A Rubbish King’s Last Stand

They called Hamayag Saroyan the rubbish king, and like any king, he was jealous of his subjects. When a restaurant canceled his hauling contract, King Hamayag left his Montebello castle and went to Main Street to stake out the place and learn what other potentate dared to pick up his trash.

His majesty, 64, stood watching from a parking lot next to the Jeffries Banknote Co. at 117 Winston Street, just one more set of eyes in the naked city. Then suddenly a man broke away from the crowd, brushed against Saroyan, and left him reeling. The old man cried out, and stumbled across the narrow street, then up the steps of a coffee shop at 128 Winston Street. He looked around at a room full of strangers and croaked, “Help me! I’m hurt. A Negro did it.” Then he fell, dead from two knife wounds in the heart, $49 in his pockets.

Witnesses saw a black man running east on Winston, and said he’d first taken off and neatly folded his bloody coat. Someone gave chase, but lost the fleeing man near 5th and Wall. A month later, J. H. Knox, wanted for a New Orleans stabbing, was picked up on suspicion when he left his Wall Street hotel room for a smoke. But witnesses didn’t think he was the regicide, so cops shipped him back to Louisiana to face justice there.

Hamyag Saroyan’s slaying would go unsolved, and authorities declined to use it as a reason to reopen their year-old grand jury investigation into allegations of a rubbish war between rival contractors.

Those 1955 public hearings, held by Mayor Norris Poulson, had spread some pretty stinky stuff around City Hall, including allegations that large garbage collection agencies were conspiring with dump owners and Teamsters to freeze out independent operators. Trash collectors had to join “the combine” (their local rubbish union plus the Teamsters’ union) or be forced out of business.

One such small fry was William C. Crowder, who picked up 1250 San Fernando Valley customers by offering attractive trash bins with a built-in deodorizer—housewives loved them. But dumps began refusing his loads after he objected to the local union demanding half of his customers as a tithe, and Crowder had to drive all over L.A. until he found a cooperative dump. Then there was Sadie Olive Frank, another Valley trash collector, who testified about harassment, vanishing bins, and sugar in her truck’s gas tank. But it wasn’t just sheeny men who had to toe the line: businesses that hired non-union trash haulers were threatened with picket lines.

Ultimately, Teamsters secretary-treasurer Frank Matula, called the “czar” of west coast trash, was sentenced to prison for his perjured testimony about the rubbish racket he headed. His pal Jimmy Hoffa gave him the going-to-jail present of naming him one of three international trustees of the union, a poke in the eye to the Feds. And Mayor Poulson, stunned by the magnitude of the fraud, ordered his staff to begin work on developing a municipal trash service, which would dump in city-owned ravines.

Muse on all this next time you’re about to complain about the size of your L.A. city trash collection bill.

Dr. and Mrs. White Are “At-Home” To Guests

Los Angeles in the 1890s was a city rife with vice. For every respectable young woman safe in her father’s mansion on Bunker Hill, there were uncounted hussies parked in the cribs of old Chinatown, providing comfort, company and contagion for a price.

It was no surprise that fraternizing with loose women could result in a venereal disease. Sporting men had paid the drippy price for centuries. Various preventatives and cures of dubious efficacy circulated by word of mouth, and in the coded advertisements that financed Colonel Otis’ empire. Afflicted, a man would submit to cures that could be worse than the disease, suspending disbelief as genial quacks dispensed toxic mercury, arsenic and irritating salves. A man could make a good living catering to the anxieties of men who visited prostitutes. Some of them weren’t even sick, though ironically, these fantasists were among the most difficult to cure.

It was October 5, 1889 when the eager ears of L.A.’s gossips cocked to take in information about a troubled pair, the unfortunate Mrs. Dr. Plato Marcus White and her errant mate, a doctor specializing in victims of love. The lady arrived from San Francisco after receiving a letter from her husband, who had she groused used her money to take offices at 31 North Main Street in March, and who had only allowed his wife brief visits in Los Angeles since. He always was “in quite a stew to get rid of her” and she came to believe he had another woman, if not women, in his life.

