The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: December 14, 2008 - December 20, 2008

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Found on EBay -- Williams and Walker

"Ephraham," a 1904 song by Vincent Bryan and J.B. Mullen, with a cover illustration of George Walker, is listed on EBay with bidding starting at $19.99. Walker later teamed up  with Bert Williams.

A Dragnet Christmas -- boy gets .22 rifle


Here's Jack Webb's downbeat Christmas present to "Dragnet" viewers, and the original radio version of ".22 Rifle for Christmas." This is a wonderful example of how the writers in the early days of television treated TV like radio with pictures. Take one of "The Lone Ranger" episodes and just listen to the audio. It's really a radio show.

Voices -- Christine Collins, Jan. 4, 1928

The Christine Collins letters

The woman whose tragedy inspired the Clint Eastwood movie "Changeling" tells her story in her own words.

From the California State Archives
  Los Angeles, Calif.
  Jan 4, 1928
1928_0104_christine_collins_page2Dear Mr. Neumiller,
I am writing to you in behalf of my husband, Walter J. Collins (No. 12824) imprisoned at Reprisa, Calif.
When Mr. Collins was taken from us we were left destitute as he was our only means of support. I was compelled to earn our son's and my livelihood by securing a position in a telephone exchange and for over four long years I have worked under great difficulties to make a living.
Our son is nine years old now and I find it very hard to support the two of us on the small salary I receive and my health is not good at all. I am on the verge of a nervous breakdown and the doctor said I needed a rest.
Mr. Neumiller, will you please sanction a parole for my husband so as he may come home and take care of his family? We really need his support and I am very sincere in stating the fact. I know you will not refuse me this appeal for the sake of our son as well as my health.
1928_0104_christine_collins_page3Mr. Collins is a good man and always was a good provider until he made his mistake thru worry and sickness. He is sorry for what he has done and begs forgiveness.
Please make this a happy New Year for us by granting him a release so as he may take care of us. I will more than appreciate your kind act for our sakes.
Hoping for a favorable reply and wishing you a very bright and happy New Year, I am
    Very respectfully
    Mrs. Walter J. Collins
    Please grant him a parole.

Retro holiday gift -- Archive of Met broadcasts

Opera_archive_ebay What can only be described as a massive archive of opera broadcasts has turned up on EBay. The reel-to-reel recordings are mostly Met performances, with a few from Bayreuth, Salzburg and Spoleto. This collection has all the familiar names of the past: Leontyne Price, Leonard Warren, Mario Del Monaco, Richard Tucker, Birgit Nilsson, Jussi Bjorling, Jerome Hines and Anna Moffo. Listed under Buy It Now for $2,500.


Movie star mystery photo

2008_1215_mystery_photo Los Angeles Times file photo

Our mystery guest has more than 40 credits on imdb. Update: This is Barbara Laage in a photo announcing that Gene Kelly had cast her in "The Happy Road."
Los Angeles Times file photo
Here's another picture of our mystery guest, this time as a brunette. Lots of interesting guesses, but so far, none of them have been right.

Update: This photo is unidentified. It may be from "Act of Love," like some of the other pictures.
Los Angeles Times file photo
OK, here's a big hint.
We have correct guesses from Alexa Foreman and Claire Lockhart. Congrats!

Update: Barbara Laage and Kirk Douglas in "Act of Love."
And a frame grab from one of her films on YouTube. There was actually a post about the movie earlier this year.

Update: This is from "Therese and Isabelle."

Los Angeles Times file photo

Kirk Douglas and Barbara Laage in "Act of Love."

Robbers shoot couple on Santa Monica tennis court, Bills seek new coach, December 19, 1968

My heart skipped a beat when I pulled up this page. Of course, this is the beginning of the Geronimo Pratt case. Note the Ted Thackery Jr. byline. -- lrh


1968_1219_sports The Buffalo Bills had big plans in 1968. Not only was USC star O.J. Simpson available, they were flirting with a new home and new coach.

The potential coach was George Allen of the Rams. According to The Times' Bob Oates, Allen was in line to become the Bills' coach and general manager and possibly Simpson's first pro coach. Oates said Buffalo owner Ralph Wilson would ask the Rams "in a day or so" for permission to talk with Allen. "This is news to me. I have not talked with Mr. Wilson," Allen told Oates.

There was plenty of first-rate speculation in Oates' story. One element was the Bills' possible move to Seattle if Wilson didn't get a new stadium. Wrote Oates: "Friends of Allen expressed doubt that he would be enthusiastic about Buffalo, but said they 'wouldn't be surprised' if he goes to Seattle."

Then there was the matter of where Simpson would end up. The Bills had the first pick in the draft but apparently were listening to trade offers, including one to the Chargers for several players. Earlier Times stories discussed the Rams deciding not to trade their three first-round picks for a chance to draft Simpson.

