Book Review: Vallejo

Vallejo native (Brendan Riley) pens book on Vallejo’s old ‘barbary coast,’ holds book signing Saturday

By Rachel Raskin-Zrihen, Vallejo Times-Herald

POSTED: 08/14/17, 3:11 PM PDT | UPDATED: 1 WEEK AGO

“There’s a chapter on Baby Face Nelson that was really fascinating for me,” Riley said. He came as a “guest” of  Tobe Williams, an old safe cracker, who ran Vallejo General Hospital. According to FBI reports, though (Nelson) “committed no crime here that we know of, there was a murder during that time that was never solved.”

Nelson and his wife felt safe enough in Vallejo to “walk around town like anybody else, going to the movies, and so on,” despite being, at one point, the most wanted man in the United States, he said.

“The technology we have now didn’t exist which is why he came out to the West Coast; because the FBI was doing most of its searching in the Midwest,” Riley said.

Nelson wasn’t just hanging out in the Bay Area, but ran a bootleg liquor operation from Marin and San Francisco, while on the lam, he said.

Nelson returned to the Chicago area from Vallejo, and was soon killed in a shootout with two FBI agents, Riley said.

“At that time, he was Public Enemy No. One, after John Dillinger died in July 1934,” he said. “Nelson left Vallejo in October 1934 and died that November.”

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President Herbert Hoover 1930

Hoover seeks in vain to combat tough times, Aug. 15, 1930

 
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On this day (August 15th) 1930, President Herbert Hoover held a news conference in which he set out his plans to help people affected by a series of devastating droughts. The droughts, combined with a stock market crash in October 1929, led to a downward economic spiral that lasted throughout much of the 1930s and came to be known as the Great Depression.

In response to widespread drought conditions, the president called for a mass mobilization of aid workers. He called on governors to draft ideas on how best to provide relief to the rising ranks of the unemployed. He ordered the War Department to provide artillery-range land to Montana farmers where they could graze their parched cattle and sheep. Read more.

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On this day (August 15) 2017, President Donald Trump held a news conference in which he …

… At a stunning press conference Tuesday (August 15, 2017), President Donald Trump essentially took back his delayed, tepid denunciation of neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and other white nationalists who incited Saturday’s violence in Charlottesville, Virginia. He even described some as “very fine people.” …  Read More

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Book Review: Flappers

Lost Girls: The Invention of the Flapper by Linda Simon

With bobbed hair and flat chests Flapper Fanny and her friends were the scourge of polite society, says Ysenda Maxtone Graham

The ladies’ solo Charleston champion Miss Hardie in 1925
The ladies’ solo Charleston champion Miss Hardie in 1925GETTY IMAGES

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I (Ysenda Graham) always thought flappers were mainly a 1920s phenomenon. This book shows how wrong I was. As long ago as the 1890s the term flapper, already being used to mean “young prostitute”, came to be generalised and sanitised to describe thin, long-legged adolescent girls who were “flapping their butterfly wings”. By 1910 the flapper movement was going strong, much to the horror of mothers and the despair of clergymen. Read more.

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The Holland Michigan Bank and Baby Face Nelson

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Historic image of First State Bank in Holland, MI (image courtesy of Digital Holland, Michigan)

WHTC News has learned that the PNC bank branch on West 8th Street at Central Avenue will be closing on November 17th. Officials didn’t say a reason behind the move in a letter that arrived in deposit holders’ mailboxes on Monday.

Built in 1916 as First State Bank, it was the scene of a famous robbery on September 29, 1932 when Lester Gillis, better known as the notorious gangster “Baby Face Nelson,” allegedly joined forces with Eddie Bentz to take some 70 thousand dollars in cash and bonds, injuring a bystander in their flight. The crime was never solved by Holland police detectives. Read More.

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Hell’s Angles – Howard Hughes

HELL’S ANGELS 1930 

Hell’s Angels was a 1930 independently made American epic aviation war film, directed and produced by Howard Hughes, Controversy during the Hell’s Angels production contributed to the film’s notoriety, including the accidental deaths of several pilots. [Source Wikipedia]

Spoiler alert, the clip above is not a puff piece.

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Grapes of Wrath

The Grapes of Wrath is an American realist novel written by John Steinbeck and published in 1939. The book won the National Book Award] and Pulitzer Prize for fiction, and it was cited prominently when Steinbeck was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1962.

Set during the Great Depression, the novel focuses on the Joads, a poor family of tenant farmers driven from their Oklahoma home by drought, economic hardship, agricultural industry changes and bank foreclosures forcing tenant farmers out of work. Due to their nearly hopeless situation, and in part because they are trapped in the Dust Bowl, the Joads set out for California. Along with thousands of other “Okies“, they seek jobs, land, dignity, and a future. [Source Wikipedia]

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Five Things You Didn’t Know About 1920s Gangsters in Chicago

A new book offers some surprising glimpses into the city’s early 20th century underworld.

BY HANNAH NYHART  This article appears in the June 2017 issue of Chicago magazine.

