Testimonial #2: Eva Dugan

Introduction to Eva Dugan

Born in 1876, Mrs. Eva Dugan somehow managed to survive a hard-scrabble childhood to become an adult with few skills, and even fewer expectations. In photographs, Eva seemed to always have a tentative expression on her face, as if she were waiting for the other shoe to drop – and inevitably, it did. She had been married at sixteen, and bore two children. Eva’s husband abandoned her and the kids, so she turned to prostitution to make ends meet.

By January of 1927, Eva was in her early 50s and working in Arizona as a housekeeper for Mr. Andrew J. Mathis, a wealthy reclusive rancher. Mathis was demanding, cranky, and cheap. Mathis and Eva butted heads frequently during the two months that she was in his employ. Mathis even accused Eva of trying to poison him! An acquaintance of Mathis’ said that he’d been present when the man had finally given Eva her walking papers. Mathis had told her in no uncertain terms to leave the ranch and never return.

A few days after his friend had overheard him banishing Eva from the ranch forever, a group of Mathis’ neighbors reported him missing. The neighbors had become suspicious when Eva offered to sell them some of Mathis’ livestock. She claimed that Mathis had departed for California, and had turned all of his property over to her. A notorious tightwad, Mathis wasn’t a man who would have willingly turned over his property to a woman who’d only worked for him for a couple of months.

Not long after Mathis went missing, Eva also vanished. A search of the ranch by local authorities didn’t turn up a body, but they did find some troubling clues. An ear trumpet belonging to the hard-of-hearing Mathis was found in a small stove in the front room of the ranch. Carelessly discarded clothing and bits of automobile equipment, including a blood-stained cover for a roadster, gave cops little hope that the rancher would be found alive.

It was months before Eva was finally discovered living in White Plains, New York. Returning to Arizona to face auto theft charges, Eva was convicted. The judge sentenced her to a three to six year term in the state penitentiary.

Nearly a year after Mathis had disappeared, a camper on the property near the ranch noticed an odd depression in the soil. The camper scraped away some of the topsoil, and after a minimum of digging he unearthed the skeleton of a man. Tattered clothing and hair on the skull indicated that the body discovered in the shallow grave was that of A.J. Mathis.

Once Mathis’ body had been found, Eva had some explaining to do; however, she preferred denials to explanations. She told cops that if she had been responsible for Mathis’ death and subsequent burial, she’d have buried him deep enough so that he’d never have been found. Far from convincing, her denial sounded more like a woman trying to extricate herself from a capital murder charge than one proclaiming her innocence.

Eva finally settled on a story and stuck with it. She alleged that she’d met a young man named Jack outside of a local restaurant. The two started a conversation, and Eva told him that he could get a job on Mathis’ ranch.

Jack went directly to the ranch, where he was employed on the spot. Unfortunately, his first day on the job didn’t quite turn out the way he had planned. Maybe things would have been different if Jack had known how to handle the basics. Mathis’ took umbrage when Jack failed to milk a cow as he’d been directed. Mathis complained: “If you can’t milk a cow, what the hell are you good for?’’ Mathis struck Jack. The young man quickly recovered from the blow and hit Mathis, who fell to the ground and did not get up.

Eva insisted that she and Jack had tried unsuccessfully to revive Mathis. She also claimed that she wanted to go for aid but that Jack told her if she didn’t help him get Mathis’ body into the car so he could dispose of it, he’d leave her to face the music on her own.

Eva’s story had more than a few holes in it – the biggest one being Jack. Not everyone was convinced that the young man had ever actually existed, because only one person was ever found who could corroborate Eva’s statement.

Just as Eva was being charged with A.J. Mathis’ murder, a young dark-haired young man was confessing to a grisly child murder in Los Angeles. The young man was the infamous slayer, Edward Hickman (aka “The Fox’’). Hickman had kidnapped, murdered, and dismembered twelve year old Marion Parker.

Arizona investigators began to suspect that Hickman had been “Jack’’ in Eva’s story. Hickman stated that he’d been in Phoenix for a few days prior to Mathis’ disappearance, and that he’d also been in Kansas City during the same time that Eva said she’d dropped “Jack’’ off in that city on her way to New York.

When Eva was shown photographs of Edward Hickman, she said that she thought he and Jack were one and the same but that she wasn’t absolutely certain.

Even if Eva had been sure about the identity of Edward/Jack, LA cops were not about to allow anyone to interfere with murder charges against him. Although Hickman was never charged in the Mathis case, “The Fox’’ was hanged for Marion Parker’s murder on October 19, 1928.

Eva was tried and convicted of first degree murder and sentenced to death. The only thing that could have saved her from execution would have been a successful insanity plea. Two doctors testified that her mental state had been compromised due to the “inroads made by a disease she contracted more than 30 years ago.” Eva was syphilitic. Despite the medical testimony, a jury determined that Eva was indeed sane, and plans for her execution continued.

