Tag Archives: Arcadia

1927 murder again

arcadia 1930   So, I’m still working on the murder of the Arcadia policeman in July of 1927 .  I’m finding out some new details , details of interest to me . But then , I’m an ex-history teacher . And I’ve jumped into the soup and can’t help paddling around . Every small piece of carrot or historical  potato or unexpected peppercorn that floats by is of interest . But , often , only to me . Little bits of discovered information lead to others . I found the Pasadena Library , built in 1926 by the way , to be a great resource . It’s got easy-to-access  micro-film collections and viewing machines . I’ve been reading 1927 local newspaper stories .library I found the story of a guy in nearby Sierra Madre who was arrested for having a still and a large amount of liquor in his house . Prohibition was still in full effect . He claimed that he rented the house out and that  he slept on a porch and that he had no idea that a still was in the house  or that any booze was anywhere around . He had no idea what his renter was up to , he told the cops . I don’t suppose that that silly excuse worked for him . Maybe he was drunk at the time of the arrest .


So I went over to Sierra Madre to investigate . Okay , so I’m eighty-seven years late . So what . Maybe the 1927 house would still be there . I drove up there on Lima Av. and  found the address . Actually , there was a sign there at the curb with three consecutive numbers written on it . The property behind the address sign was covered with a canopy of huge trees and hidden behind a blind of bushes . I wandered along a shady gravel driveway , looking for a house , making some noise so that I wouldn’t startle any moonshiners  . I spotted  a battered house , but not from 1927 . Next to it was a woodshop , the door open , plywood set up on the saw , fresh sawdust clumps on the floor  . There was a broken down car beyond the shop , and beyond that another beat-up house . Maybe it was a shed or a garage . No one seemed to be around . Or they were hiding , watching .balloon school 1918 You should understand that when I’d driven up the street looking for this address I was passing through  a well-groomed , upper middle class neighborhood . Houses sell in Sierra Madre for , maybe ,  $ 800,000  and up . There might be a few further up in the canyon for less , or one or two for a little less  closer to  town . I passed handsome houses built during the last few decades , trimmed and cared-for , a handful of them  survivors  from the 1920s .  But now , instantly , on that gravel path , it was as if I had left the city . I found myself in a little forsaken corner of  woods . 1927 ?  I could see how it would have been an ideal spot in 1927 for a still . It still ( pardon the pun) would be .


Anyhow……….clara bow hat 95 cents

The murdered policeman had been a soldier stationed in Arcadia at Ross Field ,  known locally as the Balloon School . The former Army land is now a county park . From 1918 until 1930  or so , the Army   trained observation balloon crewmen there  . I read a 1927 news story about six officers who went up in a balloon at 0400 one morning , but by 0600 their balloon had stalled over Sierra Madre . They were stuck up there for six hours and finally decided  to cut the balloon open  to release the gas so that they could fall to earth . They managed to get to the ground safely . By that time hundreds of people were there ( it happened in the middle of town ) to watch .


I’d given up on getting the policeman’s military records . I’d already received an initial letter from the government archive office that stated : Not Enough Information .  I had one more bit to offer and I re-submitted the request . When was that ? Six months ago ? Seven ? I am aware , for one thing , that they don’t like sharing their information with non-relatives . It’s a privacy thing and that makes sense .  But  today another letter arrived . The Government hadn’t forgotten me .Matthies military letter 005 Vast quantities of military records had burned up in the 1970s . I was warned already  by fellow researchers to expect a letter saying that everything had burned up and so  I was out of luck .  ” Just re-submit the form ,” my friends said .  The letter today says that for $25 I can get a final pay form because those were  housed somewhere that didn’t burn up . They sent a sample pay form . It’s got certain information of interest to me ,  so I’ll fork over the 25 . The Government needs the money ,  after all , for IRS bonuses and the like , and to give more tax breaks to the billionaires  .Matthies military letter 001 I resubmitted my request , this time with a personal check enclosed .


I hope the archives sends me something before THE BIG ONE comes and sweeps California into the sea , or at least before my little public lecture at the museum on the murder .  They’ve got until November . I’m sure they’re listening .Matthies military letter 006


Filed under uncategorized

more metro

Those guys are still working on bringing the Gold Line east far enough for Dan to walk to the station .Arcadia , Metro, etc. May 2014 016

I like one aspect of the planning . Some planner somewhere had some sense . One of the new rail bridges has a concrete railing like the old concrete railings . I like that —- a symbolic time-link to honor the past . The right railing for a rail line needs no railing . I think Abraham Lincoln said that .