Whatever the circumstances of their estrangement, Dr. White sent the lady a letter saying he would not live with her again, and she fairly flew down the coast to confront him. She arrived on Saturday night, and not finding Plato in his office, went straight to the police and demanded they send out search parties. She was humored; Plato stayed lost. The lady then searched his office, and found two mash notes shoved under the door from one Minnie Westfield, of the Bumiller block on North Spring Street, site of a rooming house frequented by many noisy young ladies. Off went Mrs. White on a strumpet hunt, but she was directed to the wrong room, and retired to the doctor’s office to wait him out.

The good doctor was a valuable member of early Los Angeles society, offering as he did discrete and purportedly effective treatment against the many unfortunate after effects of youthful and aged debauchery. And further, he promised that his nostrums were less toxic than those of his peers. There would be no mercury, sandalwood oil or spicy cubebs for Dr. White’s patients.

In January 1890, operating out of rooms at No. 6 San Pedro Street (parlors 1 and 2), Dr. White placed the most explicit ad of his career, as an experiment which he did not repeat. For young men, he promised treatment for such “youthful follies… as Mental Debility, Depression of Spirits, Gloominess, Love of Solitude, Despondency, Timidity, Seminal Weakness in all its stages, Pimples on the face, Noises in the Head, Dimness of Vision, Palpitation of the Heart, Wakefulness, Weakness of the Back, Premature Decline, and many diseases which lead to insanity and death.” For the middle aged “who are afflicted with Syphilis – in all its horrible forms – a disease which, if neglected or improperly treated, curses the present and future generations—Ulcers. Sore Throat. Bone Pains. Specific Blood and Skin Troubles. Gonorrhoea, Gleet and Stricture; or who suffer from Nervous Debility, Exhausting Drains upon the Fountains of Life, Excesses, Premature Loss of Manhood, Impotency, or any private disease of Sexual or Urinary Organs should secure Dr. White’s services… an early call or a friendly letter may save future suffering and shame and add golden years to life.”

Ordinarily, such blatant language was not necessary. Men knew how to read the classified section, and well understood what was being offered when the headline read “Disorders of Men” and the small print promised “no mercury.”

Could Dr. White really offer a cure? The first true anti-syphilitic agent, Salvarsan, was not discovered until 1908. But centuries of experimentation had produced numerous substances that could alleviate symptoms and soothe worry. We don’t know if Dr. White was a quack or true healer. It may be enough that he provided that most effective nostrom: peace of mind.

But whatever the quality of his care, later in October the Times published further information on his marital maladies. Mrs. White was still camped out in the doctor’s Main Street office, but the “frisky” doc continued to elude her. But she could be appeased somewhat to know that he was thinking of her, having communicated with the San Francisco Examiner, which too had been reporting on his conjugal woes. For that paper, he delineated the circumstances of their San Bernardino courtship, when he had married the lady to keep her from making good on a suicide threat. He took issue with the Examiner’s apparent description of Her Vexedness as “a charming graduate of an eastern medical college” when she was rather a practitioner of “magnet healing” and further, a decrepit 45 years old.

As for the wife, she believed the material in the San Francisco paper was meant to trick her into rushing back to look for the doctor in that city, but she would not be fooled. She already knew that his mail went to a lawyer in the Phillips Block (above), and that a Spanish woman who wore goggles visited that office daily. She believed this mysterious figure was picking up the doctor’s mail, and after having her followed, knew this woman then took Temple Street to Beaudry and went south.

The doctor’s wife had many thoughts about the women in his life. Of Minnie Westfield, author of the semi-literate love notes, she mused “he’s dodging her, too. He must have not less than three women on the string here. The one who signs herself Westfield is named Minnie or Mary Green, and she used to be employed as a servant at the Winona, a boarding-house on Temple Street. I have seen here at the Doctor’s office, and I saw her passing up and down the street today looking up at the window, then she came and peeped into the hall and went away. There is another woman—a little woman—who came here the other day and inquired for the Doctor, and gave such a lame excuse, together with a fictitious address, that I am confident she is one of Dr. White’s victims also. I tell you, Dr. White is no gentleman!” If he would only come to her and be honest about his heart, she would give him up in a second. But, she warned, “if the Doctor don’t come to me and act like a man, I will follow him to the end of the earth.”
On October 26, 1889, the Times reported that Dr. White had come out of hiding and agreed to speak with his wife. Afterwards, he became convinced she was going to kill him, and asked police for protection. He then spent the night of October 24 in Evergreen Cemetery, sitting on his first wife’s grave and fingering a pistol, but he decided not to kill himself. Instead, he went back to his living wife, and announced that the two of them would be “at home” should any daring or morbidly curious friends wish to pay a visit.

