The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: March 16, 2008 - March 22, 2008

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Michael Todd, RIP


Michael Todd dies


Above, on his way to a Friars' Club roast in New York, producer Michael Todd, writer Art Cohn, and pilots William S. Verner and Tom Barkley are killed when Todd's Lockheed Lodestar crashes in bad weather in New Mexico. Below, Todd and his wife, Elizabeth Taylor, after he won an Academy Award for best picture for "Around the World in 80 Days."


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Photograph by John Malmin / Los Angeles Times

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Los Angeles Times file photo

Cantinflas and Michael Todd in a publicity shot from "Around the World in 80 Days."

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Photograph by George R. Fry Jr. / Los Angeles Times

Michael Todd and Elizabeth Taylor in a photo dated Nov. 27, 1957.

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Photograph by R.L. Oliver / Los Angeles Times

Elizabeth Taylor and Michael Todd leave a hospital in a photo dated Dec. 22, 1957.

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March 22, 1938


1938_0322_bluebeard

Above, "Bluebeard's Eighth Wife," from Ernst Lubitsch. Below, Earle Kynette's last attempt to get out of jail is rejected as his defense prepares for a trial to begin April 12 ... Carl Warr is arrested 25 years after strapping a bomb on himself and walking into the office of Police Chief Charles Sebastian ... I believe the Los Angeles County district attorney's office still has parts of this bomb ... Mayor Frank Shaw says he is contemplating a lawsuit against the recall campaign ... On the jump, a feature on Edgar J. Goodspeed, a New Testament scholar who wrote the mystery "The Curse in the Colophon." At the bottom right, the original page from the 1912 bombing scare. 


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1938_0322_ro1912_1120_bomber
 

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March 22, 1908


1908_0322_hall_of_recs_pix

Above, an artist's concept of the proposed Hall of Records, a white gingerbread building between Broadway and New High Street that was one of the landmarks of old Los Angeles. The realignment of Spring Street in the 1920s and the demolition of the earthquake-damaged courthouse at Broadway and Temple in 1935 left it stranded at a peculiar angle. The Hall of Records was torn down in 1973.

 

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Above, the Hall of Records from an interactive map at the Library of Congress showing Los Angeles in 1909. Below, a postcard of the new Hall of Records and at the bottom, an aerial view showing the building after the alignment of Spring Street and the demolition of the courthouse.  Note the current Los Angeles Times Building in the lower left-hand corner.




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Woman architect

March 21, 1908
Los Angeles


Female architect

I stumbled across the story of Penelope Murdoch yesterday but didn't have time to pursue it until now. This photograph and few inches of type from The Times may be all that remains of the aspirations of a Polytechnic High School student who hoped to become an architect. I can find no further record of her.

Sadly, the anonymous Times reporter treats Penelope with humorous scorn and amused disdain, as if she's a trained circus seal that can play a tune on bicycle horns and now has grand plans to write a symphony.

"One day, when other girls were dreaming of party dresses and conquests, Miss Penelope, very serious and very busy, up in the architect department, pursed her pretty mouth and wrinkled her smooth young forehead."
 
---snip---
 
"But with the same demure calmness with which she might tell you how she had decided on a 'Merry Widow' instead of a 'Military' for her summer hat, she explained all about the relation of the Mission to the Moorish style, and made bewildering allusions to Gothic arches and Ionic columns and Dravidian pyramids, and told why you must never, never use a fluted column on one sort of architecture--I forget what."
 
 

Chiseling away these writerly aerobatics and pompous digressions is slow, frustrating work and leaves the careful researcher with precious little information. We don't even know, for example, Penelope's age or whether she was a freshman or a senior (bonus fact: Polytechnic was 4 years old and about to graduate its first class--not that you'd learn it from The Times).

