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Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: March 15, 2009 - March 21, 2009

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Paul Coates -- Confidential File, March 18, 1959


A Story for Birds -- Down Texas Way

Paul_coates Sometimes, I heist other reporters' stories.

It's a harmless-enough pastime, and I only do it on special occasions.

I only do it, for example, when some other reporter has a story I like.

But don't misunderstand me.

I have professional scruples.

It's just that I don't believe in being excessive about them. After all, you can overdo anything.

Yesterday, I put them to the test again. I received a letter from a friend of mine in Texas.*

He enclosed an article from the El Paso Times, which was my kind of story. It was about a man named Jesse Pennington.

1959_0318_red_streak Pennington -- the story related -- had become indignant at the way El Paso was treating its pigeon population.

So he took matters into his own hands.

According to the article:

"Pennington has rented a 52-room downtown hotel and converted it into a pigeon coop.

"'I've got about 50 birds to a room,' he said. 'They're very comfortable and glad to see me when I come in. Those pigeons have heat and running water and everything.'"

The article mentioned that Pennington had rounded up in excess of 6,000 birds and added that he had removed the linen from the hotel's beds and set up slats across them "so the pigeons could roost more comfortable.

"'I reckon,'" it quoted the pigeon-catcher, "'that I am the only person in Texas who has rented a hotel for pigeons.'"

The vision of 6,000 pigeons loose in a 52-room hotel was more than my imagination could handle. This was a story worth stealing.

I tried to locate Jesse Pennington through the El Paso information operator, but she didn't have a listing. So I called the Times there, and they gave me the reporter who handled the story.

"This Jesse Pennington," I said, "must be quite a character."

"He is that," the reporter answered. "I been trying to rustle up another story on him today.

"He's still got his hotel full of pigeons?" I asked.

The reporter grunted, "Well, not exactly."

"What do you mean?"

Facts Under Spotlight

"Well, when that fellow told me that story, he just kind of stretched it a little."

"Then it wasn't a 52-room hotel?" I said.

"More like two rooms. And human beings hadn't lived in them in I don't know how long. I finally got out and took a look and there couldn't have been more than 100 pigeons in all."

"I see," I said coolly.

1959_0318_abby"Yes, sir," continued the reporter. "Quite a guy, that old Jesse. He can spin quite a yarn."

"Sure can," I agreed.

"Yep," he said. "But I feel sorry for him."

"How's that?" I asked.

"Well, after my story about his 52-room pigeon hotel, his landlord went up to his two dirty rooms and opened the windows and chased all his pigeons away."

Right then I decided not to steal the reporter's scoop. I just can't stand stories with unhappy endings.

*We were friends before he moved to Texas. 

In the Theaters -- March 18, 1945


Trouble Was His Business -- Raymond Chandler


My friend Mary McCoy passes along Raymond Chandler's listing from the 1955 San Diego phone book, which she discovered while going through the directories at the Los Angeles Public Library. 

Note: To mark the 50th anniversary of Raymond Chandler's death, the Daily Mirror is revisiting some of The Times' stories about his life and influence. We invite the Daily Mirror's readers to share their thoughts.

Yankees' Spring Training -- Without Mickey Mantle, March 18, 1969


1969_0318_sports_runover The Yankees were turning a page in 1969, getting ready for a season without Mickey Mantle. Some people thought they just didn't look like the Yankees anymore.

The Times' John Wiesbusch watched as people visited with Manager Ralph Houk about his team and mostly about the retired Mantle.

"Yeah, believe me it's not the same. It's not the same now but it won't really hit us until we get to Yankee Stadium," Houk said.

"The locker room is the thing that will be different. They say it was the same with Ruth and Gehrig and I know it was with DiMaggio. That's why you tuck their uniforms away in trophy cases along with the memories."

But this being spring, the news wasn't all bad.

"Watch that No. 28, Thurman Munson, a catcher," Houk said deep in the story. "He's going to be a great one. ... When you get on base against this guy you better just stay there on the bag. ... I wouldn't be afraid to use him, but naw, he needs a year or two more in the minors."

Munson played in 26 games in 1969 and eventually became the Yankees' captain. He was killed in a plane crash during the 1979 season.

--Keith Thursby

Nazis Seize Czechoslovakia, March 18, 1939



Hedda Hopper writes about a new type of producer-director unit at RKO making "Gunga Din."

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain denounces Nazi leader Adolf Hitler's "lawless and sinister" destruction of Czechoslovakia ... war fears send the stock market tumbling.


William "The Fox" Hickman's holdup partner is paroled from San Quentin. And not a single bit of art on the front page.

A wave of Czech suicides is reported.