Because she had no wish to be buried in the prison cemetery, Eva made and sold embroidered items so that she would have enough money to pay for a proper burial. She also wired her father and asked him to send her $50 to help pay for her funeral.

As the date of her execution drew nearer, Eva asked the Warden what she should wear to her hanging. He advised her not to wear any of her best things, so the handmade, lovingly embroidered silk shroud she’d created for the occasion was set aside to be used later for her burial.

It was during the long hours leading up to her hanging that Eva was visited by Mother Benton from the Union Rescue Mission in Los Angeles. Mother Benton believed that Eva’s soul had been saved as a result of their prayers.

Eva remained stoic as she walked to the place of her execution. She even recited an ironic bit of doggerel:
“We came into this world all naked and bare; Where we are going, the Lord only knows where; If we are good fellows here; We’ll be good fellows there.’’

As it turned out, it was fortunate that Eva took the warden’s advice and didn’t wear her handmade silk shroud to the hanging. Due to a miscalculation on the executioner’s part when she fell through the trap at the end of a rope, her neck wasn’t broken; she was decapitated! Eva’s head rolled within a few feet of the 60 witnesses – all of whom fled in terror.

On February 21, 1930, Eva Dugan was the first – and last – woman to be legally hanged in the state of Arizona. Three years after the horror of Eva’s botched execution, Arizona switched from the rope to the gas chamber.

Eva Dugan’s Testimonial

Mission Mother [Mother Benton] prays with a notorious murderess in Arizona and believes god saved her soul. Apparently she remembered one hymn that she sang as a girl in sunday school and that hymn was “Shall We Gather At the River”.

Copied from LA Times Feb. 21, 1930

Poison given up by Mrs. Dugan as end nears. Slayer of employer recites doggerel and sings on death march.

Florence, Arizona. Feb. 21

Marching to her death with a firm step, and with never a show of emotion or breaking, Mrs. Eva Dugan, 52, was hanged here at 5:02am for the murder three years ago of J. H. Mathis, aged Tucson rancher, whose housekeeper she had been. To quote one of her guests, Mrs. Dugan “died like a man.”

When the trap was sprung the first impact of the knotted rope snapped Mrs. Dugan’s head from her body. She was the first woman to be legally executed in Arizona.

Collapse Expected

For use in case the woman collapsed four boards had been provided with which she was to have been strapped upright on the gallows, but they were unnecessary. Only the customary four leather straps were placed about her legs.

Given an opportunity to make a final statement as the back cap was adjusted, she merely shook her head to the negative.

Warden Wright clasped her hand.

“God bless you, Eva” he said.

“Good-by, Daddy Wright,” she said. Those were her last words.

Recites doggerel

The death march was accomplished quickly. as she walked to the execution chamber between two guards with her face set in a grim smile, Mrs. Dugan recited a bit of doggerel:

“We came into the world all naked and bare, where we are going, the lord only knows where, if we are good fellows here, we’ll be good fellows there.”

A sensation was created by the woman a short time before she was taken from the death cell when she voluntarily surrendered to her two women guards a safety razor blade and a small phial presumed to contain poison.

“Well, what do you thing it? Would your wait for the rope?” she remarked as she delivered the bottle and the keen bit of steel, indicating that she had considered cheating the gallows but had decided to let the law take its course.

Her request that she be given “one last pint of prescription whiskey” had been denied by prison authorities.

The execution was witnessed by approximately 100 persons who crowded into a small chamber that provided adequate accommodations for only 50.

Mrs. Dugan remained awake during all of her last night on earth, in company with the prison chaplain and a few friends from outside the prison and another woman prisoner.

Ignores death watch

Apparently she was unmindful of the death watch that paced firmly pack and forth outside her cell, while the hands of the clock raced toward the fatal hour when she was to pay her debt to society.

At Mrs. Dugan’s request she and her guests were served orangeade.

There was no outbursts of emotion from the doomed woman when Warden Wright and his assistants called at her cell this morning summoning her to begin the solemn death march.

She lighted a cigarette and inhaled deeply as she passed the corridor and joked with the guards as the party neared the execution chamber.

It was a leaden morning and a light rain was falling in the bit of open courtyard through which she was lead from her cell into the death house.

Sings on march

Mrs. Dugan apparently was trying to appear to be in higher spirits than any other member of the group. “I don’t know where I’m going, but I’m on my way,” she sang as she crossed the courtyard.

Two of the women guards in the party left her at the door and she affectionately kissed them a last goodbye.

“I love everyone connected with this prison,” she said. “You have all been good to me and I can’t blame you for what the law is going to do to me.”

