $1-a-pound wager to determine who could lose the most weight in a month.

Their weights were notarized and Debs, who took off 26 pounds (221 to 195), paid $1 to Corman, who lost 27 (191 to 164).

Any bids on this prime, lean beef?

AN INDIGNANT mother was just on the phone. Her daughter Vikki, 2, suffered a broken nose at play. In filling out a report for the insurance company ma ignored one item on the questionnaire. Now she has been advised she must do the whole thing over.

The question: "Was the patient pregnant at the time of the accident?"

Sometimes you wonder.

IN A PRESS conference yesterday Vice Adm. Harry D. Felt talked about the Navy Polaris missile and remarked that by 1960 its "initial operational capabilities" should be known.

Realizing he'd inadvertently slipped into official-ese, he shrugged, smiled and added, "Whatever that means."

The gobbledygook-conscious reporters thought it was very refreshing.

AN ELDERLY woman passenger got to chatting with a cabdriver, and when she confided she was a tourist here he asked if she were enjoying her visit and what places she'd seen.

"I'm saving my money for a rainy day," she said. After a moment she added, "I really mean it. I'm waiting for a muddy track at Santa Anita. I do my own handicapping and I pick the horses with the biggest feet. They always finish in the money in the mud."

The cabby renewed his resolve to keep his mouth shut.

MISCELLANY -- A man came into the California Bank at 625 S. Spring St. and asked Mary Ellen Miranda where he could find Bingham, Walter & Hurry Co., the investment firm in the same building. Only she'll swear he said, "Bring him water and hurry" ...

Modern medicine tells of a patient with a penchant for practical jokes who sent his doctor a collect telegram, "I am perfectly well." A few days later he received a heavy package with express charges due. Inside was a hunk of concrete and the message, "This is the weight your telegram lifted from my mind" ...

A woman got onto a Metro bus and complained she'd waited 15 minutes for it. The driver, reports Johnny Dvorak, replied, "Fifteen minutes? Heck I waited 54 days to drive this thing" ...

Bob Arbogast wonders if anyone has called the Dodgers office and asked for opening day tickets on the 50-yard line.


       

Poker Dog update

My earlier post on whether there were original "Poker Dog"  paintings at the Redwood prompted this response: 

Just read this and it made my day. I can assure you there are no original Coolidge poker dogs here now.

yours truly

Christian Frizzell
         current owner of the Redwood Bar & Grill

Charles Starkweather

 

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Los Angeles Times file photo

Charles Starkweather, shortly after his arrest, with blood on his ear and shirt from police gunfire.


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Los Angeles Times file photo

Charles Starkweather in a Douglas, Wyo., jail cell

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Los Angeles Times file photo

Charles Starkweather eats his first meal since being captured in the Wyoming Badlands.

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Los Angeles Times file photo

Police Officer Ora Landess, left, and Sheriff Merle Karnopp escort Charles Starkweather to the Lincoln, Neb., courthouse.

Charles Starkweather was executed in Nebraska's electric chair June 25, 1959. In a grim twist of fate, prison physician Dr. B.A. Finkle, who was supposed to confirm Starkweather's death, suffered a fatal heart attack minutes before the execution.

Starkweather's 14-year-old girlfriend, Caril Ann Fugate, who accompanied him on his rampage, was paroled in 1976 and moved to Michigan. She said she wanted to be "an ordinary little dumpy housewife."


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Their deadly exploits inspired the film "Badlands" with Martin Sheen and Cissy Spacek, which opened in Los Angeles on March  29, 1974.

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Charles Starkweather

Jan. 31, 1958
Los Angeles

A crowd watches flames destroy an old wooden bridge over the Los Angeles River near Compton ... An inquiry by the district attorney finds no basis for allegations of misconduct by the Los Angeles County coroner's office ...

Quote of the day: "I always wanted to be a criminal, but not this big a one."
--Charles Starkweather, killer of 11 people

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Download the front page here: Download 1958_0131_cover.jpg

Page 2 here: Download 1958_0131_RO.jpg
Page 3 (picture page) here: Download 1958_0131_page3.jpg

Hitler anniversary

Jan. 31, 1938

Berlin celebrates Adolf Hitler's fifth anniversary ... Dist. Atty. Buron Fitts promises a crackdown on vice in Los Angeles ... The City Council is studying whether to set up an intake bureau to assist homeless men in Los Angeles ... Members of the LAPD intelligence squad will be ordered to reveal what they know about the Harry Raymond bombing.

