The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: Caryl Chessman

Matt Weinstock, March 16, 1960

March 16, 1960, Caryl Chessman

Mileage Test

Matt Weinstock     I've had misgivings about freeways for a long time. But not the way you might think.  I've merely been suspicious of the comparative mileage.

    This is to report that I have confirmed my suspicion.  I checked my speedometer in driving on Barrington Ave. in West L.A. from Sunset Blvd. and got 2.6 miles.

    Another time I drove from Sunset to Olympic on the freeway and got 2.9 miles.

    Barrington has signals which detain you, and the freeway is clear but meanders.

    In short, the freeway is .3 miles of a mile longer but it's shorter in time.  In fact it takes less than half the time.


the financial page the other night, Arthur H. Nadel said to his wife, "Can you imagine!  American Tel. & Tel. made over a billion dollars last year!"

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Get Perking: Coffee Hits 15 Cents a Cup

March 15, 1960, Freeway Flyer

Catch a snooze on the Freeway Flyer!

March 15, 1960, Coffee

March 15, 1960: Coffee goes to 15 cents a cup, which would be $1.07 today, adjusted for inflation. Not quite the price of a venti caramel brulee at Starbucks.

On the jump: “I married Caryl Chessman.”

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Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, March 10, 1960

March 10, 1960, Mirror Cover

The book Coates is talking about is, of course, "Black Like Me."


A White Man Turns Negro

Paul Coates

(This is the first of two exclusive columns on the remarkable story of a white author who turned "Negro" to get the facts on discrimination in the South.)

    Male, white, American.  Age 40.  Born, Dallas, Tex.  College graduate.  Married.  Three children.  Talks with slight Southern drawl.

    These are the statistics that describe John Howard Griffin.

    And with them, as his lot, his heritage, he became a successful citizen of the United States.  He was a respected man of comfortable means.

    Then, last fall, he changed one of his vital statistics.

    He became a Negro.

    Through pills, ultraviolet ray treatments and dyes, he changed the color of his skin.  That's all he changed.

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Lawmakers Defeat Attempt to Ban Death Penalty


“I’ve Got to Live With Myself!”

 March 10, 1960, Cover

March 10, 1960: The Senate Judiciary Committee kills Gov. Pat Brown’s effort to repeal the death penalty. Although Caryl Chessman is the pressing issue in the question of capital punishment, his name is never mentioned in the hearing.

Police Chief William H. Parker "called Brown's bill a step in a trend of loosening criminal law which he feared would lead to the abolition of the prison system and the complete relaxation of restraints on criminals."

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Matt Weinstock, March 8, 1960


March 8, 1960, Caryl Chessman

Nervous Cat's Tale

Matt Weinstock     As the animal regulation department's files prove, life in our vast jungle compound is fraught with peril.  It is not uncommon for people to be frightened, by roving pythons or straying wildebeests and to be bitten by ocelots,coati mundis or owls.

    One night recently around 7, Jeanne Weston, who lives on Mulholland Dr., received a call from a neighbor who said excitedly that Jeanne's Siamese cat Farkleberry was having a fight with a wildcat.

    Armed with a broom and a flashlight that didn't work, Jeanne joined the neighbors on their front yard.  They were shining lights on the growling wildcat which had retreated under a bush. Farkleberry had retreated home.

    Apparently the wildcat had been stirred out of its habitat by another Cat -- Caterpillar tractor, that is -- which has been noisily carving a path through the nearby wild section.

    Everything is normal again except Farkleberry.  He's as nervous as a human.


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Screen Actors Guild Goes on Strike

March 7, 1960, SAG Strike 

March 7, 1960: The Screen Actors Guild goes on strike over residuals on movies made after 1948 that are broadcast on TV.  “The Magnificent Seven” and “Ocean’s Eleven” are unaffected.

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Matt Weinstock, March 4, 1960

March 4, 1960, Caryl Chessman

To Mars in a Tub


Matt Weinstock

    The reason the Russians are beating us into space is no mystery to Sam Lobell of S Westmoreland Ave.  In a word -- bathtubs.  Others may cite graphs and statistics showing Russian emphasis on science and aid to bright students are responsible for their space lead.  Sam says no.

    His logic:  Reading, the link to knowledge, has been snapped by television.  The sounds of the electronic eye penetrate most rooms in most houses.  But as yet there are few TV sets in bathrooms.  Thus there remains, as a final refuge for readers, a warm bath and a good book.  Of course, readers must add a little hot water from time to time and get used to the inevitable drip of the faucet.
    But consider this:  Most housing in Russia is old.  Bathtubs are common.  Showers are rare.  In the United States the reverse is true.  And the trend is toward more showers, fewer tubs.
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Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, March 4, 1960

March 4, 1960, Finch Case

Yes, the Mirror ran photos of the entire jury in the Finch case. 

Mash Notes and Comment


Paul Coates

    (Press Release) " 'Some people have said I'm stingy,' says J. Paul Getty, who at 67 is probably the richest private citizen in the world.  'But I'm not.  I'm willing to pay the going rate for anything, but why should I pay more because I have more?'
    "Getty, as the current issue of Look magazine points out, has sometimes been accused of trying to pay less rather than more.