Then she walked firmly up the 13 iron steps to the death trap, said her last farewell to the warden Wright, and in a few moments her life was a closed book.

In the small prison plot behind the frowning grey concrete walls of the penitentiary Mrs. Dugan’s body will be buried with scant ceremony at 3’o clock this afternoon, it was announced by the ward.

She will have a better coffin then those provided the State of Arizona for hanged murderers, for by her sale of bead work, and by collecting 50 cents a piece from each of her visitors in the condemned cell, Mrs. Dugan raised the money to purchase a more elaborate casket.

Mrs. Dugan left instruction to send her trunk and her few small personal belongings to a cousin at Westin, Mo.

Among numerous telegrams and letter received by Mrs. Dugan at the condemned cell was a telegram from her daughter, Mrs. cecil lovelace, new york musician.

The telegram, dated South Bend, Ind, said: “My dear Mother: Be brave. God is with you. ALl my love. I will pray for you.”

Gold Rush Tale

A hitherto unrevealed chapter in Mrs. Dugan’s life came to light last night when she received from Seattle, washington a telegram signed by Ada Hostapple. It read:

“you have my admiration and sympathy for your grit and courage in this, your hour of greatest trouble.”

Mrs. Dugan said that she and “Ada” where “pals” during the gold rush in the Yukon.

Mrs. Dugan seemed to enjoy a “kick” at a farewell “party” with newspaper men last night. She called one of them “big boy” provided by cigarettes and cigars.

A rainbow over the arizona desert sunset brought tears to her eyes last night but her stoic calm otherwise was undisturbed as during the hour this morning when she was led slowly up the steps to the end of the rope.

She ate a dozen fried oysters and two boiled eggs last night. Her oder of three T-bone streaks and two lamb chops for breakfast this morning remained untouched.

By Pacific Coast News Service

Ceres, California Feb. 21—Alone in his little cottage here, William Mcdaniels, 82 year old father of Mrs. Eva Dugan, today received the news that his daughter had been hanged in Arizona for murder.

McDaniels had given up hope that she would be saved from the gallows, but his grief was uncontrollable when word of the Florence hanging reach him.

“She was innocent of that crime,” he declared. “They have hanged an innocent woman. I don’t think she was quite right in her mind, but I know that she did not commit murder.”

Neighbors tried to comfort the aged man, but he sent them away.





Testimonial #1: Bill Stiles

Introduction to Bill Stiles

Los Angeles in 1913 was fast becoming a modern metropolis. The streets were a crazy quilt of traffic comprised of pedestrians, horses, bicycles, and automobiles. It had grown from a small pueblo of fewer than 100 residents into a city of approximately 400,000 souls – many of them in need of saving.

The Union Rescue Mission had been leading people to God in the City of the Angels since 1891. One of the tarnished souls wandering the streets of Los Angeles on the evening of October 20, 1913 wasn’t a resident, he was a visitor to the city on a mission of his own – to rob a Southern Pacific Railroad train!

The man’s name was Bill Stiles, and he was in Los Angeles with two cronies making plans for a train robbery. When he’d left his downtown hotel to roam the streets of the city he had left all of the tools of his trade, guns, high explosives, and “soup” (nitroglycerin) in a suitcase in his room. As he was strolling along Main Street he spied a cop walking in his direction. Bill had been feeling uneasy about the upcoming robbery and seeing the cop did nothing to calm his nerves. He didn’t know if he was being shadowed by the law or if it was chance, but he wasn’t about to risk his freedom – particularly since he hadn’t been out of prison for very long. He had come upon the Union Rescue Mission at 145 North Main Street and figured it was as good a place as any to shake his possible pursuer.

Bill grabbed a seat near the front of the room, seeking anonymity in the crowd of worshippers. Stiles would describe the evening later saying: “I did not hear much of the service, for my mind was upon the work for the next day.” In fact his mind was so occupied with the next day’s work that he was just about to get up and head back to his hotel room when one of the Mission’s workers approached him and asked him to give himself up to God.

Stiles told the evangelist who had invited him into the fold that he didn’t believe in God because of the horrible life he’d lived so far. As he stood up to walk out of the Mission he realized that his legs wouldn’t move! He found himself fastened to the floor by, as he would later state, “a power not of this earth”. Bill may not have known it then, but he’d just been saved.

Despite an evening of tears, prayer and confession, Stiles returned to his hotel room that night. The next day he informed his co-conspirators that he’d found God and that he was finished with his life of crime. His friends told him that he was crazy and they went off to meet their own fates – both were gunned down in separate holdups.

It was barely dawn on the day after he’d cut his old life loose forever when Bill arrived at the Union Rescue Mission. The front door was locked, so Bill began tapping on a window until Mother Benton let him in. Mother Benton was surprised to have a visitor at such an early hour, but she was even more shocked when Stiles confessed to her that the suitcase he carried with him was filled with “soup”. With Stiles in agreement Mother Benton called the cops to surrender the explosives. When the officers arrived they asked a few questions then they carried off the suitcase, leaving Stiles uncharged.

