Santa Monica Pier (File photo)

Editor’s note: This is part of a monthly feature that tracks Santa Monica’s history by compiling notable city happenings from a century ago. The stories are found in old newspaper archives.

In May of 1915, Jessie L. Saunders, a Santa Monica teacher, won a legal battle that would result in higher pay for teachers across the state of California, according the Los Angeles Times archives.

At the time, primary school teachers were paid less than assistant teachers who worked at the upper schools. Saunders, who was making $883.33 per year (about $20,500 today), sued over the discrepancy and won the right to be paid like an upper school assistant teacher.

As a result, she stood to make $1,100 per year (about $25,500 today). Old school laws, the Times said, would likely change statewide as a result of the ruling.

British noble caught wooing underage slave

A British nobleman, on a mission to the United States to purchase $20 million ($465 million today) worth of war supplies for his government was accused of sending love letters to a girl being kept, by another man, illegally, as a slave.

According to the Times’ archive, about 100 years ago, Sir William Ross Eaton had met Robert Elmer Denning, a drifting hustler who went by the name “Buckshot” and M. Oroma, who was known as “The Mayor of Japtown,” the name for Santa Monica’s Japanese fishing village on the wharf.

Buckshot apparently rolled into Santa Monica, after uprooting from a slew of Midwestern cities, with two girls, including the one to whom Sir Eaton was writing.

The nobleman was on business in Chicago when Santa Monica Police Offer Holt arrested Buckshot for bringing a 16-year-old girl to the fishing village for “immoral purposes.”

Further investigation showed that Buckshot and Oroma were keeping two girls against their will. Once locked up, Denning turned over some letters from Sir Eaton addressed to “Sweet Violet,” one of the two girls. Denning and Oroma were also under investigation for opium smuggling.

Police searched for Sir William in Chicago but, as of the end of May of 1915, they were unable to locate him.

Train fare politics

A century ago this month, Santa Monica failed in an attempt to cut train fares to and from Downtown Los Angeles in half. Long Beach officials complained that such a fare reduction would be a major blow to their tourism industry.

Santa Monica’s business community had sent a petition to Pacific Electric requesting the fare reduction.

Drowned man

In May of 1915, the body of a man, likely a Japanese fisherman, washed up on the shore near Ashland Avenue.

Anyone who reads Santa Monica archives from the early 20th century, when local fishing was more common and lifeguards less so, knows that waterlogged bodies washing ashore were not a rare event.

But this description of the ocean’s effect on the body, which was well-dressed in a blue serge suit, light blue shirt, and a pair of sub-toed black shoes bought in Santa Barbara, is worthy of revival: “The head was entirely devoid of flesh and both arms and hands were eaten away, the body having been in the water for many days. The flesh from parts of the trunk and limbs were also gone. The corpse will be held in a sealed casket for identification.”

dave@www.smdp.com

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