Friday, June 16, 2006

Her Own Client

June 16, 1907
Los Angeles

Despite the old saying—a lawyer who represents himself has a fool for a client—Edith Foulkes is a smart woman, at least in the courtroom. She can’t make the same claim about her trip to the altar, however, which is what brings before Judge Bordwell.

Although she had known her husband, Ralph, for eight years, they were only engaged for a week before they got married in 1905. His family was coming to visit and he wanted to be married when they arrived, he said.

A member of the California bar who had practiced law in San Francisco and Tulare County, Edith had previously worked as a proofreader in Los Angeles and presumably that’s how she met Ralph, who had been the foreman of a printing shop on Los Angeles Street.

Edith had spent a fair amount of time in Mexico and Porterville, Calif., so most of what she knew about Ralph was by correspondence. If she had spent more time with him, she might have known that he had a tendency to steal and pawn whatever he got his hands on. And he drank all the time.

In fact, once he lost his job, Ralph drank constantly, Edith and a pressman from the print shop told the judge. The rest of the time, he was in a bad mood, they said.

“Suspecting that his wife was beginning to consider her marriage a failure, he had talked in melancholy fashion of murder and suicide, somewhat to the martial discomfort of Mrs. Foulkes,” The Times said.

The judge ruled in her favor.

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Thursday, June 15, 2006

For Her Husbands Soul

June 15, 1907
Los Angeles

Helen Hurley paused at the doors of St. Vibiana’s Cathedral. In pain, she shoved her left wrist inside her dress so that it wouldn’t show as she went in to pray during Mass.

But the pain was too great and she fled the cathedral for her room at the Ramona lodging house on South Spring Street.

While struggling with her at the rooming house, police officers discovered that she had cut off her left hand with a butcher knife. They took her to the Receiving Hospital and after treatment she was taken to County Hospital.

For the last year, Hurley had worked as a cook at several Los Angeles restaurants. Her husband died, leaving her broke and grieving. “It is said that for days at a time she would lie in her room, under the influence of liquor, and brood,” The Times said.

The night before she was taken into custody, lodgers heard her walking around her room, moaning.

The Times said: “In her frenzied condition, the woman became possessed of the idea that her husband’s soul was held in the chains of purgatory and demanded a sacrifice. She was willing to give that sacrifice. The gleam of her wedding ring on one of the fingers of her left hand attracted her attention. She seized a butcher knife and sharpened it. Then she hacked away at the soft flesh. The knife caught in the heavy tissue and she used it in the manner of an ax and beat against the flesh with it until the hand fell from her wrist. Then she tossed it behind a trunk in her room and hurried to church for morning Mass.”

Hospital officials were keeping close watch on Hurley and said that if she didn’t improve she would be sent to an insane asylum.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Home From School

June 14, 1907
Los Angeles

Like many young men, Stuart, Sayre and Maynard decided to walk home from school—but it was a bit farther for these college friends because they were going to Berkeley.

It was apparently an uneventful trip aside from the distance—the three friends covered more than 500 miles in 27 days, leaving the morning after commencement. The traveled lightly, wearing sombreros, khaki and hobnailed boots, carrying water and packs weighing about 8 pounds, while shipping a heavier trunk ahead of them.

The began in San Francisco to San Mateo, Half Moon Bay, then a detour to Santa Cruz, then Watsonville. They followed the Southern Pacific tracks from Salinas to King City. The next stop was Jolon, then Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Pismo Beach (then known as El Pizmo), Santa Maria, Santa Ynez, San Marcos Pass, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Calabasas, through the Cahuenga Pass to Hollywood and then Los Angeles, where they walked to their homes.

“We did not attempt to rough it by camping along the way,” Stuart told The Times. “The tramp itself was rough enough, although extremely pleasant after the stiffness of the first few days had worn off. We stayed overnight at hotels and farm houses, had good beds and excellent fare. The water at some points was poor, but bottled water helped us over this difficulty.

“We made no attempt to make a record. Our only idea was recreation and we had that a-plenty.”

Along the way, the friends were frequently offered rides, which they always declined, and were mistaken for forest rangers, railroad inspectors and soldiers on leave. Many they met “could not understand why young men apparently well able to pay their fare should chose to walk so far for the fun of the thing,” The Times said.

You might wonder what became of these three young friends.

Maynard McFie died in 1958 at the age of 72, having been the director of Security-First National Bank and president of the Chamber of Commerce. Sayre Macneil died in 1961, having been a law professor at Harvard and dean of Loyola Law School.

Stuart O’Melveny, who said, “We wanted a change into the open air and we thought this would be the best way to get it,” died in 1974 at the age of 85. He was president of Title Insurance and Trust Co., which was begun by his father, Henry, who founded a little law firm now known as O’Melveny and Myers.

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Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Now Thats a Headline

June 13, 1907
Los Angeles

Voters approved a $23-million bond issue ($472,042,116.32 USD 2005) for the Owens River Aqueduct, 21,923-2,128. The Times helped mount a turnout campaign in which automobile owners volunteered to ferry voters to the polls.

Interestingly enough, The Times put the story on the first page of the second section rather than the front page.

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Who Is This Man?

I recently obtained an original copy of The Times’ March 28, 1971, story “Farewell, My Black Dahlia,” which includes the account of the “Boy on the Bicycle.” Here’s a color picture of the purported “Bobby Jones.”

Here’s a better look:

You can read an exhaustive account of the “Boy on the Bicycle”







Bonus: Here’s the South Norton Avenue neighborhood as it was in 1971. Notice that you can see the Hollywood sign. Notice that this means the photographer shot the wrong side of the street.


Shout out to:

San Francisco Public Library (

Larkspur Hospitality Co. (

Howell, N.J. (

Washington, D.C. ( Windows 98? Upgrade!

Hurry back!

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Monday, June 12, 2006

A Dying Girls Last Words

June 12, 1907
Los Angeles

At 19, Florence Grover was old enough to be in love and living with a man, and at 19, she was old enough to become a mother. Her boyfriend, L.C. Lutzen of the National Messenger Service, with whom she lived at 120 N. Broadway, testified that he had made preparations to raise their child as his own.

Instead Florence sought out Dr. C. Van Peter Watson. On May 28, she took a streetcar to his home at 2652 W. Pico. When she left 30 minutes or an hour later, she was so weak that she couldn’t walk and someone sent for a carriage.

“Before her death, she tried to sign a statement, prepared by the physicians attending her, after it had been read to her: ‘Realizing that I am about to die, I certify that an abortion was to be performed and was performed on me by Dr. C.V.P. Watson,’ ” The Times said. “She became too weak to finish her signature.”

Watson was brought to trial—in fact he was also charged with a variety of offenses regarding land swindles involving Ollie J. Watkins. The Times described him as walking with a cane because he was handicapped and said he wore a Masonic pin and another badge showing that he was a Civil War veteran.

But the judge regretfully ruled that Florence’s statement was inadmissible.

“There is nothing in the statement partly signed by that poor, dying girl to show just what this defendant did. For some incomprehensible reason the statement was not even prepared in the presence of the girl. The physicians, not realizing what constitutes legal evidence, or swayed by professional ethics, failed to comply with the requirements of the law,” the judge said.

“The court regrets very much that the evidence is not conclusive, as to who was the perpetrator of that crime, that it might be legally fastened upon him and justice be done.

“With the infirmities of the testimony and in view of all the painful and abhorrent features of the case, I do not believe there is a court in the state that would permit the question to go to a jury.

“The defendant is discharged and the bail will be released.”

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Sunday, June 11, 2006

Sandow Returns