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Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: May 3, 2009 - May 9, 2009

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Game Honors Roy Campanella, May 8, 1959

May 7, 1959, Roy Campanella at the Coliseum
Los Angeles Times file photo

May 7, 1959: Between the fifth and six innings of the benefit game for Roy Campanella, the lights at the Coliseum were extinguished and spectators struck matches and lit cigarette lighters as a tribute to catcher, who was paralyzed in a car accident. "The flames winked like swarming fireflies in the darkness of the cavernous Coliseum," The Times' Frank Finch said.

May 8, 1959, Times Cover A record crowd of 93,103 jammed the Coliseum for an exhibition between the Yankees and Dodgers to benefit Roy Campanella.

The Times' Al Wolf and Frank Finch had some debate over the details but they agreed the crowd overwhelmed the old ballpark. Wolf said about 20,000 people without tickets stood outside the Coliseum. Finch said the crowd decided not to wait and "overflowed onto the playing field itself."

John Hall, then writing for the Mirror-News, had a much more detailed account. "It was the meanest, most unruly, worst crowd I've ever seen at the Coliseum," said Chief John G. Degenkolb of the stadium's Fire Department. "There was a gang element."

Hall described "fence pushing, forced gates, broken fences, jammed ticket booths and a stampede from the peristyle to the right-field screen." The Mirror-News headline was  "Brawls, Riots Mar Game" but that seemed a little stronger than Hall's story.

The mess reminded me of the Dodgers' return to the Coliseum to play the Red Sox in an exhibition game before the start of last season. The game drew an incredible 115,000 fans. My sons and I didn't see any trouble that night, but we arrived early, left early and took buses provided by the Dodgers from Dodger Stadium to the Coliseum. No facility, no matter how well-staffed or prepared, can easily handle that big a crowd.

The Campanella game was a wonderful tribute that raised a lot of money for the paralyzed former Dodger catcher. But those sort of events require very large doses of patience to survive.

--Keith Thursby

Nuestro Pueblo

May 8, 1939, Nuestro Pueblo

Found on EBay -- Earl Carroll's

Earl Carroll's, Jan. 31, 1948

I usually don't run the EBay photos this big, but I'm baffled by this one. Take a look at the table: These folks have dinner rolls, glasses of water, silverware, etc. and then these huge buckets of ice

Earl Carroll's Jan. 31, 1948

Is this the world's largest shrimp cocktail or what's going on? Bidding on this EBay item starts at $6.

Matt Weinstock -- May 7, 1959

Noisesome to Some

Matt_weinstockdApparently a city employee who complained here about the music broadcast in City Hall is not alone in his irritation. Other tortured souls have chimed in with similar grievances.

One man writes: "Each day from 7:30 a.m. until 4 p.m. for almost eight months I had to listen to continuous tin-can music on a job I held. I am a music lover, but this terrible intrusion on my concentration made me nervous and angry. There wasn't a quiet moment to relax the nerves. I felt like a slave being punished by the notorious water torture."

A strip-tease lady named Vagablonde, or so it states on the printed, perfumed stationery, writes: "Don't they know down there that playing music to a captive audience is illegal and they are breaking a federal law? After all, this is only one step from the Commie propaganda blasted from loudspeakers in Russia and China."

May 7, 1959, Mirror Comics She goes on irrelevantly, "Besides, soft, dreamy music belongs to the strip teaser's act in hurly burly, and your City Hall is taking the bread right out of our mouths. Maybe what makes the dear old baldies there so sore is that there's no strip teaser to go along with the music to create the proper mood."

SHE CONTINUES, "I will be on my way to the goosepimple circuit in the Middle West when you get this letter. You should have seen the way the boys kicked up the sand on Waikiki Beach when I wore my bikini. Will you show me some new judo holds to use on fresh guys sometime, Matt?" Great kidder, that Vagablonde, whoever she is.

Being an entertainer, she can be excused from a slight error about such music breaking a federal law. She was referring, doubtless, to the case of the Public Utilities Commission of the District of Columbia vs. Pollack in May, 1952.

Passengers on the city transit system protested that their constitutional rights were being infringed by programs broadcast on streetcars. The programs were 30% music, 5% announcements and 5% commercial advertising.

