The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: Parks and Recreation

Death at the Bimini Baths

April 14, 1910, Bimini Baths

April 14, 1910: The story is old and the details are fragmentary. Victor Lamar, 15, and Father E.V. Reynolds, a Catholic priest from Oklahoma, met somehow in Los Angeles. Reynolds might have paid Lamar $3 or $4 [$68-$90 USD 2009] to go “have a good time,” according to Marie A. Lamar, but her brother wouldn’t talk about it.

What’s certain is that Victor’s body was found at the bottom of the Bimini Baths, at 3rd Street and Vermont Avenue. Initial reports said he had been badly abused, but later testimony said injuries from vigorous attempts to revive him may have misled investigators. According to an autopsy, he died of heart trouble.

Victor’s father won a $1,000 [$22,738.82 USD 2009] settlement from the Bimini Baths for negligence, but The Times is silent on whether Reynolds was charged with molestation, although one story calls him “a moral degenerate.”

The Internet adds a few, skimpy details. There was a Father E.V. Reynolds in Chandler, Okla., about that time, but there’s nothing more. 

Continue reading »

Pacific Ocean Park


April 11, 1960: Happy Easter from Pacific Ocean Park (1958-1975). Adult admission is $10.75, USD 2009. On the jump, African Americans across the South begin an Easter week boycott of stores with segregation policies.

Continue reading »

Artist’s Notebook: Travel Town


“Travel Town,” by Marion Eisenmann.

Marion Eisenmann and I went to Travel Town in Griffith Park last summer because the old trains are popular with young children and I thought there would be some opportunities for interesting sketch subjects. It didn’t work out exactly as I thought because most of the youngsters were riding the miniature train that goes around the park instead of playing on the locomotives. 

Marion did this while I wandered through the old rolling stock and studied one of the streetcars – did you ever notice that they’re high off the ground and wonder about handicapped access?

Marion says: “A light key suggests the present  peacefulness of the place frequented by children and their caretakers.  The image has no challenging perspective and looks simple and  rudimentary. I felt a little bit like a deer in a nature reserve,  well protected against predators, knowing that the trains don't  move, as I was sitting right next to some tracks on a foldable  drawing chair. There was one exception to the idle gigantic  transportation machines, the miniature train that was filled with  cheering kids, and they  made it easy to hear when it was approaching.

“When I get a chance I will go back there.”

In case you just tuned in, Marion and I are visiting places that say something about life in Los Angeles in a project inspired by Joe Seewerker and Charles Owens’ Nuestro Pueblo. Daily Mirror readers who are interested in copies of Marion’s artwork should contact her directly.

Found on EBay: Pershing Square Cannon


You may recall a post I did last year on Pershing Square’s missing cannon, which vanished after being moved to Travel Town in Griffith Park. Here’s a 1905 postcard showing the cannon, which has been listed on EBay. Bidding starts at $2. And don’t you think Pershing Square (or Central Park, as it was known before World War I) was far more attractive a century ago before it was converted into a moonscape to repel the homeless?

L.A. Prepares for Auto Show

Jan. 31, 1910, Auto Show  

Jan. 31, 1910, Auto Show 

Jan. 31, 1910: Some grand old names of the past are at the auto show, like Packard and Pierce-Arrow. Buick and Cadillac seem to be about the only survivors. The first Los Angeles auto show was held in 1907 at Morley's Rink, Grand Avenue between 9th and 10th streets. It was the first auto show on the West Coast and the largest west of Chicago. Of the 99 cars on display, two were electric and the rest were powered by gasoline.  Fiesta Park, where the show was held in 1910, was at 12th and Grand.

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Nuestro Pueblo, Plummer Park

 Sept. 23, 1938, Nuestro Pueblo

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Sept. 23, 1938: Joe Seewerker and Charles Owens visit Plummer Park in Hollywood. The original run of Nuestro Pueblo ended in 1939, so I’m going back and picking up the ones I missed last year.

Glorious Southern California!


Jan. 1, 1920, Hiking 

“He who thinks that the Southland's many miles of smooth automobile roads penetrating every beauteous section have relegated the alpenstock to the reverent care of the antiquarian is mistaken. In case you doubt me ask any member of the Sierra Club. He knows. He takes a mountain walk in length anywhere from five to 20 or more miles, almost every weekend. With no more impediment usually than his handy canteen, and often with not even this much, he boards an early morning electric car and journeys to the end of the line, from which he foots it to the mouth of some grass-carpeted canyon whence his ascent begins, makes his journey in a day and is back at the office fresh for the day's work next morning.”


