THE HISTORY BOOKS — It was a rough month for Santa Monica journalists a century ago. There was the woman knocked out by an assailant on the rails. She came to right as the train approached. There was the order by the Police Commission that all “tangoing, ragging, and fancy dancing stopped from this day on.” There was the hiring of the city’s first health inspector at $100 a month. But on the whole, June 1914 was a quiet in Santa Monica.
75 years ago
Turn the clock forward a quarter-century to June 1939 — the year “The Big Sleep” was written by Raymond Chandler, whose seedy Bay City is a pseudonym for Santa Monica.
Car wrecks were rampant, killing several Santa Monicans during that month. There were a couple grisly murders; a son killed his mother with a hammer. Water was on the mind of public officials.
The biggest news of the day was breaking just off the coast. The California Supreme Court heard arguments about the gambling boats located in the Santa Monica Bay.
The issue came down to whether or not the boat in question, the “Rex,” was anchored in a legally described bay or on the high seas, according to the Los Angeles Times archives.
The attorney for the owners of the floating casino told the courts that the Navy, Army, and Marine Corps authorities had testified that the bay was recognized as high sea.
The bay, the state’s attorney claimed referencing several sources, is any water within the a line drawn between Point Dume and Point Vicente, which would have put the “Rex” eight miles within California’s jurisdiction.
Months earlier, owners of the boat had been arrested and found guilty. That case was overturned. The state appealed.
The federal government filed a supporting brief stating: “The United States is not primarily concerned with gambling but we are anxious about jurisdiction over a festering point for major crimes.”
The court would not make a ruling on the boats until months later but the Los Angeles Chief of Police didn’t wait around.
In late June, he issued an all-points-bulletin to his officers to report all “advertisements of gambling boats” on the piers or marinas.
“It is unlawful,” he noted, according to the Times’ archive, “for any person within this state to solicit, entice, induce, persuade, or procure, or to aid in soliciting any person to visit any gambling ship be within or without the jurisdiction of California.”
Even newspapers advertising gambling boats, the chief said, would be warned before arrests were made.
Today a DC-3 airplane sculpture sits outside the Museum of Flying at Santa Monica Airport as a monument to Santa Monica’s aviation history. Seventy-five years ago this month Donald Douglas’ firm built its 200th DC-3, and 350th total airplane. By 1941, Douglas said, the firm would have built 600 planes.