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Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: August 10, 2008 - August 16, 2008

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Mayor asks FBI to help study of LAPD, Reds beat Pirates, August 16, 1938

Standard gas station service--check your tires--and there are always clean restrooms
FBI to join efficiency study of LAPD Dropcap_l_kiddo os Angeles Mayor Frank Shaw invites J. Edgar Hoover to join the city's efficiency study of the Police Department ... Donald Dodge, 21, heir to the automaker's fortune, drowns while being taken to a hospital after he was injured while examining a stick of dynamite. Dodge was lying in a speedboat and abruptly jumped into Georgian Bay ... Lupe Velez and Johnny Weissmuller are splitsville.

On the jump, Nazi Germany conducts war games ... And in sports, the Angels will play the Padres in the "World War" series.
Lupe Velez and Johnny Weissmuller get divorced Angels play the Padres
Continue reading »

UCLA Coach Red Sanders Dies, August 15, 1958

UCLA football coach Red sanders, 1954
Los Angeles Times file photo

UCLA coach Red Sanders "shows his tailbacks the way he wants them to throw a pass" before the Bruins play Stanford. Published in The Times, Oct. 13, 1954

Photograph by Ray Graham / Los Angeles Times

Ann Sanders unveils the bronze plaque at the Coliseum honoring her late husband. At left, George Kinsey, vice president of the Coliseum Commission, and William Young, UCLA vice chancellor, Nov. 17, 1959.

UCLA football coach Red Sanders dies

UCLA football pictures

UCLA coach Red Sanders dies

Red Sanders death stuns UCLA
By Keith Thursby
Times staff writer

Red Sanders was the first Wizard of Westwood.

Since coming to UCLA in 1949, he had transformed the football team into a national power with three league titles in consecutive seasons, two Rose Bowl appearances and the first undefeated season in school history. When he died of a heart attack at 53, The Times responded with a series of stories that showed a lot about the coach and the way newspapers approached star sports personalities during that era.

I was struck by the personal nature of the coverage. Sports Editor Paul Zimmerman, getting reaction from the nation's top coaches, told of a fishing trip he took with Sanders. The Times' Dick Hyland, in a story about Sanders' widow, wrote about the details of Sanders' living room.

"It is said that you can tell how a man thinks by what he reads. On Red Sanders' shelves were such titles as Sandberg's 'Abraham Lincoln'; volumes of Kipling; the works of Plato; 'The Blue and the Gray,' a great Civil War history; 'The Jacksonians,' Stanton Coblenz's 'From Arrow to Tomb.'"

Ned Cronin wrote about the impossible task ahead for UCLA Athletic Director Wilbur Johns, who needed to find a coach so close to the start of the season while the community mourned. "It takes a long while to recover from the effects of the shock," Cronin wrote. "A shattering blow not only to me, for I regarded Red Sanders as one of my closest and dearest friends."

It was also a little jarring to read that famous football quote--"Winning's not the main thing, it's the only thing"--without any reference to Packers Coach Vince Lombardi, who was famous for saying it. Because Sanders said it first. The Times' Al Wolf suggested he said it "presumably in jest but actually kidding on the square."

The Times published an editorial on Sanders the following day, calling him a man of "great tensions, driven by some urge to perfection that nobody, probably, could analyze. Sometimes he wound the string so taut that it broke with spectacular side results. It is not surprising, really, that such a man should die at 53. A heart is a heart."

ps. from Larry Harnisch:

Take a look at the What's Bruin post on Red Sanders from August 2007, "August 14, 1958: The saddest date in UCLA football history."

Red Sanders death stuns UCLA Death of football coach Red Sanders stuns UCLA

Los Angeles--water and power, Nuestro Pueblo, August 15, 1938

Los Angeles water and power


Engineer Bill plays 'Red Light, Green Light'

Return to the days of the "Get Well Bell" with a clip of the late William "Engineer Bill" Stulla. Pour yourself a glass of milk and be careful not to spill! And be sure to close the refrigerator door, engineers. "On the green light, you go. On the red light, you stop. For no engineer will ever run on a red light."

