The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: November 30, 2008 - December 6, 2008

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Baseball OKs trades between NL-AL, December 4, 1958


You really don't have to wonder what "She Gods of Shark Reef" is about, do you?

1958_1204_sports Here's another one of those surprises found in the old files.

Baseball approved interleague trading for a short period each winter beginning the following November. Players would not have to clear waivers to be dealt, so the Yankees could send Whitey Ford to the Dodgers for Sandy Koufax without any complications. That's just an example, not some old baseball rumor.

The concept was not unanimously approved by team owners. The Yankees were the only American League team to vote against the plan, but the National League barely passed it, 5-3.

Fresco Thompson of the Dodgers thought the plan would "open the gates" to trade stars from one league to the other.

"Say a team owns a Willie Mays and nothing else," Thompson said. "It needs money. Under the new rule, the team can sell or trade a big star like Mays to the other league. The other league gets all the benefits and our league has been stripped of one of its biggest drawing cards."

Sounds a little like the Florida Marlins.

Funny that Thompson used the Giants' star as an example--that must have been the first player he could name, right?  Frank Finch's lead in The Times provided the other side of that coin: "How would you like to see a Roy Sievers, a Jackie Jensen or a Nellie Fox in a Dodger uniform?"

--Keith Thursby

Architecture -- Paul R. Williams

Photograph by Susanne Hayek

Home designed by Paul R. Williams, Pasadena.
The home at 1727 Putney Road, designed by noted African American architect Paul Revere Williams, is on the market for $2,795,000. The agent's website is here. The home was occupied in the 1940s by George C. Earley, who owned the Chrysler dealership in Pasadena at 337 W. Colorado Blvd. 

Retro holiday gift suggestion

The Parker T-Ball Jotter, 1957
Newspapers, magazines and websites are full of holiday gift suggestions. But frankly, in this economy, I can't in good conscience recommend spending lots of money. (True, I may post pricey items from EBay, but I never recommend them as gifts; they're just historic curios.)

Here's an economical present that's totally retro: the Parker T-Ball Jotter, available in most office supply stores for a few dollars.

The Parker (yes, in black) is the ballpoint pen of choice at the Daily Mirror. My only concession to modern times is the gel cartridge. Great for doing the New York Times' crossword puzzles.

Bomb found at Coliseum, December 4, 1958


1958_1209_bomb A time bomb was discovered under a temporary platform for college cheerleaders at the Coliseum.

The device apparently had been set to go off at 2 p.m., which was the starting time of the Nov. 15 UCLA-Oregon game, police said. The clock alarm on the bomb went off but there was a malfunction in the wiring, according to D.A. Wolfer of the police department's crime laboratory.

A maintenance man at the Coliseum found the bomb as workers were dismantling the temporary platform in preparation for an upcoming Rams' game.  The cheerleaders' platform had been put up for the UCLA game and remained for USC games against Notre Dame and UCLA. 

Police said that any college chemistry student could have made the device. Eventually USC students Dave Visel and Neil Baizer, members of the Trojan Knights, were suspended after admitting that they made the smoke bomb. 

--Keith Thursby

Remakes of science fiction classics

Check out what my blog colleague Geoff Boucher has to say on Hero Complex:

Hollywood, Back to the Future: Top filmmakers have already dipped into the sci-fi vault for 21st century remakes of “The War of the Worlds, “The Planet of the Apes” and the upcoming “The Day the Earth Stood Still,” so what’s next on the revival list? Plenty. Here’s a list of a dozen remakes and revival projects now at various stages in the studio pipeline.

When_worlds_collide_2 "When Worlds Collide" Steven Spielberg is one of the producers and Stephen Sommers (“The Mummy,” “Van Helsing”), infamous for his “give me more” attitude toward CGI effects, is directing. Like the original 1951 film produced by George Pal, this “Worlds,” due in theaters next year, is about the mad scramble to build a spaceship to save humanity before Earth is destroyed by a rogue planet entering its orbit. The problem comes when there aren’t enough seats for everybody on Earth.