Mother Benton was stunned by the contents of Bill’s suitcase, but if she’d known then that she was talking to a man who had been considered deceased for nearly 40 years she may have collapsed on the spot.

The man in Los Angeles who was calling himself Bill Stiles was at the center of a historical controversy that continues to this day. Bill Stiles was the name of one of the bandits who had been shot down during a raid conducted by the Jesse James- Cole Younger gang on a Northfield, Minnesota bank in 1876. And the man in Los Angeles was claiming to be the Bill Stiles that had ridden with the gang to Northfield!

The identity of the dead man in Minnesota has been the cause of controversy since the day of the robbery. So, too, has the actual number of bandits involved in the raid.

The reports contemporary to the time of the Northfield raid indicate that there were eight men involved in the crime. A poem entitled “The Robber Hunt” published in the Winona Republican in September 1876 refers to eight men:

“This is the eight, that smelled the bait,
That is, the malt, that lay in the vault,
That was in the bank at Northfield”

Was there a ninth man waiting outside of town? And if there was a ninth man, who was he? Could the man in Los Angeles be an imposter with nothing more than a good tale?

The speculation and controversy over the identity of the Los Angeles Bill Stiles (dead bandit, or live Christian convert) has continued unabated for 135 years everywhere but at the Union Rescue Mission. Once the Bill Stiles who presented himself at the Mission all those years ago found a faith in God, he found the acceptance of the Mission’s congregants who had no incentive to disbelieve him. In fact everyone at the mission felt that “a wonderful change had been worked in the heart of Bill Stiles”.

In the end perhaps it’s not important to know whether the Bill Stiles in Los Angeles actually rode with Jesse James and Cole Younger or not. A man who carried around a suitcase filled with guns and nitroglycerin would be considered an outlaw by anyone’s measure, and he would certainly be viewed as a man whose soul needed saving. Whatever had held Bill Stiles’ feet to the floor at the Union Rescue Mission on that October night in 1913 was true and good, for it was said of him that he was “our faithful night watchman, alert and watching while his fellows sleep, much as he used to, only for a different purpose”.

Bill Stiles passed away on August 16, 1939. As for the veracity of Bill’s story of his outlaw days – that’s between the old cowboy and his maker.

Note: If you’d like to learn more about Bill Stiles and the ninth man controversy, I suggest that you read The Jesse James Northfield Raid : Confessions of the Ninth Man by John Koblas.

Bill Stile’s Testament

It was on the evening of October 30, 1913, in the Union Rescue Mission, 145 North Main Street, Los Angeles, California that I was arrested by the Holy Ghost and gave my heart to God.

This was the first time I had been in a church service since a small boy, nearly 44 years before.

My criminal life began when I was 14 years of age back in New York as a pickpocket. I had Christian parents and a lovely home. My father was a practicing physician. They did all they could for me but the devil got hold of me in some way, and I seemingly could not keep from doing wrong. They sent me into the country, but I did no better there. I overheard them talking of sending me aboard the Schoolship St. Mary, and then I ran away.

I drifted westward, and in 1876 joined the James’ gang with the Younger Brothers, and was with them in the Northfield Robbery. I escaped the vengeance of the law, and made my way to Omaha, Neb. I had served three terms of one year each behind prison bars. In 1900 I was convicted of a crime and sentenced to life-imprisonment. When those doors closed upon me it was terrible; no one can know my feelings but those who have passed through such an experience. It was a life of torture; a living death.

On the 19th day of March, 1913, I got my release from prison, and friends took me to the state of Washington, where I found employment in a lumber town. I did not like it, however, and soon found a friend who gave me work for two months; but when he came to me one day and said that he could not employ me longer, I knew my past had been revealed, and became discouraged. At last I gave up trying to be good! I found it impossible, and determined to go back into my old life of crime. I knew it meant death to me, so I began to prepare for what I knew in the end would be the taking of life before they would get me. I was desperate, and once more the old outlaw spirit was upon me and I was becoming a demon at heart. I went to Tacoma and Seattle and looked up some of my old pals – men who did not care for their lives. With them I planned to go back into my old work of train robbing.

I came to Los Angeles on the 19th day of July, 1913, and began to look up this country, both along the Santa Fe and Southern Pacific railroads, preparatory to “striking” and then striking again. I went into the mountains for a month, in the vicinity of what is now known as Pisgah Grade, and drew my maps and laid my plans. I came back into the city and put my men (as they had bad records and were wanted by the police) in hiding. The night before the intended robbery I walked down Main Street, thinking over my plans and the course mapped out, when I found myself in front of a mission. Just then I saw a policeman coming down the street and naturally feeling suspicious, I stepped inside to avoid him and walked way up front.

