News stories from the local press

1918

In 1918 America was at war and the entire country was doing what they could to help the war effort.  But some wondered if liberties were being threatened.

 

AMERICAN PROTECTIVE LEAGUE

  Vigilantes or patriots?  Some weren’t sure if the American Protective League (APL), a private organization that worked with federal law enforcement agencies in support of the anti German movement during World War I, was a good thing or a bad thing.  Formed by a wealthy Chicago businessman, A.M. Briggs, it had 250,000 dues-paying members in 600 cities throughout the United States.  It wasn’t just Germans the group went after—draft dodgers, anarchist, pacifists and labor unions were also targeted as being “un-American.”  It was a genuine secret society replete with oath and rituals and it was sanctioned by the U.S. Justice Department.  Membership gave every associate the authority to be a national policeman.  Usually the fist place put under surveillance was the local school.  The old (Federal) Bureau of Investigation and the War Department’s Intelligence Division requested the APL report on “seditious and disloyal” conversation. Long Beach was quite active in the movement.

On May 2, 1918, A. Ferdinand Louis Teriller, a pastry chef, was arrested by members of the APL and Long Beach police. He had been accused of making seditious and unpatriotic utterances.   Found on his possession were documents in Spanish and a letter bearing the stamp of a German consul.  A bottle containing enough cyanide to kill 10 or 15 people was found in his room.

The maximum sentence for “un-American” statements was a fine of $200 and 90 days in County jail, however APL members in Long Beach didn’t think this was a severe enough sentence for Karl Alvin Kluge, proprietor of a Pike café.  They were trying to secure a Presidential warrant to have Kluge interned for the rest of the war.  He had offended many by making the remark that the German atrocities upon the civilians of Belgium were a necessary part of war.  In his café he was said to have openly bragged about German advances, at the same time ridiculing the Allied defense. On May 9, 1918, Long Beach Judge Carl Hawkins declared that men such as Kluge should be lined up against a wall and shot, but under the law Hawkins had no power to extend the sentence to more than 100 days in jail.

Judge Hawkins and the APL continued their hunt for violators of Long Beach’s new sedition ordinance.  On May 24th Fred Kohler of 1917 E. 10th St. was arrested on the Pike for refusing to contribute a penny to the Red Cross, even though he had over $17,000 in the bank.  Hawkins fined him $200 and sentenced him to 100 days in jail. He also ordered Kohler to contribute $200 to the Red Cross. Kohler agreed when he discovered the Red Cross cared for wounded Germans as well as Allied soldiers.

Long Beach Red Cross

The shipyards were under constant surveillance by the Long Beach branch of the APL.  On June 5, 1918, Fred Winkmann, acting superintendent of the Craig Shipbuilding Company was arrested for misrepresenting himself.  Winkmann had been watched by the APL for several weeks, ever since it was reported that certain technical data had been leaking from the Craig plant.  Although possessing a German name and a German face, the 47-year-old Winkmann declared he was a native of England. When an APL    officer visited Winkmann’s home he found under a pile of rags in a closet Winkmann’s signed oath that he was born in Cologne, Germany.  It was on his application papers for becoming an American citizen, taken out in December 1915 before America entered the war. Among pro-German remarks attributed to Winkmann was one in which he asserted that ships built at Long Beach would never get across the ocean.  This was regarded as significant by authorities because a steel freighter, recently launched and completed at the Craig yards, had broken down in mid ocean.

Craig Shipbuilding

On July 15, 1918, Conrad Winters, assistant foreman at the yards of the Long Beach Shipbuilding Company, was taken to Long Beach city jail, charged with having failed to register as an alien enemy. He was arrested by operatives of the American Protective League, who charged be was born in Germany. An investigation begun at the time Fred Winkmann was taken into custody as an alien enemy was said to have resulted in the arrest of Winters.

On July 20, 1918, the American Protective League caught another man, 29-year-old Lee J. McDonald, who was alleged to have said the United States entered the war for graft. Placed in the Long Beach jail, McDonald failed to produce a draft registration card. He was also said to have had a quantity of high explosive in his possession at the time of his arrest. He had just arrived in Long Beach a week earlier from Arkansas, he said, seeking employment in the shipyards.

Women weren’t exempt from the all invasive eye of the APL.  On October 3, 1918, Ada Travis of 321 Newport Avenue, was arrested for threatening the life of President Wilson and declaring that Liberty Bonds were absolutely worthless and that after the war would be of less value than the paper they were printed on.  When authorities arrived the young woman barricaded herself into her home nailing up doors and windows.  Police surrounded the residence and made a spectacular entrance by breaking down a door, but they were greeted to a barrage of red pepper spray.  Officers, with hats pulled down to protect their eyes, finally captured the prisoner before she had time to let loose her other bags of the pungent spice. Mrs. Travis faced a 20-year sentence for her alleged pro-German utterance and activities.

