The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: February 2010

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Closing Arguments in Finch Trial; Chessman’s Fate Up to Legislature

Photograph by John Malmin / Los Angeles Times

July 22, 1959: Carole Tregoff waits to be questioned by investigators.

Feb. 27, 1960, Finch Trial

fEB. 27, 1960, Finch Trial

Feb. 19, 1960, Caryl Chessman
Los Angeles Times file photo

Feb. 19, 1960: Students on Market Street in San Francisco protest the upcoming execution of Caryl Chessman. 

Feb. 27, 1960, Caryl Chessman

fEB. 27, 1960, Caryl Chessman
Feb. 27, 1960: Attorney A.L. Wirin defends Caryl Chessman and Mickey Cohen. Years ago, I interviewed Wirin’s partner, Fred Okrand, who said that defending Cohen paid for their ACLU work. Notice that The Times identifies Cohen as a “former hoodlum.”

America Rejects Its Rural Roots

Feb. 27, 1920, Briggs
“When a Feller Needs a Friend,” by Clare Briggs.

Feb. 27, 1920, Urbanization 

Feb. 27, 1920: “How Ya Gonna Keep Them Down on the Farm?” You can’t, according to The Times’ Harry C. Carr, who says former servicemen are abandoning farming in favor of work in the cities.

Mob Beats Strikebreakers, Police

Feb. 27, 1910, Streetcar Strike 

Feb. 27, 1910: Crowds in Philadelphia attack non-union men operating the streetcars, beating them and the police officers protecting them …  F.D. Underwood, president of the Erie Railroad, says: "There is a growing spirit of greed in this country that can only be equal to that of savages" … and  Pittsburgh Police Supt. Thomas S. McQuaid opposes brutality under the "third degree" but says taking away the right of police "to question a prisoner would be a menace to public safety."

Matt Weinstock, Feb. 26, 1960

The Court Is a Stage

Matt Weinstock     One of the travesties of court procedure is that most divorces are obtained on grounds that have little or nothing to do with the breakup of the marriages.

    The ladies come into court and testify that their husbands stayed out late or complained about their cooking or used profanity and the mental cruelty became simply unbearable.  They avoid mentioning the real cause of most breakups, usually a third person, to avoid embarrassing their spouses, who have agreed on that basis not to contest.

    All that is hardly  a secret, but reporter Charles Ridgway had never heard it spelled out so clearly as the other day as he rode down a Courthouse escalator behind a handsome but graying actress and her attorney and overheard this exchange:

    "Well, were you nervous?"

    "Not too bad."

    "At one point I thought you were going to crack."

    "No, but I'm glad I memorized the script so well."


    IF BOB ANDREWS hadn't heard the lady say it, he wouldn't have believed it.  Bob, who lives in a nearby city, complained about  a $3.25 overcharge on his phone bill and demanded an accounting.  The bill was rectified but the phone company lady said he was at fault.

    "You dial the phone too slowly," she said."


My lungs can now function,
My throat isn't sore,
I am smoking much
    less now
And enjoying it more.


refrain that down in Mexico they have got no snow.  Likewise in L.A.  But that hasn't kept youngsters from enjoying the same thrill, tobogganing down grass-covered slopes on homemade sleds.  It has been going on for generations.

image     This year, a lady who lives on what she calls Whitening Heights reports, it's earlier and bigger than ever, due to the impetus of the Olympics.  Usually the kids wait until summer when the grass is dry and slippery, but the snow stuff in Squaw Valley has them eager.  She reports they're using old boards with runners, even heavy pieces of cardboard, and she has imparted her knowledge of the subject to them by suggesting they put wax or bacon rind on the runners.

    Let them enjoy the sport while they can.  The way things look, pretty soon there won't be any empty hillsides.


