Posts filed under ‘robbery’

A successful, failed bank job

Bank of America, Broadway & 7th (LAPL)

The desperate man walked into the Bank of America branch and crossed the lobby to the second teller window–to Mrs. Joy Holker, 28, the one with the kind eyes. He handed her a brown envelope and a note which read “This is a holdup. Fill up the envelope. Also have a jar of acid.” She obeyed, quickly stacking $540 in $10 bills and passing them across the counter. But as she counted, she gave her robber the once-over. She didn’t buy it, not from this guy. As he turned away, she came out from behind the counter and chased him onto Broadway, screaming “Stop that man!”

victim

A motorcycle cop, Charles Randolph, heard her cries, as did patrolman R. Mierdiercks. They took off after the robber, who had darted east on 7th Street. He turned south down Spring, and tried to hide in a parking lot mid-block. They busted him there, and he surrendered peacefully.

robber

Kenneth St. Onge, 35, had a cap pistol, a bottle of colored water and a sob story. He said he’d come out from Detroit with his wife and seven sons last September, but couldn’t find any work. For three weeks, the family slept in their 1947 Studebaker, until wife Esther found work as a waitress. They’d then moved into a quonset hut at 1480 Landa Street, rent $25 a week plus utilities. After two months, the electric bill came. It was $67, which is how they learned their landlord had wired up an apartment, a trailer and a garage to their meter. With only one pair of decent shoes for all the children, he’d spend his days driving first one, then another child to attend a class or two, then pick up Esther. Whatever she made in tips, that was their dinner fund. Everything else went to the landlord.

Then Esther got pregnant again, and couldn’t stay on her feet all day. They had nothing left.  He didn’t know what else to do, so he did this.  “I guess I knew I’d get caught, but I figured at least the State would have to take care of my wife and kids,” he mused.

Los Angeles briefly fell in love with the sad sack, especially after he appeared on local television bemoaning his fate. Over $1000 in donations poured in, along with clothes for the kids and a job for daddy at City of Hope. The family was offered a furnished home in La Puente for nothing down.

family

Just over a month after his life of crime fizzled out, a proud Kenneth St. Onge celebrated Easter with his wife and children in court, as Judge Thurmond Clarke ruled “Because of your record, your family and your children, I am going to grant you probabtion in this case. For robbing a national bank, I’ve certainly been very lenient.”

“People have been so kind. I know everything is going to turn out all right now. This is,” said St. Onge, “the best break I ever had.”

And all he had to do to get it was to cross over to the dark side. There’s a lesson in there somewhere, we guess, maybe nothing more profound than that most folks like to hear about someone who’s got it even worse than they do.

 

Photos: Bank of America from LAPL, others Los Angeles Times

March 31, 2011 at 10:09 pm Leave a comment

Book collectors of old L.A.

Shopkeeper William “Scotty” Manson, 47, lived alone behind Acme Stamp and Hobby, supplying used books and collectable stamps to the passing trade. Any customer was potentially a worthy one in the SRO Land of 1956, as Bunker Hill was crumbling and the detritus of human life washed ever further each morning onto the streets surrounding Skid Row.

When two gents came in together and asked for a quantity of books to be boxed, Manson thought he’d made his grubstake for the day. Alas, the fellows had a further request: could he just be so kind as to place all his money in the box as well? A flash of a long knife accompanied the suggestion.

Like any savvy shopkeeper of his place and era, Manson was armed, with a .45 caliber revolver in his pocket. He stepped back and drew his weapon, but the young man with the knife was quicker, and slashed his chest and belly. The would-be thieves turned and ran as Manson unloaded his weapon, then collapsed in the door of his shop. At General Hospital, where he was taken in serious condition with three deep cuts, he told police what had happened.

But even without Scotty’s report, the scene on the street told the tale. One robber, Charles Brooks, 28, resident of a hotel at 224 Boyd, reached 1st and Broadway, then fell, gushing blood. He survived part of the ride to Georgia Street Receiving Hospital, where he was DOA.

The second miscreant, Eugene Sparkman, resident of a hotel at 534 Wall, made the acquaintance of a motorcycle cop a block from where Brooks went down, and was popped. Taken into evidence was the book he’d kept hold of as he fled, reform-minded prison warden Lewis E. Lawes‘ “20,000 Years in Sing Sing,” with its heartwarming dedication “To those tens of thousands of my former wards who have justified my faith in human nature.” We can only hope he ran into as enlightened a prison manager as Lawes, in his unreported but inevitable next stop.

