Monday, September 10, 2012

The Location Of The Sleepy Lagoon- Los Angeles

What it may have looked like....
Many websites claim to know the exact location of the old swimming hole or reservoir made famous by the murder of Jose Diaz in August of 1942. The press dubbed it the "Sleepy Lagoon Murder" because the body of Jose Diaz was found on the property where the popular swimming hole was located.

It was named "Sleepy Lagoon" after a popular song by the same name made famous by Glenn Miller and also Harry James' Orchestras.  I have written about the Sleepy Lagoon murder and the discrimination that the Los Angeles Police Department and the Courts had unlawfully and brutally assaulted these young men who were obviously innocent of the crime.

They railroaded hundreds of boys, rounding them up in a city wide dragnet, brought on by the District Attorney and L.A.P.D. Although eventually the majority of the boys were set free, there were several who were interrogated, booked and charged with murder. Although there wasn't sufficient evidence to convict, they were treated like animals and the jury found them guilty. If you read my blog,  "The Sleepy Lagoon, A Precursor to the Zoot Suit Riots" you can read more about the story for yourself.

This blog is about the whereabouts and actual location of the Sleepy Lagoon reservoir. You see, long ago the area was a ranch, full of hills and trees and nothing like it is today. Over the countless decades the area has significantly changed making it very difficult for one searching for the exact location of this "lagoon" to find it.  I will upfront say that if you google "Sleepy Lagoon address" or "Sleepy Lagoon Location" you will find countless blogs and websites claiming that it was at 5500 Slauson Avenue. You have to be careful when searching because there is more than one 5500 Slauson in Los Angeles County.  So you would need to search in the vicinity of Maywood, which now is a part of Bell, Calfornia. However, that address is incorrect, and I am here today to show you why it's incorrect and what the
real location was.

We can thank Eduardo Obregón Pagán, author of acclaimed book "Murder at the Sleepy Lagoon: Zoot Suits, Race, and Riot in Wartime L.A." and host of PBS' History's Detectives, for his awesome detective work after speaking to Lino Diaz, the brother of deceased Jose Diaz. He was able to create a diagram (map) based on Lino's memory of the Williams Ranch. According to the map, as seen below, the lagoon was just south of the cornfields and just mildly southeast of Atlantic Blvd. Go ahead and look on the map below and see that Bandini dead ended into Atlantic Blvd. You can also see that  26th st ran parallel to the railroad tracks.
Courtesy: "Murder at the Sleepy Lagoon: Zoot Suits, Race, and Riot in Wartime L.A."

Now if you know Los Angeles like I do, then you would know that the part of 26th Street that ran parallel to the railroad tracks doesn't exist anymore. Therefore, anyone could be confused when trying to find the location of the Williams Ranch or the lagoon especially when there are websites like wikimapia that states the location was in Commerce, California and if you click on the map it takes to you Slauson in Bell, but it's still not the location of Sleepy Lagoon.

If that were the case, then 5500 Slauson would be exactly where it shows Heliotrope High School (above in map). That wasn't the lagoon now was it? You can clearly see by the map that the lagoon was south of 26th street, southeast of Atlantic, north of Slauson Ave and west of Eastern Ave.

Present day area of Sleepy Lagoon
In 1975 the Federal Service Center sold off land in that general area as "Surplus Acreage" plus the city created the expansion of Bandini Blvd to cross from Atlantic to Eastern Avenue, thus literally making a road through the Williams Ranch. If you drive down Bandini Road today from Atlantic to Eastern you are driving on top of the old ranch. You are literally driving over the old cornfield, the spot where the Delgadillo's home stood among other homes, and the spot where Jose Diaz was murdered. The exact location where the lagoon was, could be where Bandini is now, or basically just a spot south of Bandini, more than likely at the end of the cul-de-sac on Lindbergh Lane, (where the arrow is pointing in the photo above).

Honestly, I was tired of all these websites claiming to know the exact location of the Sleepy Lagoon reservoir site. A fellow history lover showed me Eduardo Pagan's map from his book and I emailed Mr. Pagan regarding it. He was kind enough to provide me with insight regarding the location and how he obtained that information. I am most grateful to him for all of his help.

One note,  Heliotrope High no longer exists, and the Ford Motor Company wasn't built until 1947, however the memory of Lino Diaz was the only window into the geography of the area. Chrysler had a Company across the street from the Ford Motor Company location on Slauson and Eastern, so I am guessing in his old age he may have forgotten that some things out of current memory hadn't been built back in 1942. However, his memory of the general area was on spot if you look at the map above. All the streets that remained still show the exact area of where the Williams Ranch stood.

So in ending, with most of history as the world changes many times history is erased to build newer more modern things or places. The buildings, the streets and even the plush areas of terrain that once stood were bulldozed to fill the need of business and economic growth. For the tale of the Sleepy Lagoon, it is one that cannot be revisited. We cannot go to a park or stroll along a dirt road to bask in the idea that long ago stood a place, a getaway of sorts, for the youth to go and enjoy a casual swim or even a lover's lane.  Just as in the Black Dahlia case, many of the buildings and businesses do not exist anymore. History lover's such as myself are left to wonder with our imagination, what it was like back then.