What we do know is that there was a young woman who believed in herself and hoped to be an architect. She received the encouragement of educators--if not The Times--and we can hope she achieved some success. The absence of her name in later editions of the paper is disquieting, as if a spotlight shone on a young person of promise for a moment and then left her in the dark.

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Matt Weinstock

March 21, 1958

Matt_weinstockd Rather suddenly, after several years of unaccustomed luxury to which people became accustomed, and forgetful, the world seems to have gone sharply economic again.

Once more the big talk is of nickels and dimes. Oops, better make that dollars. Inflation, you know.

In any event, the familiar incongruities and paradoxes are showing up.

A MAN ON an Olympic bus was overheard by Don Drake saying to his companion, "Jerry and his family are really up against it. He's been out of work for more than three months."

"Well," came the query, "he's drawing unemployment insurance, isn't he?"

"Sure, but after they make the payment on the car what have they got to live on?"

THE WAY BOB LEE (who ought to be ashamed of himself) tells it, there was this gullible and cooperative halibut which saw a baitless fishhook drifting loose through the water off Manhattan Beach and said, "OK, take me to your leader."

THE PIXIES have been busy again.

A motorist trying futilely to break into the jammed traffic on Fairfax Avenue north on Wilshire, reports Larry Thor, was waving a white handkerchief in token of surrender.

And Don C. Harvey broke up at a line some leprechaun wrote on a sign on Hollywood Ranch Market warning that illegally parked cars would be impounded and hauled away, to wit, "My big brother can whip your big brother."

1958_0321_movies MEMBERS OF Gamma Delta Upsilon, City College journalism fraternity, will observe their 28th anniversary tonight at the Press Club.

As usual, special tribute will be paid to a talented and ubiquitous member, Bart Reynolds. He's everywhere, he has done everything, including getting out the tong's fine, recently published book, "Paisano," consisting of eloquent letters written by members in the service during World War II.

Now it can be told that Bart Reynolds doesn't exist except as a fictitious byline created by the fun-loving members. He's their ideal, the guy they all wanted to be in their youth. Which makes him one of the longest-running gags in existence.

TO THE QUESTION, "Who's watching the store?" let us present Miss Gladys Paul. For 50 years she has presided at the same main floor counter at the Broadway, handling women's neckwear, ribbons and cuffs. Monday, in observance of this half-century, she'll receive a diamond-studded watch. Many persons would say, "Monotonous, wasn't it?" Not Miss Paul. She enjoyed every day of it.

ONLY IN L.A. -- A waitress in a lunchroom near 6th and San Pedro streets was overheard by Alan Ferber saying to a customer, "Sure he ought to see a psychiatrist but they charge about $25 an hour and he hasn't got the money. That's the trouble, poor people can't afford to find out what's wrong with them."

AROUND TOWN -- A Santa Monica restaurant has a refinement on the "Happy Birthday" routine. Instead of the cake and candles business, a waitress marches to the celebrators' table carrying a plate of pastries with two Fourth of July sparklers alight ... Coronet has a scary article on "California's Sinking City" --Long Beach ... A La Mirada entrepreneur figures to do all right. He's selling car stickers stating both "Help Stamp Out Republicans" and "Help Stamp Out Democrats" ... The ultimate in this particular category, however, was spotted by Cully of Culver City, a sign on a Cad, "Help Stamp Out People" ... While hiking on Mulholland Drive, Arlene Cersky came upon a sign, "Site of Future Bel-Air Presbyterian Church. Trespassers will be forgiven."


       

Paul Coates

March 21, 1958

Paul_coates A month ago I wrote a column concerning a mysterious medal.

About the size of a half-dollar, it had the embossed figure of a stork on its face side, plus the lettering "Wanstead High School." On the reverse was the inscription:

"Hurdles. Open. D. Farrell. 1927."

There was nothing unique about the medal. It looked like any medal any kid in any high school might win.

But the element of mystery about it came in the letter to me which accompanied it.

The letter was from Mrs. Eleanor Hatch of Hollywood.

