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Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: January 11, 2009 - January 17, 2009

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White mothers bar black child from Cub Scouts, December 10, 1958



CONFIDENTIAL FILE

Who Wants to Kick Little Butch Harris?



Paul_coates_2 This is a personal column. Personal to a group of young mothers who probably consider themselves pretty typical American parents.

They're the mothers of 8, 9 and 10-year-old Cub Scouts in Thunderbird Pack No. 298, here in town.

The rest of you can read on, if you'd like. Or you can turn to the comics. Unfortunately, they might be a little more enlightening than what I'm going to talk about.

Besides, what I want to say, I want to say directly to the small group of mothers whose sons are in Pack No. 298.

The subject, ladies, in case you haven't guessed, is a 9-year-old named Butch Harris.

You know him. If not personally -- at least for the color of his skin.

Butch Harris is a Negro.

He's a handsome little kid, well-dressed, well-mannered and smart.

He's the kid you ganged up on not long ago. Remember? The hushed meetings after he tried to accept your invitation to ALL boys at 87th Street School to join your Cub Scout pack?

That was more than two months ago. And Butch took you a little too literally. He thought you meant -- like it says in the Scout pamphlet I have on my desk:

"It makes no difference whether he's a fat boy, a skinny boy, a tall boy or a short boy -- no difference where his mom and dad were born, what their family bank account might be, or what church they attend.

"Nor does it make any difference what color skin a boy might have -- Scouting's hand of fellowship is extended to him."

That's what the pamphlet says. And I guess Butch's mom and dad took it literally, too.

They told Butch -- who's their only child, incidentally -- that, yes, they'd get him a uniform. It would be alright if he joined. It would be a good, wholesome experience for him.

Now, before I remind you of exactly what you did to freeze Butch out, I'm going to tell you what he's been doing lately.

He's been reading the manuals, just like your kids have.

With no prompting, he can recite:

"On my honor I will do my best to do my duty to God and my country and to obey the Scout law; to help other people at all times; to keep myself physically strong, mentally awake, and morally straight."

He knows a few of the Scout knots, too. He begged his mother to buy him a book that explains them.

But what Butch doesn't know is that you don't want him.

He's not aware of your original tactic to just ignore his application.

Nor does he know that finally, after Butch's mom begged you repeatedly for a yes or no answer you met and took another vote. And then sent a spokesman to the Harris residence in your neighborhood to explain to his parents that Pack No. 298 "just isn't ready to integrate."

It's Like This, Butch . . .

These things Mrs. Harris has been afraid to tell her boy.

As of yesterday, at least, she still hadn't told him. Then, she admitted to me that she just plain didn't know how.

"Two days ago," she told me, "I finally worked up the courage to ask him if any kid at school had ever called him 'Nigger.' I thought maybe I could lead into it that way.

"But he answered, 'No, Mom. Why would any kid say that?'"

Mrs. Harris wondered if I could possibly help her explain to Butch why he's not going to be a Cub Scout.

I can't. I'm afraid I wouldn't know where to begin.

But if one of you Pack No. 298 Den Mothers wants to volunteer. I guess Butch is going to have to be told by somebody.

Read more >>>


Matt Weinstock -- January 17, 1959



Only in L.A.


Matt_weinstockd Last week it was John Keats telling everyone what was wrong with Los Angeles. He didn't like the place at all.

He described it as "a vast sprawling slum . . . an incredible clutter without political cohesion . . . a monument to the lack of wise community planning . . . an example of the triumph of blind greed in the relentless exploitation of living space . . . the absolute nadir of American taste."

Of course, Keats has done quite well in the epithet sweepstakes. He has written books blasting schools, the construction industry and the auto manufacturers.

THIS WEEK IT'S Oscar Mandel, University of Nebraska English professor, who visited here last summer.