Quotes of the day: Times columnist Chapin Hall warns everyone not to make too much of the incident in which a Japanese sentry slapped an American envoy in Nanking, China:

" After all, it's not our war--yet--and we're not making the rules."

"Neither today nor at any other time will there be acts of terrorism against the Jews or anything resembling a pogrom." --Octavian Goga, Romanian premier

 

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Here's the link to read the page full-size: Download 1938_0131_cover.jpg

Jan. 31, 1908

A man crossing 9th Street near Maple is injured when he stumbles over a rope that a motorist is using to tow another car ... Foreign ships call at the port of San Pedro, delivering large loads of lumber and railroad ties ... An artillery company offers to help defend the coast ... A Wells Fargo driver is arrested on charges of selling stolen crates of eggs ... And a man is badly injured at 7th Street and Figueroa trying to stop a team of horses pulling an undertaking firm's ambulance ...


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Matt Weinstock

Jan. 30, 1958

Matt_weinstockd As all dedicated students of trivia know, it's the little things, not the big ones, that irritate and arouse people.

At the moment, the mail is littered with derogatory comments about the proposal, presented at the recent hearing of the Assembly Subcommittee on Transportation and Commerce, to establish a minimum $50 fine for convicted litterbugs.

More particularly, these people are hot about the further suggestion that willing folk be constituted as a corps of unofficial litterbug watchers, encouraged by cash rewards, to report such misconduct.

"EVERYONE will concede that city and county beautification is highly desirable," writs R.R.G., "but what we're creating here is a flock of stool pigeons. Men, women and children would become informers straining to punish persons who deliberately or accidentally threw a chewing-gum wrapper out a car window."

Mrs. Helen F. writes, "This is another insult to the intelligence of decent people. Why are elected officials constantly looking for new ways to belittle, embarrass or punish people?"

R.B.'s approach is simpler: "I hear they're planning a new law to help curb people from throwing refuse from cars. We could call it our Little Litterbug Law."

1958_0130_ad_stack_4A PALMS lady named Elsie brought back from a trip to Acapulco a huge black velvet sequined sombrero which she claims has magic qualities.

After purchasing it, she and her husband went to a restaurant. There was no place to set it down so she took it along when she went into the powder room.

While combing her hair she discovered in dismay that she had no change to tip the maid--nothing less than 50 pesos. She was wondering what to do when the answer presented itself. Other patrons, it seemed, had been tossing money into her sombrero. She gathered up the coins and handed them to the grateful maid.

SOMETIMES the imaginings of youngsters make more sense than what adults dream up.

The other day Sandy, 7, announced to Paul and Margaret Landacre that she had written her first novel--about Piddocks, a very unusual kind of people.

As Sandy explained it, "The big Piddocks were bad and evil, the little Piddocks were good and nice. But the big Piddocks made war on the little Piddocks. The argument was about being good."

"Then the big Piddocks began having dreams. They dreamed that the little Piddocks had the Loch Ness monster on their side. God was sending down these dreams to help the little Piddocks and make the big Piddocks turn good. They did turn good and they signed a peace treaty and all lived happily ever after."

REMEMBER
when youngsters used to bedevil passing motorists by calling out, "Hey, mister, your wheels are turning!"

The other day two teenage boys trying to hitch a ride at Wilshire and Western were rebuffed by a Cadillac driver. As the signal changed and he took off, one boy climbed onto his rear bumper, out of sight, and crouched there. The other yelled, "Stop! He'll get killed!" When the terrified driver stopped, the boy nonchalantly got off.

AT RANDOM -- Confused world note: White's Electronics Co. of Sweethome, Ore., gets out an item called Sputnik I -- a Geiger counter and radiation detector ... Gene Coughlin, my former playmate on the L.A. Daily News, hits the $2,500 "First Person Award" jackpot in the February Reader's Digest ... Jesse Daniels, chief elevator operator at The Broadway, retires Saturday after 34 years, during which he was never absent or late ... Mark Scott, who broadcast the Hollywood Stars' baseball games for six years during which they finished no worse than third, got a new car and drew license plate PCL 123.