The case was taken to the U.S. Supreme Court and, the County Law Library informs me, the stern gentlemen in the robes decreed that no one's freedom had been violated by the streetcar music.

May 7, 1959, Sports Bring in that violin section a little louder, Andre.


KID STUFF -- Dick Pachtman, deputy DA, took his son Larry, 5, to court to hear a case he was trying and afterward asked what he thought. "Didn't you like that other attorney?" Larry asked. "Of course," Dick said. "Then why did you keep objecting all the time to what he said?" the boy wondered ... A lady named Julia doesn't know what she's going to do about her granddaughter Vicki, 3 1/2, who somehow manages to get the baffled Police Department on the phone when no one is around. Vicki explains, "They're my friends." It seems she waves to traffic officers and they wave back.


ONLY IN L.A. -- As a bus driver on the 7 line stopped at 3rd and Alvarado Streets, he opened the door and called out "Sunset!" meaning he wanted the newsboy at the corner to bring him a sunset edition.* A few days ago he learned a passenger had written a scorching letter about him to the management. She'd got off the bus, thinking it was Sunset Blvd. So now he buys his papers from Bill Franklin, who sells the Mirror News at 2nd and Spring.


May 7, 1959, Abby TURN ABOUT

Here is a thought
That strangely appeals:
Now we've cars with fins,
What of fish with wheels?



AROUND TOWN -- If the city is so desperate for new tax money, Harold Kaner of Pacoima asks, how about selling advertising space on the rear of police cars? ... Wayne Pease of the U-I publicity staff is another example of the true hi-fi enthusiast. He has $425 worth of equipment -- including AM and FM speakers and tuners and a stereo head which plays tape through them -- in his 1951 Chrysler, Blue Book valuation $285.

* The Sunset Edition was the Los Angeles Examiner's last edition of the day. Weinstock is poking a little fun at the competition.--lrh

Paul V. Coates -- Confidential File, May 7, 1959


May 2, 1959, Palumbo

Confidential File 

An Eyewitness Can Be High Executioner

Paul_coatesThere's a man in our society I fear.

He's an honest man, conscientious and law-abiding. His intentions are the best.

But because of -- rather than in spite of -- his zeal to be a good citizen, he can destroy the lives of innocent men. Maim them. Even murder them.

Murder them nice and clean and legal.

Our police and courts call him "the eyewitness."

And too often, I'm afraid, they put a little too much faith in the accuracy of his vision.

In the last week, two examples of the destruction that the combination of good intentions and bad memories can cause have hit the news.

A couple of days ago Robert J. Coronado, 27, was freed from Chino Prison after serving six months of a five-year-to-life sentence for a crime he didn't commit.

He was sent there on the testimony of two eyewitnesses who positively identified him as the man who held up a West 3rd street cafe.

May 7, 1959, Cover Only a freak of fate kept him from serving a full term in prison. The man who committed the robbery happened to be sent to the same prison as Coronado (Doing time for a different crime), happened to meet him in the shower room one day and tell him he did it, and happened to be a decent-enough individual to repeat his confession to the police, even though it meant implicating a friend.

A few days before Coronado was released, Mirror News reporter Jack Searles broke the story of Mrs. Leona Palumbo, a 33-year-old Hawthorne housewife.

Eyewitnesses in two separate armed robberies had identified her as the "gun-moll" involved.

She was sitting in County Jail awaiting prosecution when a minor miracle happened, (A miracle activated by some fine detective work and dedication to justice by Det. Sgt. Charles McPherson of the Lynwood Police Department.)

The real gun-moll was tracked down and arrested. Her confession freed Mrs. Palumbo after the housewife had to spend 33 days in jail, living with the very realistic fear that the honest mistakes of some honest people might send her to prison for the rest of her life.

It would be nice to believe that these two cases of mistaken identification were isolated ones.

But they're not.

The Mirror News reference library has a special file labeled "mistaken identity cases." And it's a fat one.

All local cases. All within the last 10 years.

May 7, 1959, Rape There's one, dated Sept 11, 1958:

A former Los Angeles police officer, age 37, was positively identified by two victims of kidnap and rape as their assailant.

One of the victims was 17, the other, 22.

The crimes were committed months apart.

Either of them could have sent the ex-policeman to the gas chamber. He had no alibi strong enough to convince a jury, caught up in the emotion of listening to two young women describe their terrifying experiences, that he was innocent. That he was the wrong man.