Jan. 1, 1920, Beaches 
“Santa Monica -- Ocean Park has an ideal location for the homeseeker, businessman and the convalescent. Each individual can be suited to their particular walk in life. Situated on the very shores of the great rolling old Pacific Ocean, 'Where the mountains meet the sea,' with unsurpassed scenery and in close proximity to the big metropolis of Los Angeles, makes it a most desirable place to live.”

Jan. 1, 1920, Ripley

Ripley, Calif., land of opportunity and prosperity, at least according to the California Southern  Railroad, which named the settlement in honor of E.P. Ripley, head of the Santa Fe Railway.

View Larger Map
Ripley, Calif., via Google maps’ street view.

Jan. 1, 1920: The Times publishes its annual Midwinter Edition, a special section intended to present life in Southern California in a perfect light.  The stories are overloaded with superlatives, but they still have value as a snapshot of the era, especially as an example of the paper’s boosterism at full throttle.

Location Sleuth

The High Sign
Buster Keaton in “The High Sign.”

I’ve been going through a Buster Keaton phase on Netflix and in watching “The High Sign,” I noticed this merry-go-round in the opening of the film. I got to wondering where it was – and whether it was the one used in “The Sting.”

The Sting

The short answer is no. The carousel used in “The Sting” was Philadelphia Toboggan Co. No. 62, built in 1922,  The Times says. It was moved from Venice Pier to Santa Monica about 1949.

Then what carousel was used in the Keaton movie? The Times clips say nothing about filming of “The High Sign.” Internet sources – which must always be double-checked – say the scenes were shot in Ocean Park. So I dug into the clips a bit further to see what I could learn.

Google Earth, Ocean Park
A 1940 map from Gillespie’s Guide superimposed on Google Earth. 

The first challenge was to determine the precise location of Ocean Park, and even this is a bit nebulous. As The Times said July 3, 1921: “Although Ocean Park has no independent municipal identity, being partly within the corporate limits of Venice and partly within Santa Monica, it is declared to have a strong individuality as a place of pleasure and happiness.”

According to this 1921 story, Ocean Park extended from south of Marine Street to the municipal auditorium under construction between Raymond and Kinney avenues—streets that have been wiped out by development.


The first merry-go-round appeared in Ocean Park in 1902, and immediately caused problems.

July 3, 1902, Merry Go Round

July 3, 1902: A  carousel is set up inside a tent “on the beach near Kinney Street” and, after complaints, moved to Pier Avenue. 

Oct. 8, 1911, Roller Coaster

Oct. 8, 1911:  What was called the largest roller-coaster west of New York is proposed for Ocean Park.
Sep. 4, 1912, Fire

Sept. 4, 1912: Everything at Ocean Park was destroyed in a spectacular fire, including a ride called the Dragon’s Gorge and a $45,000 merry-go-round, The Times says.

Sept. 4, 1912, Fire Area 

Notice the trolley tracks at the top of the map of the burned area, which fit with the train in the opening sequence of “The High Sign.”

The High Sign

Buster Keaton jumps off a train at the beginning of “The High Sign,” in  a screen grab that shows the ocean in the background. 

May 25, 1913, Ocean Park

May 25, 1913: The Times published this drawing of Ocean Park when it reopened  after the devastating fire of 1912. If “The High Sign” used the carousel at Ocean Park, it should be the one in this sketch. But is it?


And here’s a detail of what appears to be a merry-go-round.  I realize it’s a little difficult to tell from a drawing, but based on the windows in the background of the screen grab, I’m not sure this merry-go-round is the one used in “The High Sign,” even though it was in Ocean Park. 

April 9, 1916, Carousel

April 9, 1916: Wait a minute, what’s this? “The Great American Derby,” planned for Ocean Park, will be the largest “carrousel” ever constructed. But was it ever built? The Times’ clips are inconclusive. Could “The High Sign” have used one of these carousels (assuming they were built)? 

Dec. 22, 1920, Venice Pier Burns

Dec. 22, 1920: Meanwhile, down on Windward Avenue, the Venice Pier burns, including the merry-go-round.

Jan. 7, 1924, Pier Fire

Jan. 7, 1924: The Ocean Park “amusement zone,” rebuilt in 1913, is destroyed by another fire. The stories don’t mention the merry-go-round, but presumably the blaze burned whatever carousel was used in “The High Sign.”

