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Hidden wealth

November 23, 2007 | 12:04 pm


Nov. 23, 1957
Los Angeles

1957_1123_schlosser Julius L. Schlosser was a successful, wealthy auto executive who owned Chevrolet dealerships at 1015 S. Western Ave. and 4403 W. Adams. He built a fine Glendale home in 1925 designed by Paul R. Williams before moving to an even larger home at 449 S. Plymouth Blvd.*

But this story has nothing to do with him. It's about what became of all his money and all his belongings after he died in 1948, leaving a widow, Laura, and an adopted teenage daughter, Patricia.

By 1957, Schlosser's 17-room Hancock Park mansion was lonely and forlorn, as the hand-carved grandfather clock ticked off the passing hours for the musty furnishings.

There were antique urns, statues and figurines everywhere, and the floors were covered with big Persian rugs. Someone must have once played the Louis XVI Steinway grand or one of the other two pianos--or maybe they fooled around on the harpsichord.

The 117-piece Steuben glassware set and the 96-piece Flora Danica Royal Copenhagen were mute testimony to the grand meals once served on the 13-piece custom dining ensemble.  Maybe someone passed the time on the Brunswick Balke pool table in the game room, where the walls were covered with polo mallets, spears, swords, daggers and a gun collection: Flintlocks, an 1873 Winchester and an 1864 Springfield.

Now there was just the two women that old place. Laura, 70, ailing and maybe disoriented, and Patricia, 25.

Under Laura's bed, there was a suitcase that supposedly contained $500,000 in cash. In the cedar chest, there was a cardboard box covered with tinfoil that held all the diamonds.

When the complicated case ended up in court, Patricia testified that Laura hit her in the eye and clawed her face. Laura yelled "Lies! Lies!"

We don't which is true, but either way, Patricia moved out July 12, 1957, after hiding about $15,000 under some boards in the bathtub of the unused bathroom off the game room. She took two fur coats and a gun.

While she was gone, she began withdrawing money on the bank accounts held jointly with her mother, claiming joint tenancy. There were bills to pay, she said, and extensive real estate holdings, including a Hollywood apartment house, to be attended to.

1961_0112_auction_2When she came back in August after what she called a short vacation, Patricia found that Laura's doctor, Vivagene A. Loop, had arranged for Arthwell C. Hayton to be appointed as Laura's guardian. Instead of anything like $500,000, there was nothing in the suitcase under the bed except a couple of hairbrushes. The box containing the jewelry was gone, as was the money hidden in the bathtub.

Patricia began court proceedings to remove Hayton as Laura's guardian. According to the testimony, Patricia, private detective Roderick Wilson and Dr. Richard Barton broke into the home and took Laura to a hospital, saying that she was unable to care for herself. Three hours later, Hayton had Laura moved to a Glendale facility.

The case became more complex. There were charges that Patricia was merely added to Laura's bank accounts for convenience, denying her claims on half the money. Testimony also revealed that most of the Schlossers' financial interests were handled by Edward Wong, who used to run a Chinese restaurant.

Other business matters were allocated to Flora M. Carter, the landlady of the Hollywood apartment house, who had been paroled after serving a sentence at the California Institution for Women in Corona for grand theft.

The court eventually convened a session at the Schlosser mansion. Laura sat on a lounge in the downstairs library while reporters prowled the home. In the end, the judge rejected Patricia's plea to remove Hayton as her mother's guardian.

And then the case evaporated. Laura died in 1961, survived by Patricia L. Schell and two grandchildren. Her obituary noted: "Guardians were appointed but suits for recovery of the funds never came to trial."

The contents of the mansion were auctioned off by order of the Superior Court, Jan. 12, 1964.

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*A Chevrolet dealer who lived on Plymouth? Only in L.A.