In December 1889, the Whites’ marital miasma again reached public ears when Mrs. White, confined to a bed in her husband’s new offices at number 6 San Pedro Street, sent word to police that she had been deserted, was destitute and needed help. Soon a reporter from the Times was on hand to take down all the dirt.

Mrs. White told a tale of brutality, fraud and neglect. Her immediate problems began, she wheezed, when she drank a dram of wine from the decanter on Plato’s dresser, wine that he made no move to share. Immediately after, she was taken sick, her husband left, and now she believed she might starve because her throat was so sore. Sore throat or no, she rambled on about her husband’s medical expertise, in magnetic healing. Why, did you know the whole thing was a fraud? And that Plato loved another woman and had probably poisoned his spouse so he would be free to stray? Her plan, if he did not return with some money, was to formally charge him with desertion and see him behind bars.

In January 1890, Dr. White appeared in a police station seeking a chaperone for a meeting with his surly misses, but was informed that cops weren’t available to baby sit. And then, silence. We can only assume the Whites worked out their differences, for Mrs. White was unlikely to keep quiet otherwise.

Then someone, perhaps a disgruntled patient, must have reported Dr. White’s activities to the Health Department, for in July 1893 he was called to answer to their Board on discrepancies between the State certificate he had shown when registering in the city, and the type of medicine he was practicing. The only result of the hearing was that the State Board was to be notified about him. Later, reporters cleared from the room and the doctor’s wife was quizzed about her qualifications as a midwife, then allowed to leave.

Dr. White, sensing things were getting a little hot in the old pueblo, took a trip to Hawaii, returning in September to provide an interview about his adventures. The resulting puff piece, coming on the heels of so much prurient reporting, says much about the journalistic ethics of the early Los Angeles Times, and quite a bit about our friend White.

He was described, vaguely if not entirely inaccurately, as a “noted specialist of this city.” His report included a call for the United States to annex the islands (which he said most intelligent Hawaiian also desired), a claim that he had been welcomed by the medical professionals and received with honors by the Board of Health and quarantine station, his opinion that leprosy was incurable, and a litany of his purported credentials: graduation from the Medical College of Ohio (Cincinnati) and certificates from Indiana, New York and California.

Further, “he is the oldest and most firmly established specialist in Southern California, if not, indeed, the state. Dr. White treats exclusively nervous, special and chronic diseases. He has splendidly furnished and equipped office at No. 128 North Main Street, in the New McDonald Block. These offices contain all modern improvements and conveniences for the use of his patients, including electric lights, etc. He also possesses a splendid medical laboratory and many rare anatomical specimens… Dr. White’s patients are generally of the better class of citizens. His business is conducted in an open and above-board manner, and is, therefore, in striking contrast to that charlatan and carpet-bag lot of quacks who often make their advent into the community only to fleece and entrap the unwary. No sooner have they made their ‘stake,’ than they are found moving on to other places where their reputations are unknown.” We also learn that he does a booming trade practicing medicine by mail.

By February 1900, fourteen years after he hung out his L.A. shingle, Dr. White was advertising his practice as being exclusively for the benefit of male patients–and can you blame him? He also claimed to have no partners, and to no longer be found at No. 128 North Main, suggesting that perhaps his wife or some other person had usurped that august practice. Dr. White was now easily found at No. 114.

Perhaps his wife had revived the work with which she supported herself in San Francisco. White quickly moved back into the old offices, and changed his ads to read DR. WHITE & CO., but the writing was on the wall: his life was still chaotic.