There was a line about what ,  1889  ? , that came to Arcadia along the same right-of-way . It died out some time in the late 1950s out this way but the tracks remained in the streets and also along some other stretches of the route .

New:Arcadia , Metro, etc. May 2014 062

Old : Arcadia , Metro, etc. May 2014 004Arcadia , Metro, etc. May 2014 005

Arcadia , Metro, etc. May 2014 033

They’ve recently torn out the old track and installed new track , or they will soon .  What’s that say  about how much things change and they remain the same ?Arcadia , Metro, etc. May 2014 035

Arcadia , Metro, etc. May 2014 041

The new Arcadia station for the metro will sit on the same ground of an older station . The old station  was shipped off east to some rest home for old buildings ; no one wants to visit it anymore ; they’ve forgotten about it , to tell the truth .  There will be a parking structure next to the station  this time around . That’s progress . I think Herbert Hoover said that .Arcadia , Metro, etc. May 2014 021

st car 11 st car 15 st car 5 st car 2 st car 16


Filed under uncategorized

neighborhood changes

I took a little walk around the neighborhood today .Thanksgiving and Arboretum 061

I don’t live in the better part of Arcadia , I remembered , if by better you might mean , mainly ,  bigger .  There was a house under construction on the corner of Highland Oaks and Sycamore .  It’s the kind of house that Ada used to ask , ” How many families do you think live there ?”  about . But , they were all single family places , many of them strewn about on the hillsides as if they are insolent sentinels watching  the commonplace society below .  This one was built as a single family joint , too .   It will have a pool out back when someone  gets around to gunite-ing it . Probably has a microwave in the kitchen .

Big deal !   — Ada and I have a microwave , too .

A man named Hal Slemons owned much of the land north of Foothill in the 1920s  and 30s . His brother raised chickens on part of it .  Hal owned the nearby Orange Inn stretched along Foothill , with its orange-shaped juice stand .  The Orange Inn , still owned by Slemons , evolved into the palm frond- thatched place  called the Wigwam . It was ready to cash in on Route 66 traffic .  The remnant of these old days is nearby Wigwam Avenue . Eventually Slemmons retired to …………………….wait for it …………………………Orange County .  Yeah .   On the site of the old Wigwam is a McDonalds . No longer are there any citrus-shaped structures .   arcadia neighborhood highland oaks area 038

Slemons built himself a house on his property in 1925 . arcadia neighborhood highland oaks area 006The house is still there . It out-shines every other house in the area , most of them large and on large lots , all of them built decades after the Slemons house . The new one under construction is a block away . The 1925 house wins that beauty contest too .

I saw a 1927 picture of the new subdivision , laid out that year , around the Slemons house .  There are wide streets , a center island , street lamps .  But what happened ? Nothing seems to have progressed beyond the street lamps and the wide curbed street . All the houses in the neighborhood except the Slemons place look like they were not built until the 60s or 70s . None of them .

I suspect what happened was the Great Depression . Best laid plans of mice and men , and all that . The buy-in prices were too high after 1929 . arcadia neighborhood highland oaks area 003

The City of Arcadia wanted to zone a cemetery nearby in the early 1930s , next to the Santa Anita wash , but local protests quashed  that idea . Slemons tried to sell several acres to Arcadia for use as a park , but his asking price of $30,000 was just too high for the city’s budget . I’ll guess that the huge  house under construction may cost some proud buyer a hundred times that amount .

Times change .arcadia neighborhood highland oaks area 039

1 Comment

Filed under uncategorized


1927 chevy coupeI’ve been investigating the 1927 murder of the Arcadia policeman which occurred about two blocks from here . I found him listed as “plstr” in the old city directory from 1925 . I thought “plstr” meant ” plasterer”. The old directories listed occupations .

It seemed reasonable to assume that “plstr” meant plasterer . There was a civilian friend of his in the police car when the murder occurred . When I found that the friend was a house painter I thought that I was on to something .

But , of course , he wasn’t a plasterer in 1925 . He had been a policeman for six years . Somehow  ” plstr” means , obviously , policeman . I have to ask a few more questions .