 

ONE: Cicero, not Chicago, was dubbed the “wettest spot in the United States.” Agents discovered 20 separate large-scale stills in a single series of raids, reports John J. Binder in Al Capone’s Beer Wars: A Complete History of Organized Crime in Chicago During Prohibition (June 6, Prometheus Books). Crackdowns had forced the alcohol underworld into the western suburb, where the Torrio-Capone gang roughed up voters to sway the 1924 election and keep certain friendly politicians in office, thus securing itself free run of the town.

TWO: A sign of how cozy gangsters were with elected officials: After Capone’s mentor, James “Big Jim” Colosimo, was killed in 1920, his pallbearers included eight aldermen, three judges, and a U.S. congressman (shown above).

THREE: Gangsters weren’t all to blame for the murderous era. Of the 729 homicides in Cook County between 1919 and 1933 classified as “gang-style” killings by the Chicago Crime Commission, Binder found that 43 percent were actually not related to organized crime but to personal feuds and other private matters. A 1932 newspaper ad for a local textile shop read: “Bullet Holes Rewoven Perfectly in Damaged Clothes—Low Price.”

FOUR: Chicago’s 6,000 illicit slot machines temporarily disappeared in the late 1920s after a vigorous state’s attorney was elected, but gambling as a whole never really died down. By 1930, there were roughly 10,000 illegal locations, from barbershops to newsstands, to wager on horses or place other bets. You could find a spot to lose money about as often as you can find a bus stop today.

FIVE: Capone’s gang was pulling in “tribute” payments—a cut of profits for protection—from two-thirds of the city’s labor unions, but the milk wagon drivers refused to be controlled, even after Capone affiliates kidnapped their union’s president for a $50,000 ransom. Instead, they bombproofed the union office and bought a bulletproof car. Plan B: Capone opened a rival dairy, staffed trucks with his own men, and sold milk two cents cheaper. Read more

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Donuts, WWI, and the 1930’s Depression

WWI 1914 to 1918 

Nine million combatants and seven million civilians died.

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The following is from an article by Michael S. Rosenwald Washington Post Fri., June 2, 2017,

A century ago, not long after the United States entered World War I, the Salvation Army deployed hundreds of volunteers to France to soothe and bolster American troops.

The boys were homesick. They were hungry. They wanted a slice of apple pie.

But that, of course, was impossible. The many indignities of war include this undeniable one: A fox hole is a terrible place to bake.

So the Salvation Army troops improvised, frying dough in soldier helmets, producing such delicious donuts that when the war was over, when the troops finally came home, the government produced a guide for veterans to open donut shops.

Salvation Army volunteers (mostly women) who comforted the boys were called, “Donut Lassies.”

“As they dipped donuts for their boys, they dispensed motherhood,” John T. Edge wrote in “Donuts: An American Passion,” a seminal volume in the genre of historic deliciousness.

The recipe called for:

– 5 C flour;

– 2 C sugar;

– 5 tsp. baking powder;

– 1 ‘saltspoon’ salt;

– 2 eggs;

– 1 3/4 C milk; and

– 1 Tub lard.

The most important instruction: “Dust with powdered sugar. Let cool and enjoy.”

“As the nation slid into economic depression, the industry feared that donuts might go the way of the street corner apple,” Edge (a food historian) wrote. “So they aligned themselves with America’s emerging aristocracy, the ladies of gentlemen of Hollywood.”

Frank Capra put donuts in his movies. There’s that scene in “It Happened One Night” where Clark Gable teaches, as Edge puts it, “donut etiquette.” On Shirley Temple’s list of works is this: “Dora’s Dunking Donuts.” Laurel and Hardy posed for photos holding donuts.

And you know what?

Donuts survived the Great Depression. Hooray for donuts.

While their nutritional value is questionable, their patriotic value is as certain as the round hole at their center, through which eaters can look back through time and see not just food history, but the story of America – of our boys fighting for what’s right, fueled by what would become the country’s favorite pastry. Read more.

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“GYPSIES ORDERED TO VACATE CITY” The Marion Star Saturday. March 15, 1930

by Phil Reid, Sentimental Journey Published 5:00 p.m. ET May 25, 2017

“Mayor Jones Issues Ultimatum When Rovers Overstep Bounds of Phrenology.”

It took a band of gypsies just one week to find out they are not wanted here.

Orders to vacate the city by 12 o’clock today were issued by Mayor L. Don Jones in no uncertain terms. The orders were directed to the “chief” of the gypsies, and were forwarded to T. E. Sonnanstine, directed of public safety, who with the aid of the police department will see to it that the mayor’s orders are carried out.

The gypsies made themselves a nuisance when they stood on the sidewalks in front of their “booths” in several vacant business rooms in the uptown district and “beckoned” for trade, officials explained today.

This, and offers to “tell your fortune” exceeded the bounds of “phrenology,” which they were legally entitled to practice here. But fortune telling is barred by ordinance except with a permit and orders to travel were consequently issued. Read more.

Phrenology: a psychological theory or analytical method based on the belief that certain mental faculties and character traits are indicated by the configurations of the skull.

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