As for the marriage? It limped along until April 1902, when Mrs. White (whose name we learn, only at this late date, was Florence L.), filed for a divorce from Plato. It was granted in May, and in November he filed for bankruptcy (with debts of $2051.60 and assets of $850.75), in part because he could or would not pay her $4 weekly support. Among his other debtors: most of the city’s newspapers, in whose classified columns he sought his patients. For nearly three years we hear no more of from Dr. White, who, however hard it was to live with her, seems to have owed his success to the aid of his helpmeet Florence.

And then, after dozens of ads touting his medical services, this final notice was placed in the Times on December 10, 1904:

Dr. White’s sad end was reported in the Southern California Practitioner:

He was soon forgotten, and other doctors took his place. We will see more of them In SRO Land, but a tender spot shall remain in our most tender places for our friend, weird Dr. White.

Image credits: ads and headlines from the historic Los Angeles Times via ProQuest, McDonald Block litho and Philips Block photograph from the USC Collection, McDonald Block photograph from the LAPL Collection.

Miser’s Death leaves Mysteries

Who was this hermit, the man who lived in the woodshed in the backyard of 651 South Main Street? Was he Joe Albrecht, waiter at Warner’s 5-cent restaurant, or Joe Miller, the delivery-man, or Joseph Albrecht Jr., well-born denizen of San Francisco society? Whatever his legal name, Joe lived like a pauper but died a seemingly wealthy man, with at least a thousand dollars in three bank accounts and copious mining stocks of incalcuable value. He also left behind volumes of poetry, love letters, and the beginning of what might have been his autobiography, the story of a man born to a noble and wealthy family, but so hideous of countenance, so distorted and dwarf-like, that he is shunned by his family and brought up by an old and childless woman who takes pity on him. His neighbors reported old Joe had told them he had frequented, just two years before, such fashionable San Francisco clubs as the Olympic and the California, that he was a writer of romance and poetry, a member of good standing in society up north, and that he had lost all his fortune in speculation in mines and real estate. He told one friend that he was hoarding money with the goal of regaining his position in respectable society. One of his many vocations was dealing in junk, which explains why the woodshed appeared to serve double duty as a storage facility. Mysterious Miser The Miser’s “Old Curiousity Shop” Illustration courtesy ProQuest Historical Newspapers Los Angeles Times Joe’s collection included antique buttons, cords of wood, outdated encyclopedias and newspapers of all kinds, faded summer parasols, piles of old tobacco, boxes of discarded salve bottles, matting, broken clocks and curtain rings. Joe’s carthorse shared the premises as well. The horse’s stable was somewhat insulated from the elements, but Joe chose to forgo expense in his own quarters, the whole front wall of which was constructed of the same latticework one would use in a chicken coop. The last few days in Los Angeles in February had turned unseasonably and brutally cold. The old man had tried to insulate his bedchamber with newspaper. It is likely the cause of death was exposure.

Honestly, I am Stabbed

601 S MAIN_STABBING_HEADLINE What would you do if you were waiting at a downtown bus depot and a woman suddenly started shouting that she’d been stabbed? Would you rush to her aid, or would you assume that she’s just another SRO Land eccentric and ignore her? On September 28, 1948 thirty-nine year old Miss Essie Lee Mitchell of Oceanside was waiting in the lounge of the Santa Fe Trailways bus depot at 601 S. Main Street. She was unaware that she’d been followed, so she was shocked when a young man walked up to her, thrust a knife into her ribs, and demanded money. Because it was a crowded terminal, and presumably help was at hand, Essie began to scream hysterically. Rather than immediately taking flight Essie’s attacker stabbed her, and then he took off. 601 S MAIN Essie rushed out of the lounge shrieking “stop the man”, but her entreaties were completely ignored by onlookers. The injured woman couldn’t believe it. What the heck was the matter with everyone – didn’t they hear her? Why didn’t anyone step up to assist her? Maybe a visual aid would get someone’s attention. Essie pulled open her coat and shouted “Honestly, I am stabbed – look at the blood”. Help was forthcoming at last; cops apprehended eighteen year old Raul Portillo and booked him on a charge of attempted murder.

