Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history
I've been waiting a year to get this shot of the MTA headquarters. Happy Valentine's Day!
Feb. 14, 1958
During World War II, he used to listen to Tokyo Rose lying about how many American ships the Japanese navy sank each day. He had three sons in the service.
He has continued to derive great pleasure bringing in "distance" on his seven-band Zenith. He gets the Voice of Spain from Madrid, Moscow, BBC from Melbourne, Big Ben in London giving Greenwich meridian time, news from Montreal and police calls from Houston, Tulsa and Cincinnati.
He was listening to a Chinese opera about a week ago when a loud droning noise assailed his ears. It lasted about three minutes and repeated in an hour and 20 minutes.
HE ATTRIBUTED it to the Geiger counter in the U.S. satellite Explorer and deplored what he considered the end of peaceful radio listening.
Sam, old boy, apparently you were felled by the long arm of coincidence. Other air eavesdroppers say it isn't so. The signals from the Explorer are so weak onlysuper-sensitive receivers can hear them.
Best guess of experienced shortwavers is that Sam caught some of the disturbance caused by the recent aurora borealis or has local interference such as a faulty power transformer or that it was just the Russians, as usual, jamming the Voice of America.
Sam, let's be nice to the Explorer, it's the only one we have.
JOHN BEEKMAN, former Daily News horse picker, is now public relations director for the Los Alamitos racetrack and general manager of a couple of subsidiary enterprises, a nine-hole golf course and a restaurant.
The opening of the restaurant was set for a recent Saturday. Shortly before post time, John was certain he had thought of everything--from spoons to salad dressing.
Then Friday at 11 p.m., his boss, Frank Vessels, asked if he'd fueled the cash registers with money. He hadn't. As a newspaperman, he was so accustomed to getting along withou money he'd forgotten about it.
So the place opened the next morning bankrolled only with the $8 John had in his pocket and what he could scrounge from the help. However, by assigning a messenger to run back and forth to nearby merchants and the post office he muddled through.
WITH THE USUAL journalistic irreverences, John V. Horner was recently inaugurated as president of the National Press Club, Washington, D.C.
To solemnize the occasion, a special four-page edition of Horner's paper, the Star, was printed with the inevitable cartoon of Jack Horner thumbing a plum out of his Christmas pie. It reported that John Daly was emcee, that Richard Nixon administered the oath of office and that Gina Lollobrigida, who was there, measures up well to the acclaim which has been heaped upon her."
The edition also had congratulatory letters from Herbert Hoover, Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower.
Ike's message, on White House stationery, stated in part, "While I am confident that your administration will be highly successful, I feel I must warn you that as president you undoubtedly will be faced ... with a few problems. Your constituency will want to know, among other things, will the Press Club's budget be precariously in balance? Will you have to resort to increased taxes? If so, why? ... Do you expect to hold 'summit' meetings with your counterparts in Paris, London, Moscow? If so, where? These are some of the easier questions. There are more, much more difficult. For example, would you turn in your suit if you contact Asian flu? ... My best of luck to you."
SIGN ON A Volkswagen in Beverly Hills: "Made in Africa by Aunts (mine)."
Feb. 14, 1958
In fact, at times, he's rather unable. But it doesn't really bother me. First, because the kid listens attentively every time I explain his mistakes to him. He's eager to learn. What he lacks in ability and common sense, he makes up for in heart.
And second, Charlie works cheap.
What does bother me is that he repeatedly finds it necessary to draw me into his personal problems.
Charlie, if you'll recall, is an ex-Mirror News reporter who had a habit of wandering off to Mexico every time he found a few extra bucks in his pocket--and staying there for periods of from one to two years.
The last time he came back to Los Angeles, about a year ago, he brought along a wife and infant son. She was a sweet, simple girl from a small south Mexico village, completely unindoctrinated in the sly, devious ways of American women.
And it's been Charlie's problem ever since to keep her out of earshot of neighboring, more worldly women and yet to shower enough personal attentions on her to keep her contented with her hermit existence.
And that's where I come in. Being a man of broad background, I'm constantly being sought out by Charlie to make his personal decisions for him.
Like yesterday. Charlie approached me with a revolutionary idea.
"I'm going to buy my wife a valentine," he told me.
I congratulated him on the decision. "Women," I told him, "are always impressed by sentiments like that, Charlie. I'm proud of you for thinking of it."
He thanked me and I thought that was the end of it.
But it wasn't.
About an hour later, he interrupted me while I was interviewing a skid row fry cook. "If I do buy her a valentine, don't you think I'll spoil her?" Charlie wanted to know.
"No," I promised, calmly.