Below, a story about a 1976 reunion of Sheriff John Rovick, Engineer Bill Stulla, Jimmy "Webster Webfoot" Weldon, Skipper Frank Herman, Vance Colvig and Walker Edmiston. 
Engineer Bill, Sheriff John, Webster Webfoot reunion Engineer Bill, Sheriff John, Webster Webfoot reunion

Dodgers change game time, August 14, 1958

Dodgers change game time to 4 p.m. By Keith Thursby
Times staff writer

Baseball or the beach?

The Dodgers changed the starting time of three day games from 1:30 to 4 p.m. and said they were trying to make their fans happier.

"We have received complaints from fans who said that they would like to go to the beach and the ballgame but can't do both," General Manager Buzzie Bavasi said. "We also realize that it's uncomfortable for the fans, sitting in the sun in an uncovered stadium."

Maybe that's the real reason so many people bring beach balls to baseball games.

Dodgers rehire Alston, August 14 1958

Dodgers rehire Walt Alston for another year, August 14, 1958 By Keith Thursby
Times staff writer

The Dodgers decided their disappointing first season in Los Angeles shouldn't be blamed on Manager Walt Alston and rehired him for the 1959 season.

The Times' Frank Finch reported that the announcement "was met by a spontaneous burst of applause from press and radio representatives" attending the news conference.

"Alston can't think, hit, throw or run for his players," General Manager Buzzie Bavasi said. "He has managed in our organization for 14 years and never finished worse than third. I believe he is entitled to one bad year."

The Times had reported the Dodgers' faith in Alston earlier in the season when owner Walter O'Malley backed the manager during an interview in Brooklyn (of all places). But the paper had also spectulated about a replacement. On Aug. 2, the Times' Al Wolf suggested that Yankees Manager Casey Stengel might leave New York to take over the Dodgers.

Bavasi said he "didn't even ask Alston if he wanted to manage our club next year. I just assumed he did."

Looking back, of course, the decision was genius. A year later, Alston would be leading the team into the World Series where they would defeat the Chicago White Sox.  Alston would end up in the Hall of Fame. Nice hire.

Actress attempts suicide at home of movie star, August 1958

Actress attempts suicide at movie star's home, 1958

Barbara Thomason, Mickey Rooney's fifth wife, 1958
Los Angeles Times file photo

Barely visible beneath the retouching, an autograph by "Carolyn." 
She was the fifth Mrs. Mickey Rooney, between Elaine Mahnken (No. 4, 5 1/2 years) and Margaret "Margie" Lane (No. 6, 104 days). She's the one who was shot to death by her crazy boyfriend. But I'm getting ahead of the story.

Her name was Barbara and at 17, she was Miss Muscle Beach, Miss Surfestival and Miss Bay Beach for 1954. The Times noted her "winning measurements, which pleased the judges" as 5-3, 120 pounds, 36-21-35.

By 1958, she was sharing a place at 1436 Laurel Ave., with Pat Landers, a nightclub singer, and as Carolyn Mitchell had appeared in two Roger Corman pictures, "Dragstrip Riot," featuring Fay Wray, and "The Cry Baby Killer," starring Jack Nicholson.

Maybe what happened on that night in August 1958 makes sense if you're a 21-year-old beauty queen involved with a 38-year-old movie star and have a couple of girlfriends help you try to land him.

Mickey Rooney and Ava Gardner Mickey Rooney and Betty Jane Rase Mickey Rooney and Martha Vickers
1. Ava Gardner, 1942-43
2. Betty Jane Rase, '44-48
3. Martha Vickers, '49-51
Mickey Rooney and Elaine Mahnken Mickey Rooney and Margaret Lane Mickey Rooney and Carolyn Hockett
4. Elaine Mahnken, '52-58
6. Margaret Lane, 9/10/66-12/24/66
7. Carolyn Hockett, 1969-74
Mickey Rooney's marriages, 1942-1974
This is what they told police: While Rooney was at a dinner party in Beverly Hills, Barbara took an overdose of sleeping pills at his home, 12979 Blairwood Drive, Sherman Oaks. Then she called Landers to come up and help her.

