The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: February 8, 2009 - February 14, 2009

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Architecture -- Paul Revere Williams

Photographs by Coldwell Banker
1942_0528_fern_drive Golden_medical

The Paul Revere Williams home at 200 Fern Drive, designed for Valentine Mott Pierce, son of a patent medicine man, has been listed by Catherine "Tink" Cheney" at $3.8 million

Matt Weinstock -- February 12, 1959

Light in Darkness

Matt_weinstockd It's a worthwhile experience to put down whatever you're doing for half an hour today and read something about one of the world's great men. It doesn't matter which of the books about him you read. His wisdom and humor and particularly his compassion come through in all of them, even in the vignettes in Reader's Digest.

I've been reading Mark Van Doren's recently published play, "The Last Days of Lincoln," which covers the last few weeks before his death.

The end of the war was imminent and the big issue was whether the terms of surrender should be harsh or generous. Some hotheads were for hanging the generals and destroying the South. Lincoln patiently tried to convey to them his feeling that such rash action would only add to the tragedy of a divided, stricken nation.

1959_0212_tv AT ONE POINT Benjamin Franklin Wade, senator from Ohio, bitterly assails Lincoln. "Be soft and you'll be sorry. You will unmake or make yourself for good."

Lincoln replies, "You flatter me. I have never thought of myself as my own Maker, nor do I now . . . I shall do nothing softer than reality permits. Reality is my guide in time of darkness."

LATER, to Gen. Grant, Lincoln says, "I don't find fault any more with anybody. Not with fate, even . . . I tried to keep the war from meaning too much. At the very least it meant enough. Half of this country had decided to be half of nothing. But half of nothing is exactly nothing, and the war, I still think, means all it needs to mean if it restores those people to existence."

To Sens. Wade, Chandler and Sumner he says, "Your only thought is about how they must learn to live with us. You don't appear to consider that we must live with them, and that this will take some learning, too. I'm doing my best to remember both parties to the divorce -- a miserable divorce, if any at all, for neither party could move away. Meanwhile, gentlemen, let us all study to avoid a certain dictatorial tone -- it may be mine, it may be yours -- that is not to be tolerated in such perilous times."


* *

1959_0212_western_ro FATHER & SON STUFF -- This is for those who despair of educational standards. In explaining something a boy said, "I brang it to school." Pater snapped, "What's that!" "Oh," the boy said, "I brung it to school" . . . At the dinner table a 6th grader repeated a comment his teacher had made in class about a state official. His father slammed down his knife and fork and fumed, "I'll not have you misled about politics! I'm going to do something about this!" "Whoa, dad," the boy soothed, "wait'll after I get my report card."

* *

CONFUSION in Washington note: On Page 21 of the printed report of testimony before a Senate subcommittee on the subject, "Experimental Research in Cloud Modification," there's a rather classic typo "Dr. Reichelderfer of the U.S. Whether Bureau . . ." 

* *

AMID OHS and ahs an Anaheim girl was opening her gifts after her wedding a few nights ago. One lady, known to enjoy a cocktail, watched avidly, and when her gift came up she exclaimed, "Melanie, you should have seen us wrapping that package last night. It took three bottles of Scotch tape!"

* *

ONLY IN HOLLYWOOD -- Tom Lempertz did a double take and looked cautiously over his shoulder for the little green men at a Vine Street market when he heard a man say, "Well, if you run into anyone who can use a galaxy, let me know." The man was referring, of course, to the new Ford model, the Galaxie. 

* *

AROUND TOWN -- While covering the flooded area in Benedict Canyon yesterday Jack Leppert, NBC cameraman, couldn't help noticing the sandbags propped against doors and garages were red, green, blue and whatnot. Apparently a sandbag salesman had given residents a choice . . . Wreckers demolishing a building on W 2nd Street with the inscription, "Since 1918," have posted a hand-lettered sign, "Adios mis amigos."  

Paul Coates -- Confidential File, February 12, 1959


Social Disease Problems Bared

Paul_coates Guess I might as well admit it. I'm an old man.

I'm so old I can even remember back to the late '30s when young men were adequately, intelligently warned about the perils of venereal disease.

Just a few years before that, things had been sadly different.

VD was something to be spoken about only in whispers. And never in polite company.

Its victims hid from view, and frequently from treatment. If they sought help at all, they sought it from the second-story quacks who specialized in "quick cures."

As a result of the "quick cures" many of them would up crippled, blind or hopelessly insane. The diagnosis of their infection was syphilis. But the basic disease they suffered from, along with all of us who were not infected, was ignorance.

1959_0212_red_streak Suddenly, just before World War II, a kind of hard-headed realism broke out all across the country. At the insistence of responsible medical people, a campaign was launched to make us recognize that venereal disease was one of our most serious problems.

We were taught that the only way to solve the problem was to talk about it, and speak against it.

