Only Angels Have Wings

It is said that the Lord protects drunks, fools, and children, and it would seem that He had his hands full keeping watch over the residents of 316 Clay Street, known variously as the Patterson Hotel and Luckenbach Estate over the years.

fivestoryplungeIn the wee hours of August 31, 1934, one of its residents, a 31-year-old mechanic named Herbert Stockwell, decided to live out the sort of feat that is irresistible in daydreams and drunken hazes.  I’m speaking, of course, about stealing a car and attempting to drive it down the steps of Angel’s Flight.

It was a bold plan, but things soon went very ill for Herbert Stockwell.  Police were summoned to the scene by a loud crash, and discovered the vehicle wrecked on the steps, and Stockwell sprawled on the ground nearby.  His front teeth were knocked out, but he was otherwise unharmed.

A few years later, another resident at 316 Clay would require divine intervention as she toyed with the boundaries of human frailty.

Maryan Ellis was a 27-year-old waitress at a S. Hill Street cafe, and a relative newcomer to Los Angeles.  She was homesick, missed her mother, and was despondent that she couldn’t raise the money for a trip home to San Antonio.

When Ellis returned to her fifth story room at the boarding house on July 18, 1940, her roommate, Jerry Bills, decided to give Ellis a few moments of privacy.  Shortly after she left the room, however, she heard a scream, and returned to find that Ellis had thrown herself out the window.

Astonishingly, Ellis survived the fall with relatively minor injuries.  She fractured both heels and her pelvis, and had a few cuts and bruises, but it should have been much worse.

Presumably, Ellis got to see her mother after all, and hopefully, a trip back to Texas.