I did not hear much of the service, for my mind was upon the work for the next day. I felt a little uneasy, for I had left my suitcase in my room, and in it some of the “soup” (nitroglycerine), some high explosives, and my guns. I had everything ready and so far my plans had gone smoothly; but as I say, I felt worried, and was just getting up to leave when one of the workers came to me and asked me to give myself up to God. The life I had lived did not allow me to believe in a God. I do not remember his reply, for when I attempted to get up I had no control over my legs. I do not know what you think, but I know my legs were fastened to that floor by a power not of this earth. I kept trying to get up, when a woman came and sat down beside me, and urged me to go up to the altar. I listened to her pleadings for a time and then consented to go, thinking it would do me no harm anyway. What seemed so strange to me was that I did not have any power to resist. It was not the woman, for I had been a woman-hater since my early life; it was the power of God. As soon as I gave my consent my legs were released, and I went up and knelt at the altar. I heard them praying, and a strange feeling came over me. It seemed as though something in my heart was loosening up, and I began to feel happy; then a warm light came from above and made my whole body burn. How sorry I began to feel for my past life of crime! I could not keep back the tears – tears of real repentance. I heard them tell me to repeat a prayer, but I had found the Lord before that. Oh, what a joy came into my heart!

I went out of the mission knowing that first real joy and happiness in the Lord, for I was conscious that my sins were forgiven. I could not go to bed for joy, but walked the streets for hours. I forgot all about the train robbery I had planned for the next day; forgot the suitcase and guns. Next morning after my conversion, I told my companions what I had done and they said I was nutty. I told them if I was, I hoped God would give me more. I then separated from my old pals and they went their way. I am sorry to say that two of them have paid the death penalty already – one was killed in a raid in the north, and the other in Arizona. For a number of days I sat in the mission. I was happy – happy for the first time in my life. Finally I began to come to myself and to think about the law, knowing that I was liable to be arrested, for I had revealed my past life. I thought about going away, but was held from doing so by a feeling of love that seemed to draw me closer and closer: and such a delight was in my heart and soul that I knew I was in the presence of God’s Spirit. I was experiencing the greatest joy I had ever known, and the peace of God flooded my soul. I kept getting happier and happier until it seemed as though I loved everybody and everybody loved me. I knew no evil, nor thought no evil – I was “A new creature in Christ Jesus.”

That heart of mine was as hard as stone; nothing had ever melted it, and my soul was black with many a crime, but the Lord took me and washed me as white as wool. There is nothing but the power of God that can take the wickedness of life out, and keep it out. During all my life I had walked in the valleys and through dark paths, until up from the depths below He lifted me out – of darkness into His marvelous light. I know that a man who has lived the life that I have can never reform, but through the power of God he can be transformed and given a new nature; it’s the birth of a new spirit. I would not take the whole world for the joy the Lord gives me.

I broke my mother’s heart, and sent her to her grave in disgrace. A dear old father and sisters and brothers have all passed away, and their last thoughts were of me. I think I can see them now, their faces shining with the glory of God as they look down upon me from the glory-world beyond the skies, and rejoice, for “He that was dead is alive again, and he that was lost is found.” Now in place of carrying guns to destroy life, I carry the Word of God that gives life – eternal life.

There is no such thing as reformation for one like me. It takes the power of the Blood of Jesus Christ to blot out transgression and clean one up. Nothing else can take away our sinful appetites and set us free from the power of the evil. He that is free in Christ Jesus is free indeed.

“Wherefore He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them.” (Heb. 7:25) The promise has been made and stands sure, but you can sit there until doomsday and it will profit you nothing until you come. Six hundred and forty-two times in His Word, God has invited men to come. “Whosoever will may come.” The “whosoever” covers every man, but the “will” may leave some of you out. “Whosoever will may come.”

I have had repeated offers to go back into the old life since my conversion. Men have even offered to supply the money for necessary outfit or equipment. But it was the strength that I got from God alone that helped me to stand.

[Signed] XXXXX

Note: After twenty-four years of a victorious life Bill Stiles recently passed to his eternal reward. His friends who were present the night he was saved and knew him intimately all during his Christian life, witness to the fact that he served his Heavenly Father faithfully to the end. – Ed.
March, 1937



Goodness Gracious – She’s a Ball of Fire!

I learned to love all of Hollywood money
You came along and you moved me honey
I changed my mind, looking fine
Goodness gracious great balls of fire – Jerry Lee Lewis


Betty Rowland, the Red-headed Ball of Fire (aka the Rhode Island red-head) was a force to be reckoned with during the heyday of burlesque.  She had a stage presence that belied her diminutive stature and she was the highest paid dancer in her field.