Neck Gazing at the Count Dracula Society Awards

Awards shows come and go. One awards show that has endured to this day was originally staged by The Count Dracula Society, a non profit group devoted to the serious study of horror films and Gothic literature. Vampires do outlive the rest of us. In fact they just held their 2009 awards on June 24th at the Castaways in Burbank although the emphasis shifted back in the mid 1970’s when it became known as “The Saturn Awards” for The Academy of Science Fiction Fantasy and Horror Films. In its early formative years from 1972-1974 when Count Dracula was still the society’s namesake, what were then known as the “Ann B. Radcliffe Awards” were held at the Alexandria Hotel. 15 Paparazzi in front of certificates A Paparazzi in front of giant bat and the awards certificates. I attended the ceremonies on April 20, 1972 and April 7, 1973 when my dad received special awards including a bat pin and a certificate. As you might imagine the event had more than its share of eccentricity. The lady receiving guests at the entrance to the ballroom, sported fangs. Rich Correll son of Charles Correll of the famed blackface team of Amos and Andy performed a spot on high pitched nasally impersonation of the Count Dracula Society’s founder Dr. Donald A. Reed (profiled below), Larry Vincent, a.k.a. “Seymour: of Fright Night TV fame on KHJ served as Master of Ceremonies one year and referred to the Alexandria’s ornate glass ceiling by saying, “Welcome to the Poseidon.” The movie “The Poseidon Adventure” had just been released. The crowd got a double dose of my dad’s antics first with a screening of his cartoon, “Beany and Cecil Meet the Invisible Man” and its horror-ific puns. Later he put on his Cecil the Sea Sick Sea Serpent hand puppet when he accepted his award. As a movie buff I have to say that forgiving all that wackiness, the event was one classy tip of the hat to the era of bygone glamour. 16 Fantasy Film legend, George Pal Fantasy Film Legend, George Pal accepting his award. The two years have blended together in my mind but I do remember that every which way I looked were iconic figures from fantasy and horror films. Blood sucker Christopher Lee (knighted by the Queen in 2009), King Kong’s soul-mate Fay Wray, the grand daddy of Fantasy films George Pal, famed character actor John Carradine, golden era movie stars Miriam Hopkins and Francis Lederer, Academy award winning director Robert Wise of the original “The Day the Earth Stood Still”, director Rouben Mamoulian of “Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde”, William Marshall a.k.a. “Blacula”, monster aficionado Forrie Ackerman, famed writers Ray Bradbury and A.E. Van Vogt, English born star of so many iconic films Roddy McDowell, king of the low budget film Roger Corman, and 1960’s Gothic Horror star Barbara Steele. 14 Forrie Ackerman and Barbara Steele Forrie Ackerman and Barbara Steele I also recall sitting directly across from the bride of Frankenstein, Elsa Lanchester, and I sat next to Boris Karloff’s daughter Sara whose striking resemblance to her legendary dad really was a chip off the old blockhead. A still youthful looking Rock Hudson even marched into the ballroom in a tux and picked up his award and marched right back out the door. These two gatherings were unbelievably satisfying orgies of pop culture. The mastermind behind all of this good natured ghoulishness was an odd fellow named Dr. Donald A. Reed. 21 Dr. Donald Reed Dr. Donald Reed Reed was a well educated New Orleans transplant, but his life was full of contradictions. He was a middle aged man who lived with his parents in the West Adams district. He had a doctorate in law and yet served as a law clerk. He also worked as a substitute librarian around town. He later taught at Woodbury College. His true love was Hollywood history and all its glitz and glamour. Reed somehow managed to turn an organization named “The Count Dracula Society” and its yearly banquet into a must attend event for screen legends. This was in spite of the fact that Reed had perhaps one of the weirdest habits ever seen outside of Transylvania. When Dr. Reed met you and spoke with you (always wearing a dark suit by the way), he would move in very close. All the while he never looked you in the eye. Rather, he stared at your neck. It must have been charming to his society’s members. To the rest of us it was shall I say distracting? 20 Dr. Reed going batty Dr. Reed going batty. Over the years Dr. Reed consistently grew his society and presented awards to some of the most famous filmmakers of all time including James Cameron, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg. His awards were even televised for a few years when Science Fiction films like Star Wars hit box office warp speed and beyond. In going Hollywood, Dr. Reed became a full fledged publicity hound. A young filmmaker even followed Dr. Reed around with a camera for several months to record Dr. Reed’s last days, failing health and all in the 2003 released documentary, “My Life with Count Dracula.” That young filmmaker was this year’s Academy award winning writer of “Milk,” Dustin Lance Black. Dr. Reed died in Los Angeles in 2002. The official Donald Reed website which paid tribute to him got much of his story right, but not all of it. It points out that Dr. Reed got to know Walt Disney when he worked as a librarian at Cal Arts the Disney funded Arts University. If he got to know Walt Disney it would be from the beyond because the Disney family broke ground on Cal Arts two years after Walt Disney’s death. Still, I wouldn’t put it past him. Photos Courtesy of Linda Cervon