November 18, 2009 at 4:52 pm Leave a comment

The Bicycle Abstracter & Candy Fiend

Miss Lillian Wilson, a comely and seemingly respectable San Diego lass, was, alas, a maniacal gearhead. Her obsession and her downfall were other ladies’ bicycles, which she could not stop herself from hopping onto and riding off with…. and quickly selling them for much less than they were worth to SRO Land dealers who asked few questions. She needed the money, you see, for candy, wonderful, beguiling, intoxicating candy. It was the only thing more fascinating to her troubled mind than bicycles.

She was found out after she stole Miss Elizabeth Altenhofer’s bike from its spot on Hill near Sixth. Miss Altenhofer made a careful scrutiny of pawn and junk shops, finding nothing. Later, perhaps shopping for a replacement, she peered in the window of R.K. Holmes’ bicycle shop at 208 West Fifth and saw her very own bike within.

Detective Joseph Ritch was grilling Holmes on the appearance of the woman who’d sold him the hot wheel when he exclaimed “There she goes now!” And indeed, a young woman was gliding along Fifth towards Spring Street on yet another bicycle. Ritch dashed after her, and when she slowed to avoid people walking, he grabbed the girl and compelled her to come with him back to the shop. She came readily, denying any knowledge of the stolen bike or the shop, and was promptly identified.

The handsome Featherstone bike she was riding was, of course, someone else’s: Catalina Hotel resident Mrs. E. F. Sweezy’s. Confronted with serial numbers that matched a police report, and Holmes’ recognition, Lillian Wilson confessed that she had stolen both machines, selling Altenhofer’s about twenty minutes after taking it, and snatching Sweezy’s immediately after. Her South Main Street rooms were searched, and tool-bags from both bicycles found inside.

A third missing bicycle, belonging to Miss Mable Clapp and stolen from in front of her rooms at 614 South Main, was discovered in a shop on Broadway. The store owner well remembered seller Lillian Wilson, hailing from San Diego. All three machines had been taken within three hours on Saturday last.

Said cool Lillian, “I guess I’m in for it. You have got me, and I might as well tell you all about it. I’m not the crying kind. I’ll take my medicine.” She planned to plead guilty.

The bold girl was 20, and when not stealing, said she had been appearing as a flower girl in a play at the Burbank Theater. She had arrived but recently in Los Angeles, and was wanted for bicycle theft in her native San Diego, where she had worked as a book-keeper.

On September 23, she appeared in court, not so cocky anymore. Charged with two counts of theft, and represented by Hugh J. Crawford, Esq., she was somber in a white skirt, heliotrope shirt and waist and sailor hat. Crawford asked for a continuance, and it was noted that her parents were expected from San Diego.

The case dragged along until late December, when Lillian Wilson (not her real name, it transpires) quietly pled not guilty by reason of temporary insanity, and was acquitted. Her sister promptly fainted, as the girl thief announced that her intentions for the future were, simply, to be good.

July 29, 2009 at 5:43 am Leave a comment

Mr. Johnson’s Mickey Finns

George Brydon, resident of Sherman in the San Fernando Valley, was a prime rube, robbed twice before baring his shame to local police and newspaper readers. His sad tale began when he followed a man he knew as Johnson to a rooming house at 224 Winston, and shared two drinks with the acquaintance. Before long, he sank into the blackness of the drugged, and awoke much later, sans rings, watch and cash. Stumbling about seeking his lost goods, Brydon attracted the attention of friend Johnson, who returned with another man, and together they tied their victim’s hands with his own belt, forced him to swallow liquor, then administered a beating. Brydon again passed out, and awake to find he had now been relieved of his clothing, as well. Someone in a nearby room called for help, and after treatment at the Receiving Hospital, the unfortunate fellow borrowed a wrapper from a friendly cop and slunk home to sleep it off. If he came again to SRO Land, it didn’t make the papers.

June 27, 2009 at 2:24 am Leave a comment

The Case of the Missing Garter

When engaging a private detective, one seeks quick intelligence, discretion, the ability to negotiate all stratum of society with ease and elan. Based on an incident that occurred around noon on a Sunday in 1896, Joseph E. Gross is probably not your man. It seems the detective was standing with friends on the Southwest corner of Third and Spring, as a pair of fashionable ladies awaited the University Line red car trolley in the road. As one boarded, she gave a little wiggle of one foot and a tiny contraption fell onto the ground. Enjoying the spectacle of the wiggle, and wishing to be helpful and make a new acquaintance, Gross, snatched up the device and marched into the car, loudly calling to the lady who had lost it. He realized what he held about the same moment she did: a black garter with a silver buckle, which the dropper had intentionally allowed to fall rather than adjusting it in the street. “Yes, it’s mine, but you may have it,” stammered the embarrassed lass, and Mr. Gross jumped free from the car to allow Miss Saggy Stockings to roll on without him. Next stop: Humiliation!

June 23, 2009 at 4:11 pm Leave a comment


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