Keep them Medical Advancements Rollin

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Thomas Major Jr., 34, a logger by profession, down from Vancouver to take in the town. He was in the barroom at the Rollin Hotel, Third and Flower, when the cops came in to investigate a brawl, January 24, 1960. They have a funny way of doing things up in British Columbia, apparently, for as the bulls were bracing some other bar patron, Major pulled out a gun, pointed it at the cops’ backs, and began pulling the trigger. The cops heard the click-click of two empty chambers, turned, and fired seven shots at Major.

Major was hit seven times, taking four in the abdomen. Detectives Pailing and Buckland, with Municipal Judge Griffith in tow, made a visit to Major’s bed in the prison ward at General Hospital, where they charged him with two counts of assault with intent to commit murder and one of violating the deadly weapons control law.

The GH docs had pulled all sorts of lead from Major, but there was still the matter of the bullet in Major’s heart. Yes, normally a slug from a Parker-issued K-38 in the ticker is going to put you down for good. But this one found its place there in an unsual way; one of those bullets to the abdomen apparently passed through the liver, entered a large vein and was pumped into the upper right chamber of the heart, passed through the valve to the lower left chamber, an in that ventricle there it sat. Apparently you can’t just leave well enough alone, so someone had to go in and get the damn thing.

Enter Drs. Lyman Brewer and Ellsworth Wareham, of the College of Medical Evangelists. They’d removed plenty of bullets from hearts using the old “closed-heart method,” but here thought they’d try something new—having a heart-lung machine on hand, they thought they’d throw that into the mix. No more working without seeing what you’re doing: with the heart-lung machine, the heart could be drained of blood, and the surgeon can see and feel what’s transpiring.

Dr. Joan Coggin, who assisted, also noted that they’ve established a new approach to heart surgery in that they incised the heart on the underside, and not in the front; the electrical pattern of the heart, as evidenced by their electrocardiogram, has shown that this method results in far less serious consequence to the heart during surgery.

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All this medical breakthrough, and all because some liquored Canuck on Bunker Hill decided to blast away at the heat! Should you wish to know more about this miracle of science, why don’t you ask Ellsworth?

A bit on the Hotel Rollin, as long as we’re here. Its building permits are issued July 9, 1904. Its two and three room suites are each furnished with bath and kitchen.

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Those of you with the eagle eye will notice the Bozwell and St. Regis just in the background:

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(Of course, the Hotel Rollin had a musical combo that entertained guests, and to this day many people remember the Rollin’s band.)

Hotel Rollin image, USC Digital Archives 

Le Miserable

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Joe Chavez was busted down on Bunker Hill. ’Twas late in the Decembertime (the holiday season, for the Love of Mary), and Joe, 50, hungry, hunkered down in his pad at 221 South Bunker Hill, went and thought, I’m going to go liberate a little something from a nearby market to ease my gnawing gut. What’s the worst that could happen?

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December 29, 1954. Joe exits 221, heads down to a small grocery at 108 South Broadway. Unfortunately for Joe, somebody called in his little lift, a 484, as a 64 (that’s a petty theft blossomed into an armed robbery to the KMA367). So the coppers arrived a-blazing, but store owner Carl Johnson, 28, already had things handled. Johnson, evidently an ex-footballer, hit Chavez—ham neatly tucked under one arm—with a flying tackle.

Joe rang in the New Year at City Jail, after a trip to Georgia Street Receiving; his tackle resulted in a broken nose.

So what do we know of 221 South Bunker Hill? That it appeared between the 1888 and 1894 Sanborn maps. That it changed comparatively little between 1894 and 1955:

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221 was photographed as having a wall in front in the mid-1950s:

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Which it lost in favor of this lacework-laden thicket theme:

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GC221About which Bunker Hill photographer Arnold Hylen described as “a touch of old New Orleans along the sidewalk.” He’s right not only about that wrought iron, which lends a decided Royal Street flourish. This is a shockingly New Orleans house in general. Granted, the steep cross gables are more Gothic Revival than archetypal Crescent City, but this style of roof treatment is seen frequently in New Orleans. The two-tiered porch with full-length windows are a Gulf Coast hallmark. Doubly remarkable is that this house, with its gingerbread at the upper gallery, choice of board over shingle, and single light in the center gable—evocative of the Creole cottage—was constructed contemporary to New Orleans’s residential blanketing via the shotgun house (the four-bay arrangement of this home mirroring the double shotgun, though the door placement lends and air of the famous New Orleans centerhall villa). Granted, it’s a little out of place here; those tall windows are intended to dispel mugginess, hardly a chief concern in the realm of Ask the Dust. Nevertheless, this wasn’t a celebratory tribute to quaint olde New Orleans—it was built by and for Victorians.