What I am  finding is that some  guy knows a fact or two about the murder ; that woman can tell me a bit ;  the police department has this information ; the museum has a record of that ; the courts’  archive has this ;  the building department can tell me that ; but nobody has collected all the information together , sorted it ,  pasted it all together yet .

I’m trying to find what buildings were on the street in 1927 . The three boys convicted of the crime were planning to rob ” a barbeque place ” nearby .  The Arcadia Building Department had all of their files digitalized , but , evidently , not all of them survived the transfer from paper . If there was a building on the corner where the murder took place there is no record of it in the city file any more .

I think , guessing , that the plan was to rob Slemon’s Orange Wigwam , a thatched snack -shop business about two blocks down the street . There is a McDonald’s there now .  I’ll find a photograph , eventually , of the area . Insurance companies keep good records of things like that , I hear .  I suspect that that stretch of Foothill Blvd ( White Oak Blvd. , in 1927 )  , at the city limit , was pretty bare at the time .

I know that my house wasn’t there in 1927 . None of them on my block were .  ” It was all chicken farms ,” my former neighbor , Rex, told me .  I should have listened to my old neighbor more carefully . Rex was right . Arcadia exported 5000 eggs a day  in 1926 . The 1928 city directory lists 153 poultry breeders  .

I’m reading a new Bill Bryson book : ” One Summer , America 1927 ” .  I’m going back there for awhile . It was the time of Calvin Coolidge , Charles Lindberg , Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig , Al Capone , and Clara Bow , of flappers and flivvers .  Ronald Reagan was working at his local hometown pool as a lifeguard . Inventors were developing television . Talkies were beginning with films such as The Jazz Singer starring Al Jolson .lee_miller_vogue_3_1927

For the last  few days that July , before the murder , Arcadia had been having a heat wave . The temperature on the 18th had been over 90 .  At about midnight the cooler night air must have been a pleasant relief . The two men might have been talking about baseball or the weather as they drove slowly past a row of Spanish style houses on  Laurel Ave. , vacant land across the street , as they  turned left onto  North View heading toward White Oak , patrolling  the eastern edge of  the sleepy little community  .

There was a  car parked on the west side of  North View with three nervous young men sitting inside .  What’s up ? The policeman stopped his car , stepped out , and walked over to check .President-Reagan-as-a-lifeguard-in-1927

1 Comment

Filed under uncategorized

alley walk again

alley walking 13 024 alley walking 13 013 alley walking 13 014 alley walking 13 015I haven’t been walking the local alleys recently . I decided to get back to it yesterday , so I hit the road . I mean I hit the alley .alley walking 13 023 alley walking 13 007 alley walking 13 017

There are plenty of places I wouldn’t walk alleys . You know , the places that are dirty and dangerous . I’m not engaged in any social science research requiring me to take risks . I’m not interested in interacting with derelicts , druggies , robbers , thugs , hookers , or wandering hooligans as I stroll along  . The  worst I’ve encountered in Arcadia are madly active  clucking squirrels and an occasional skittering raccoon , their long sharp nails scratching along concrete curbs in hasty retreat . Well , two or three times  lost bears , also , come down from the nearby hills . They  are most likely  looking for a hot tub ( local bears love hot tubs ! ) or dog food  hors d’oeuvres . The bears are usually wise enough , or fastidious enough , though , to stay out of the alleys  and to stick to the roads .bear drawing

One day I’ll , no doubt , come upon a day-dreaming bear  climbing out of one of the alley dumpsters as I pass . That will be a whole new ballgame . Let’s see ……..with a grizzly ( none in CA since the 1800s ) you just curl up , play dead , and pray . But with a black bear you make yourself as big as possible , hold your arms up , back away slowly . Make noise ; but try not to be annoying .  And , I guess , pray .  Oh yeah , and try NOT  to place yourself between the momma bear and her cubs . Oh , and bears , according to Forest Service  signs , don’t like dogs ; so , sorry , if you’re walking a dog……………..