Landers brought along another girlfriend, Kiff Chance, who is identified as an actress in some stories and as an agent in others. Chance's main claim to fame appears to be getting pushed into a pool by Frank Torre of the Braves, who was at a rowdy Bel-Air party with Lew Burdette, Gene Conley and Red Schoendienst while Milwaukee was in town to play the Dodgers.

Barbara was unconscious when Landers and Chance arrived, so they decided to wake her up by undressing her and putting her in the swimming pool. Just for good measure, Landers took off her clothes so she could get into the pool and dunk Barbara in the water.

When that didn't work, Landers called her doctor, who told her to contact the police. The Fire Department also responded and took Barbara to North Hollywood Hospital, which released her the next day. According to Rooney's agent, Red Doff, Rooney got home, found notes all over the house, visited the hospital to check on Barbara and went home after he found out she was fine.

Mickey Rooney and Barbara Thomason
Los Angeles Times file photo

Barbara Thomason and Mickey Rooney, June 5, 1959.
Barbara, who claimed she merely took the wrong pills by mistake, said of Rooney, "I'm madly in love with him and he with me," but Doff insisted to The Times that there was no romance. In fact, when the story finally broke in the papers, Rooney had left for an engagement at Harrah's Club in Lake Tahoe.

"It's all a publicity stunt cooked up by these three girls," Doff told The Times. "Sure Mickey knows Barbara and has taken her out a few times. But Mickey likes all girls. After all, he's not even divorced yet and here someone is trying to get him married already.

"I'm Mickey's closest friend and you can quote me as saying that he enjoyed Miss Thomason's company just as he did the many other girls he has been out with since separating from his wife. But that's as far as it went!"

While Rooney was busy in Tahoe, supposedly perfecting his golf game, boxer Art Aragon joined Barbara's friends in  Los Angeles in insisting that she and Rooney were involved.

"If Mickey says he wasn't serious about Barbara, he's not telling the truth," Aragon said. "Pat [Landers], Mickey, Barbara and myself were out together just before the [Carmen] Basilio scrap and he couldn't keep his eyes off her."

Barbara Rooney and baby
Photograph by the Los Angeles Times

Barbara and Kerry Rooney, Dec. 30, 1960.
Eight months after the purported overdose, Rooney announced that he planned to marry Barbara in a year, as soon as his divorce from Mahnken was final. In fact, Rooney had already married Barbara in December after getting "a secret quickie Mexican divorce," The Times said in June 1959. In fact, Barbara was pregnant with Kelly, the first of their four children, who also included Kerry, Kyle and Kimmie Sue.

Less than six years later, on Jan. 24, 1966, Rooney sued for divorce, charging Barbara with mental cruelty over her involvement with Milos Milosevic, 24, an explosive, small-time actor from Yugoslavia who had a bit part in "The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming." Rooney charged that Barbara "was allowing, permitting, encouraging or harboring" Milosevic.

Milosevic was "very pleasant but nuts,"  according to an actor who worked with him on "The Russians Are Coming." Milosevic "would drive sports cars and aim for people. They would have to jump out of his way. This was always a big laugh to him," the actor said. In filing for divorce, Milosevic's ex-wife, Cynthia Bouron, said Inglewood police had arrested him on charges of assaulting her.

On Jan. 30, 1966, Barbara visited Rooney at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica, where he was recovering from an intestinal infection he caught while filming in the Philippines, presumably "Ambush Bay." She used a hidden microphone to record their conversation with the help of private detective Herm Schlieske.

She and Schlieske returned to the Rooney home at 13030 Evanston St., where they were joined by Milosevic, and two of her friends, Wilma Catania, a visitor from New York who was staying in the guest house, and Susie Sydney. Also in the house at the time were three of the Rooneys' four children.

