The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: March 2008

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Death in La Puente

March 29, 1958


Two cars cruised La Puente on a Friday night. One car carried Fred Avila, 20, and three unidentified young women. The other carried four young men from La Puente: Manuel Garcia, 19; Refugio Luna Jr., 20; John Ramirez Jr., 19; and Robert Charles Perez, 19.

The two groups had crossed paths in La Puente's business district, The Times said, calling out insults to one another. Avila headed for the weekly dance at La Puente High School. The other car followed and pulled up next to Avila's auto outside the high school gym, where about 500 students were gathered.

One of Garcia's friends grabbed a .22-caliber rifle, got out of the car and pointed it into the window of Avila's vehicle. "Who's that guy?" he asked, presumably talking to one of the young women.

Avila got out and began grappling with the other young man over the rifle. Garcia and the other two friends joined the struggle and the rifle went off, hitting Garcia in the head. "You got me," he said, falling to the ground 10 feet from where he had scratched his nickname, "Quinky," in wet concrete three years earlier.

He was killed by his own rifle, The Times said.

Luna, Ramirez and Perez were arrested on charges of murder, but The Times never followed up on the case so we don't know what happened.

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March 29, 1938


Above, U.S. military forces in Hawaii stage war games to prepare for a possible invasion. Apparently the defenders detected their mock enemy long before an invasion could be staged. Below, several prominent Angelenos sharply question German Consul Georg Gyssling during a Town Hall appearance at the Biltmore. When Gyssling rebuffs the first question, attorney Joseph Scott threatens to resign from Town Hall if "the other side" is not heard, The Times says. Town Hall officials promise another gathering in which "the other side" could air its views ... The Times interviews an 11-year-old girl who was struck on the head with a rock and sexually attacked--and we publish her picture. It is one thing to know newspapers once published these kinds of stories and quite another to actually see one.



Quote of the Day: "The consul also said, in answer to a question, that the Jews in Austria would not be deprived of property rights any more than German Jews had been. This brought laughter from the audience but the consul doggedly kept on talking." --The Times, reporting on a Town Hall appearance by Georg (George) Gyssling, shown above in Los Angeles in 1934


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March 29, 1908


Here's another ethnic caricature by Times cartoonist Edmund Waller "Ted" Gale ...  The accompanying article about a Chinese American woman who adds a contemporary "Merry Widow" hat to her traditional costume is unsigned but is quite probably by Harry Carr, who often did these kinds of Sunday features. The Chinese massacre also provides a little levity for our unidentified writer.



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Home of the week

March 29, 1908

Here's the northeast corner of Washington and Wilton, 1908. Today it looks like this. The home was built by Herman Blumenthal and designed by Robert D. Farquhar.

Matt Weinstock

March 28, 1958


Paul Coates

March 28, 1958


March 28, 1958


Above, Mickey Cohen is in trouble again. Shocking, I know. This time he has a black eye courtesy of U.S. drug agent Howard W. Chappell. Cohen was eventually fined $200 for disturbing the peace. Below, the death of W.C. Handy, composer of "The St. Louis Blues," makes the front page.


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March 28, 1938


Above, five-suit bridge. Hard to imagine, but there it is, introducing eagles as the new suit. Below, Austrian Catholic leaders embrace Nazism ... Minnesota granite is being installed on the Federal Building ... Film director David "Pecados de Amor" Kirkland is freed from a Mexican jail after "killing a drunken Indian with his automobile," The Times says. Kirkland gives the man's widow 300 pesos.

Quote of the Day: "We gladly acknowledge that the National Socialist movement has achieved and is achieving outstanding results in the sphere of national and economic reconstruction as well as in social welfare--especially for the most needy section of the populace. We are also convinced that through the efforts of the National Socialist movement the menace of all-destroying godless Bolshevism was averted. The bishops give their sincerest blessings to these efforts in time to come and will also advise the faithful in this spirit. On the day of the plebiscite it will be for us bishops a self-evident national duty to declare our loyalty as Germans to the German reich (nation) and we expect all faithful Christians that they know what they owe to their people." --Theodore Cardinal Innitzer and the bishops of Austria


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March 28, 1908


Above, the circus is coming to town--apparently. I can't find any further mentions of "Towle's Circus." Below, Rep. J. Thomas Heflin hates African Americans and he hates drinking, so you can imagine how he feels about African Americans who drink liquor.

Heflin, accompanied by Rep. Edwin Ellerbe of South Carolina, was taking a streetcar to church, where Heflin was to deliver a temperance lecture. According to The Times, two African Americans boarded and one of them, Thomas (or Lewis) Lundy, was about to take a drink of whiskey when Heflin told him to stop. A congressman from Alabama, Heflin had introduced a measure to add Jim Crow cars to the Washington, D.C., streetcar system and he had received permission to carry a gun because of the resulting death threats.

Heflin threw Lundy off the streetcar after a fight and many passengers also got off the car during the brawl, The Times says, including Thomas McCreary and his wife. Lundy got up from the pavement and reached for his pocket, so Heflin fired his .38 at him through a streetcar window, missing Lundy and hitting McCreary in the leg, The Times says. Heflin fired again and struck Lundy in the head at least once, the paper says.

McCreary was taken to the hospital in a carriage because he refused to ride in an ambulance with an African American. Heflin was indicted on charges of assault with a deadly weapon, but The Times never reported on the outcome of the case or whether Lundy and McCreary survived.


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Matt Weinstock

March 27, 1958

Matt_weinstockd A man driving east on Melrose Avenue about three weeks ago around 6 p.m. turned left into an alley near Western Avenue.

He was stopped by a gendarme and given a citation for violating Sec. 544 A of the vehicle code--illegal turn. The motorist didn't agree with the officer and said so.