Kids in school began to lean the dangers of these diseases. Parents began to learn the common sense of talking sex to their offspring. It was the war years, and the young GIs in addition to the manual of arms were learning, from another government-sponsored manual, how to avoid contracting VD. 

It was an era of common sense.

But it was short-lived.

Because a remarkable thing happened around that time. Medical science discovered that penicillin was the true "quick cure" for venereal infection.

In the years that followed World War II, we lowered our guard. We thought the great miracle of penicillin had ended the 2,000-year struggle against the dread social diseases.

By 1951, we had become so complacent that most VD educational programs were completely eliminated. The generation of parents of which I'm now a member didn't think it was necessary to forewarn their kids, as they had been forewarned.

And so, again, another generation of youngsters has grown up in the same ignorance.

Penicillin, we thought, had wiped out VD, so why talk about it any more?

Real Facts Are Different

1959_0212_lincoln The answer to that will shock you. Today -- now -- 1959, venereal disease has a reservoir of victims that runs into the millions around the nation. A frighteningly large percentage of them are drawn from the ranks of adolescents.

Right in your own home town, city health officials have just warned the public that VD is again becoming a serious health menace. And that since 1950, the number of teenagers in L.A. who have contracted the disease has nearly doubled.

I talked to one of those kids yesterday. He's a high school senior. He comes from an upper-middle-class family, a good neighborhood. His grades are better than average. He's a prominent school athlete and active in student affairs.

But caught gonorrhea. A half-dozen of his fellow students were infected, too.

And, if you ask them why they weren't more cautious, they'll tell you they "didn't know you could still get VD."

Nothing was told to them at school. Their parents didn't discuss it at home.

That happened to one high school to a total of seven kids, and maybe a few more the health authorities haven't found out about yet.

It seems pretty clear to me that venereal disease is something we better start talking about in polite company once again.

Coming Attractions -- Black Broadway


Selections from black musicals from the 1920s until today will be presented Monday, Feb. 23, 8-11 p.m. at the Catalina Bar and Grill, 6725 W. Sunset Blvd. It is free and open to Actors Equity and SAG members. Info: [email protected]rg

Los Angeles Celebrates Lincoln's Birth, February 12, 1909


The Times devoted enormous coverage to the centennial of Abraham Lincoln's birth. Most of it is fairly predictable: Stories of Lincoln's political career, his days as a lawyer, his boyhood, photographs and some memorial poems that are heartfelt but don't translate to our era. These pages are perhaps most valuable to demonstrate how Lincoln was viewed a century ago.

And then a surprise. The Times published a special section on Los Angeles' African American community using the Emancipation Proclamation as a point of departure. The section includes profiles of black professionals, civic and religious leaders, prominent women and an account by former slave living in Los Angeles. I frequently fault the city's mainstream newspapers for ignoring the black community, but in 1909 The Times came through.

A sample:

"The Christianization of Negro savages captured in the jungles of Africa and their elevation to the priceless boon of American citizenship is the greatest missionary achievement in the annals of the last half-dozen centuries. And yet the parties engaged in this scheme were actuated by the most sordid motives that ever degraded the human soul. As I follow the Negro's struggle upward from barbarism through slavery to civilization and witness the return of Negro missionaries with their lamps all trimmed and burning with the fire of Christian enlightenment, to light up the dark places of their ancestral home, I cannot but exclaim:

"God moves in mysterious ways, his wonders to perform."

--J.L. Edmonds, Sawtelle,
former slave

1909_0212_negro 1909_0212_cartoon

In the special section on African Americans, The Times asks: "What is the destiny of the American Negro? Whither does he go? Is he to survive or is he to be ground between the upper and nether millstones of time, to be blown as dust on the winds of fate; to disappear as the American Indian is disappearing and as many another race has disappeared since the world began?"

And then we have the story at left. 

Roosevelt, Taft to appear at separate events honoring Lincoln.
Roosevelt's tribute to Lincoln. Pick up your Valentine's candies at the Pig and Whistle next to City Hall.
"When the Norn Mother saw the Whirlwind Hour, Greatening and darkening  as it hurried on..."

The tender heart that was always moved by distress.
Anecdotes, saws and sayings that made his meaning clear.
Who shall worthily tell in 2,000 words what Abraham Lincoln was?
The Times publishes the Gettysburg Address with the words "under God." Here's an earlier draft, from the Library of Congress, without those words.
The Times invites "the Negro people of Los Angeles and Southern California and the great Negro leader Booker T. Washington to speak for themselves."
A directory of black professionals and "Just What the Negro Expects" by T.A. Greene of the Colored YMCA.
Lincoln Portraits.
The leading African American women of Los Angeles, starting with Biddy Mason and including poet Eva Carter Buckner.
Opportunity of the Negro in America to convert obstacles into opportunities--Booker T. Washington.
Robert C. Owens, wealthiest Negro capitalist of Los Angeles.
How Negro soldiers fought for the flag, by Lt. Col. Allen Allensworth, retd.