While be was awaiting trial, the real rapist struck again. But that time he was caught, and he confessed to the other two crimes.

He Who Was About to Die

If he hadn't been caught, I wonder if the state of California might have convicted and executed an innocent man.

And I wonder how many men and women are in prison today, found guilty of crimes they didn't commit, because of the emotion blurred vision of eyewitnesses and the jurors who heard their stories, and because of some highly unprofessional tactics used by some police investigators in "helping" witnesses pick out the "right" suspects.

Tomorrow, I'll examine why "positive" identification so often are wrong ones, and how the power of subtle suggestions by policemen can influence a witness to make a wrong identification.

A Kinder, Simpler Time Dept.

May 7, 1922, Ads

May 7, 1922

The Latest Fashions; Dodgers vs. Angels? May 7, 1969

May 7, 1969, Broadway

OK, ladies, fess up. How many of you dressed like this? The scarf on the arm thing is really intriguing--what kept it up? And those glasses! But to be honest, I usually enjoy the bold, dramatic artwork in the fashion ads, which gave the pages some style and elegance.

May 7, 1969, Sports The Dodgers turned down a request from the Angels to extend the Freeway Series into the regular season. We're not talking about interleague play -- just a long-delayed spring training game.

The Angels wanted to finish their exhibition series on an off day for both teams. You can't blame them for trying -- the Angels were 6-1 against the Dodgers since they began playing each other in spring training. The teams had each won a game in 1969, with the third game rained out.

You know the regular season is going badly when you're trying to line up a meaningless exhibition.

Dodgers Vice President Red Patterson wired Angels General Manager Dick Walsh to decline (this was long before the two executives could Twitter each other). Patterson said the Dodgers would want to use one of their starting pitchers against the Angels, and "with our club shooting for a division championship, breaking into the regular rotation would not seem too wise."


-- Keith Thursby

Fred Astaire Wins 9 Emmys; Braves Beat Dodgers, May 7, 1959

May 7, 1959, Times Cover

May 7, 1959, Sports The Milwaukee Braves were the class of the National League heading into the 1959 season. The Braves had faced the Yankees in the previous two World Series, winning in 1957 and taking the powerful Yankees to seven games both years. So the Dodgers' three-game series in Milwaukee was a big deal, an opportunity to prove Los Angeles belonged at the same level as the league champions.

Milwaukee won two of the three and stayed in first place, just ahead of the Dodgers. But all the games were close and the first game might have been the most suspenseful. The Braves won in 16 innings, 3-2. Henry Aaron doubled in Eddie Mathews.

The teams would meet again, with much more at stake.



The Coliseum Commission wanted a proposed second All-Star game played in the Coliseum. Baseball had two All-Star games each year from 1959 to 1962, providing additional money for the players' pension fund.


More than 80,000 tickets had been sold for the Dodgers' exhibition against the Yankees to benefit Roy Campanella, the Dodgers' star catcher who had been paralyzed in a car accident. The Times' story advancing that night's game predicted the crowd would be the biggest in baseball history.

Ten thousand general admission seats would be available beginning at 6 p.m., when the Coliseum opened. The price: 90 or 75 cents.

-- Keith Thursby

Low Turnout Feared in City Primary; Ladies' Days at the Ballpark, May 7, 1929

May 7, 1929, Cover

Newspaper design as it was practiced in the 1920s: An eight-column page with an editorial cartoon front and center above the fold as the only art.
May 7, 1929, Shippey

Lee Shippey was one of The Times' institutions for many years. In addition to a column, he wrote several books, including "It's an Old California Custom" and "The Luckiest Man Alive."

I had been reading his material for several years before I realized he was blind--the result of an accident in which he was exposed to some fumes while working as a proofreader at the Kansas City Times. He retired in 1949 and died in 1969 at the age of 86. He once said: "I never saw humanity clearly until I lost my sight."

May 7, 1929, Oviatt
May 7, 1929 Maddux Airlines

At left, an ad for Alexander and Oviatt at Olive near Sixth. Above, $38 to San Francisco is $456.13 USD 2007.

May 7, 1929, Fay Durst
May 7, 1929, Laurel and Hardy

Above, sound films from 1929, including Laurel and Hardy's first talkie, "Unaccustomed as We Are," which features Thelma Todd. And the main feature, "Black Watch," with Myrna Loy and Victor McLaglen.