In an article entitled, "Los Angeles, From a Corner Darkly," in the magazine, "L.A.," due out Tuesday, Mandel writes:

"It is a city without the power to assert its own identity; a city with nothing unexpendable in it, nothing which, vanished, would cause a civilized man at the other end of the world to weep . . . I have the impression of a Technicolor slum . . . a dance macabre of uproarious stucco fonts . . . a honky-tonk of exclamations . . . It is nobody's city; it is only a place with more 'housing units,' it seems, than there are hills in the world . . . I felt, in Los Angeles, that I did not need to notice anything. Could anything really remarkable happen where 'everything is okay?' "

1959_0117_jazzLET US HOPE that Oscar has calmed down now that he got it off his chest. There's no need for anyone to get that excited. Hit and run heckling is an old story out here. It has been going on a long time. We really don't mind. In fact, some of the things both Keats and Mandel say are true.

But I detect no indication of mass exodus. What do you suppose it is, John and Oscar, that makes people stick around? There must be some redeeming feature to the poor, battered old pueblo.

AND THEN there's author Robert Carson's Holiday article, "West Coast Journey." Carson, who lives here, drove about 3,000 miles, from Seattle to San Diego, leisurely taking in the sights.

He quotes a friend who said of Los Angeles, "It's a wonderful place to live, but I wouldn't want to visit it." Carson disagrees, he thinks it's a fine place to visit and humorously mentions some of the picturesque things that Keats and Mandel seem to have overlooked.

1959_0117_sleeping_beautyThe same friend, who has lived in Berlin, Rome, Paris, London and New York, said also, "It is the only city in the world where you can get a sunburn in the daytime, a cold from the damp night, and during that 24 hours be hit on the head out on your patio by one of your own oranges."

Carson concludes, "You are bound not to be bored in the basin."

AN ITEM HERE about a Philadelphia lawyer's offer to endow an Al Capone Chair in Taxation at Princeton reminded Malvin Wald of some information he came upon while working on the script for RodSteiger's movie about the gang lord. 

When Capone bought an estate near Miami, authorities told him he was undesirable and would have to leave. He pointed out that he'd committed no crimes in Florida and didn't intend to and suggested they read the Constitution which protected such law-abiding, tax-paying, home-owning citizens as himself.

Incidentally if a Capone Chair in Taxation should be created, the trend is obvious -- the Adolf Hitler Chair of Humanities, the John Dillinger Chair of Crime Prevention, the Billy the Kid Chair of Juvenile Delinquency Prevention, the Barbara Graham Chair of Home Economics. Just a bunch of misunderstood kids.

* *

FOOTNOTES -- Mikoyan's cryptic remark that Molotov soon may leave his post in Outer Mongolia for a more important assignment was clear to Alan Wilson. ToVyacheslav obviously would go the honor of being the first man shot to the moon . . . A 1952 Ford parked on West Pico Blvd. had a sticker, "Help Stamp Out Black and White City Cars" . . . Oops, an SC prof. in a letter to a lady on South Avenue 63, wrote, "he would be permitted to use his own disgression in the matter" . . . Variation on a theme, electrocardiogram division, by H. Mabie: "That's the way the ventricle vaults."  

Paul Coates -- Confidential File, January 17, 1959



CONFIDENTIAL FILE

Mash Notes and Comments


Paul_coates "Dear Paul Coates,

"I am writing to you--

"(1) Because I received a beautiful portable typewriter for Christmas;

"(2) I have written to all my relatives and friends who live more than five miles away;

"And (3) because you are a standing joke in our house . . .

"We (my husband and myself) never watch your night television show because we are wrapped up in stereo until the wee hours.

"We (my 4-year-old son and myself) are not so fortunate at 2 p.m., though. He is a TV bug and figures that any channel that employs Sheriff John deserves at least half his time. This includes your program.

 1959_0117_curtis
On Jan. 17, 1959, the Mirror-News published a photo of "Jamie Curtis" making "his camera debut to the world." It may seem a bit late, but the Daily Mirror wishes to offer a correction for that little gaffe. Jamie Lee Curtis is female.
"We used to swear by you and your ideas when we were new at the TV game. Now you know what I'm going to say next, so I'll say it anyway. We swear at you.

