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 . 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 . 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 .
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 . 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 . 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 .