At left, Fay Durst, Miss Santa Monica, 1929, strikes a less than demure pose. 

May 7, 1929, Comics

Early episodes of "Gasoline Alley," "Harold Teen" and "Winnie Winkle," plus "The Gumps." 
May 7, 1929, Kotex

Above, solving or discussing "woman's oldest hygienic problem" was a theme in the early Kotex ads.

May 7, 1929, Sports Los Angeles Angels owner William Wrigley was in trouble with his fellow Pacific Coast League bosses. His offense?  He let women into Wrigley Field for free.

Four owners and a representative of another team voted to "rebuke" Wrigley, Harry B. Smith reported in The Times from San Francisco. Wrigley was having none of it, threatening to close Wrigley Field and play in a smaller park if not allowed to make every game free for women.

Money, of course, played in big role in the dispute. The other owners wanted a bigger share of the attendance and the Angels' threat to close Wrigley Field would result in even more lost revenue. And you've got to figure Wrigley loved the publicity and figured he'd draw more fans in the long run.

"Instead of taking away from $7,000 to $10,000 checks the visiting clubs will be able to take out only $1,000 for their local series," said J.H. Patrick, president of the Angel City Baseball Assn. "The other league owners may think Mr. Wrigley is bluffing but if they continue to be foolish in their actions they'll find out he means business."

The owners wanted Wrigley to charge women on Saturdays, Sundays and the first games of series. 

--Keith Thursby

Found on EBay -- Earl Carroll's

Earl Carroll Program
This program from Earl Carroll's has been listed on EBay. It's interesting to contrast these programs with those from the Florentine Gardens. In many ways, they are quit similar. Bidding starts at $5.

Matt Weinstock -- May 6, 1959

Shell Game

Matt_weinstockdIt is the nature of shell collectors to correspond with each other and, thus, adman Bennett Foster has learned of the fantastic tale of R. Julian Dashwood, the only white man on the island of Mauke, in the Cook group, 1,000 miles from New Zealand.

Thirty years ago Dashwood found himself on the beach in Australia, then in a depression, and he resolved never again to be dependent on errant society. He went to Mauke, married a native girl, and was welcomed into the tribe by the hospitable Polynesians. He built a house of coral and set about indulging his hobby, shell collecting. He worked out a co-operative deal with the natives and they enthusiastically went to work collecting shells for him.

BUT ABOUT a year ago he became bored and left for Auckland, where he opened a little shell store. After three months he knew the dizzy pace of civilization was not for him and returned to the atoll.

May 6, 1959, Dodgers Last year the battery went dead on his shortwave radio, his only contact with the outside world, and he was frantic for a while, wondering what the world was up to. Then he found he didn't really care.

Not long ago another crisis arose. The natives got tired of collecting shells, and his trade, carried on by the four ships a year which call at the atoll, came to an end. No matter what he offered them, they refused. After all, what good was money on an island without a store and where everything they ate, drank or wore was in natural abundance.

FINALLY he had an idea. He sent to Auckland for a movie projector and some old films. At the first showing the natives went wild over them. But on the night of the next show he stood at the door and told them the price of admission was a penny. Of course, no one had a penny.

The economic dilemma was quickly solved, he recently wrote Foster. He pays them a penny a week to collect shells and they pay it back to him to see the movies.

May 6, 1959, Comics ASIDE TO the Detroit boys -- A large lady couldn't get into the low-slung car that was to take her to her husband's funeral, the other day, and she had to ride with the undertaker.


How wise we are; what worthy labor
To note each weakness of our neighbor,
If in the night, like busy elves,
We use the list to test ourselves.



 ONLY IN L.A. -- A wife in a downtown bar became increasingly critical as her husband gulped drink after drink long after she had pointed out it was time to go home. Finally she asked sarcastically, "What are you doing, trying for an Oscar?" Her befuddled spouse retorted proudly, "I already got one!" He thought she'd said ulcer.

THOSE WHO felt the full force of Sunday's big wind don't think it received enough attention.

Ray Keplinger hit a full iron shot on the Hesperia course and the ball landed 10 feet in back of him.