She found the medal, she told me, in a small can which had been around her house for maybe 20 years. It was among a miscellaneous assortment of rusty nails, hooks and buttons.

"I never heard of D. Farrell," she wrote me, "nor have I heard of Wanstead high School."

She added that she had no use for the medal, but somehow couldn't bring herself to throw it away.

"That's why I'm sending it to you," Mrs. Hatch said. "In the hope that you can find its real owner. It might have some special significance."

I mentioned Mrs. Hatch's discovery and wish in this column, figuring that no one would claim it--but anyway, I'd made an effort.

1958_0321_smith_2 Immediately, it was obvious I was wrong.

The column ran the same day that a man named Donald Farrell made the papers by completing a simulated week's flight into "outer space" in a U.S. government experiment.

Lots of letters and calls came in asking if this man might be a descendant of D. Farrell, the 1927 hurdles champ.

There were other calls from other Farrells, plus two from persons who told me that Wanstead High School was located a short distance from London, England.

One call was from Bob Jarvis, president of the advertising firm of Prestige Inc. He told me that his friend, David Farrell, president of Trust Deed and Mortgage Exchange, thought the award-winning D. Farrell might be a long-lost relative.

Did I have any clues, he asked?

I mentioned the two calls about Wanstead High School being near London. And from there, Jarvis took over.

He cabled the London Times for an exact location of the school.

A reply came stating that there was a Wanstead County High School near London with the address: Redbridge Lane, Wanstead E. 11

Then Jarvis sent a cable care of the school's headmaster. Did they ever have a student name of D. Farrell? If so, did they have a current address on him?

The reply came this week, signed A. Ingram, Headmaster.

It read:

"Thank you for your telegram asking about D. Farrell, an old boy of this school from 1926-8.

"I am sorry to report that he was killed in the war.

"He was a Sgt. Observer in a Wellington Bomber killed in action Sept. 11, 1941. The plane was shot down in the Channel and his body washed ashore at Dieppe.

"The last address we have of his family was: Mr. W. Farrell (father) 50 Park Road, Kingston Hill, Surrey.

"Although I have only been headmaster since 1948 there are a few colleagues who remember him.

"I am sorry I cannot be more helpful. We are proud to have his name on our War Memorial."

When Jarvis phoned me yesterday, he said that Sgt. Observer D. Farrell was no relation to his friend, David Farrell.

Afterward, I called Mrs. Hatch. Again I read her the letter from London. With a certain sadness, she said, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry to hear it."

"You knew him? You remember him now?" I asked.

"No," she said. "I still don't have any idea who he is or how he got his medal.

"But I'm sorry we're too late to get it back to him."


March 21, 1958

Brigitte Bardot

Don't worry about that headline. We'll fix it for the next edition.

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March 21, 1938

Restaurants

Below, despite concessions from Lithuania, war remains a possibility between the nation and neighboring Poland ... Mexico nationalizes foreign oil companies ... An estimated 30,000 troops have died in fighting between Japan and China ... And United Press helpfully identifies Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt as "the wife of the president."  I'm so glad we didn't get her confused with some other Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt.

March 21, 1938

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March 21, 1908

baseball

Above, baseball and ostriches. Below, the Rev. G.W. Woodbey, an African American minister described in The Times as a rabid radical, is convicted of speaking on a street corner without a license. Woodbey sounds like an interesting fellow and he appears in The Times on several occasions, but only in brief references that describe his troubles with the law and say nothing about his religious or social beliefs ...  Many streets in South Los Angeles are renamed as part of a council ordinance, producing mass confusion among residents ...  City Hall is overrun with rats ... A former Hearst cashier is on trial on charges embezzling from the Examiner.