Mickey Rooney and Barbara, 964
Los Angeles Times file photo

Mickey Rooney and Barbara in 1964.   
The Times said the group gathered in the den, where Barbara played the tape. Partway through the conversation, Barbara apparently turned off the hidden microphone she was using, so the tape was incomplete, The Times said. But at one point in the recording, she said: "If it makes you unhappy for me to see Milos, then I won't even see him as a friend."

The people dispersed about 7:30 p.m. and about 8 p.m., Milosevic and Barbara went into the master bedroom and locked the door, The Times said.

With the children in bed, Catania called out to Barbara, asking if she and Sydney could borrow the car to attend a party in Hollywood. There was no answer, so the women left. Catania said she returned about 2:30 a.m. and went to bed in the guest house.

Mickey Rooney's children
Photograph by George R. Fry / Los Angeles Times

Attorney  Harold A. Abeles escorts three of Barbara and Mickey Rooney's children from their home at 13030 Evanston St. after the murder-suicide.

Early the next afternoon, with no sign of Barbara or Milosevic, Catania and the maid unlocked the bedroom door and found the couple on the bathroom floor. He had shot her once in the jaw and then killed himself, using a nickel-plated .38 semiautomatic that Rooney bought in 1964.

Milosevic's body was returned to Yugoslavia at his mother's request. Barbara was buried at Forest Lawn in Glendale after a memorial at Church of the Recessional. During Barbara's service, Rooney was "grimly composed, but her mother ... and sister sobbed throughout the ceremony," The Times said. Barbara Ann Thomason, Miss Muscle Beach 1954, was 29 years old.

Footnotes: In 1970, Milosevic's ex-wife, Cynthia Bouron, alias Samantha Lou Bouron, brought a paternity suit against Cary Grant, saying that he was the father of her daughter Stephanie Andrea. Grant rejected all of her claims, saying that he had nothing to do with her and the case was dismissed when she refused to take a blood test. On Oct. 30, 1973, Bouron's body was found in the trunk of a car that was parked for several days at the Market Basket, 11315 Ventura Blvd. She was fully dressed, and had been tied up and beaten to death. The killing apparently remains unsolved.

In 1978, Rooney married Jan Chamberlin. This year, they will be celebrating their 30th anniversary.



Movie star photo mystery

Los Angeles Times file photo

Who is this week's star? Hint: She's was better known on the stage than in pictures.

Los Angeles Times file photo

No correct guesses so far. Here's another clew.

Photograph by the Los Angeles Times

And another clew. Isn't that a great railing?

2008_0714_mystery_picture_2 About this mystery picture. Nobody guessed who the artist was, so here it is for another 15 minutes of fame. There were some great guesses but, alas, none of them was right.

Dodgers, the next generation, August 13, 1958

Dodgers evaluate young talent from the farm teams By Keith Thursby
Times staff writer

Found a fun story looking at many of the minor leaguers who would soon be ready to take their places with the Dodgers. With the 1958 team struggling, the Times' Ned Cronin interviewed longtime Dodger executive Fresco Thompson about the team's prospects.

"If the veterans can't get the job done there are a lot of pretty fair ballplayers standing around begging for a chance to show what they can do," said Thompson, described by Cronin as "the acute head of the Dodger farm system and one of the most intelligent men in the entire organization."

Some of the names listed are familiar to Dodger fans--Ron Fairly, Tommy Davis and Frank Howard. There are two future Hall of Fame managers in Tom Lasorda (spelled La Sorda in the Times' story) and George "Sparky" Anderson. And there are names that, well, I have no clue about.

Jim Harwell? Thompson said he "was pitching American Legion ball this time last year. We're pretty high on this kid."  Al Norris? Thompson said he had good power.

Earl Robinson, a third baseball signed out of Cal, was also mentioned. I found his stats on and learned he made it to the Dodgers for eight games in 1968. He was sold to Baltimore in 1960 and played there in 1961, '62 and '64.