    "He once waited outside a dog show until the lower 'late admission' price went into effect.
    "On another occasion he waited until the orchestra stopped playing before entering a restaurant to take advantage of the reduced over charge.
    "Five unsuccessful marriages haven't completely soured multi-millionaire Getty on the noble institution.  Asked whether he would ever marry again, he said:

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Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, March 3, 1960

March 3, 1960, Mirror

Let Us Consider Case of Robert Martinez   

Paul Coates

    Robert Martinez, I met by degrees.

    There was the first letter from him six weeks ago.  In spelling that was hampered by the fact that he never got beyond the eighth grade, he told me that he was an ex-con looking for a job.

    It's the kind of letter that I get ten, maybe a dozen, times a month.

    I used to catch work for a few of them now and then, but the parolee grapevine just about ran me out of business.  I suspect that each one I helped told five of his job-hunting friends, who in turn, passed the word around to five of their friends.  Invariably, the mail load boomed after each success I scored.

    And I'll tell you honestly, my successes weren't much to brag about.  Not many employers in town were willing to "gamble" on men who've made mistakes. 

    And those who were, I generally managed to alienate by pestering them once too often. 

    But back to Martinez.


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Chessman to Die May 2

 March 3, 1960, Slaying

March 3, 1960, Dodgers
Charlie Neal, right, is on the receiving end as four aspirants try out for the Dodger shortstop starting position. They are, from left, Don Zimmer, Bob Aspromonte, Bobby Lillis and Maury Wills.

March 3, 1960: James Kendrick, top, reenacts the slaying of Highway Patrolman Richard Duvall near Victorville.

On the jump, a judge schedules Caryl Chessman to be executed May 2 … The state Senate gets a bill to abolish the death penalty  … And Don Drysdale says: "The toughest batter for me is..."

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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.

Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, Feb. 25, 1960

Feb. 25, 1960, Mirror Cover

On Man's Ingratitude to Man, With 20% Off

Paul Coates    Sammy is 46 years old, a newsboy, a coffee-addicted graduate of Judge Clifton's drunk court, and -- by his own admission -- nobody's angel.

    For 30 of his years he's been hustling sheets on Broadway.

    He grew up on city street corners -- an environment conducive to many things, not all of them good. 

    From it, he fashioned his personal, peculiar code of ethics.

    Ask him, and he'll tell you, "If you're going to beat a guy put of something, beat a guy who's got something."

    If it's meant as a self-appraisal, it's not a fair one.  I've heard people complain about Sammy's affection for four-letter words, and, before Judge Clifton frightened him off Devil Drink, about his ability to stay out of Lincoln Heights -- but I've never heard anybody say that he was a slow man with the change for a dollar.

    Sammy bent over backward not to be.

Feb. 25, 1960, Caryl Chessman     He specialized in protecting, helping the underdog.  Maybe, because he considered himself in that category.  A temporarily unemployed reporter who had used up all his friends could always turn to Sammy for the price of another drink.  So could any of the rest of his customers, and a lot of them -- at some point in their lives -- hit bottom once or twice.

    That's what Sammy was most famous as:  an easy touch.

    And that's how this matter last summer came about.  Sammy had retired as a newsie.  He sold his corner and became what you might call a street-salesman.  Costume jewelry.  Sport shirts.

    But he kept in touch with old friends.

    And one old friend was an attorney, with nice offices downtown.  Once Sammy had helped him out with a $300 loan and the attorney was prompt in repaying him.

    It was on a warm evening last June that the barrister found Sammy sipping coffee in a downtown cafe.  There were the usual greetings and the lawyer sat down.

    "Sammy," he said, "I've got a land deal going.  I need $5,000 cash to put it over and all I've got is $3,500."

    The conversation progressed and the newsie admitted that he had some acorns in the bank.

    "Since I been off drink, I been saving," he said.  "I got just about exactly $1,500.  But it's my last money."

    The lawyer assured him that he'd have it back in no time.  Three months or less.  There was no risk involved.  The deal was solid.

    So, a couple of days later Sammy withdrew his savings and took them up to the lawyer's office.  The lawyer gave him a promissory note -- payment on demand.  He wrote it out for $1,800.  Three hundred extra for you, Sammy," he said.  "I'm going to make money on this deal.  I'd like to see you make some."

Feb. 25, 1960, Freeways     Three months went by and Sammy didn't hear a word.  He checked with the attorney and was told that the deal was slowed down by paperwork.  But he'd get his money.

    More days passed and Sammy's nervousness increased.  He'd spotted his attorney friend at the tables in Gardena.  Sammy pressed him and the attorney slipped him a few small bills.  That's the way it went for the next few months.  Whenever Sammy looked him up, he got $25, $50 an, occasional $100.

    As of a couple of months ago, there remained $975 outstanding on the note.  Then the payments stopped.  Sammy was told that he was making a pest of himself.

The Way the Geetus Falls

    Another attorney -- an old customer of Sammy's -- heard about the newsie's troubles.  He volunteered his aid and telephoned attorney No. 1.

Feb. 25, 1960, Westminster Hotel

    "I'd like to oblige," the borrower said, "but I just don't have the money to pay him back.  That's all."

    So Sammy's old customer took the next logical step.  He filed an action in court demanding payment.

    Attorney No.1 filed his answer the other day.  He borrowed the $1,500, he admitted.  And he still owed a good chunk of it.  But the extra $300, he said, Sammy certainly wasn't entitled to that.  That was usury.

    If you live in the city long enough you hear everything.



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