But the Bills in Seattle? O.J. in San Diego? How either might have changed the NFL.

As for Allen, one other interesting item from Oates' story: Rams owner Dan Reeves gave the coach a $25,000 bonus check at the end of the season. According to Oates, the bonus "was Reeves' answer to reports that there have been disagreements between him and the coach."

Was $25,000 enough to keep everyone happy? Stay tuned.

--Keith Thursby

Dwyane Hickman to star in 'Dobie Gillis,' Dodger Pee Wee Reese retires, December 19, 1958


Hedda Hopper announces that Dwyane Hickman is leaving the "Bob Cummings Show" to star in "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis," one of the biggest hits of the 1950s and early '60s. At left, a clip of Hickman with Bob Denver as Maynard G. Krebs and guest star Barbara Bain. The series also featured Sheila Kuehl, the first openly gay person elected to the California Legislature.

1958_1219_sports I couldn't help but wonder reading The Times' story about Pee Wee Reese retiring from the Dodgers. How much bigger a story would it have been a year earlier in Brooklyn?

Reese was one of the veteran Dodgers who came with the team to Los Angeles in 1958. He clearly was not the same player who was a perennial all-star during his tenure as the Boys of Summer's shortstop. Reese played only 59 games for the Dodgers in 1958, hitting .224.

The retirement story led the sports section, but it just didn't seem like enough of a send-off. Even the headline, "Reese Finally Retires," missed the marked. Finally?

"He could have remained on the active roster of another big league club but the Dodgers, in rebuilding, must make room for another youngster," general manager Buzzie Bavasi told The Times. "That's baseball." Reese stayed with the Dodgers as a coach, a logical step for a player long praised for his leadership skills.

"A boy has more self-respect
when he's clean-shaved."
"He was the heart and soul of the Boys of Summer," Vin Scully was quoted as saying in Reese's 1999 Times obituary. "He was the rare man who had the voice of authority and was still loved by his teammates."

Reese played a key role in helping Jackie Robinson when he joined the Dodgers in 1947. Tot Holmes, a baseball historian, recounted an incident in Cincinnati when the Dodgers were on the field and Robinson was being verbally abused.

"Reese had enough of the abuse, called time and walked over to Robinson and simply put his hand on his shoulder," Holmes said in Reese's obituary. "Eyewitnesses said the crowd quieted as if a lightning bolt had struck."

Reese, whose full name was Harold Henry, was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1984. 

--Keith Thursby

Voices -- Christine Collins, July 5, 1927

The Christine Collins letters

The woman whose tragedy inspired the Clint Eastwood movie "Changeling" tells her story in her own words.


Update: Bachelor farmer leaves fortune to waitress, 1982

The Times' obituary on Dolores Moran, Feb. 8, 1982.

Bachelor farmer leaves fortune to waitress, Dodger official trades son to Royals, December 18, 1968

1968_1218_hillinger Here's the Los Angeles Times in its glory days: Chuck Hillinger on the cover and a Jim Murray column in sports. And it's a perfect Hillinger story: A recluse farmer leaves most of his fortune to a former actress whom he knew fleetingly when she was a teenager working at a San Jose drive-in.

"For the life of me, I cannot remember the man," says Dolores Moran, who appeared in "To Have and Have Not."

At left, Jim Murray writes about the passing of boxer Jess Willard, "The Great White Hope," shown above in his 1919 fight with Jack Dempsey.

Al Campanis traded his own kid.

The Dodgers' general manager sent Jim Campanis, then a 24-year-old catcher, to Kansas City for cash and the loan of a couple of minor leaguers, The Times reported. The headline said Campanis "peddled" his son, which seemed a little much for a two-paragraph story. Of course, the paper also referred to the Royals as "expansionist."

Jim Campanis played two seasons in Kansas City, then was traded to Pittsburgh in a package that brought the Royals shortstop Freddie Patek. Campanis finished his career in 1973 with six at-bats for the Pirates.

-- Keith Thursby

Voices -- Christine Collins, July 1, 1927

The Christine Collins letters

The woman whose tragedy inspired the Clint Eastwood movie "Changeling" tells her story in her own words.

From the California State Archives

Los Angeles, Calif.
July 1, 1927

Christine_collins_letter_1927_0701_ Warden Court Smith

Dear Sir:

I am taking the privilege of writing to you in behalf of my dear husband and I sincerely hope you will not think it an imposition on your great kindness to me.

As you already know we are really in need of Mr. Collins' support as I am not at all well and I find it very hard trying to support our son and myself.

Mr. Collins is a very good man and the mistake he made caused a great deal of suffering for me as well as our boy. Personally, I do not feel that Mr. Collins was given a fair trial and to my estimation the judge was very much prejudiced.