Found on EBay -- 1936 Chauffeur's Cap and Badge

A chauffeur's cap from Silverwood's, with 1936 badge, has been listed on EBay. Bidding starts at $9.99.

Matt Weinstock -- February 11, 1959

The Flight That Got Away

Matt_weinstockd You take your profundity where you find it, and today's significance comes from Bob Timm and John Cook, both 33, who landed their single-engine Cessna Saturday at Las Vegas after 65 days in the air, a new record.

They flew between Las Vegas and Blythe, with occasional side trips to Los Angeles and Phoenix. It was estimated they covered a distance equivalent to halfway to the moon, which is better than the Air Force did with its Pioneer.

Each morning and evening they swooped low over the Blythe airport and refueled from a pickup truck driving 90 m.p.h. They lowered a hook to hoist the refueling hose.

THE FLIGHT started as a publicity stunt for the Hacienda Hotel, where Timm is a slot-machine boss and Cook serves as a free-lance pilot. Somehow it just got away from everyone.

Back on the ground they were asked if they felt a sense of accomplishment. They didn't.

"It was just something I always wanted to do," Cook said.

1959_0211_metro"It proves a light plane will stay up a long time." Timm said.

So beware, everybody, of those things that seem like a good idea at the time.

* *

ONLY IN BURBANK -- A car stalled in traffic and the driver behind impatiently sounded his horn. So the driver of the stalled car, a lady named Madonna, got out, walked back and said icily, "Mister, I'll honk your horn if you'll start my car!"

* *

I tried to find the light to see
The "Land of Opportunity"
I looked into the dark and saw
The governor of Arkansas.

* *

IN RECENT WEEKS Reita Sones, a working mother, has had three different baby sitters. Last Saturday when she made no move to leave for work, Jimmy, 4, asked hopefully, "Gosh, Mom, are you going to baby sit today?"

* *

EVERYONE HAS heard the hackneyed legend about the bullet which misses, whereupon the script writer has the intended victim musing, "I guess it didn't have my name on it."

1959_0211_masterson Jan Salter was driving on a narrow, solidly parked street in Beverly Hills. She was forced to the right as an oncoming car passed and her fender caught the bumper of a parked car. As she inspected the damage, she discovered the car she'd tangled with had the license plate letters, JAN, her name.

That's the way the fender crumbles sometimes.

* *

AS ANYONE could have guessed, we haven't heard the last of the town-naming game mentioned here. Try these, by Leo Bartelme of Sherman Oaks: Praise, Ala., Noahs, Ark., Trala, La., Hianlo, Mass., Uranium, Ore., Ominepa, Pa., and Sixanfourar, Tenn.

* *

MISCELLANY -- In the event Allan Dulles' cloak and dagger boys have a few minutes to spare, the Diners' Club directory with the names of hotels, restaurants and other services available to members lists on Page 25 "I. Espionage." 2900 Main Street, NW, right there in Washington, D.C.

Paul Coates -- Confidential File, February 11, 1959


Somebody Does Love a Fat Man

Paul_coates For years, the Fat Man had ignored those ads that flashed intermittently on his TV screen. The ones that told him to get rid of that ugly excess by exercising in beautiful gymnasiums for just a few minutes a day.

The ones that promised him that he'd end up the envy of all the guys in the block. And the idol of all the girls.

The Fat Man's lack of interest was reasonable. Even though he was 15, maybe 20 pounds overweight, he had it made.

His wife loved him, just the way he was. So did his kids. He had a good job, a nice home, and respect from everyone who knew him.

After all, he wasn't THAT fat. There are very few men in their 40s who don't have at least a little paunch, anyway.

1959_0211_mirror_cover But last month, he was laid off the job he'd held for years. A bit choosily, he began searching for a new one -- for the right spot.

This week, he found it. He was told that he'd been accepted. There was only the routine of the physical.

Then, yesterday afternoon, he paid a final visit to his prospective employer and got the bad news. "The doc says you're not a good health risk," he was told. "Too fat. Seventeen pounds of extra baggage."

The Fat Man couldn't believe it. He walked to his car in stupor. Squeezing behind the wheel, he headed home.

Suddenly, one of the beautiful gyms loomed before him. It was on a street he'd traveled a thousand times before, but before he'd never particularly noticed it.

The Fat Man nosed his car to the curb, parked and stepped out.

"I'm interested," he told the man at the desk. "I've got to lose weight. Seventeen pounds. How long will it take?"

1959_0211_darnell The next 15 minutes of conversation doesn't need repeating. It was the usual salesman-customer give-and-take routine.