I noticed , in a few spots along our alleys , someone has planted flowers . For me and other alley walkers ? How nice !   Usually ,  the alley  plantings are desperate and lonely hobo plants , able to get by without much care or affection , with food and drink  coming only intermittently .  Some of them show it , clearly barely surviving ,  and others  maintain a respectability  front ; they  manage to hide any outward  effects of destitution or dereliction .alley walking 13 001 alley walking 13 002

Generally , the Arcadia alleys , so far , are still navigable .  Trash barrels and dumpsters still line up every day , waiting for their weekly visit from the grumbling trash truck . Everything seems in order in this alley world . No mess ; no stress . Sure , there’s a little neglect evident here and there . Let’s mark that down as a bonus , a functional trade off , the price of some extra privacy and independence , an  acceptable cost of being left in peace .alley walking 13 025 alley walking 13 026


Filed under uncategorized

7 pictures from the Arboretum in Arcadia

arboretum oct 2013 005 arboretum oct 2013 035arboretum oct 2013 038 arboretum oct 2013 063 arboretum oct 2013 075 arboretum oct 2013 086arboretum oct 2013 018

Leave a comment

Filed under uncategorized

waiting for metro

Arcadia metro station site 006Arcadia metro station site 004I’ve been patiently waiting for the Gold Line Metro to push far enough east so that I can walk over to the station . As it is , I could walk to the Sierra Madre Villa  Station , currently the closest one , if I had all the  morning to get there . I could , of course , walk several blocks from my house and catch a bus to the nearest station , too .

A few years ago I was on my way to see a friend in Connecticut , flying in to Hartford , and I decided to do it all on public transportation . This is Los Angeles territory , though , where public transportation is the deadbeat crazy  relative , is  at best a civic afterthought .

I went out early one morning , walked the half block down to Foothill Boulevard . Step one was to catch the bus along Foothill .  I walked to the corner to the bus stop . No bench . Hadn’t there been a concrete bus bench there ?  I looked up and down foothill  —- no benches . I walked across the street and asked the all-night gas station guy about the bus . How often do they come ?  He said there ain’t been no bus  on Foothill now for almost a month . Foothill Boulevard is a major street on this side of town , spreading up along the foothills .  No bus ?

I had to make an LAX  flight at a certain time .  This was gonna mess up my plan bigtime .  Ada wasn’t home or I would have asked her for a ride to the metro station .   So I called my friend Willie . Willie knew my public transport plan . He’d understand my predicament .  I’d picked Willie up at LAX several times ; waited hours once while his flight was diverted to San Francisco and then until it  finally  decided to come  back to L.A .  We had each others’ backs , so to speak , I guess , when it came to trying to get out of the city or trying to get back in . Like friend assurance  insurance , travel disaster personal indemnity .


METRO  August sept 2013 001So , I’m waiting for the metro tracks to be laid and the station to be built . So far Metro has built a Gold Line bridge over the 210 freeway . I’m not sure what the design of the bridge is supposed to represent . There are two large concrete forms that look a little like stylized pineapples . Pineapples in Arcadia ?   Oranges or lemons would be okay . Grapes ?  Even bananas or pomegranites or persimmons might fit somehow .  But  , pineapples ?

Those things must not , I think , be pineapples . Who would do that ? Maybe baskets ? Native American baskets ?   No , can’t be . Too pineapple- shaped .  Maybe , for some odd reason , hand grenades ?  I’ll have to ask someone who knows . My imagination ain’t able to stretch big enough to figure that one out yet .

The bridge was once on Lucky Baldwin land . He grew just about everything on his ranch there , I think , except pineapples .  The land was also ,  for a couple of decades ,   an Army observation balloon school . Baldwin was a horse lover , too , a racetrack builder , a horse breeder .  The Santa Anita racetrack in Arcadia was also , for a few years during WWII  , an Army ordinance base  . Grenades !  I’m looking for clues to explain the two concrete structures at each end of the new Metro bridge .

It doesn’t matter . No one asked me before they built  the things , after all .  They look like they’ll be around for awhile , whatever they are supposed to be . Time will attach it’s own meanings to them .

Meanwhile , I watch the spot where the station is going to be built .  It’s an empty lot. There was an earlier station there eighty years ago or so . There were tracks there two years ago , also , tracks  abandoned for fifty years or more . They were waiting patiently and quietly  , all that time , those spans of  old steel track ,  only to be gouged out eventually , and disposed of  , I guess . Maybe they went to a train museum , instead  . Maybe a sculptor will concrete them vertically into the ground at odd angles and call it art .

I think that the new track will look pretty much the same as the old track . Higher up . More shiney . More concrete beneath . The people who will ride it will be pretty much the same , too , I suppose  ,  but with  electronic devices  and the feeling of being , oh ,  so much more civilized , cultured ,  sophisticated , and smart .trolley


Filed under uncategorized