"Doesn't anyone ever meet with your approval, Mr. Coates?" (signed) Mrs. John F. Hughen, 9937 Rideau St., Whittier.

--Yes. Sometimes I like my mother.

* *

(Press Release) "Actress Phyllis Standish observed the other day that a man never marries a girl who looks sensible because a sensible girl has more sense than to look sensible!"
(signed) Levin, Cohen & Fletcher, Public Relations, 1356 N Vine St., Hollywood.

-- For her sake, I hope nobody overheard her.

* *

"Dear Mr. Coates,

"I stopped by your office with the hopes of meeting you -- a prospect I have been looking forward to for some time.

"Your secretary suggested that I call on Monday to inquire what time you may have free from your busy schedule.

1959_0117_trumbo "I shall look forward to our meeting. Cordially," (signed) Phyllis Standish, Hollywood.

-- Drop in anytime, Phyllis. You sound like a nice, sensible girl.

* *

(Press Release) " 'Let Me Call You Sweetheart' will be the theme of the colorful Valentine's Day celebration to be held at Vagabond's House, Feb. 14, JoeChastek announces.

"Beautiful hearts will be given to the diners and those ordering liquors from the doctors of mixology.

"To live up to the theme of the evening, organist Pomping Vila will play Victor Herbert's 'Sweethearts' and 'Sweet Mystery of Life'; Irving Berlin tunes such as 'Always' and 'Because I Love You'; L. Wolfe Gilbert's 'I Dream of You in Lilac Time'; and JimmyMcHugh's 'I Can't Give You Anything but Love, Baby' and 'I'm in the Mood for Love.' 

"P.S.: Please, dear Paul, come and be our Valentine." (signed) Arthur S. Wenzel, Publicity, 2505 Wilshire Blvd., L.A.

-- I can't. I've already been spoken for.

* *

"Coates:

"I found my wife in a bar last night, drinking with two guys I didn't know. They seemed like OK guys. She was gone, like they say in beatnik land.

"She said to me, how are you, Baby Doll. I said OK you old beatnik. Then she said, I feel real cool.

"I said I feel cool, too, dear, let's have a beer. Then my wife says, let's dance, man. I said, OK Baby Doll, let's dance. We did.

"Then my wife says, don't talk about me when I'm gone."

"I said, Baby Doll, I am gone -- I am going home and get a good night's sleep.

"My wife said, if you go home, I'll make a date with another guy. I said, I don't care. I am gone. Good night.

"P.S.: Before I left, I told her, don't EVER call me Big Daddy." (signed) Anon, L.A.

-- I'm sure she didn't mean anything by it.


Movie star mystery photo

2009_0112_mystery_photo
Los Angeles Times photo

Our mystery star has more than 100 credits on imdb.
Update: These are pictures from the 1936 trial over the custody of Marilyn Astor Thorpe. Mary Astor charged that her ex-husband, Franklyn, wasn't a fit parent (he allegedly had women spend the night while his daughter was in his custody and was supposedly abusive to the girl)  and he made similar accusations. citing passages in her diary describing her affair with playwright George S. Kaufman. 

From left, Attorney Joseph Anderson, Franklyn Thorpe, attorney Ethel M. Pepin (that's the lady in the hat),  attorney A.P. Michael Narlian, attorney Roland Rich Woolley and Mary Astor. Ruth Chatterton is in the audience between Thorpe and Pepin. 

1936_0804_astor

2009_0113_mystery_photo
Los Angeles Times photograph
Several people have guessed correctly: Steven Bibb was first, followed by Mary Mallory, Nick Santa Maria and Jany. Congratulations! Here's another clue for everyone else.

At left, Mary Astor, Roland Richard Woolley and Ruth Chatterton
2009_0114_mystery_photo
Los Angeles Times photograph
Today, we have a big clue to our mystery star. Imagine my surprise to find this in the archives.   Update: A page from Mary Astor's diary -- written in lavender ink.