Drug Ring Agent Caught with the Goods on Main Street

410 S. Main Street, site of drug bust in 1919 Smuggling drugs into Los Angeles, then and now, is a risky profession. Ask Main street resident, Charles Whittaker, whom police busted for dealing morphine and other narcotics in April 1919. Police Detectives Canto, Vernand, Winn and O’Brien caught Whittaker with a small box, containing 1000 morphine tablets valued at $1000, in his possession. According to police, a drug ring in San Francisco had been mailing packages of narcotics to Whittaker at his 410 South Main Street residence. Investigators told the Los Angeles Times that four packages of 1000 tablets each had been delivered to Whittaker a month for the past year. Whittaker, a grocery salesman, claimed he had no knowledge of what was in the package in his possession and did not know the senders. Perhaps he was just holding it for a friend who had ducked into Marks-Fram Co. next door at 412 S. Main Street (pictured above) to pick up a few postcards. Illustration credit: Brent C. Dickerson’s A Visit to Old Los Angeles site

A Small Miracle

No mother ever wants to open the door to find men waiting to tell her that her child has died. For Mrs. Darius G. Farrar, Sr. of Camden, Arkansas, the news came not long after Darius Jr.’s 18th birthday: he had been killed at Iwo Jima. It was three years later when they brought the body home, and plans were made to bury him at the National Cemetery in Fayetteville, that mama started wishing she had a picture of what her boy looked like when he went off to fight. He’d shipped out from Los Angeles, and had made a visit to crowded downtown Los Angeles where he’d had his portrait taken. But he had been in such a hurry, the studio had to send the prints on to him in Guam. And when a buddy mailed them home after Darius’ death, they were lost in the mail. Mrs. Farrar was resourceful. She wrote to Reverend E. Raymond Rolph of Long Beach and asked his help in finding the negative—from among all the dozens of photo studios in downtown Los Angeles, with their tens of thousands of photos of Marines. Pastor Rolph of Long Beach Pastor Rolph, a Baptist, was not chosen randomly. The servicemen of World War II and their families had no greater friend than this energetic soul, who was said to have sent more than 30,000 messages of encouragement or sympathy from 1942-52, officiated at more than a hundred military funerals, attended a thousand marriages (and performed a dozen), talked damaged men out of self-harm or harming others, welcomed a hundred babes named in his honor and somehow kept his thousands of pen pals straight through a convoluted filing system of his own devising. So when Mrs. Farrar asked for that figurative needle in SRO Land’s hay — “I have written to everyone I could think of. God knows how I have just wanted one good picture of Darius” — Pastor Rolph was not discouraged. He enlisted the aid of the Los Angeles Times, which gave the request a couple of column inches on page 11 of the April 2 edition, between stories warning of the dangers of socialized medicine and the tragedy of twin boys born by Caesarian to a dead mother in Illinois. And the photographic studio workers of Main and Broadway saw the story, and they went to their files. But not everyone has a filing system as precise, as well-kept, as Pastor Rolph. It was Winifred Thompson, manager of the Austin Studios at 707 South Broadway, who found the negative, in a brown envelope, in a box of trash. The kid was smiling fit to beat the band. She had prints struck, sent them on to Pastor Rolph, and he sealed them up with yet another letter to one more grieving mother. It was waiting for her when she came home from the burial. “From the depths of a true mother’s heart I want to thank you,” she wrote. Darius G. Farrar, 17, in downtown Los Angeles

Ancient Beasts Below

E.K. Green, commercial engineer, took time from his hobby of loudly criticizing City Engineer John Henry Dockweiler’s proposal to use fast-decaying wooden panels instead of iron or steel for the outflow sewer project to announce a fascinating discovery.