Jan. 8, 1924, Ocean Park

Jan. 8, 1924: Rebuilding starts immediately.  But the story continues ….

May 28, 1970, Lawrence Welk 

May 28, 1970: Lawrence Welk visits the charred remains of the Aragon Ballroom after Ocean Park’s Lick Pier burned in 1970. The fire also destroyed an adjoining two-story house of mirrors and an abandoned merry-go-round building, The Times said. It’s unclear whether there was a carousel inside.


Which leaves us without a definitive answer. Apparently “The High Sign” used a carousel at Ocean Park that was destroyed in the 1924 fire. Maybe further research will turn up more information.

Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, Dec. 14, 1959

Dec. 14, 1959, Mirror Cover

Hey, it's Christian Brando!

Raul Bernal: 'He's a Miracle'

Paul Coates    Over a taco, I sat down with Java Joe the other day. 
   "It used to be," he was saying, "problems like I got now would throw me.  But that was before I really got to know Raul Bernal."

    Java Joe, whose last name is Castillo, has a little cafe in South L.A.

    Fingering his napkin, he continued, "You never heard of Raul Bernal, have you?"

    "No," I told him, "I haven't."

    "Let me tell you," he said.  "Raul Bernal is 50, maybe 55.  He usually needs a haircut.  He's got this old blue suit.  It's worn pretty good now.  It's the same one he's had for eight, 10 years.

    "He drives a truck.  You look at him and you'd think he's nobody.  Raul Bernal -- he's a miracle."

    Java Joe smiled broadly.  "Now I'll tell you what he does.

    "Raul -- we call him Conejo, Rabbit, because he used to play professional baseball and he was the fastest man around -- does things for kids.  His girl's grown up now, but every extra penny he gets, he uses on kids.

Dec. 14, 1959, Abby
    "Like this Christmas party he's throwing at Belvedere playground.  This is the 14th year he's done it.  Six hundred, 800 kids there every year.  This year there'll be 850.

    "Twenty-five turkeys, mashed potatoes, green beans, apple sauce, milk, ice cream, Seven-Up, and two toys -- good toys -- for every kid.  Raul has a way for getting people to help out.

    "For example," Joe continued, "he's got toys from the Marines and Sears and Newberrys.  When Raul asks, they give because they know that they'll go to the right kids.
Dec. 14, 1959, Know Your Town "He doesn't just put an ad in the paper saying, 'Come and get it.'  He finds out what kids need it, from the schools and the county.

    "He gets 16 or 18 of us and makes us help.  He gives each one of us a job and we got to do it.

    "Take me," Joe continued.  "My job is the turkeys.  That's what's got me worried.  I've got 25 of them, but I've just got a little oven in my restaurant.  It only holds two at a time.

    "Last year it took me 73 hours to cook them all.  I didn't get any sleep -- just kept cooking turkeys.

    "So the night before the party, when I went out of the restaurant to pick up some more things, somebody broke in the back door and took four of the turkeys.  People like the Lions Clubs had paid for them, so I had to replace them naturally."

    Joe shook his head.  "They caught the boys who took the turkeys three weeks later.  They were just a couple of kids about 18, and I went over to their trial and told them whose turkeys they took.

    "They said they were sorry and if they'd known, they wouldn't have done it. They said they took the turkeys home and had a big Christmas dinner themselves.  They had so much turkey, in fact, that they invited the neighbors.

    "But they were poor people themselves," he added, shrugging.  "I didn't feel too bad.  What made me sorry was that at the party a few of the turkeys weren't cooked all the way through.

Just Needs Big Oven

    "I'd hate for any little kid to get sick," he said. "That's why I wish I could find somebody with a big oven.  The party's Sunday, the 20th.  I could stuff them, stitch them up, deliver them and pick them up again if there was a big bakery or some outfit that could cook them on Saturday. 

    "Understand me," Java Joe explained.  "I don't mind cooking them myself, but after last year, I'm a little worried.  You see my point?"

    "I see it," I said.

    "But not really worried," Joe came back.  "With Raul Bernal running things, they always work out.  He makes everything seem so easy, and then he goes and hides when they're passing out credit.

    "I guess," he concluded, "that's why you never heard of him."


Nuestro Pueblo

Aug. 29, 1938, View of the Lancer 

Aug. 29, 1938: Joe Seewerker and Charles Owens visit the home of the late Times columnist Harry Carr, showing his view of Griffith Park.