Betty was only in her teens when she began dancing professionally at Minsky’s in New York. Burlesque houses thrived in NYC during the early 1930s, but by 1935 citizens groups were trying to close them, and Mayor LaGuardia had deemed burlesque a “corrupting moral influence”.  The city’s licensing commission tried pull Minksy’s license, but the State Court of Appeals refused to do so without a criminal conviction.  In 1937 the mayor and the citizen’s groups finally got the break they’d been waiting for when a stripper at Minsky’s was discovered to be working without her G-string. That was enough for criminal charges to be filed, and Abe Minsky’s license was revoked.  Minsky’s was the first domino to fall.  New licensing regulations would allow the burlesque houses to remain in business, as long as they didn’t employ strippers! 


The death of burlesque in New York was probably one of the reasons why, in May of 1938, Betty and her troupe opened in Los Angeles at the Follies Theater on Main Street. It was supposed to be a limited engagement, but L.A. audiences loved Betty and she would continue to perform at the Follies for most of her long and successful career.


In August of this year I was fortunate enough to meet Miss Rowland – she was special guest on Esotouric’s “Hotel Horrors and Main Street Vice” tour. She was absolutely delightful! Vivacious, and still sporting her famously red hair, I found her to be a very classy dame indeed.


There are so many great stories about Betty that it was tough for me to keep my questions to a minimum. But the one tale that I was most curious about was her arrest in 1952 for giving a lewd performance.  It struck me as strange that after working in Los Angeles for about 15 years (with only one misdemeanor arrest in 1939) her act was suddenly considered to be lewd.  I knew there had to be more to the story, and there was.


Betty said that one night two LAPD cops arrived at the Follies expecting to get a free pass, but theater manager Maurice Rosen was firm – no freebies.  In retaliation, cops hauled Betty and Rosen off to the Lincoln Heights jail!


On November 14, 1952, Maurice and Betty would each be sentenced to four months in the slammer; however, a few weeks later the Los Angeles Times reported that Judge Walters had modified Betty’s sentence – in part because her attorney had said that Betty was quitting show business to open a perfume store in Beverly Hills with her sister Rose Zelle.


Of his decision to release Betty, Walters said: “The value of incarceration seems to have made its effective marks.”  Jail had undoubtedly made an impression on Betty; she said that it was a horrible experience.  The true story of Betty’s premature release from jail never made it into the newspapers. From what Betty said, it had been strongly “suggested” to her that if she paid a fine something might be done about reducing her sentence.  According to Betty it was a substantial amount of cash placed in the right hands (and not the Judge’s soft heart) that resulted in her release from City Jail.


If you’d like to see Betty in action, you can view a video clip of one of her performances on YouTube.  You are in for a treat.

Dance Hall Siren

In ancient times, the Greeks wrote of three beautiful Sirens – women who were part bird and part woman, and who lived only to seduce sailors with their haunting songs.Sailors who charted a course near islands inhabited by the Sirens were inevitably shipwrecked, their vessels smashed to bits on nearby rocky shores.

In modern times, Sirens were more likely to inhabit a bar stool than an island. The unlucky sailor who fell for a modern Siren may not have been literally dashed to bits, but he would suffer a similar symbolic fate – a broken heart.

Dominga Villa, a young sailor from the Philippines, first laid eyes on Emma Hanmore in a Main Street dance hall. Emma danced her way into Dominga’s affections, and then slipped a greedy hand into his wallet. The lovesick sailor lavished the dancer with gifts and cash until he was tapped out.“She broke me,” he said. “I love her. I give my life for her but she just fool me and then say bah, she not want me.”

After turning up unannounced at Emma’s apartment with the last of his cash, Dominga was crushed when he saw another man’s clothes draped over a chair. He demanded an explanation, apparently not realizing that what he’d bought and paid for was Emma’s time and the pretense of a relationship, not her love. Perhaps her secret heart wasn’t for sale, or maybe the man’s clothing in her apartment belonged to another in a long line of suckers.

Emma was able to divert Dominga’s attention from the mystery man’s clothes in her apartment by agreeing to meet him at the dance hall that evening.They later returned to Dominga’s hotel room, where Emma told him that she was finished with him.

Dominga was shattered — his love had been abused. Even worse, the woman didn’t show any remorse for having played him. In fact, she sardonically sang him a love song, and laughing, prepared to walk out of his life. Dominga later recalled “I went mad”, pulling out a pistol and gunning Emma down.He then turned the weapon on himself but was only injured, and lived to tell his story in court.  

The Drinks Are On Me!

 Andrew McLemore was feeling generous as he entered the Waldorf Bar at 527 S. Main Street. His pockets were stuffed with $896 in cash. That kind of coin can burn a hole in a man’s pocket, so Andrew ponied up enough bread to buy drinks for himself, and for everyone else in the house!  