Paul Coates

Paul_coates Jan. 30, 1958

Memphis Harry Lee Ward, Hollywood's oldest newsboy and foremost collector of literary works, once made the observation to me that:

"Parkey Sharkey is far more literary than you are, sir."

It wasn't a comment meant to degrade me. This I'm sure of.

First, because Memphis and I are very good friends. Such good friends, in fact, that on one occasion he admitted grandly that I was his favorite columnist on Page 2, Part II of the Mirror News.

And second, because Memphis regards Sharkey as a literary equal to many of the famous masters whose volumes are stacked ceiling-high in his small living quarters.

Just last summer, in fact, Memphis put out $25 of his limited earnings to purchase Parkey's autobiography.

The amount comes to about $5 more than Memphis' total expenditure for the combined works of Whitman, Poe and Longfellow.

So you can see that, at least in Hollywood's foremost collector of literary works, Parkey Sharkey has an avid following.

Parkey's greatness, according to Memphis, stems from his ability to write with "a vital and human ruggedness."

1969_0921_parkey "His illiterate writings," Memphis says, "touch the mind and heart of everyone."

And that's pretty much the way I feel about Parkey.

I receive, on the average, two or three letters a week from him.

His spelling's terrible. His penmanship's lousy. But in the letters is a rich, unconscious humor born of Parkey's valuable inability to categorize his thoughts. When Parkey is angriest, he's funniest.

--Which is fortunate for me, because most of Parkey's letters to me are written when he is angry at something or somebody, either animate or inanimate.

A few months ago, after much quibbling, Parkey repurchased his life story, "The Parkey Sharkey Taxi Story," from Memphis Ward.

The price was, again, $25, although I'm not sure whether Parkey has completed payments yet.

Since then, Parkey has been acting as his own agent, with headquarters in the Palo Alto City Dump, where he resides in a small shack when he's not getting along with his wife.

He has had some serious literary discussions with "the professor," a close friend who is, actually, a professor at Stanford University.

On the professor's advice, Parkey reworked parts of it. He added episodes which appealed to the professor and to various barroom associates.

And he submitted it to some New York publishing houses.

The first few turned it down.

But the last one was quite enthusiastic. The publisher wrote him a letter overflowing with praise of his talents, calling him everything but a 20th century Shakespeare.

Attached to the letter was a contract for Parkey to sign and consummate the deal.

Summed up, it said that the publishing house would roll off a couple thousand copies of Parkey's book if he would pay the house a sum of $1,500.

Friends have explained to Parkey that if a publisher were really enthused about his autobiography, he would pay Parkey for the privilege of printing it.

But Parkey prefers, so far, to ignore their advice. A letter I received from him yesterday states:

"Paul, I gave your name to this New York Publisher who is going to print my book. Don't get worried. I just gave your name as a ref.

"I think he has come down on the price of the book quite a bit since I mentioned your name to him.

"I think if I keep after him he may pay me for publishing my book. Instead of me paying them.

"Groucho Marx mentioned me in the Saturday Evening Post last May. He described me but did not use my name.

"Paul, I am never going to get rich with my taxi, that's why I want to get my book on the Market.

"I went over to see the proffeser last night, he told me to keep after this publisher until he wants to pay me for my book.

"I had another fight with my wife at the hotel again. She kicked me out again and I had to sleep in my taxi.

"Paul, I was thinking if I could get about a thousand letters from your readers saying they'll buy my book I could send them to my publisher, he might pay me for my book.

"What do you think of this idea? When I sell my book I am moving to the mountains."

I'm sending my letter today. And if you haven't read any good books lately, I'll forward yours.

[Note: The Times' obituary on Parkey Sharkey appeared Sept. 21, 1969--lrh].



       

Location sleuth

A movie crew has been dressing the third-floor newsroom to film scenes of the "Steve Lopez Movie" and have put metal jackets and overhead lights around the old columns (in reality, there is no overhead lighting in the newsroom). They remind me of "War of the Worlds" but other folks are calling it a Christo "Pinwheel" installation. The clutter is genuine, authentic L.A. Times clutter.

 

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Photograph by Larry Harnisch / Los Angeles Times

Charles Starkweather

 

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Literary diversions

Jan. 30, 1938
Los Angeles

It's a Sunday morning in Los Angeles and Times readers turn to the weekly magazine. Here's an installment of an Erle Stanley Gardner story, as published 70 years ago.

 

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