"But it'll set a precedent," he argued. "I'll have to do it every year. She'll expect it."
"Charlie," I answered firmly. "You can catch more flies with a spoonful of honey than you can with 20 casks of vinegar."
Sufficiently confused, Charlie departed and I returned to my conversation with the fry cook.
And I'd estimate that it was two hours before I saw Charlie again. In one of my hand-me-down trench coats and felt hats, he walked dejectedly into my office.
"You been out on a story, boy?" I asked.
He shook his head. "I been out looking at valentines."
"Nothing. Not one that expresses my love like I feel it."
It took me only a moment to come up with the idea.
"Charlie," I said, "go back to your desk and sit down and write one yourself. And give it heart, lad."
Charlie broke into a smile. "Great. Great idea! The personal touch--and on company time, too."
Again, he was gone. But shortly, he was back.
"I did it," he exclaimed. "You want to hear it?"
"Do I?" I said. "I wouldn't miss it for anything."
Charlie fidgeted for a moment. Then he stood at attention, holding a piece of paper nervously in front of him. He began:
"Because I love you dear, I gotta
"Have you for my enchilada."
There was a long and painful silence, which I finally had to break. "That's it? That's the loving valentine message you're going to give your wonderful wife?"
"You don't like it?" he asked. You could see he was hurt.
"Charlie," I said. "It not only doesn't make sense but it's terrible."
But like I mentioned earlier, Charlie can take criticism. He bounces back. It takes him a little while but he does.
In this particular instance, it took about 45 minutes before he returned. He pushed a card into my hands. On it was a picture of a poinsettia. I opened it and read the message.
"Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year."
"How's that for luck?" he asked. "It's been in my desk all this time and my wife really loves flowers."
"But Charlie," I started.
"She'll love it," he interrupted. "She can't read English."
Feb. 12-March 29, 1958
They were such nice boys. Real gentlemen. Having them around the apartment was just like company, except for the guns. They said they weren't guilty of burglarizing that drugstore. They just couldn't prove it and didn't want to go to jail. Why they laughed when the news called them dangerous criminals. They said nobody understood them. Maybe they did steal a few cars and hold up a couple of businesses after they escaped from jail. And shooting that deputy four times? Well, one of their hostages did warn them that something bad might happen if they didn't give themselves up.
Bart, 22, Rhonie, 20, and Thomas, 19, got a hacksaw blade to cut their way out of the San Luis Obispo County Jail, used bedsheets to lower themselves to the ground and stole a car after finding the keys hidden on the sun visor. In Paso Robles, they broke into a sporting goods store and stole a carload of guns. They took a Lincoln convertible at gunpoint and headed for Los Angeles.
They dumped the Lincoln in Van Nuys and split up. When police found the convertible at 14527 Blythe St., it contained two shotguns, two Winchester rifles and a bucket of ammo. Thomas stole a car near the GM auto plant and headed north to surrender to police. When he ran out of gas, he flagged down another car and hitched to Santa Barbara, where he surrendered.
Bart and Rhonie stole a car from the parking lot of a Redondo Beach bowling alley. At 12:30 a.m., they found Tom Garrett, 21, sitting in a car at 102 S. Pacific Coast Highway in Hermosa Beach as he waited to pick up his brother Ray, 18, from his job at the telephone company.
The brothers took Bart and Rhonie back to the apartment at 1664 W. 205th St., Torrance, where they lived with their mother, Lola, 52, and sister Mary, 15.
For the next day, the fugitives stayed with the Garretts.
"I asked, 'What's going on here?' " Lola said.
"I'm sorry ma'am, but we're going to have to stay here until things cool off," Bart said. "We have no intention of hurting anyone, so please don't worry."
"It wasn't like you see in the movies," Lola told the Mirror. "They didn't keep their guns on us all the time. In fact, several times I could have picked up a gun that they left on a table or on the floor. But I didn't feel that they were going to hurt us, so I didn't take the chance."
Bart and Rhonie took turns sleeping while the other one watched the family. They played cards, watched TV or just talked about high school.
"I made breakfast for them," Lola said. "They didn't ask me. I just thought it was the thing to do. I don't like to be rude to my guests. They read the articles in the paper about themselves and watched news broadcasts on TV. When they were described as dangerous criminals they just laughed and said nobody understood them."
As Lola ironed clothes, Rhonie tried to explain how he ended up in jail. "He said he was not guilty, but couldn't prove it and he didn't want to go to jail."
"For supper last night I made them fried chicken. Rhonie and Mary did the dishes when we were through. About 8:30 last night they prepared to leave. They told me they had planned to stay until Saturday but changed their minds when they saw they were inconveniencing us.