Note: The original run of Nuestro Pueblo concluded in 1939. I’m going back and picking up the entries that I missed the first time


Paul V. Coates – Confidential File, Nov. 18, 1959

Nov. 18, 1959, Mirror Cover

As Senators Write to Indignant Taxpayers

Paul Coates    While we're all gathered here together, in this smoke-filled room, I'd like to say a few words in behalf of politicians.

    They are our friends.  Behind that stodgy facade that they put up, they've all got hearts as big as Daddy Warbucks'.

    And what they do, they do in our best interests.

    I am prepared, I might add, to give you an example.

    You remember, a couple of months ago, when Sen. Everett Dirksen of Illinois drafted a resolution calling for a government expenditure of $200,000 to permit himself and his 99 colleagues to fly to Waikiki to welcome Hawaii into our union of states?

    The resolution was drawn up shortly after Alaska, which is cold, slipped quietly into the union.  And it was met, I'm told, with some resounding cheers in the upper house before it was drowned out by a chorus of taxpayer screams.

    Well, now, at last, I can tell you the story behind the proposal.  I have it from an indignant taxpayer who was among those who wrote their protests  to Washington.

    He wrote to Sen. Dirksen, Clair Engle and Thomas Kuchel.

    Dirksen replied, in part:

    "Nothing delighted me so much as to observe in every section of the country that a proposal to have the entire Senate attend the Hawaiian inaugural ceremonies at public expense struck so deeply into the hearts of people and offended their basic feeling with respect to governmental extravagance and the need for economy.

    "I should point out that when the question was asked of me by the press, I said that I presumed every senator 'wanted' to go to Hawaii, but as you well know, 'wanting' to go and 'getting' to go is quite another matter . . .

    "I reaffirm, however, my delight that there is an aroused feeling in the country with respect to spending.

Nov. 18, 1959, Pershing Square    
"As for the record, I take some real pride in the record which the Republican minority made in the Senate in resisting huge authorizations for the expenditure of money and heavy appropriations.

    "This aggressive effort on the part of the minority plus the determination of the president to hold the budget line plus the clear evidence of public interest all joined to give us a good record in this field."

    I would have suspected that the junket was a Democratic plot if I hadn't seen Sen. Engle's answer, too:

    "Thank you for your letter regarding the proposal of Sen. Dirksen . . .

    "I agree that this suggestion is ridiculous; and if it had come to a vote, you may be sure that I would have voted against it.  It is not improper to send a small delegation . . . on this great occasion;  but to send the entire delegation is, of course, preposterous."

    California's Republican senator, Tom Kuchel, had still another explanation:

    "I fully agree with you that it would be an abuse of the public trust and a flagrant waste of public funds for either branch of the Congress to arrange a so-called junket for its entire membership . . .

    "It is unfortunate that a jocular remark about a possible trip to Hawaii was misunderstood and subsequently treated seriously by a certain segment of the press . . .

    "You may rest assured that I would never be a party to such an extravagance."

Statesmanlike Stuff
    So now we know.  Either:

    1 -- Sen. Dirksen -- who's been battling those spendthrift Democrats for years --  was just testing us taxpayers to see if we were alert;

    2 -- If those spendthrift Republicans had gotten it to the floor, the Democrats would have voted it down; or:
    3 -- It was just a big joke.

   I get the feeling that if the indignant taxpayer taxpayer had written 97 more letters to our elected representatives, all would have expressed violent opposition to such a prodigal scheme, no matter what they might have said before.

    It's like I told you at the start.  Politicians are our friends.  Especially if we're watching them.

Artist's Notebook -- Huntington Gardens


The Huntington Gardens by Marion Eisenmann


The Huntington Gardens by Marion Eisenmann


The Huntington Gardens by Marion Eisenmann

Marion Eisenmann and I were going over some of her recent work and this caught my eye: A page of value studies she did earlier this month at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens to prepare for classes she is giving. These are three of the six studies that were on one page.

I always enjoy the time I spend roaming the grounds at the Huntington. My favorite place to watch people is on one of the benches beneath the wisteria on the hill overlooking the Japanese gardens. There are several koi ponds there and I think I have heard people say "Look at those huge fish!" in every language known to mankind.

Marion says: I did these value studies instead of preliminary pencil sketches to capture the light of the multiple layers of plants before working in color. I used a brush versus a pencil in order to not get so much into the detail of the scenario in front of me, but focus more on the light situation, contrast and composition. I like the silhouetted and layered feel of these studies, they remind me of little miniature theater stages.

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. Check back next week 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 every week. 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.


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