    "WORDS FAIL ME," Frank J. Heffler writes, "as I leave to clean up a direction sign near our church at 79th and La Tijera Blvd.  Some idiot has painted a swastika on it.  I can't understand the senselessness of this act.  I pity these people.  It seems that narrow-mindedness is on the upswing here as well as in some sections of the South.  Our church of Christ is a progressive, Protestant, Christian institution open to all peoples.


besides George Newman catch the irony in the story from New York that a $22,300,000 housing project to provide homes for 1,317 families has been approved for Ebbets Field, former home of Brooklyn Dodgers?  Meanwhile, on a clear day in Chavez Ravine, once designated as a housing project, you can see where second base is going to be.


the instructor in a class on investments at L.A. High night school said, "The forces of interest make a blond fluctuate."  Could be but it was a fluff.  He meant bond . . . J.G.Novotny, history teacher at Fulton Junior High in Van Nuys, rewards pupils who turn in perfect exam papers with one Blue Chip stamp.  Now there's a real incentive.


A passenger in Sam Berk's cab confided he'd won $20 on Chessman's reprieve.  Didn't say whether he favored the decision or simply thought it was a good bet . .. Racketeers are taking advantage of the nation's religious revival by peddling fake recordings and blessings and soliciting funds, Dick Mathison warns in Coronet.  So beware . . . One thing about leap year, Frank Barron says, we beat the landlord out of one day this month.

Feb. 26, 1960, Abby







Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, Feb. 26, 1960

Feb. 26, 1960, Mirror

So Mexico's Justice Is Just, Eventually

Paul Coates    Pfc. Robert Peterson, U.S. Army, dropped by my office yesterday on his way back to Ft. Ord.

    He was a headline last June.  I'd worked on his story.  But yesterday, when he walked in my door, I didn't recognize him.  I couldn't remember who he was.

    In fact, even after he refreshed my memory, I found it hard to believe that this was the same teen-age kid I'd interviewed some eight months ago.

    I had talked to Peterson last summer immediately on his release from Baja California's state penitentiary.  At the age of 17, he'd been tossed into one of the foulest prisons in the world on the charge of auto theft.

    Protesting his innocence all the while, he'd spent 14 months in the prisoner-ruled, barbed-wire jungle waiting for Mexican justice to make up its mind.

    While there he was beaten, robbed, starved, knifed and -- more than once -- marked for death by some of the vicious killers with whom he shared his cement floor.

Feb. 26, 1960, Finch Trial     When I met him last summer on his release, he weighed 110 pounds.  Knife wounds on his back and arms were still an ugly purple.

    Yesterday, he weighed in at 140.  The knife scars were still there, he told me, but they were covered by his olive-drab dress uniform.

    "It takes time to get healthy again," he said.  "In the first four months after my release, I only put on five pounds.

    "I couldn't eat.  Even steak, I couldn't.  I'd just look at it and get sick."

    Shortly after his 19th birthday last September, Peterson signed up for a two-year hitch in the Army.  He won his promotion to private first class a few days before Christmas. 

    But now, he said, he was on medical leave.  His stomach still hadn't made the adjustment from stale watery beans to normal foods.

    There are other scars, too.  Some mental: 

    "Nightmares.  The other guys in the barracks wake up sometimes because I'm screaming.

    "I'm screaming, 'Alvero, don't kill me.'
    "Alvero was one of the real bad guys.  He said it wouldn't do any good if I got out of the prison alive.  He'd follow me, he said.  He'd find me and kill me.

    "I suppose I shouldn't worry, but sometimes, I do."

    The only visible physical scar is on Peterson's left hand.  The large numerals "1-9-5-9" are tattooed, one number on each of his fingers.

    "They held me down and did that just before I left.  They said they didn't want me to forget my -- my nice vacation in Mexico, they called it.

    "I don't need that tattoo to remind me,"  Peterson added.

    Long Year Awaiting Trial

    The kid had spent a full year in state prison before he was given a trial.  And then, he was never called to testify in his own behalf.  He was just told that he was found guilty and sentenced to four years.

    His parents, who live in Belmont, Cal., scraped up money to appeal the decision and two months later, the Baja California Court of Appeals decided that he could go out on conditional release for $640 bail.  His parents didn't have the money but it came in fast from anonymous donors who read of his plight.