During the digging of a well for a laundry on Winston near Main, at around 45 feet beneath the street, his workers hit something peculiar in a bed of gravel. On further inquiry, the substance was revealed to be portions of some enormous elephant-like creature, obviously buried long ago. The bones appeared to belong to a tusked creature of about twenty feet in length. Ribs were found, and an enormous ball joint. But as the bones crumbled to the touch, the workmen merely tossed them aside, and continued their labor.

While we can find no reports of a long-dead mammoth haunting the silent nighttime streets of SRO Land, we will be nonetheless peering closely in shadows for any hint of spectral trunks and haunches.

Hide In Plain Sight

LATSHAW CAUGHT_MAR 31 1943 If you were an eighteen year old boy from a small Northern California town and you’d just murdered five family members with a .38, what would your next move be? Raymond Latshaw found himself in that situation and he decided to run to a big city where it would be easier to live undetected. After abandoning his now deceased family in rural Auburn, he headed to the nearest city – Sacramento. Maybe he felt too close to home to be comfortable, but in any case he soon fled to San Francisco where he stayed at the York Hotel on Nob Hill. The York hotel would be featured in Alfred Hitchcock’s 1958 Film “Vertigo”. (In fact the hotel has been renamed the Hotel Vertigo!) I wonder if Hitchcock knew that a young multiple murderer had once lodged there. YORK HOTEL_VERTIGO HOTEL_FOUND ON FLICKR York Hotel Interior With the cops closing in on him, Raymond left San Francisco and boarded a plane for Los Angeles. He booked a room at the Biltmore Hotel and stayed for a couple of weeks, then left without paying his bill. In wartime Los Angeles, Raymond would have found it very easy to disappear because the city was jammed with military personnel and civilian war workers. In fact, if it hadn’t been for eagle-eyed traffic patrolman and 20 year LAPD veteran Clarence Clarke, Raymond may have continued to fly under the radar, just like a German Messerschmitt. But this was not to be. Officer Clarke was directing traffic on Broadway near 7th in front of one of the movie palaces (not identified by name in the LA Times coverage), when he noticed that the doorman bore a striking resemblance to a young man he’d seen on a wanted bulletin. RAYMOND LATSHAW PIC Raymond Latshaw Acting on his hunch, Clarke approached the teenaged doorman. When Latshaw saw the cop coming towards him, he knew that he was busted – he didn’t even try to make a break for it. Identifying himself as the wanted man, he quickly confessed to the slayings. According to the shy and awkward killer, he’d snapped when he heard his father and stepmother arguing. He told LA Times reporters: “I was tending my rabbits when they quarreled. I went and got my father’s gun from the house, and shot him in the head.” Why, after shooting his father to protect his stepmother, did Raymond kill the other four members of his family, including his six year old half brother Charles? Raymond said that they were all witnesses, and he shot them to keep them quiet. Latshaw would ultimately plead guilty in a Northern California courtroom. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in San Quentin.

Mr. Johnson’s Mickey Finns

George Brydon, resident of Sherman in the San Fernando Valley, was a prime rube, robbed twice before baring his shame to local police and newspaper readers. His sad tale began when he followed a man he knew as Johnson to a rooming house at 224 Winston, and shared two drinks with the acquaintance. Before long, he sank into the blackness of the drugged, and awoke much later, sans rings, watch and cash. Stumbling about seeking his lost goods, Brydon attracted the attention of friend Johnson, who returned with another man, and together they tied their victim’s hands with his own belt, forced him to swallow liquor, then administered a beating. Brydon again passed out, and awake to find he had now been relieved of his clothing, as well. Someone in a nearby room called for help, and after treatment at the Receiving Hospital, the unfortunate fellow borrowed a wrapper from a friendly cop and slunk home to sleep it off. If he came again to SRO Land, it didn’t make the papers.