Several more people have guessed correctly: Regular reader Dewey Webb and Jeff Hanna. Congratulations!

Many people talk about Mary Astor's diary. It was supposedly burned on orders of the judge. However I have been told by people who worked at the Examiner that Hearst photographed the whole thing. That's a story that I doubt will ever be verified but it shows what a big deal the diary was at the time.
2009_0115_mystery_photo

Los Angeles Times photograph
And we have many more correct guesses. Congratulations to: Nathan Benedict, Carol Gwenn, Gregory Moore, "Zabadu," Pamela Porter, Richard Heft and "Laura" fan Waldo Lydecker.   

At left, Judge Goodwin Knight -- the future California governor -- with Lois Carpenter, 12, and Dorothy Carpenter, 6. Astor's diary surfaced during a child custody dispute.
2009_0116_mystery_photo
Los Angeles Times photograph
Here's our mystery woman. Add Rance Ryan to the folks who have recognized her.

Isn't this a great picture of Mary Astor? She had just been awarded custody of her daughter Marilyn during the school year.
Mary_astor_1936_0731_crop
Los Angeles Times photograph
And yes, this is Mary Astor. I usually end the contests on Friday but I like the art so much I just had to go another day. People sometimes ask me why I run black and white pictures in color but the image at left shows why. The print happens to be a sort of sepia tone as if they didn't fix it long enough because they were in such a hurry to get it into the paper. I could clean it up digitally and make it nice with pure blacks and whites but to me that spoils the experience.

The outfit was blue taffeta, by the way.

Black Lakers players barred from white hotel, January 17, 1959




1959_0117_cover
The Times reports that detention facilities for juvenile girls is badly overcrowded but doesn't really address the reason, merely saying that the rapid increase in Southern California's population and lack of room at state facilities are to blame. But why were they suddenly locking up so many girls? I hope we find out in the days ahead. --lrh
1959_0117_baylor I've been looking for references to the Lakers to see when The Times started reporting on their eventual move from Minneapolis to Los Angeles. This story caught my attention for all the obvious reasons.

Elgin Baylor sat out a game during his rookie season with the Lakers after he was denied a room at a Charleston, W.Va., hotel. According to the short wire story published by The Times, "The entire Minneapolis team walked out of a midtown hotel after Baylor and two other Negro members of the Lakers were denied rooms."

"They told us there we couldn't even get in a halfway decent restaurant and we had to buy some things from the grocery store and make sandwiches for dinner," Baylor said.

The Lakers lost to Cincinnati, 95-91. Baylor watched the game on the bench in street clothes.

A story the following day said Baylor would not be disciplined. "I know his failure to play cost us the game but he was under great emotional strain because of his attitude toward segregation," owner Bob Short said.

--Keith Thursby

1959_0117_theater

Sinatra and Nelson Riddle at the Sands!

1959_0117_sports

UCLA over USC 57-53 at the Pan-Pacific!

Found on EBay -- Bullock's Wilshire


Bullocks_ebay_gold_outfit
Here's a real period piece from Bullock's Wilshire. The vendor, alas, did not include a photo of the label. It's listed on EBay with bids starting at $19.99.

Coast Guard rescues passengers of plane crashed at sea, October 18, 1956



1956_1018_stratocruiser

Another Pan Am Stratocruiser goes down, but the 31 people aboard are rescued. Some other flights weren't so fortunate.

Matt Weinstock -- January 16, 1959



Saved by the Knell


Matt_weinstockd_2 In everybody's life there is a dark, unforgettable moment when it doesn't appear he's going to make it. A downtown group somehow got around to discussing the this topic over coffee, and KenBromfield Jones, Title Insurance employee and spare-time TV actor, recalled his big near miss.

In 1942 he was in command of a gun post on HMS Londonderry, convoying ships north of Ireland. During a German air attack he was shot through a lung. Hours later, he was removed to a hospital ashore.

In the night he came out of a sedative. He felt no pain, only extreme lassitude. As in a dream he heard a nurse say, "He'll be on the slab by morning."

