Posts filed under ‘escape’

Woken With A Bang

Sleeping Joe Schutton was roused from his rest by an ungodly clash and clatter, and when he lit his lamp found a pair of thrashing man’s legs dangling from the ceiling as the man above made obvious attempts to escape back onto the roof through which he’d broken. Irked Joe would have none of that, and clung to the kicking feet, screaming loudly for aid.

Patrolmen Sweeney and Kierscey were quick on the scene, and taking an accounting of the situation, raced to the roof where they extracted O.W. Coppington, 35, and asked what the hell he thought he was doing.

“I’m the victim here,” swore Coppington, who told a convoluted tale of being halted at Winston near Main by a pair of highwaymen, who he’d eluded by racing up the first stairwell he spied, then out onto one roof, then another, then another–searching for an open skylight he could escape through. But when he leapt from a tall roof to a lower one, the shingles, lath and plaster broke away, waking Joe Schutton and leading to Coppington’s arrest. Skeptical, Sweeney and Kierscey took their prize back to City Jail for further conversation, while Joe Schutton shook the ceiling chips out of his sheets and tried to get back to sleep.

February 13, 2010 at 4:19 pm 4 comments

Bloody Popcorn Falls on Fourth Street

New Yorker C. Wilson Porter was a notable Gilded Age Angeleno, young, rich (due to a relative who had patented a type of suspender button), alcoholic, obnoxious and very fashionable, with a tendency to camp out for long periods in absent friends’ homes enjoying their hospitality without permission (Mrs. Mary Banning successfully sued him to recover what Porter spent on himself and friends while she was in Mexico, settling for a token $1/day). In April 1899, Porter got into a weird altercation with George W. Durbrow, general manager of the New Liverpool Salt Company, which extracted high quality rock salt from the desert zone that would a few years hence be inundated by the Salton Sea, leaving Mr. Durbrow recuperating at the Van Nuys and seeking $25,000 in a civil suit for painful and disfiguring injuries. 103 w 4th street van nuys hotel stairway LAPL collection It seems the men were in the Van Nuys hotel bar around one in the morning when Porter decided it would be fun to take some popcorn and “make a snowstorm.” Durbrow thought the suggestion was an affront to his dignity and went to leave, but Porter insisted he play, finally chasing his erstwhile pal, yelling “You can’t shake me this way!” The men found themselves outside the Main Street entrance, and as Durbrow turned, Porter — who was much younger and stronger and drunker — slugged him. Durbrow was knocked out, and Porter began jumping up and down on him and hitting him in the face. Hotel employees heard the ruckus and rescued the unconscious man. 103 w 4th street van nuys hotel lobby LAPL collection Porter promptly vanished from town, as Officer F.M. Fowler searched widely for him. He was believed to be hiding at Charley Hastings’ Ranch in Sierra Madre, outside the Sheriff’s territory, then to have fled to New York. In June, a deputy assessor entered Brown’s Livery Stable at Hoover and 32nd and found a fine hansom cab, which he immediately recognized as Porter’s–because Porter was the only man in Los Angeles who owned one, having imported it from NY. It was seized for failure to pay $5.72 in property tax, and was to be auctioned off by the city, but Porter’s attorney reclaimed it. In November 1900, Porter came back to town in search of companionship, and checked again into his favorite hotel, the Van Nuys. While riding in a cab down Main Street with his friend Mr. Blaisdell and a hotel employee, young Porter became truculent at a traffic jam around Seventh Street, and kicked a hole in the window. When he refused to pay $15 for repairs, suggesting that $5 should be sufficient, the irked driver (who was soaked to the skin from heavy rains, while his passengers enjoyed the shelter of his cab) simply locked the door, and delivered the famous fugitive to the police station to face justice. But if you are expecting some punishment befitting his myriad offences, you forget that this was Los Angeles and the year 1900. Porter was simply booked on a charge of disturbing the peace, and released upon paying a fine of $25. We do not hear of him again. For more on George W. Durbrow’s salt works, see http://www.sci.sdsu.edu/salton/PeriscopeSaltonSeaCh1-4.html And the following link, which includes photos and descriptions of poor Durbrow’s losses when the river rushed in to the salt flats http://pacificmonthly.notlong.com (Van Nuys Hotel interior photos, LAPL collection)

June 15, 2009 at 6:24 pm Leave a comment


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