Quote of the Day: "One day I got tired of my husband's threats to kill me and said I didn't think much of men anyway, so he made me get on my knees, while he held a loaded gun at my head, and apologize for my poor opinion of his sex." --Evaline Hobach, testifying in divorce court

March 21, 1908

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Matt Weinstock

March 20, 1958

Matt_weinstockd Perhaps you, too, have caught the lilting language of the missile experts. To them a satellite or a missile is "the hardware." It is said to be propelled by an "exotic" fuel.

Already such terminology is having an effect. Two L.A. men, homeward bound on a United Air Lines plane, were overheard discussing the stewardess' "perigee" and "apogee." In case you forgot, these words mean the points at which the orbit of a celestial body is at its nearest and farthest distances from earth. They may not exactly have been talking about missiles, but that's what they said.

As missiles soar, the vocabulary is bound to expand. It could go on and on, the sky being the limit. After all, these scientists live in the land of the huggermugger.

And as for those nose cones on the satellites, they look mighty esoteric to me.

WORKMEN ARE refurbishing Grauman's Chinese Theater for the advent April 8 of the Cinemiracle production "Windjammer." The other day they uncovered a lesser miracle at the extreme right of the forecourt, which, as everyone knows, abounds with footprints of the famous.

Underneath an advertising panel which had covered it for years they found a footprint, a bare five-toed footprint, and alongside it the name Pat.

1958_0320_rambler_2 This is to advise that blasphemous rascal Pat, whoever he is, that fame has come at last.

ON THE OTHER side of a screen in the occupational therapy section of General Hospital, Buck Hathaway heard a mixture of women's voices. He isolated one asking, "How much have you in that stack, Alice?" Then heard the reply, "Well, altogether, $25,480." Another voice chimed in, "I've got $2,310 here." Another, "I've got $15,000 even."

These are not the kind of sums one usually hears around General Hospital so Buck peeked. The ladies turned out to be Gamma Phi Beta members headed by Mrs. James Seminoff, wife of the basketball referee, counting about $100,000 worth of trading stamps and sales slips donated for the orthopedic children's ward. They'll be turned in for athletic equipment to help rehabilitate disabled youngsters.

ONE OF THE soiled doves who frequent a Hill Street bat cave came in the other day, shaky but buoyant. She'd had her first bout with the dreaded DTs, she reported, and it wasn't as bad as she'd feared. All that happened was that several large but quite friendly cats wearing hip boots kept wanting to shake hands. When she extended her hand they dissolved.

Everybody felt much better.

OUT OF TOWNERS sometimes get strange ideas about our little frontier. Price Norris, Allegheny-Ludlum steel executive from Pittsburgh, admonished a car rental agency at the Statler Hilton, "Please make sure I get one with windshield wipers." He was assured all their cars have wipers.

"Oh," he said in all seriousness, "I understood they were optional out here."

AROUND TOWN -- The SC bookstore has reduced the price of a book titled "The Moon to Play With" from $3.50 to 35 cents. Obviously Trojans would rather play with other things ... Opening of the Hollywood Rollerbowl April 9, said Joe Yocam, "will launch a couple of thousand people into orbit" ... From a distance it looked to Rick Vance like two men were picketing a barbershop just off the Ventura Freeway. As he got closer he saw their signs stated, "This shop fair to average working man. Haircuts $1.25. Boys $1. Dick and George's Head-Quarters" ... California may not agree with Arizona on such things as Colorado River water rights but it has approved the "annexation" of the 306 x 52-foot Grand Canyon Diorama at Disneyland to our neighbor. The area will be officially proclaimed as belonging to Arizona when it opens March 31.




       

Paul Coates

March 20, 1958

Paul_coates Barbara Ridley is 25. She's the mother of four sons, ages 6, 4, 3 and 1.

She's also part of the unpleasant headlines you've been reading this week.

She's the wife of 36-year-old James Vernon Ridley, who yesterday confessed to the brutal raping of two girls, 11 and 9, in the San Fernando Valley.

I talked with Mrs. Ridley shortly after her husband confessed to the crimes. It wasn't a pleasant conversation for either of us. But the more we talked, the more I got the feeling that it was an important one.