Christine_collins_letter_1927_070_2 The lawyer we had I found out later was a member of the National Guard here as was the head of the corporation who condemned Mr. Collins. Mr Smith, poor Mr. Collins has known nothing but misfortune since I have known him and I think the poor fellow is to be pitied and I am so sorry that he was convicted on circumstantial evidence.

I attended his trial and not a witness could feel sure he identified Mr. Collins as the man who committed the robbery and our lawyer turned traitor at the time we needed him most.

After the trial he (the lawyer) said to me, "Now what do you think of the verdict?"

I said "I still do not think Mr. Collins guilty."

Christine_collins_letter_1927_070_3 It seems a shame a good man should waste his life in prison when he has a family who need him so much. I am sincere and really need Mr. Collins support, Mr. Smith.

I would be the happiest woman in the world if my dear husband could come home to us. Is there any possible chance of a parole for him if we never come to L.A. again? He is all we have in this world and we would be so happy if he could come back to us again.

You are very kind and I will never forget the kidness you have shown me in regard to the action of Mr. Spagnoli.

Christine_collins_letter_1927_070_4 His promise to you is like his promise to me. As yet I haven't seen a penny of the money he promised to pay me. You can readily see how [illegible] he ever was and how crooked he is.

Mr. Collins always was so good to us. Our son asks for him all the time and is at the age now where he needs his father.

Mr. Smith, please do not think I am [illegible] but I wish you would grant me a great favor and give Mr. Collins a release so as he may take care of us.

My health is failing and I feel I will not be able to work out much longer. Won't you Christine_collins_letter_1927_070_5 please parole my husband and make my burdens lighter?

For our son's and my sake, I ask this great favor and I know you will not refuse me.

Thanking you again for your great kindness, I am.

Very sincerely,

Mrs. Walter J. Collins
217 N. Ave. 23
L.A. Calif.

Voices -- Christine Collins, October 2, 1925

The Christine Collins letters

The woman whose tragedy inspired the Clint Eastwood movie "Changeling" tells her story in her own words.

From the California State Archives
  Los Angeles, Calif.
  Oct. 2, 1925
    Christine_collins_letter_1925_100_2Mr. Thomas M. Gannon
    206 State Capitol
    Sacramento, Calif.
    Dear Sir:
Your letter of Sept. 29, 1925, received this afternoon and I am very sorry that you misunderstood me regarding that money. I did not mean it as a compensation or in a business way but just to show my appreciation for your kindness of heart. Please understand Mr. Gannon that I was very unaware of Mr. Collins' previous offenses and I was really surprised as well as greatly disappointed to know that he had served two terms before.
His record here shows he had served six years in 1910. I met and married him in 1917 so consequently was ignorant of his record. There must have been some mistake about him serving ten years in 1910 as that would show him released in 1920. I lived with him from 1917 to 1923 and our boy was born in 1918.
Mr. Gannon, he certainly lived straight during the years I lived with him and I wouldn't want a better provider and husband. In 1920 his mother took sick, in fact she had been an invalid ever since I knew her and reverses came one after another.

Christine_collins_letter_1925_100_3 I have known nothing but worry and reverses since I work hard every day up to eight o'clock at night trying to make an existence for my boy and myself and I find it very trying.

I am sure if Mr. Collins were given just one more chance to make good he would not fail or disappoint us. I am asking leniency for the sake of our boy who calls for his father continually.

I know your efforts are voluntarily offered and know it would be contrary to your principle to accept any money but please understand Mr. Gannon that I meant it as personal appreciation and not as compensation in the least.

Isn't there any chance of Mr. Collins getting a parole before 1928, Mr. Gannon? I would do all in my power to help him see the finer things in life and I know he will strive to better himself.

Hoping leniency will be shown him for the sake of his little son and our aching hearts

I am,

Very sincerely,

Mrs. W. J. Collins
217 N. Ave. 23

Christine_collins_letter_1925_100_4 P.S.

Mr. Collins was convicted on circumstantial evidence and stood no show against the L.A. Corporation, as I understand, whose men were paid to testify against him.

I attended the trial and there was only one witness who said he could recognize the defendant. The others were doubtful. The judge seemed very prejudiced against Mr. Collins and our lawyer after having received $75.00 cash became indifferent. Consequently our poor defendant stood no chance.

I understand a life term is from one to ten years and the sentence of forty years imposed on Mr. Collins seemed to me very unreasonable. Mr. Collins never harmed a soul in his life.

Christine_collins_letter_1925_100_5 That attorney of San Francisco actually kept the money I forwarded to him for services and then neglected to perform his duty.

That is a form of robbery but he is not arrested in his act. Can nothing be done to make him return that money which he has had over six months now?

Please, Mr. Gannon, won't you see if Mr. Collins can't come home. Since there he has taken a course in civil engineering which has mastered. This shows he means well doesn't it?

Mrs. W.J.C.

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