The other day when he appeared in traffic court he was prepared to pay the fine and forget it. He can't afford the time that pleading innocent would entail.

BUT INSTEAD of the usual routine he was informed a formal complaint had been filed with the city attorney's office charging him with the offense and giving a more detailed account of his alleged derelictions.

It stated (take a deep breath) he "willfully and unlawfully turned such vehicle from a direct course and moved right and left upon the roadway when such movement could not be made with reasonable safety and without giving an appropriate signal of his intention to turn such vehicle continuously during the last 100 feet traveled by such vehicle before turning, when there were other vehicles which might have been affected by such turning movement."

Our man took a look at the amended charge and became a tiger. It happens he is employed by the Motor Vehicle Department and knows something about the rules. He whipped out his big, fat Motor Vehicle Code and pointed out to the judge that it is a violation of Sec. 739.2 for a police officer to alter or add to the charge as written at the scene of the alleged violation. The judge agreed and set a date for the case. Incidentally, the motorist spent from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. in traffic court getting his point across.

And so, in this corner, Irate Citizen. In this corner, Majesty of the Law.
Santa Monica -- A man and his wife recently decided to sell their home. They listed it with a real estate firm, meanwhile sought another.

A house-for-sale ad in last Sunday's paper caught their eye. It was just what they wanted. Moreover, the same real estate firm that was acting as their agent was handling it. You know the rest. A salesman drove them to their own home.

Mighty potent adjectives the boys use.

SHORT SHORT STORY -- At 7 a.m. the other day a man was changing a flat tire in the right lane on the Hollywood Freeway outbound near Santa Monica Boulevard. It would have been safer for him to have moved his car off the freeway, onto the siding, But obviously he was too disgusted to give a darn. He was wearing shoes, socks--and a knee-length maroon bathrobe.

ONLY IN HOLLYWOOD -- A girl filling out an employment application in a theatrical agency Monday looked up and asked another girl, also filling out a blank, "What date is it today?"

"It has to be the 24th," was the reply, "because Wednesday is Oscar day and that comes on the 26th, remember?"

AROUND TOWN -- Remember the recent panel showing Carmichael, ax on shoulder, saying fiercely, "I didn't get any coffee but at least I got my dime back"? Well, they're posted on every coffee machine at Hughes Aircraft ... A postcard from Paul Drus contains 228 legible, pencil-printed words. Anyone want to try for 456? Or is everybody busy engraving the U.N. Charter on the head of a pin? ... Youngsters can be embarrassing. Robin Gee, 4, of Palmdale insists she "flushes" the toaster ... Don Quinn's definition of a greedy agent: A hog that lives high on the ham ... A trash box on Beverly Boulevard near June Street had the Christmas wrappings of at least a dozen liquor bottles strewn on top. What a party that must have been Imagine people still Yule-tiding.


Paul Coates

March 27, 1958

Paul_coates An Earthman came to my office yesterday. He brought an object with him in a shopping bag. Gingerly, he removed it from the bag and placed it upright on my desk.

It stood about 2 1/2 feet high and was a heavy steel and plastic cylinder complete with safety valves, cranks and ominous looking buttons. A steel disk covered on end. The other end, about 4 inches in circumference, was filled with dirt.

"Look at it," he demanded.

I assured him that I was--that I wouldn't take my eyes off of it for a second. "What is it?" I asked.

He cleared his throat and looked me straight in the eye. "It's an object," he announced, "that attacked me from outer space."

He didn't flinch when he said it.

But I did.

"It was Monday night. About 10-10:30. I was walking down Loma Linda Avenue," he continued.


"I was nearing the corner of Serrano. On my way to the drugstore."


"To buy some cigarettes."


"Filter tips," he explained.

"And?" I said impatiently.

"I'm getting to it," he snapped. "It came flying out of the sky. Missed my ear by inches. My right ear. I heard this terrible whish-thump-splat."



"You saw it?" I said.

"I saw it after it hit the ground. It missed the sidewalk by 8 inches, maybe."

He pointed to the bottom of the object. "Look at the dirt and grass inside the plastic cylinder. It cut a sharp hole a few inches deep in the lawn of this apartment house and then bounced out again and lay down on its side."

"What did you do then?"

"I was very cautious. I sneaked up on it and touched it."

He glanced quickly to his right and left. We were alone. He whispered.

"It was warm."

"Warm?" I cried.

"Yes. But I poked it and it didn't move. So I picked it up and took it over under the street lamp and examined it. It looked harmless enough so I took its handle and cranked it."

He demonstrated for me, cranking the handle vigorously.

"Nothing," he continued. "Nothing happened. I've been carrying it around ever since, showing it to people. Nobody knows what it is. There's not a marking on it.

"Mr. Coates, you've got to help me find someone who knows what it is."

"I do?" I asked.

"Absolutely. Because so far it's nothing more than an Unidentified Flying Object. And to be perfectly honest with you, I don't believe in such things."

[Note: The Mirror didn't run a picture of this object, unfortunately, so we have to rely on our imaginations--lrh]


Mystery photo


Here's an unusual mystery photo. We know the name of the man on the right. He's James "Jim" Bassett (to his family, he was known as Mike). In 1972, about the time the photo was taken, he was living in Tustin. What we don't know is the story that goes with the photo because, unfortunately, he died in 1993. According to Jim's sister, he was working at a Circle K (note the shirt) and either reported a robbery or stopped a robbery.  He is shown here receiving a reward from a man believed to be a Circle K executive. Jim's family would very much like to know the rest of the story. The Times clips, unfortunately, are most unhelpful.

Any Circle K retirees out there who can help?

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