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Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, Jan. 8, 1960

January 8, 2010 |  2:00 pm

Jan. 6, 1960, Mirror Cover

That Silly Season's With Us Rather Early

Paul CoatesYou've heard of the "silly season."

    It's a special time of year when everything, and everybody, goes haywire.  People stop behaving like people.  Animals don't act like animals.

    What generally happens is college boys climb walls of buildings which house college girls.  Bulls unlock tailgates of cattle trucks and mingle with cars on freeways.  Dogs, instead of cats, are found -- generally by some enterprising newspaper photographer who just happened to be in the neighborhood -- stuck up in trees.

    Then there's the parrot who wins first prize at the community art festival with its surrealistic beak paintings, and the horse who divulges -- after 15 years of muteness -- that he's a whiz at mathematics.

    Traditionally, this season crowds into the calendar with early spring.

    And inevitably, the strange goings-on involve animals. except in the case of the college boys and girls, who just act that way.

Jan. 8, 1960, Finch Trial     But here we are in the dead of winter, barely into 1960, and it's obvious that the season is on us.

    From the assorted daily newspapers on my desk yesterday, I learned that a French poodle named Mozart tossed himself a birthday party in Birmingham, Ala., inviting other pure poodles who arrived in chauffeur-driven limousines, wearing mink coats, wing collars and jewels.

    In Sacramento, two young men were fined $150 and barred from city parks for three years after breaking into the municipality's zoo and lynching an alligator.

    In London, a psychiatrist reported the case of a 65-year-old client who, for the past year and a half, has been barking like a dog every 10 minutes on the hour.

    The psychiatrist stated that his client's bark was so loud that it could be heard at a range of several hundred yards, and attributed the man's ailment to the fact that he was left-handed, but in his youth had been forced to write right-handed by a teacher, who, like Dr. Alvarez, didn't dig that psychology nonsense.

    There's more.  A 50-pound bear named Booboo became the object of a citywide search in Milwaukee after a prominent business executive's wife wouldn't believe his story that he'd seen a shaggy black bear honking an automobile horn impatiently outside of a cocktail lounge on New Year's morning.

    These stories may appeal to some January newspaper readers, but my feeling is that they don't belong.  There's a time and place for everything, and "silly season" stories don't fit into my winter scheme of things.

Jan. 8, 1960, Finch Trial     So while there's still space, I'm going to bring you  a people story.  A serious one.  The kind that just could rock City Hall.

    It's about L.A. bureaucracy.   And it is about people.  Except that my point is somewhat weakened since the people are dog catchers, or, in the prim terminology of the civil service manuals, "animal inspectors."

    It concerns the complaint of one of them about a recent directive from the Board of Animal Regulation.  The directive states that no animal inspectors should wear their service revolvers (which all are issued) in the course of routine dog-catching.

    The directive adds that they should leave their weapons in the "locked glove compartments" of their trucks.

    The problem, according to the animal inspector who contacted me, is that most of the trucks' glove compartments have no locks, and some of the newer ones don't even have doors on them.

    "We dog catchers are responsible for our weapons," he told me.  "Yet we have to leave our trucks unattended a good part of the time while we're in pursuit on foot.

Kids Do Get Around

    "Consider how children are attracted to our vehicles," he added, "and the potential hazards become obvious."

    I checked with Duane Tuttle, executive officer of the Department of Animal Regulation, who confirmed that the board edict did use the term "locked glove compartments," which, he conceded, many trucks lacked.

    "But many of the inspectors get around the hazard by locking their revolvers in one of the empty animal compartments," he explained.

    However, directives being directives and their literal application being essential to success in government, Mr. Tuttle promised that he'd look in to the possibility of having the word "glove" deleted.

    And if that happens, I ought to get some recognition or award, even if it's only a can of Dr. Ross dog food.