Theterminatorposter_5"The Terminator" It’s not a remake, but filmmaker McG’s plan to revive the killer robot franchise with a new sequel next summer starring Christian Bale as John Connor has been circled by fans after a strong showing this past summer at Comic-Con International. “Terminator Salvation” is set in the future and shows the grim war between humans and Skynet with its murderous metallic armies. The plan is for a full trilogy — which means a certain California politician may well live up to that long-ago promise: “I’ll be back.”

Read more >>>

Duesenberg for sale

Photograph courtesy Hemmings Motor News

Now listed for sale on Hemmings Motor News, this 1929 Duesenberg J belonged to one of the Barbee brothers (probably A.K. Barbee) who headed the Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Los Angeles. It was later owned by Glendale car collector Fred Buess. As someone pointed out, the body was modified by Bohman & Schwartz of Pasadena in the 1930s.

Hayakawa reopens S.F. State; Dodgers bid for Joe Torre, December 3, 1968


1968_1203_sports Turns out the Dodgers were interested in more than Joe Torre, the manager. They once tried to acquire him as a player.

The Dodgers offered the Braves Willie Davis and Tom Haller for Torre and Felipe Alou, according to a story in The Times. The Braves wanted to trade Rico Carty instead of Alou. But the Dodgers apparently didn't like that combination.

Torre started his career with the Braves in Milwaukee and was traded to the Cardinals in 1969 for Orlando Cepeda. He finished his playing days with the Mets.

Torre ultimately managed the Mets, Braves and Cardinals before the Yankees and of course the Dodgers.

--Keith Thursby


36 homes burn in Malibu fire, December 3, 1958

I have seen some ugly Page 1 layouts but this headline takes the prize.
  1958_1203_map Corral Canyon fire, 1958
Corral Canyon fire, 2007.
1958_1203_page2 One fire began near Bob Hope Ranch, the other near 20th Century Fox movie ranch and they joined.
Surely you have heard the remark that if history doesn't repeat itself, it rhymes. Here we have fires in Corral Canyon, at the top in 1958 and above in 2007. At this point, the 1958 fire had covered 15,000 acres. Actors Strother Martin and Lew Ayres lost their homes and Jackie Coogan skipped a TV appearance to protect his home from the flames.

And I have to say that my jaw dropped when I saw what they did with the headline.

We also followed the deadly fire at Our Lady of the Angels in Chicago, where official speculate that the blaze was started by a student sneaking a cigarette.
The set for "War and Peace" survives the flames.
Bill Barnes signs three-year contract
to head UCLA football.

Killers die in gas chamber, December 3, 1938


"There's nothing to it." -- Robert Lee Cannon

"So long." -- Albert Kessel

"That was the most terrible thing I've ever seen. I've witnessed 52 hangings. I could find nothing humane about it and I never want to watch anything like that again."

--Father George O'Meara, prison chaplain

"Hanging is a damned sight quicker and better."

--San Quentin guard

"These men went easy." 

--Dan Cox, Sacramento County sheriff
A 59-year-old man gets a day in jail
for carrying a blackjack on his honeymoon with his 14-year-old wife.
USC meets Notre Dame in the Coliseum.

Voices -- Odetta, 1930 - 2008


Odetta at the Hollywood Bowl, 1961. I have to admit, Dean Jones on a bill with Odetta is not something I ever imagined.

Versatile Odetta Found Her Folk Roots and a Message

Music: Now she feels a necessity to perpetuate the kind of songs that turned her life around.

April 21, 1990


DEL MAR -- Odetta is a human jukebox of traditional American folk music. Her repertoire, both on record and in concert, ranges from 19th-Century slave songs and spirituals to the topical ballads of such 20th-Century folk icons as Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger.

And, although she periodically strays into other styles of music--she's sung jazz, Broadway show tunes, even opera--Odetta likes nothing better than to apply her rich, powerful voice and intense, evocative singing style to traditional American folk music--the music that made us think, then made us act, in times past.