1959_0116_dating He felt a fierce resentment against death and called to another nurse to get him a glass of brandy, which he gulped down.

"I don't know what happened, but I guess the brandy started my machinery going again," he said, "I have always been grateful to that nurse."

* *

A PERSON doesn't ask for much in this pressure era, just a small satisfaction now and then, such as came the other day to a man named Charley.

He dialed a phone number and through some quirk known only to telephone men was plugged into an open line. Two men, apparently attorneys, were haggling savagely over a point of law. Charley listened for a few moments, then said in a sepulchral tone, "You're both wrong!" -- and hung up.

* *

SKYWATCHERS ALL
Once upon a song
We wished upon a star,
Now we wonder if it's ours
And if it's going far.
- RAY SOUTHWORTH

* *

THE WAY Dick Ashby of KNXT tells it, two pilots stationed in a lonely outpost in Africa got down to their last two cans of beer, a distressing situation. But being sporting gentlemen they made a bet. The first one to bag a lion would get them.

One grabbed his high-powered rifle and disappeared into the veld.

1959_0116_roller_derby After he'd gone, the other got into his plane and flew low over the bush. After a while he saw a lion, got it into his sights and machine-gunned it. He landed, tossed the carcass in the plane and flew back to the base.

When his companion returned lionless from the safari he chided, "You should have realized a strafed lion is the shortest distance between two pints."

* *

QUOTE & UNQUOTE -- Overheard by Bill Morgan at a French restaurant in Hollywood: "These French could make a dish out of an appendix" . . . Lost and found notice posted by a reporter on the city room bulletin board: "A Spanish grammar is missing from my desk. Valueless except for a nude photo ofLili St. Cyr I was using as a bookmark." . . . Dr. I.Q. on Channel 7 asked a lady (not in the balcony) which would win in a race, an ostrich, a greyhound or a horse. "The bus," she replied.

* *

THE NEWS from Cuba is loaded with paradoxes, but some sort of high point was reached yesterday when Fidel Castro was quoted as saying that "200 -- 400 gringos will die" if the U.S. sends in Marines. He made the statement, the AP story went on, "in a hotel lobby as he was headed for a Rotary Club luncheon."

* *

AROUND TOWN -- Apparently it's not only an ill wind that blows nobody good, it's also an ill fire. Since the big fire and subsequent flood struck Beverly Glen,Zella Marggraf's tomcat has killed six huge rats routed from their lairs . . . Shame on some large independent markets for raising their grocery prices since the strike . . . In which connection, the elderly man who runs a small neighborhood store near Echo Park told a customer, "I don't know why they call us Pop and Mom markets. Mom hasn't been here in years." . . . The cute messenger girls who rush memos from office to office atDuMont Electronics in West L.A. are known among the engineers as the ponytail express. 

Paul Coates -- Confidential File, January 16, 1959



CONFIDENTIAL FILE

Someday, Butch H., Try to Be Forgiving


Paul_coates_3 Some stories I'd rather not print.

And when I first heard about what a bunch of grown men and women were doing to a kid named Butch Harris, I filed the information into that category.

It was a little too unbelievable, too grimy, to put in a newspaper.

That was three months ago. At the time, Butch and some classmates of his had accepted an invitation to all boys at 87th Street School, here in downtown, to join the Cub Scouts.

But not Butch. He was ignored -- subtly like a sledge hammer.

The 9-year-old -- according to some mothers and fathers of the kids in local Cub Pack 298 -- wasn't the "right kind" to be associated in Scouting with their sons.

1959_0116_red_streak Butch was an average kid, well-mannered, well-dressed. But he was a Negro.

I checked out the story, verifying every fact of it. But for nearly two months, I didn't print a word. I waited, hoping that the parents of the other kids would reconsider.

But the longer I waited the more obvious it became that certain powerful influences in the pack weren't going to do anything.

The boy's mother had been informed flatly that since Butch was a Negro he was unwelcome.