Comics of yesteryear: "Big Chief Wahoo" and "Harold Teen." With "Dick Tracy" and "Li'l Abner."
Cubs beat Sox 10-2 at Wrigley Field. I love the old sports writing: The "Pale Hose" ... swatsmiths ... but "turkey-necked Cub third-baseman?"

Found on EBay -- Batchelder Tile


This Batchelder tile has been listed on EBay. As I recall, a tile similar to this one is part of the fireplace at the Angelus Temple museum, which was formerly the home of Aimee Semple McPherson. When I get a chance I'll post a picture that I took during the recent L.A. Conservancy tour, "Seekers." Bidding on the tile at left starts at $9.99.

Matt Weinstock -- March 17, 1959

Spoofing Session

Matt_weinstockdThose who attended the Screen Writers Awards dinner are still rolling with some of the punches the authors tossed at each other and life in Hollywood generally. The proceedings started out with a solemn oath to stamp out togetherness and along toward midnight things became downright gamey.

A skit having to do with "Lolita" brought out a remark, "This thing couldn't get a seal of approval in Tijuana."

A comedy-writing team came up with a tired routine and one said, "Put an exclamation point after that so he'll know it's a joke."

One of the most devastating spoofs was a parody of Ed Murrow's "Person to Person" show. A man resembling Ed sat on the edge of the stage smoking a cigarette and talking long-distance with his subjects.

1959_0317_weinstock THE LIGHTS
came on a scene showing a man shaving in his bathroom. "You got the wrong house, Mac," he told Murrow, "Mr. Jessel's three doors down."

The next subject was a renowned author shown in his dilapidated one-room shack in the Deep South. Asked if he used an electric typewriter he said, "No, that's a butane typewriter." Between killing a  huge rat and scratching himself the overalled author said to his grown but childish sister, "Why don't you go down to the schoolyard and play?" She replied, "Ain't nobody to play with but the National Guard."

Program notes on the event were also illuminating. One writer was described as "Nero's rosin boy." It was stated of another that he didn't believe in putting anything in writing. Of another that although he wasn't born in a log cabin he moved into one as soon as he could afford it.

were the collaborators who abandoned writing and concentrated on punctuation, contributing commas, dashes and three dots to 14 feature films and one quivering colon for TV.

Guests also received the first draft of the menu with penciled revisions. Comment on the cracked crab: "Let's call it maladjusted." Red cabbage: "Offensive to Formosa." Baked Alaska: "Good! Very topical."

So don't give up on movie making. There's life in the old industry yet.

* *

1959_0317_poitierTHEIR BOSSES may not be aware of it but legal secretaries, while waiting for the next sentence to be dictated, idly scan the alphabetical titles of law books. One of them, named Priscilla, remains intrigued by Vol. 16 of Cal. Jur. 2nd, 'Descent and Distribution to Drains and Sewers' and Vol. 40 of the same, 'Privacy to Public Officers.'"

* *

there's disquiet in Detroit. After loftily ignoring the outcries for smaller, plainer, cheaper, more economical cars, the big boys are rushing into production with them.

Perhaps they've been reading the scorching letters of the last three months in the magazine Product Engineering. A few samples:

"The American car can no longer be regarded as a means of transportation. Rather, it has degenerated into an expression of social prestige."

"They are merely rolling nightmares, four-eyed blathers of whirling nonsense, contorted, obscene and trivial."

1959_0317_edsel"There is nothing more ridiculous than high fins and a rocketlike appearance on a Los Angeles street at 30 m.p.h."

"Current automobile design trends indicate a moral decay in America that is most alarming."


* *

Telling the truth is all very fine,
But not when you're 30, goes on 29.

* *

AT RANDOM -- The line "You can't get there from here" isn't apocryphal argues Ben Cherroff of the Terminal Annex Post Office. While in S.F. he asked a policeman how to reach Judah Street and the officer said it and meant it. Something about a bay intervening . . . Note from John Odell of Alhambra re the new picture: "I'm afraid it's hopeless. You still look like a Main Street wino with a hangover." . . . To keep the record straight, Tom Cassidy of KFAC presented a program on stereophonic tape in December, 1955.

Paul Coates -- Confidential File, March 17, 1959


Girls' Love Calls to Bernie Bedrock

Paul_coatesSometime last November, death made a date with Mrs. Reva Bedrock.

Seven days ago the appointment was kept.

Mrs. Bedrock died of cancer.

I knew her. She called me at the time the doctors told her she was going to die.

Mrs. Bedrock wanted my help in finding her husband Bernie. She wanted him home to care for the couple's two children, Bonnie, 9, and Linda, 11.

Last June 29, Bernie stepped into oblivion.

He was last seen in Las Vegas, in a Fremont Street gambling casino.