"People are always asking me, 'Why don't you do more modern songs?' And I guess it's because I'm an ancestor worshiper and a historian," said Odetta, who will appear Saturday night at the Del Mar Shores Auditorium.

"This is the music that turned my life around, and I feel a need to continue that music so that more and more people can hear it--and hear messages from those who have gone before us, hear how our ancestors got us through to better positions than they were in."

History, after all, has a way of repeating itself, she said, and the message contained in these vintage tunes is as relevant today as when they were written.

"We in this country are terribly confused," Odetta said. "I'm not sure we know exactly how we're confused, but there is something amiss with millions of dollars being shipped into other countries to kill civilians, and then there's not enough money to continue providing medicine for the elderly, who have worked all their lives and contributed to this country's welfare and should be receiving dividends, or for working people and their children.

"There's a lot of stuff that just doesn't compute, and I think people need to be assuaged, to be soothed, by knowing they're not the only ones feeling like there's something wrong.

"The words to traditional folk songs were written out of concern, and there's as much to be concerned about now as there ever was."

Odetta, who turned 59 Dec. 31, was born in Birmingham, Ala. She lost her father when she was 6, and later moved to Los Angeles with her mother, sister and stepfather.

There she sang in her junior high school glee club and began taking private voice lessons. She later worked as an amateur at the Turnabout Theater in Hollywood and studied music at Los Angeles City College. In 1949, she won a part in the chorus of the touring musical production of "Finian's Rainbow."

Later that year, the musical hit San Francisco for an extended stay, Odetta recalled, and it was there--in the coffeehouses she frequented after the shows--that she discovered folk music.

"For the first time in my life, I heard the music of the people I came from," she said. "One of the things we read in our history books, when I was in grammar school, was that the slaves were singing all the time because they were happy, but the songs I heard debunked that theory.

"And hearing this music made me feel proud. I straightened my back and kinked my hair, and from that point on I was determined to learn all there was to learn, not just about my black heritage, but about my American heritage."

Odetta promptly left the "Finian's" chorus line and ventured out on her own. She made her debut as a solo folk singer in San Francisco's Hungry i, earning $25 a night; she subsequently hit the road, singing in folk clubs and coffeehouses up and down the West Coast.

By the mid-1950s, Odetta was touring nationwide and in Canada; she cut her first record, for San Francisco's Tradition label, in 1956. With the advent of the folk revival, she began getting plenty of national attention.

Odetta performed at the Newport Folk Festival in 1959, 1960, 1964 and 1965 and released several albums on Vanguard Records, the home of fellow folkies such as Joan Baez, Doc Watson and the Jim Kweskin Jug Band.

Odetta has since toured Europe, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, the West Indies and Northwest Africa and has recorded for independent folk labels. She's also made countless television appearances and popped up in several films--including "Sanctuary" and the TV movie "The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman"--in both singing and dramatic roles.

She said she plans to continue doing plenty of benefit work for social and environmental organizations and causes, something she's always been known for.

"I have to do that. I need to put something back into the pot; I need to be helpful and useful to those who are on the firing line with their energies focusing on areas that will improve the lives of more people in this country."

Found on EBay -- Black Mask magazine

A copy of the May 1943 issue of Black Mask magazine has turned up on EBay. Bidding has started at $50, about average for an issue of this vintage. Note that UCLA Special Collections has a nearly complete collection of original issues.

Coming attractions -- Black Chrome

At long last I'm digging through the handouts I gathered at the Archives Bazaar (my companion, newly published author Brady Potts is way ahead of me on that score) and came across a flier for an exhibit at the California African American Museum. It's called "Black Chrome" and focuses on African Americans and motorcycles. The exhibit continues through April 12, 2009.

Special programs include:
--Trick'in Out My Bike, Jan. 25, 2009
--African American Motorcycle Culture with Na'il "Shayk" Karim, Black Biker Magazine, Feb. 8, 2009.
--"Free Black Horse," Feb. 22, 2009.
--Women in Biker Culture, March 22, 2009.
--Motorcycle Superhero, April 4, 2009.


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