Marines leave Lebanon, president seeks Middle East peace, August 13, 1958

California leads the nation in alcoholism, study finds
President to announce Middle East peace plan at United Nations

Cubs win over Dodgers

This dropcap is from a 1904 ad for Baker Iron Works e lead the nation in alcoholism, according to The Times' Harry Nelson. You can just call California "the intoxicated state." But 25.73 gallons of alcohol for every resident age 15 and older? Wow.

President Eisenhower will address the U.N. General Assembly with a plan for peace in the Middle East. Sources say Eisenhower is going to request a permanent U.N. peacekeeping force in the Mideast.

Meanwhile, 1,700 Marines leave Lebanon, but 13,000 Marines and Army troops remain, The Times says ... The mushroom cloud from the test of an atomic warhead over Johnston Island is visible more than 700 miles away in Hawaii ... And 31 juveniles are arrested on charges of curfew violations after officers raid a drag race set up at 5th Avenue and the Anaheim-Puente Road in San Dimas. The officers hoped to catch the racers in action, but were seen by lookouts, The Times says.

In sports, the Cubs beat the Dodgers, 9-3, at the Coliseum ... Defensive end Paul Miller is diagnosed with a slipped disc, ending his season with the Rams.  The Times' Cal Whorton says Miller may never play football again. In fact, Miller returned in 1960 to play for two years for the American Football League's Dallas Texans, who traded him to the New York Titans.

History mystery--photo detective

Spring Street, Main Street and Temple, Los Angeles, California

I was going through The Times' photos of Spring Street and became rather irked that someone labeled this image in grease pencil. This is the intersection of Main, Temple and Spring before Spring was realigned.   

A mysterious inscription
Then I noticed this inscription on the back. Most of it was illegible, but I could make out "demolished by runaway team." A mystery!

Mystery of old Los Angeles solved

Voila! The Newmark Fountain!
Los Angeles Times praises donor's generosity This dropcap is from Tarzan he Newmark Fountain was a minor landmark in downtown Los Angeles between  1882 and 1892. At left, The Times praised developer Harris Newmark &Co. for its generosity.

Driving cattle and sheep through the streets of Los Angeles may be banned

I love this 1882 story! The council tables a law to regulate driving cattle and sheep through the city.

Drinking fountain has naked woman

The fountain was 7 feet, 1 and 1/2 inches tall, topped by a "beautiful female figure."

Los Angeles firefighters pull prank on drinking fountain

Actually, it was a naked female figure, which prompted a prank by Los Angeles firefighters.
Drinking fountain destroyed in crash
In 1892, the fountain was destroyed in a spectacular accident in which a runaway team of four horses belonging to D.F. Donegan raced down Temple Street. One horse was killed instantly and another had to be shot, The Times said. D.F. Donegan was a major city contractor who owned a large stable that was often cited for poor conditions. The city tried to collect damages for the fountain and Donegan filed a counterclaim for the cost of the dead horses, saying that the fountain was an obstacle in the street.

In November 1893, Donegan finally agreed to replace the fountain. "It is a handsome piece of work and an ornament to the section of the city in which it is erected," The Times said.

Did the person who made the notation on the back of the photo actually witness the accident? We can only wonder.

Bonus fact: As far as I can determine, Sand Street vanished long ago, but intersected with Broadway north of Temple at the southern entrance of the Broadway tunnel, which has also disappeared.

Japan, Russia stop border war, Angels win 5-2, August 11, 1938

Nazi Germany offers Japan moral support

This cartoon refers to Nazi Germany's decision to offer Japan nothing but moral support in its war with Russia. Many more Axis caricatures are ahead.
Recall election may be illegal, court battle likely

Attorney Frank P. Doherty says the recall election seeking to remove Mayor Frank Shaw may be illegal because of problems with the petitions that were filed ... "Los Angeles is getting a bad name in the West by reason of the frequency and ease with which recall elections are obtained against public officials," Doherty says, quoting unidentified business leaders.

Below left, The Times writes a second editorial against the recall ... And in sports, the Los Angeles Angels beat the Hollywood Stars in the second game of the "Civil War" series.
Recall election is unwise, Los Angeles Times says Angels win over Hollywood Stars

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