The affable benefactor would likely have continued his largess, if he hadn’t been interrupted by the cops. It seems that he hadn’t actually earned the money – in fact he’d just robbed Lloyd’s Bank, one block over at 548 S. Spring St. One of the tellers had trailed Andrew to the bar, and then flagged down a passing police car. 

Andrew may have been acting on a generous impulse when he bought drinks for Waldorf’s barflies, but the law was unimpressed. He was handcuffed and hauled off to the slammer. 

Note to Andrew: No good deed goes unpunished.

Pass Me a Napkin, or I’ll Shoot!

Ex-convict Ray Davis, 31, was seated at the counter of a café at 456 South Main Street, when he realized that the napkins were just out of reach. He asked the man next to him, Bob Sahagain, a 21 year old Sioux, to please pass him a napkin. Bob chuckled, saying “I can’t”, then turned away from Ray to continue his conversation with a friend.

Ray thought that Bob was being rude and asked him once again to hand over a napkin. Bob turned to him, laughed, and repeated that he couldn’t do it. Maybe it was a case of diner rage, or perhaps Ray was flashing back to his prison days, taking his meals in a crowded mess hall, where manners were an artifact of a society too far removed. Whether they were past, or present, the demons in Ray’s head prompted him to pull out a .25 caliber pistol and shoot the young man in the back.  

What Ray had failed to notice about Bob was that he was totally blind – he had two glass eyes! The patrons of the café decided that if anyone needed to be taught a lesson about etiquette, it was Ray. Surely shooting someone at the dining counter of an SRO Land café could be considered the height of bad manners. A small mob formed immediately following the gun play. Ray was soon disarmed and the patrons began to beat him, breaking his jaw. They continued to beat him until the cops arrived and ended the confrontation.  

Bob was reported to be in fair condition at General Hospital.Ray was booked at Central Jail on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon with intent to commit murder.  

I think I’ll have dinner at home tonight.  

The Needle and the Damage Done

I’ve seen the needle and the damage done
A little part of it in everyone
But every junkie’s like a settin’ sun.”  — Neil Young

Morphine may have been legal in 1910, but it wasn’t being distributed for free. If you were an addict, you’d still have had to find the money to pay for your drug of choice. Faced with the difficulty of obtaining the necessary funds, one creative Angelino devised an unusual plan.

The unidentified hophead spun an imaginative tale to the managers of several local plumbing establishments. He told the gullible men that he was representing a medical institute, explaining that it was headed by a New York physician who was planning to occupy an entire floor of the Alexandria Hotel!

According to the man, the doctor hadn’t yet spoken with the management of the Alexandria; however, he had been engaged to find a plumbing company that could handle the installation of several very large and extremely heavy bathtubs.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the “glib tongued drugster” then produced plans which called for the placement of the tubs, which were eight feet long, six feet wide, made of lead-lined iron, and described as “big enough to hold a dray horse”.

 Blinded by visions of a job worth at least one thousand dollars ($24,049.74 current USD) and some priceless publicity, the plumbers didn’t look too closely at the man who was pitching such a sweet deal. And they also never questioned the absurdity of operating a medical institute in the Alexandria Hotel! If they’d paid attention, they’d have seen what Mr. J.A. Hooser (of Hooser & Buchanan, 1302 South Main Street) ultimately observed.

Mr. Hooser admitted that he’d initially believed the man’s story. He told a reporter that “I fell for the song. He was a clean-cut fellow enough, and fairly well dressed, as far as I saw…but when he was on his way out, I noticed that the coat tails he wore were a bit frayed and that his shoes were laced with twine.” Mr. Hooser went on to say: “Right there I did not think much of the job and scolded myself for wasting time with a crank. But the next day I found out that this same fellow borrowed a two dollar tape from the shop after showing my tinner his arm full of hypodermic needle marks to prove that his New York doctor had cured him.”

Apparently the man had run the same scam all over town, “borrowing” tape from Hooser’s shop, tools from another – all of which he then sold for drug money.

Maybe the anonymous drugster should have used his ill-gotten gains and visited one of the many doctors in SRO Land who claimed to treat addiction. But then, the treatment that they used may have done more harm than good.At that time one of the most aggressively marketed treatments for morphine addiction was heroin!

Ironically, heroin (a derivative of morphine first successfully synthesized in 1897 by the Bayer Company) was thought to be a non-addictive substitute for morphine. Bayer’s intentions may have been good; but we all know what the road to hell is paved with.

Can a company seek redemption? If so, maybe Bayer has already been forgiven. Around the same time that they launched heroin, Bayer introduced another drug that would have an enormous impact on the world – aspirin.