    I asked Peterson if he'd ever heard anything further about his case.

    He nodded that he had.

    "About two weeks after I got back in the United States," he said, "my parents got a letter from the Consulate  in Tijuana.  It informed them that the Court of Appeals made a final decision.  They reversed the guilty verdict against me.

    "They said," he added, "that I was innocent."

‘Kramer,’ ‘All That Jazz’ Get 9 Oscar Nominations

Feb. 26, 1980, Oscars 

Feb. 26, 1980, Oscars

Feb. 26, 1980: "Apocalypse Now," "Kramer vs. Kramer," "Norma Rae," "All That Jazz" and "Breaking Away" are nominated as best picture of the years. Plus Peter Sellers for “Being There,” one of my favorites, and Al Pacino before he turned into a self-caricature.

A Kinder, Simpler Time Dept.: Your Movie Columnist


Feb. 26, 1964: Hedda Hopper writes, “Stanley Kramer's remarks before presenting Paine Knickerbocker, of the San Francisco Chronicle, as best critic of the year were insulting. We all cringed.” Now I’m wondering what he said. Anyone have any idea?

Officer’s Shot Saves Partner’s Life

Feb. 26, 1960, Gov. Brown

Feb. 26, 1960, Sharpshooter 

Feb. 26, 1960: Gov. Pat Brown will answer questions about granting a reprieve to Caryl Chessman … and on skid row, Officer V.P. Farmer shoots an ex-convict who is holding a gun to the head of Officer Ernest Searles Jr. "I'm no marksman but I guess we had God on our side," Farmer says.

Gardener Kills Principal, Commits Suicide After Setting Fire to School


Feb. 26, School Killing

"He is depressed and melancholy. He has illusions of persecution and that people are always working against him."

Feb. 26, 1920, Huntington Hall

Huntington Hall, 1790 Fremont Ave.

Feb. 26, 1920, School Killing

Feb. 26, 1920: A gruesome story of insanity and murder at Huntington Hall, a girls’ school in South Pasadena. The school became Oneonta Academy for Boys in 1922 and in the 1930s was known as Oneonta Military Academy. 

California Limited Sets Speed Record

Feb. 26, 1910, California Limited 
Feb. 26, 1910: The Santa Fe’s California Limited cuts hours off the trip from Chicago to Los Angeles, hitting 65 mph between Gallup, N.M., and Winslow, Ariz.

Artist’s Notebook: Corvette Driver

“Corvette Driver,” by Marion Eisenmann

Feb. 22, 2010: Marion Eisenmann sends a drawing of a Corvette and its driver that she saw over the weekend.

Marion writes: After heading out for a bike ride with two male friends at Bonelli Park, I short cut the second loop and made it back to the parking lot a little bit  earlier. Similar to the cyclist of the “Les triplettes de Belleville,”  I arrived there with my last breath. Suddenly, my attention was  consumed by a lady leaning onto the back of her red Corvette. 

Debbie was dressed in a petrol-towards-green blazer and  complemented her lips with pink. She was awaiting some of her 250  members of the PVCA, which stands for Pomona Valley Corvette  Association.

Of course she noticed my curious scanning looks, and  before she could say anything, I smiled at her and said "I am an  illustrator and you were an interesting object to me." She smiled and a  few seconds later, she said, "If I had known I would be observed by an  illustrator today, I would have lost 10 pounds."

We both laughed,  and I quickly gave her back "Just caught the moment in time."

I asked Marion if she draws cars so well because she worked on a project for VW/Audi. She says, "Well, yes, I did do my diploma thesis at their design studio, saw a lot of sketches, cars in development and learned about their visual construction, yet my interpretations were for a calendar and used to be more comical than anything else."

Note: In case you just tuned in, Marion and I are visiting local landmarks in a project inspired by what Charles Owens and Joe Seewerker did in Nuestro Pueblo. Be sure to check back for another page from Marion's notebook.