If you go back to that area in the future I suggest you take a cruise around the entire area, especially Bandini Blvd. Remind yourself that once there was a lagoon, a ranch and a significant part of Mexican-American history took place at that very location.

J'aime Rubio © 2012
Google Maps
Sources: "Murder at the Sleepy Lagoon: Zoot Suits, Race, and Riot in Wartime L.A."

A big "THANK YOU" to Eduardo Obregón Pagán, author of "Murder at the Sleepy Lagoon: Zoot Suits, Race, and Riot in Wartime L.A." 

Don't forget to go out and get your copy of this book!!!

Click Here To Order His Book On AMAZON

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Daddy Was The Black Dahlia Killer- Or Was He?

Unless you have been living under a rock for the past 65 years then you have heard about the Black Dahlia Murder. On January 15th, 1947, the body of Elizabeth Short was found literally severed in half and left in a vacant lot near 3825 Norton Ave, Leimert Park (Los Angeles). This murder has become one of the most highly speculated and media covered unsolved cases of all time. The suspects have been many though the case was never technically solved.

I have written two separate articles regarding Elizabeth Short's life and now this will be my third. However, this isn't going to be a history lesson about Beth but instead a chance to defend her name. Many of you may be familiar with books written about Elizabeth's life or death and many may have read the book "Daddy Was The Black Dahlia Killer," written by Janice Knowlton.

In the book she goes on to state "repressed" memories that she suddenly remembered after so many years in such vivid detail. All the while her father was allegedly having an affair on his wife with Beth Short. Her ridiculous claims that Beth had a miscarriage while living in their garage and even the fact she claimed her father made her take part in the "dumping" of Short's body. Saying that they tried to dump her in the ocean but her body wouldn't sink. It got worse when she claimed that Beth Short was a whore, prostitute and child pimp who abused children and molested her.

I can understand she believed this was true, but it is so obvious that she wasn't in a good place mentally so how credible really was her "memories"? There are plenty of people with mental disorders who claims some of the strangest and ludicrous admissions that are completely untrue and impossible, but inside their minds they believe it to be true. Now it is possible she was just lying to get attention but I think she was just a sick woman who needed help.

Why did she go on a online chat and state that her father George Knowlton killed Elizabeth Short and a man named "Disney" made sure that the murder was covered up? Those are some pretty hefty allegations to be making without proof. Also, if she thought so poorly of Disney why did she work for Disney all those years as a singer and in the Horse Shoe Review at Disneyland and later as a Secretary for Disneyland, too?

Her chat message literally states: 
"My name is Janice Knowlton and my father, George Knowlton, murdered the woman known as the Black Dahlia; Cops, movie producers, a man named "Disney" and others made sure that he was never identified, but the proof is in a book I wrote with noted true crime author, Michael Newton, Pocket Books, Simon & Schuster. While I was investigating to prove my memories I received a threatening letter from a man named John Gilmore, which I did not respond to."-c/o The Black Dahlia Website (Pamela Hazelton) **Click here to read entire chat conversation and information.

I think it is quite terrible that this woman defamed not only Elizabeth Short, but also her father who had no way of defending his character because he was dead and also Walt Disney, who is also dead. I find that slanderous and defamatory and I could hardly believe that she would say such a thing.

According to my research Janice Knowlton's own step-sister Jolane Emerson stated for the papers that she believed that Janice's book was all fake. Jolane told the Los Angeles Times, "Her book was trash, and it wasn't even true." She also added, "She believed it, but it wasn't reality. I know, because I lived with her father for 16 years."  She went on to say that her step-father, "could be meaner and ornerier than heck, but he wasn't a killer."-- Los Angeles Times Article

 In my opinion, the book "Daddy Was The Black Dahlia Killer" is a fictional tale, made real inside the mind of Janice Knowlton. Perhaps she believed it was true, however I find it highly unbelievable and quite absurd.

In the end, this article isn't to make fun of Janice, quite the contrary. I actually feel badly for her. She must have had some serious mental issues to come up with such stories. I wonder if she had ever been hypnotized, as I know that the power of suggesting trauma happening to a person actually can make you believe things that never happened at all. I know this because someone I know went to a hypnotist and came back with all sorts of creepy memories of abuse as a child when in fact it was impossible that those things could have happened to her. When your mind is under someone else's control, that is a very dangerous thing.
Again, maybe Janice had some other chemical imbalance or mental illness and she just "conjured" these false memories up but her allegations were in fact very disturbing and seemed to be without credibility in regards to the evidence of Elizabeth's cold case. I don't want to say bad things about Janice, in fact I hope in her final days that she found some peace, although several articles mention she may have committed suicide from depression. Who knows!? Either way, Janice Knowlton passed away on March 5th, 2004 at the age of 67, be it an accidental overdose or intentional overdose.

Whatever the case, I still find that those accusations made in the book about Elizabeth Short were terrible and defamatory. I wonder why Beth's family never sued Knowlton for dragging Beth's memory and character through the mud. Maybe Beth Short didn't live by the same moral code as most people, and maybe she did. We will never truly know that for sure, but accusing her of such heinous crimes as molesting, abusing and pimping children was just downright wrong.  ---

 (Copyright) 2012- Dreaming Casually by J'aime Rubio

For More Info On the Black Dahlia Click Below:


The Connection Between The Black Dahlia Murder and the Infamous Torso Murders of Cleveland