Marion Dayar…Detective

Marion Dayar, a twenty-three year old nightclub entertainer, was severely beaten by a brick bat wielding assailant in her Bixel Street apartment on May 20, 1939.  Marion vowed that she would find her attacker if it took the rest of her life. It wouldn’t take her that long.

Marion became an amateur detective; and for a few weeks she staked out local bars keeping her eyes peeled for the man whose face was seared into her memory.

I admire Marion’s pluck. Maybe she had been inspired by the famed girl detective, Nancy Drew. The series of novels debuted in 1930 and chronicled the exploits of the feisty young snoop as she solved cases that baffled mere adults. Or maybe Marion had decided to conduct her own investigation after seeing one of the filmed versions of the Nancy Drew tales which, starring Bonita Granville, debuted in theaters in 1938.

Marion Dayar

No matter what her inspiration, Marion’s quest for her assailant paid off when she spotted Tossie R. Bull.  She immediately recognized Bull, a dishwasher at a café located at 527 S. Main Street, as the brute who had invaded her apartment and beaten her senseless.  Marion didn’t hesitate; she telephoned the cops and informed them that she was holding the suspect at the café.  And so the “Case of the Violent Dishwasher” came to a successful conclusion.

This Is My Weapon, This Is My Gun…


Before it became home to B-girls in the 1950s, 513 South Main Street was the location of a shooting gallery.  I have never understood what would compel a person to open a business that involved handing a stranger a loaded weapon.   There’s just no way to tell if the person on the firing end of the rifle is depressed or angry until it is too late.

On December 2, 1939 a patron of the shooting gallery used his last quarter to buy six shots. He fired five times at the moving targets before he turned the weapon on himself and fired the remaining slug into his heart. He died at the scene.

It was December 14, 1940 when Duncan Adams, 37, an employee at a local dairy, strode up to the gallery, gave the clerk a quarter,  and started to pick off targets shaped like furry little squirrels. He emptied the rifle, but then reached over and grabbed a .22 caliber target pistol and squeezed the trigger. The gun misfired, but before any of the witnesses could stop the man he frantically pulled the trigger until the sixth chamber clicked into place and discharged a bullet which ripped a hole through his skull. He died four hours later at Georgia Street Receiving Hospital.

The last tale in this grim litany occurred on September 23, 1942. In exchange for the usual quarter, Thomas Nelson, the proprietor of the shooting gallery, handed 22 year old Willie Davis a rifle. Nelson said that Davis had attempted to steal the rifle, so he grabbed another weapon and pursued him down Main Street. Davis claimed that Nelson had tried to fight with him after renting him the rifle and he was just trying to get away. 

In any case the ensuing gunfight sent bystanders fleeing for cover, and tied up traffic along the busy street for at least twenty minutes.  Both Nelson and Davis were seriously wounded. Also wounded in the melee was John Hagen, an innocent bystander, who was seated at the counter of a nearby café. Hagen was shot through the right forearm. 

The B-girls who eventually replaced the rifles at 513 South Main Street could be dangerous when loaded; but perhaps less likely to kill.


Jesus Was No Slacker

On August 18, 1918 a joint raid conducted by officers of the LAPD and agents of the Department of Justice netted over 350 “slacker” suspects in downtown pool and dance halls.  Seventy-five men were busted in Carl F. Horn’s Dance Pavilion at 755 South Spring Street alone.

What was a slacker? The term referred to men who had refused to register for military service following the United States’ entry into World War I.  The U.S. may have been reluctant to enter the fray in Europe, but once it did on June 15, 1917, it did so with a vengeance.

Raids such as the one downtown became commonplace all over the country. Hardly a day went by when there wasn’t a story about slackers being apprehended and imprisoned. Many men fled to Canada, and hundreds of Southern Californians crossed the border into Mexico to avoid becoming cannon fodder.

Stories about the men who fled rather than fight were vitriolic at best and incendiary at worst. One headline in particular caught my eye: “Jesus Was No Slacker”.  The author, Harold Bell Wright, stated that: “The man of Galilee was no slacker. From his cradle to his cross, from Bethlehem to Calvary, he was a man’s man, a man of the people and for the people.”

The order of the day was to make arrests first, vindicate later. As a result of such a draconian policy many hundreds of innocent men were dragged off to jail and through the courts on a presumption of guilt. It would be up to the arrested man to prove that he had indeed registered for military service.

The largest of the local slacker raids was conducted in October 1918. Over 650 men were yanked out of nearly every bar, dance hall, pool hall and theater in SRO Land: the Hippodrome, Grauman’s, Tally’s, Orpheum, Pantages, Quinn’s, and dozens of other venues. The LA Times reported the names of many of the men arrested were not slackers at all.

By any reasonable measure the raids were a resounding failure; yet they continued for the duration of the war.