Sad to think that as Disney was building his homage to all things bayou down in Anaheim, this little piece of oddball Angelenism was ground up for landfill.

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Color image by Walker Evans, shot in October 1962 for the Life magazine piece “Doomed…It Must Be Saved” published July 15, 1963.

B/W image courtesy Department of Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, U.C. Los Angeles

Image at right, courtesy Arnold Hylen Collection, California History Section, California State Library

 

A Fix By Any Other Name

From the files of "Where’d that law come from?" we turn to Section 11352.1b of the California Health and Safety Code, which makes it illegal to sell "any material represented as, or presented in lieu of, any dangerous drug or dangerous device."

The story behind the legislation takes us to a Chinatown street in the early 1950s where two undercover police from the narcotics division were attempting to score marijuana, and arranged a "hand-to-hand go" of $300 for 5 pounds of "manicured tea."  They had their street lingo down, but I’m sure you can see where this is going.  The dealer took their money, and proceeded to hand over exactly what he’d promised — 5 pounds of tea.  At those prices, let’s hope he at least sprung for Twinings.

Once the crime lab revealed their folly, the two officers rushed back to Chinatown to arrest the enterprising young dealer until realizing that they didn’t know what to arrest him for.  Finally, they settled on the somewhat dubious charge of grand theft.

At first, there was some concern that undercover police officers would have to make their buys using specific, literal language, tipping off any half-wise dealer to their ruse.  An apoplectic police force lobbied the California legislature for provisions that would prevent this kind of misunderstanding in the future, and in 1953, they got their wish.

bellhoptrialOne of the first  people to stand trial under the new law was a resident of our very own Bunker Hill, Conrado M. Fragoso, a bellhop at 244 South Figueroa.  Fragoso arranged to sell $10 of a substance he referred to only as "junk" or "stuff" to Officer Manuel Gutierrez.  The "junk" in question was nothing but headache powder twisted into small paper bindles.  As the arrest took place on April 1, 1954, Fragoso missed his opportunity to declare the whole thing an April Fool, and was arrested.

At his trial, the public defender argued that Fragoso had never claimed to be selling heroin, as he never uttered the word; however, the judge was unmoved.  In 1954, a conviction for selling a substance under the pretense that it was a narcotic substance carried a sentence of up to one year in the County Jail.

Dome Denizen Smith

July 14, 1949

Grace E. Smith made the Dome her home. From there she made the trek to work down to the Belmont Grill. It’s 1949. She’s a B-girl.

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Vice has been coming down on prosties of late and joints like the Belmont that run B-girl operations are a thorn in the side of decent society. The racket is simple: the gals chat up the fellas, and as a gal mingles with the patrons she induces them to buy more drinks. Her bourbons are colored water or ice tea; she gets a commission of those sales. And if she takes off with her new friend, we’ll call him, oh, John, the tavern owner gets a cut of her earnings. Repeat.

After a while Vice gets tired of dealing with pimp beat downs, or customers given the mick finn, so it’s time to round up the ladies. Grace E. Smith, 28, won’t get to go home to her little room at the Dome tonight, popped as she was at the Belmont for violating the municipal B-girl ordinance. Tomorrow morning she’ll be out on $100 bail.

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Grace’s boss Nathan Bass, owner of the Belmont, has been supbeanoed to testify before the county grand jury in its current vice inquiry into the Brenda Allen police pay-off probe. (Bass had been in the news last month when he, as a pal of LAPD Lieutenant Wellpott, had wiretaps of his phone calls played at the PD/Allen vice hearings.) Bass went on to testify that famously dirty Sgts. Stoker and Jackson would meet in the Belmont.

The next mention of Grace E. Smith—one wonders if it’s she and the same—is in 1953: a Lena S. Reed, 72, was to leave her $8,000 estate ($61,857 USD 2007) to her family but just before her demise opted to bequeath it to Mrs. Edna W. “Mail Fraud” Ballard (aka St. Germain, aka Joan of Arc, aka Lotus Ray King), cofounder of the I AM religious movement. A judge blocked probate when the family filed contest, accusing Mrs. Ballard of “exerting undue influence on Mrs. Reed while she was in ill health and mentally disturbed.” The same accusations were made against the secretary of the organization’s St. Germain Foundation, and executor of the will, one Grace E. Smith.

No mention as to whether this Grace E. Smith lived in the Dome.