Not just to us. But to everybody.

Barbara told me that she was 17 when she married Ridley. She'd known him two months before they ran off and eloped.

1958_0319_ridley It had to be that way because Barbara's parents were against the marriage.

Her husband, she told me, was quite a nice guy -- good-natured, generous, wonderful with the kids.

"He was more patient with the children than I was," she said.

But he was sick and, little by little, it became apparent to Barbara that her husband needed help.

A couple of years ago, his nervousness increased alarmingly. At Barbara's urging, he visited a doctor -- a medical doctor.

The doctor said he was suffering from a vitamin deficiency. James Ridley took his pills regularly, but his nervousness increased. Everyone was against him, he'd confide to his wife.

The next step was an obvious one: a psychiatric examination.

Barbara suggested it, but her husband said he was all right, he wasn't crazy.

But a few weeks later, after James Ridley had walked out of the house supposedly to go to work, his wife received a phone call from General Hospital. Her husband -- she was told -- had committed himself for examination.

In two more weeks, he was home again.

"They told me he was suffering from schizophrenia--to have him committed to Camarillo," she explained.

The Christmas holidays came, so the Ridleys waited. They wanted a family Christmas.

They had it, and shortly afterward Ridley was committed to Camarillo for 90 days.

"Then they put him out -- on indefinite leave, they called it," Mrs. Ridley told me. "I said I didn't think he was ready. I felt it especially after he told me that he never got to talk to a psychiatrist. Just shock treatments -- that's all they gave him, I guess."

Then Barbara Ridley tried to get her husband some outpatient psychiatric care -- with no success. "We couldn't get it from the county and couldn't afford a private psychiatrist," she said.

What happened after that is ugly current history. Two young girls have been attacked.

You can blame James Ridley. He's not sane.

But you have to wonder if somebody else isn't to blame too. And wonder if some terrible tragedies could have been averted if some of the persons we pay to represent us and protect us hadn't ignored James Ridley when he wanted and needed help.

In a community of millions, there's bound to be more than one James Ridley. And until our officials decide to protect us from them -- either to cure them or keep them locked up -- we're going to have more tragedies.

When I talked with Mrs. Ridley, I asked her if she planned to stand by her husband.

"I don't know," she said. "I don't want the kids to know. If it's a choice between my children and my husband, no, I can't stand by him.

"I'll just pray to God that he finally gets the help he needs. For his sake and for the sake of children like those little girls...."

For the first time, Mrs. Ridley broke down.

"If he gets help, he can take care of himself.

"My children -- they can't."

"Your children, of course, don't know," I said.

"The oldest boy overheard us today -- talking about it," she answered. "My father-in-law was saying, 'They're taking Jim to the County Jail.'

"And my boy said to me, 'Mommy, is that where Daddy is? Is he in jail?'

"I told him, 'No, baby, that's somebody else's daddy. Your daddy is in the hospital.'

"But he shook his head. 'Mommy,' he told me, 'I just can't understand what's going on.' "


       

March 20, 1958

layoffs

Above, more layoffs, this time in Los Angeles' auto assembly plants in South Gate, Van Nuys and Maywood, recall the recurring theme of unemployment in recent columns by Matt Weinstock and Paul Coates. Below, the Navy discovers that a mystery object believed to be an enemy submarine was really a whale ... Rhonie David Rhonemus is captured ... On the inside cover, Councilman John C. Holland asks for a congressional hearing on the city's contract with the Dodgers for a stadium at Chavez Ravine ... And actress Lana Turner returns from a Mexico vacation with Johnny Stompanato. Turner and Stompanato are met at the airport by Turner's mother and her 14-year-old daughter, Cheryl Crane.

Quote of the Day: "There is definitely no romantic interest between us." --Lana Turner, on her relationship with Johnny Stompanato.

March 20, 1958
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