Finally, five weeks ago, I got tired of waiting. I wrote about Butch's problem.

Since then, I've been keeping in touch with the youngster, his parents, local Scouting executives and other interested parties -- hoping to reassure any doubters that, as it says in the Boy Scout pamphlets, "It doesn't make any difference what color skin a boy may have -- Scouting's hand of fellowship is extended to him."

1959_0116_slums I wanted to report a quick, happy ending to the boy's story.

But it didn't work out that way.

There were still some people -- some very vocal people -- in Pack 298 who refused to be "enlightened."

I'll say this. Local Scout officials worked practically night and day to convince the hard core of dissenters to get the boy into a den quietly and gracefully.

The sponsoring Kiwanis Club group did the same. So did the pack's club master, a manufacturing executive with three sons in the Scouting program.

But the dissenters chose to go out the hard way. A letter was circulated among parents by the pack chairman announcing a meeting to discuss mass resignation. The meeting was held and a woman's request to be den mother of a new den in which Butch could be a member was openly ignored by the membership committee.

Finally, a couple of weeks ago, Butch did become a registered member of the pack. But there are still those blocking the formation of a den in which he can actively participate -- where he can go to meetings like the rest of the kids.

Butch, Here's to You

I've been promised by both Scout and Kiwanis leaders that the die-hards will get their ultimatum this week:

Either go along with the policies of both organizations or resign.

They've been told it before -- politely -- but they just didn't seem to understand polite language.

I've also been assured that by next week Butch will be wearing Cub Scout blue at his first den meeting.

So it may be a happy ending after all.
Download 1959_0116_red_streak.jpg


Voices -- Christine Collins, September 28, 1931




1931_0928_anderson_01

Wyeth / Nixon


1972_0111_wyeth_nixon

Jan. 11, 1972: Andrew Wyeth announces he will paint Nixon's official portrait.
1972_0112_wyeth_nixon_2  
Jan. 12, 1972: The White House repudiates Wyeth's announcement.
1972_0114_wyeth_nixon_2

Jan. 14, 1972: The Nixon White House says it misspoke itself. Kind of.
121

In 1981, the White House unveiled a portrait of Nixon by Alexander Clayton, although I'm not able to locate a copy of the image. Clayton's painting was replaced with a 1984 portrait by J. Anthony Wills. Norman Rockwell also painted at least two portraits of Nixon during his campaigns for the presidency.

Vivian Leigh cast as Scarlett O'Hara, January 1939


 
1939_0114_gwtw

On January 14, 1939, The Times published the news that an English actress had been cast in the lead of "Gone With the Wind." Excuse me, but Jean Arthur as Scarlett?
1939_0116_hopper

Hedda Hopper covers the furious reaction over David O. Selznick not casting an American actress in the lead of "Gone With the Wind."

1939_0116_jews
The Democratic Party's dependence on "Jewish financial backers" influences its attitude toward Germany, according to Nazi "philosopher" Alfred Rosenberg.
The Holocaust touches Los Angeles. Dr. Gustav Baar tells of his experiences in fleeing Europe and says he managed to escape because he was an American and because he was on vacation in Rome when the Nazis rolled into Austria.

"No nation in Europe has the courage or the power to stop this gangster," Baar says of Hitler. "I was in Paris when she was mobilized. She was so unprepared that there was not a gas mask in Paris for civilians and only the most pitiful rags as uniforms for most of the troops called to the colors."

And local leaders of the German American Bund are arrested on charges of trying to distribute fliers purportedly written by Jews that would provoke anti-Semitism.

1939_0116_del_gado
1938_0410_pontiacs

You may recall a photo posted in the Daily Mirror last year showing Police Capt. Peter Del Gado accepting new Pontiac police cars. Del Gado fled to Mexico during the investigation of City Hall corruption and remained there until 1970, when his indictment was quashed and the ailing former officer returned to Los Angeles.

1939_0116_cameron
1939_0116_pro_bowl
A great photo page from the Pro Bowl.

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