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Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, Nov. 25, 1959

November 25, 2009 |  2:00 pm

Nov. 25, 1959, Mirror Cover

Vice President Richard Nixon will be grand marshal of the Rose Parade!

There Must Be Some Kind Answer to This

Paul Coates    (News item) Mrs. Carol Carpenter, 19, was arraigned in Los Angeles Municipal Court yesterday on felony child-desertion charges . . .

    Today, I took a one-lesson course on How to Turn a Law-Abiding Citizen Into a Criminal.

    I talked with Mrs. Carpenter.  What I learned, I'll pass on to you.

    Then, if you will, judge the woman.  Judge the law.  And judge the morality of the society which has branded her a criminal.

    As background to the case, I'll tell you that Carol Carpenter and her husband, Daniel, were married four years ago, while he was in the Army.  She was a month short of 16 at the time.  He was 18.

    Daniel Carpenter got his Army discharge in November, 1957.  Following it, he worked as a meat-cutter and store clerk in New York and Missouri, until he came to Los Angeles last June.

    He came alone, found a job, saved money, rented a home and then sent for his wife and children, David, 2, and Debra, 1.  They arrived in August.

Dec. 9, 1959, Child Neglect     By that time he had found a better job.  He worked six days a week as a machinist, and frequently spent Sundays working at a car wash.

    Two months ago, Kim, their third child, was born.  And a week later, Carpenter was laid off because of the steel strike.  Their savings were meager, and they disappeared rapidly.

    Carpenter looked for a job without success.  Then he committed a stupid act.  When the kids had gone hungry for two days, and after he and his wife had been turned down by the few charities they thought to contact, he rifled a pay-phone. 

    He was caught and jailed.

    Then Carol Carpenter -- with three infant children -- was alone.

    The rent was due.  The landlady told her to get out.  She did.  She sought help where she could.  A girl friend let Carol and the three children stay with her a few days -- until that landlady complained, too.

    She called ministers, the Bureau of Public Assistance, charity groups, even the police.

    She asked one police officer, "What am I going to do?"

Nov. 25, 1959, Know Your Town     He answered, sarcastically, "What do you want me to do?"

    Catholic charities came up once with money for a week's rent and a few days' groceries. Then she managed to borrow a dollar or two for more milk.

    But a week ago Monday, she was again without money or food.

    On Tuesday, she went back to Catholic Charities.  This time, they wouldn't help her.  She was referred to the Alhambra public assistance office, which referred her to the El Monte public assistance office, which sent her back to Alhambra.
She spent all day Wednesday in the Alhambra office, but no one heard her case.  She called some welfare agencies and charities.  No luck.

    Thursday she went to the East Los Angeles public assistance office, which volunteered to sent her back to Missouri. Knowing the red tape she'd have to unravel there before getting food for her children, she declined the trip.

    She called Juvenile Hall, asked if they could care for her children until she could find a job.  The answer was no.  Only if the children were abandoned would Juvenile Hall take them.

    Then she went to visit her husband in jail.  She told him that she was going to abandon the children.  They were sick with colds.  They hadn't eaten in three days.

    "I knew they were starved," she told me today, "because I was starved myself."

    She mentioned that she didn't think her husband believed her.

    "I told him, 'What do you want?  Your children being fed or three dead children?"

    "I didn't know how much of a crime it was," she added to me, "but I didn't care if I went to jail if it would keep them from dying."

With Two Borrowed Dimes

    Then Carol Carpenter took her three infant children into a church and left them there.  From a phone nearby, with two borrowed dimes, she called Juvenile Hall and the church's priest to tell what she'd done.  She wanted her children back, she said, but she couldn't see them starve.

    For this act, Carol Carpenter may go to prison.

    I don't understand it.  And more and more, I'm confused by the meaning of the word "charity."  I always took it to mean, in important part at least, emergency help at the moment it's needed.

    If three kids who haven't eaten in three days don't qualify as an emergency, who -- I'd like to know -- does?