Editor’s note: This monthly feature uncovers Santa Monica’s history by compiling notable city happenings from a century ago. The stories are found in old newspaper archives.
A bizarre, crime-riddled series of events in Santa Monica was brought to an end a hundred years ago this month, not by police or by innocent bystanders, but by a toad.
S.F. “Red” White, a 22-year-old former star football player at Santa Monica High School, was arrested “after a series of peculiar incidents,” according to an archived Los Angeles Times article.
White was allegedly making trouble while driving around on the Westside in his white racing car with two passengers.
White and his passengers were accused of trying to hold up another motorist near the intersection of Wilshire Boulevard and 7th Street. The victim reported that the alleged suspects were masked, but White later said the mask in his pocket was left over from a carnival on the beach the previous night.
White’s night on the town ended when his car struck a toad near the intersection of what is now Marine Street and Lincoln Boulevard. The car crashed into the front window of a nearby house, according to the article.
Not so fast
Santa Monica’s top law enforcement official warned a century ago this month that streetcar operators would be arrested for speeding.
Police Chief Fred W. Ferguson announced that Pacific Electric motormen would face tougher consequences because the practice of referring them to their employer for punishment was not producing results.
It was alleged that the operators along what is now the Expo Line were frequently topping the 12-mph speed limit, but the operators complained that the cars could not “make a fair schedule” at that pace, according to a Times brief.
Ferguson’s order came amid increasing competition between the streetcars and jitneys.
An 18-year-old man was arrested by Santa Monica police 100 years ago this month after a two-year crime spree during which he cared for a 12-year old boy.
Ralph J. Hederle admitted to “preying upon the pocketbooks and money boxes of persons living in beach apartments for six weeks,” according to a Times article.
Hederle, who allegedly planned to adopt the boy, was caught after trying to escape from authorities by “sliding four stories down a ventilator shaft” of a local apartment complex, according to the article.
Gone in a flash
A man accused of writing fictitious checks in Santa Monica a hundred years ago this month escaped from jail moments after being locked up.
Frank W. Ball was arrested for allegedly passed checks using two pseudonyms, and he was brought to a Sawtelle-area jail, according to a Times brief.
Assistant Marshal J.E. Leavers “locked him up, but no sooner had he turned a corner than someone picked the lock and set the prisoner free,” the brief reads.
Ode to Santa Monica
J.D.H. Browne a century ago published in the Times an ode to the coastal city, the last two stanzas of which are reproduced below:
“Where your mountain slopes and the ocean meet / And the air is rife / With strength and joy and nectar sweet / Where the gulls sail by on pinions fleet / And the leaping waves that kiss your feet / Sing their psalm of life.
“Oh, there to rest on the sun-warmed sand / By the steel-blue sea! / And mine are the shining sea and land / And the sky that covers thy favored strand / For all things fair, with a lavish hand / Thou givest to me.”