Fat Man wanted a short course. The instructor pitched for a special lifetime course. Fat man said it was too expensive. Instructor said it's cheaper in the long run. Terms are easy, too.

Finally, the Fat Man turned thumbs down. "No," he said. "I can't see it for $300 or $400. Why, when I was a kid, we used to get all the same things you've got here for a $15 annual YMCA membership."

He turned to walk out, when the instructor touched his shoulder.

"Wait a minute," the instructor asked. "Before you go, I'd like you to meet another member of our staff."

Some New Atmosphere

The "other member" was the picture of health-plus. She was the kind of a woman that no man in his right mind would look at only once.

1959_0211_abby "We'd just love for you to join," she told the Fat Man. "I'd like to sell you the course as a friend."

"A friend?" the Fat Man asked, his face reddening.

The pair sat down, and as the conversation progressed, he was gripped with a crazy, wild idea. He placed his hand on her knee. She did nothing. Just smiled.

"I like you, too," she purred, "but I've got a big, strong boyfriend.

"Of course," she added, "if you sign the contract, I'm sure we can figure a way to get together without him finding out."

"Why," pleaded the Fat Man, "can't we get together before I sign?"

The girl's eyes were wide with innocence. "Don't you trust me?"

The Fat Man couldn't restrain himself any longer. He burst out laughing, got up, walked out, drove home, kissed his wife, and- shaking a finger in her face -- admonished:

"No potatoes for me tonight. Is that clear?" 

Voices -- Christine Collins, January 12, 1933


And so we complete our journey through the official documents telling the unfortunate saga of Walter and Christine Collins. I heard from a number of Daily Mirror readers who enjoyed the trek (scanning all these documents was more labor than I expected), one author working on a Collins project who was not terribly pleased that I was posting them on the Internet and from at least one reader asking "who cares?"

One of my goals was to share the experience of discovery, of unearthing human drama in papers that I didn't even know existed. I'd like to thank Chris Garmire of the California State Archives for alerting me to the existence of the Walter Collins file.

"Changeling" offered a unique opportunity to explore the historic record and I'm not sure anything like this will come our way again. But I do hope to post more original documents when possible because they can be so rich in information that is otherwise undocumented and they provide the opportunity for people who are long gone to speak to us once again.

Santa Barbara Oil Spill; Don't Change Baseball, February 11, 1969

The Times publishes a Chuck Powers story on the Santa Barbara oil spill. Powers left The Times to become a novelist but died just before his first book, "In the Memory of the Forest," came out.

"Anyone who says he can guarantee
his well won't blow out is either
nuts or lying."

"The sea began to boil. While the men watched, the boil began to advance toward the platform, stirring the ocean to a 2-foot froth."

Robert Hilburn reviews Judy Collins at Royce Hall, after "Who Knows Where the Time Goes" was released.

1969_0211_sports The Times' Bob Oates asked longtime Dodger official Red Patterson to give baseball's new commissioner some advice. "I don't think there's any way to improve baseball by changing a rule--I mean any important rule," Patterson said.

Oates asked about taking bats away from pitchers or speeding up intentional walks or having platoons of offensive and defensive players like football. Each time, Patterson defended the status quo.

Here's one question and answer:

Oates: "After 35 years in baseball, how would you define its basic appeal to the American public. What makes it the National Pastime?"

Patterson: "It is a game of real finesse and great skill. The essence is the battle between pitcher and batter. I never cease to marvel at the skill and reflexes of major league hitters. They have only an instant to judge fastball or breaking pitch and get a piece of wood on a ball coming at such 1969_0211_sports_rospeed and doing so many different things. The other baseball value is that it's the same game your father played and your grandfather. Football can't say that."

--Keith Thursby

O.J. Simpson vs. Pat Boone?

1969_0210_oj_simpson The matchup between O.J. Simpson and Pat Boone probably didn't happen.

Boone led a celebrity basketball team against some former college athletes before the Los Angeles Stars' game at the Sports Arena. An ad in The Times said the team would include Simpson, then coming off his Heisman Trophy-winning season at USC. But it's unclear whether he played.

The Times' Dan Hafner actually mentioned the game, probably because the Stars were so dreadful in the real game that followed. But O.J. wasn't included in Hafner's description. Mike Garrett, Gary Beban and Bob Klein were joined by former UCLA basketball star Mike Warren in defeating Boone's team.

Boone was apparently a gym rat in those days. A brief in The Times announced that his all-stars--including Bill Cosby!--would play North Hollywood High faculty the following night to raise money for the school yearbook.

--Keith Thursby

Architecture -- John Lautner

Photograph by Crosby Doe Associates
1958_0810_6850_pine This is the John Lautner's remodel of an existing home, done for Anne Baxter. The house at 8650 Pine Tree Place is listed by Crosby Doe Associates at $1,895,000.

Baxter received the home in her 1953 divorce from John Hodiak. It was put on the market five years later.


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