May 6, 1959, Abby Publicist Jim Bishop was playing volleyball at Malibu and a gust of wind caught the ball and it went over his head. He chased it endlessly, and if a little girl hadn't finally stopped it he'd probably have jogged all the way to Manhattan Beach. A car was sent to retrieve him and the ball and the speedometer measured five-eights of a mile.


AT RANDOM -- Sudden thought: How about an added Pulitzer prize for the unknown reporter who had to cover the Clare Luce-Sen. Morse story in Time? ... Morey Gold, the Whittier Blvd. bicycle and key man, swears he heard a KHJ newscaster talk about a "dubbish rump" ... Cartoonist Dave Hall had a live foot-and-a-half-foot-long water snake on his desk yesterday to take home for his youngster's nature study class. OK, so it was in a gunny sack ... Mike Goodman knows a fellow so lazy he has to shake his self-winding watch to make it go. Himself.

Paul V. Coates -- Confidential File, May 6, 1959

Confidential File

Prince Otto I Isn't Even Housebroken

Paul_coatesThere is a base canard, perpetrated by the hopelessly sentimental, that a dog is man's best friend.

A dog, I say to you, is a false friend.

He'll make a slobbering, emotional display of licking your hands. But on a whim, he'll leave you without so much as a backward glance.

I had a dog once. As a matter of fact, I had him until just a couple weeks ago.

He's a dachshund puppy, and believe me, I gave him the best years of my life. He dined only on the most exotic creations dreamed up in the fertile, culinary mind of kindly old Doctor Ross. He slept on a pillow that had but recently been confiscated from beneath my head.

When, in a fit of childish pique, he chewed up my bedroom slippers, I didn't whack him on his baby teeth, the way I should have. I just passed it off with a philosophical shrug.

May 6, 1959, Mirror Cover That dog had it made. But a few weeks ago he hopped out of our parked car in the vicinity of Sunset and Laurel, and disappeared in search of some imagined green pastures.

His name, which I gave him in a weak moment of sheer snobbery, is Crown Prince Otto I. But, if you call him by it, he won't answer. It embarrasses him.

Anyway, since this four-month-old delinquent ran away from home, the family plantation hasn't seemed the same. There's a cloud of gloom hanging over us all.

My kids, who usually can't be made to shut up, have hardly spoken. And my wife, in whose care Crown Prince Otto I was at the time he lammed, has deftly managed to transfer the blame for the whole thing over to me.

"If you had the window of the station wagon fixed like I told you to, he never would have been able to get out," she said.

"If you knew the window of the station wagon wouldn't close you never should have left him in the car, I replied. Overwhelmed by the utter logic of my remark, I glanced at the kids for their approval. But they just stared at me with grim accusation in their eyes.

May 6, 1959, Rapid Transit Plan "There's one thing you could do," my wife said after a moment. "You could mention it on your TV program."

"That's impossible," I snapped

"Impossible, impossible," she said, "everything with you is impossible." She glanced at the kids for their approval. And got it.

"If I do a missing person's program about my own dog, everybody in town will want me to do one about their missing dogs," I explained.

She sniffed disparagingly. "Well," she murmured, "if it's too much trouble." The kids turned their backs on me.

"It's not too much trouble," I shouted.

"It's just..." I stalled desperately for a moment. Then, a thoroughly outrageous inspiration hit me. "It's just that I couldn't do it. It's against the FCC regulations."

"The WHAT?" she said suspiciously.

"The Federal Communications Commission. They have a ruling that says no TV commentator can make a plea in his own behalf on his own program. They could cut me off the air, and even fine me if I asked people to bring back my own dog."

It was a low ruse, but it worked. She fell silent, and thoughtful for a while. Finally she looked up brightly.

"Ask George Putnam to mention it on his program," she said.

"I can't do a thing like that," I replied in a shocked voice.

Kith and Kin Gang Up on Me

"Can't, can't," she mimicked. "Everything with you is can't." My children nodded in agreement.

Rather than lose this happy home I've just described to you, I called Putnam and told him the problem. "Gee, kid, I'm sorry to hear that," he said. (He always calls me kid. It has something to do with the difference in our ages.) "I wish I could help you by putting it on my program.

"But," he added, "it's against FCC regulations."

So, if someone out there has found my dog, please bring him back. I'm telling you for you own good. I happen to know he isn't even housebroken.


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