By the way, Daily Mirror readers have asked about buying copies of Marion's artwork. Naturally, this is gratifying because I think Marion's work is terrific, and one of my great pleasures is sharing it with readers. We have decided that the project is a journey about discovering Los Angeles rather than creating things to sell. Marion is busy with other projects and says she isn't set up to mass-produce prints but would entertain inquiries about specific pieces. For further information, contact Marion directly.

Matt Weinstock, Feb. 25, 1960

 Feb. 25, 1960, Elvis

Mad Memories

Matt Weinstock     The prohibition era (1920-1933) was a long time ago but to many persons it remains the most unforgettable time of their lives.  It had for them an aura of pleasurable deviltry.
    It also provided the setting of the rise of gangsterism and lawlessness, but that's another story which can be seen regularly on TV.
    Last weekend some people in Laurel Canyon who revere the memorable past invited 40 guests to an old-fashioned home brew party.
    THEY PROCURED a big crock and the makings from one of the several markets around town which stock them, and put up four batches -- 56 quarts -- of the bubbly stuff.  In their case, being somewhat on the sybaritic side, they used wild rice instead of malt.
    The hostess reports that 48 of the 56 bottles were consumed and  a fine time was had by all.  And after the imbibers downed their first jug the same old silly smiles that she remembers from 1928 came over their faces.
Feb. 25, 1960, Elvis     Only one mad moment occurred.  A writer moved over to a group where a surgeon was describing a particularly grisly operation he had lately performed.  The writer, unaware of the narrator's identity, was appalled.  Afterward he asked in deep concern of the man standing next to him, "Is he a doctor?"  Assured that he was, the writer said, "That's a relief!"
    SPEAKING OF home brew, a large lady in a Glendale Blvd. bar announced savagely that she would be a prime murder suspect if she ever located her spouse.
    "Don't say that, ma'am," Leo the bartender said, "we're all gentlemen here!"
    At which, Frederick Keller reports, she looked around and snorted, "Gentlemen! Why, this looks like the second Appalachian meeting!"
I always liked my game
    of chess,
My play is quite meticulous,
Chessmen are supposed
    to move
But this is most ridiculous.
     MONDAY Bob Simmons, 30, of Bellflower, a phone company employee, went scuba diving with two friends off a deserted beach about two miles south of Laguna.
     They had swum out past the breakers when Bob had difficulty clearing his face mask.  He became exhausted and tried to head for shore.  His companions went on, not knowing of his distress.  His wife, Cindy, saw from the beach that he was in trouble but no one was around.
    Just then three young couples on a picnic arrived.  Told of Bob's plight, the three youths, about 18, rushed fully clothed into the 10-foot deep water and pulled Bob out.  A woman nurse happened by and gave artificial respiration.  Bob's heart had stopped.  Meanwhile, one youth ran to the highway and waved down a policeman, who summoned help.
    Bob, who was unconscious for hours, is going to be all right and his wife Cindy hopes the boys who saved him, the nurse and the officer may see this and understand how grateful they are.  In the excitement she didn't get their names.
    DR. Vierling Kersey, president of the L.A. College of Optometry, spoke on eyestrain at the California Optometric Assn. congress the other day and afterward held a press conference for high school newspaper reporters who were present. 
    In various ways they all asked the same question:  "If we didn't get so much homework, we wouldn't get eyestrain, would we?"
    Dr. Kersey, former superintendent of city schools, replied unblinkingly, "Are there any other questions?"
    AT RANDOM -- Man I know received a token bottle of sweet-smelling stuff with this note from the press agent: "Only 72 hours ago the contents of this bottle, Arpege perfume, were succulent flowers peacefully basking in the warm sun of southern France.  Only three dawns have passed since they were plucked, processed and placed on your desk."  The next step is obvious.  You order it from your favorite supermarket . . . Bob Ritchey thinks people will look back on February, 1960, as the month they had to look twice at the headlines to see if they were about Caryl or Carole.








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