He was wearing coveralls with the legend "Bedrock's TV Service" stitched across the back.

1959_0317_red_streak Until that time, Mrs. Bedrock thought his mind, tortured by memories of a Nazi prisoner-of-war camp, had gone blank, that he was a victim of amnesia.

But the friend who saw him in Las Vegas found his mind uncluttered by any psychological problems. Bernie Bedrock had apparently run away from responsibility.

When she called, Reva Bedrock asked me to remind him of that responsibility, asked me to recall for him how much he loved his kids. I directed an appeal to Bernie, but he either missed it or ignored it.

Now, a North Hollywood neighbor of the Bedrocks, Mrs. Lydia Snitkoff, has asked me to make the appeal once more.

She telephoned me yesterday.

"I wish you could print something again," she said. "Now that the girls' mother is gone, they need their father more than ever.

1959_0317_duncan"They still love him," she continued. "They still drag out the family photo album and talk about him.

"I feel so helpless," she told me.

The sentiment was similar to that expressed by Mrs. Bedrock.

"Bernie's got to come home," Mrs. Bedrock said. "He's part of us.

"And when I'm gone, who's going to take care of the kids?"

Too Many Drifters

I asked her at that time if there were any words she would speak if she knew her husband could hear.

"Yes, I want him to come back for our daughters' sake. There are already too many drifters in the world." 

1959_0317_abbyAnd she might have added that there are too many fatherless kids in the world. Mrs. Snitkoff did. And she asked me to tell Bernie that in the last days, Bonnie and Linda worked hard to make their mother comfortable.

"They've sort of become self-sufficient," Mrs. Snitkoff told me. "You know, they do things for themselves."

Which is OK, but every kid needs a father.

That's you, Bernie.

Reva was buried Saturday at Sholom Memorial Park Cemetery.

Bonnie and Linda are still alive.  

In the Theaters -- March 17, 1943


Soliah Indicted, February 27, 1976



Now this is interesting ... and not at all what I expected.

According to our 1976 story on the indictment of Kathleen Soliah (now Sara Jane Olson), above, an 18-inch pipe bomb was found in the parking lot of a restaurant at Sunset Boulevard and Orange Avenue in Hollywood on Aug. 22, 1975, at left. Both Times' stories said the bomb had been placed on the ground beneath an LAPD patrol car and was noticed by restaurant customers after the car had driven away.

The Times also reported that after discovery of the first pipe bomb, police ordered a department-wide safety check and an officer at the Hollenbeck Division found a similar bomb on the ground beneath his car.

In neither instance, according to the original report, was the bomb attached to the vehicle.

Let's look at today's story by Andrew Blankstein:

[John] Hall and his partner were leaving an International House of Pancakes restaurant in Hollywood when someone noticed a long, cylindrical object protruding from under their car.

When the bomb squad eventually disabled and removed the device, Hall learned how close his brush with death had been: One-sixteenth of an inch separated the two metal contacts from the bomb detonator.

Authorities estimated the explosive and tightly packed nails in the device would have killed or maimed up to several dozen people.

Victims would have included a baby girl in her high chair and her 8-year-old sister, who waved to the officers from behind the restaurant's plate glass window as the officers were leaving, Hall said.

"It should have gone off," said Hall, who served with the LAPD for 31 years before retiring in 2002. "That it didn't was a stroke of extreme luck. The death toll would have been horrendous."

Let's see what we can find out. Stay tuned....

Trouble Was His Business -- Raymond Chandler

Philip Carey discusses his new TV show, "Philip Marlowe," written by Gene Wang, formerly of "Perry Mason." 
Archive of American Television interview with Philip Carey, 2002.

Burbank Time Capsule Revisited

Cinda Cates, Burbank public information specialist, passes along the images that were recovered from the 1959 time capsule placed in the Magnolia Boulevard Bridge. The anonymous photographer recorded the city's civic buildings (City Hall, a fire station, etc.) and took quite a few pictures of the new bridge.

Spend a moment on the predictions of Kenneth E. Norwood of Burbank's Planning Department. He envisioned a city where only 12% of the people lived in single-family homes, with 88% in multi-unit garden apartments made of plastic that were incorporated in commercial complexes. "These complexes are supposed to be the ultimate in urban living, combining offices, hotels, apartments, shops, restaurants, etc., in one continuous complex of buildings, malls and arcades," he wrote.

There would be no overhead wires or antennas, he said. Instead, Burbank would use underground atomic power with electricity distributed by waves.

"Rapid monorail routes connect metro centers, with pickup stations at the Lockheed Air Control Center, and at each of the main malls in Burbank," Norwood wrote. "Unlike auto parking in 1959, there is no parking on streets or open lots but in fully automatic parking units located at each main destination point."
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