"They tied us up, but they apologized. As they left, they turned and looked at me. They said goodbye. They said they were sorry. They had a gag in my mouth so I couldn't answer them. I just waved.
"I can't figure out how they got into trouble. They were real gentlemen. They were careful about their language and did no drinking," Lola said.
"But the last thing I told them was: 'I hope you boys get straightened out. I'd like to see you come out of this all right. This is no way for you to live. Somebody will get hurt sooner or later.' "
And someone did get hurt--badly.
Bart and Rhonie stole a white T-bird from a man who was visiting one of the Garretts' neighbors. They dumped that car on Commonwealth just north of the Hollywood Freeway.
They got to Oakland by bus and bounced from one rooming house to another, then hooked up with William, who bought a car for them. Finally, Bart and Rhonie split up because they couldn't agree on the "techniques of robbery."
Each of them pulled job by himself. Bart got $575 from the Central
Theater in downtown Oakland while Rhonie held up a Hayward fish market
and stole the owner's car. It was while he was fleeing from this holdup
that Rhonie shot Alameda County Sheriff's Deputy Robert Ficken/Fricken
four times. The deputy was reported to be in serious condition, but The Times never followed up on the story.
Police arrested Bart and William on Feb. 25, 1958, although the details of their capture weren't published.
A day before the FBI was to put him on its most wanted list, Rhonie was captured March 2, 1958, after robbing a pawnshop on Clark Street in Chicago.
Unfortunately, The Times never followed up on this case, so we don't know the rest of the story.
According to California death records, Bart James Blackburn died May 6, 1996, in Contra Costa County. He was 60. When he was arrested, he was carrying a will that read:
"When I am dead please notify Mrs. R.A. Blackburn of 6515 Agnes Ave., North Hollywood, and give my remains to UCLA Medical Center for their studies.
"I found that life is like the waves, forever washing itself against an indestructible Being, Death. But they also have fog on their lives and as they must recede into oblivion, so must I."
Records also show that Rhonie "Ronnie" David Rhonemus died Sept. 9, 1988, in San Francisco. According to the FBI, his motto was "Die young and make a good-looking corpse."
And what became of Thomas William Dyball, their companion in the escape? His name never again appears in The Times. He would be 69 years old.
The Times did report, however, that Tom Garrett was ineligible for
unemployment benefits that week because being held hostage made him
unavailable for work. In sympathy, Gov. Goodwin Knight paid him $40
with a personal check.
[Update: July 13, 2010: A reader e-mails that Alameda County Sheriff's Deputy Robert "Bob" Ficken" survived being shot and died a few years ago.]
Above, critic Edwin Schallert retires from The Times, where he started in 1912 (Click on the headline to read the entire story) ... Elizabeth Taylor is talking about giving up her career as soon as she finishes "Don Quixote" ... Mario Lanza, though seriously ill, will recover ...
Above, an ad for the Del Coronado ... Capt. Earle Kynette compares himself to Alfred Dreyfus ... "Hammer Slayer Flees Hospital," now there's a headline that says "read me" ... A writer injured in the Japanese bombing of a U.S. Navy gunboat and three Standard Oil tankers on the Yangtze River says the Chinese are just as bad ...
At top, Santa Monica African Americans begin the Union League ... Above, Cottolene, a blend of cottonseed oil and beef tallow ... Meet Joseph Margolis (1869-1945), who was active in politics until at least the early 1940s, in a story thick with dialect and broken grammar ... The Alexandria and Hollenbeck hotels contribute $1,000 toward the welcoming celebration for the Great White Fleet ... Firefighters take two of the company's horses out for exercise and one animal is killed when they collide head-on while galloping toward one another on Edgeware Road ... A 4-year-old girl is badly burned while playing with matches ...
The Metropolitan Transit Authority takes its first steps toward "a speedy mass transit system." Will it build a monorail from the Valley to downtown Los Angeles? Reporter Ray Herbert is going to look at the implications for bus and streetcar passengers (yes, we still had them in 1958) and find out "just when Los Angeles can expect a fast, more efficient transit system." As the Daily Mirror keeps pointing out, congested streets in Los Angeles are a 100-year-old problem. Stay tuned...
It's Sunday in 1938, and here's an ad from the real estate section ... And a panel from "Buck Rogers" ... Hitler plans to announce that he respects Austrian independence ... Paul Wright is convicted of manslaughter in the killing of his wife and his best friend ... Republicans celebrate Lincoln's birthday by calling on disaffected citizens to fight the New Deal ... Japan refuses to reveal its plans for naval expansion ... As a result, the U.S., Britain and France will abandon limits they observed on their navies ...