 

WOMEN AND THE WAR

 The Bigamous Mrs. Kirby

 Blanche Kirby, alias Queenie Von Kirby, a professional dancer was brought before Long Beach police in September 1918 and charged with a “wholesale plan to defraud the government by bigamous marriages to soldiers and sailors in order to receive their insurance money, and government allotments.” (LB Press 9/25/1918)  It seemed that Mrs. Kirby entertained numerous soldiers and sailors at her home, introducing her husband, Elliott Kirby, as her brother, and her 4-year-old daughter as her niece.  She married Lee Gilley, a soldier stationed in the Long Beach harbor district, on August 15, 1918.  Gilley had taken out $10,000 war risk insurance, naming her as the beneficiary and provided her with his government pay.  A sailor stationed in San Pedro narrowly escaped her clutches when she broke off the engagement when she learned he was not going to be ordered to the front.

The government vowed to break up “this sort of business” by keeping close tabs on all marriages in the army or navy.  An investigation into Mrs. Kirby’s past revealed much more.  She was not legally married to Gilley or Kirby. In fact she was still married to Al Woods, whom she married when she was 16-years-old.

Women Work 

Long Beach women stepped into the employment breach caused by so many men going off to war.  Women began to replace men as waiters, soda fountain dispensers and elevator operators, gradually taking other positions as men were called into military service.  By October 1918 scarcely a bank, department store or factory in Long Beach didn’t have women working.  Women had always played an important part in the canning industry, and now, during the war, the canning factories were almost entirely run by women.  They donned overalls to work as caulkers in the shipyards where they were also employed in the shellac rooms and as bolt counters.  In addition they were filling clerical positions all over town.  Several women were sent by the federal employment bureau to the Long Beach Sash and Door Company, where they were running lathes, making tables, chairs, wall beds and other products.  Several girls who had excelled at chemistry in high school were sent to fill positions as chemists at the Los Alamitos sugar factory while another filled the position of knife grinder at the same sugar factory. Hundreds of other women were deployed to various farms and to fruit picking centers by the local employment office. Eight women were employed as car cleaners for the Pacific Electric Company, another eight as postal clerks; others as delivery clerks.  It was a woman who was the sole mechanic in the Baldwin garage.  Women all over Long Beach were doing their best to help in the war effort.

It was the service of women in the military and the defense works that gave a huge push to the passing of the 19th Amendment.

President Woodrow Wilson was won over to the suffragists’ side in part because of the bravery of women serving on the front and their proven abilities as they replaced men in offices and factories. In September 1918 Wilson addressed the Senate, urging that they follow the House in passing the 19th Amendment. His dramatic plea asked that the Senators recognize the contributions made by American women in the war. Wilson proclaimed:

“…Are we alone to ask and take the utmost that our women can give, service and    sacrifice of every kind, and still say we do not see what title that gives them to stand by our sides in the affairs of their nations and ours? We have made partners of the women in this war; shall we admit them only to a partnership of suffering and sacrifice and toil and not to a privilege and right?”

   The war was also responsible for the 18th Amendment. Many Prohibitionists used the war to push for conservation of food, especially barley, wheat, corn and sugar, by prohibiting these foods from being used for making alcohol.  It was not right for foods to be taken away from feeding our soldiers and allies and used for alcohol, the Drys said. Even Kaiser Wilhelm closed saloons and curtailed breweries in his war economy. Congress passed a law prohibiting liquors and beers being sold to servicemen in 1917, supposedly making servicemen better soldiers. In August and December of the same year, Congress voted to send the 18th Amendment, the liquor prohibition amendment, to the states for ratification. Patriotism and prohibition seemed interwoven.

THE WAR ENDS

Long Beach citizens celebrate the end of the war

At 9:06 in the morning of November 7th the Long Beach Daily Telegram received a United Press wire that Germany had signed an armistice.  The war was over!  The newspaper staff immediately got on the telephone and spread the news throughout the town.  The bathhouse siren roared, automobiles everywhere began to honk their horns, street cars and trains set bells and whistles going.  In an amazingly short time the streets were jammed with flag-bedecked autos and trucks.  Businesses closed.  Thousands of people, despite the influenza forced ban on public gatherings, paraded down the streets yelling, weeping, and waving flags.

A semi-official parade began at 2 o’clock from the corner of Fourth and Pacific. One automobile in the procession had a representation of the Kaiser’s goat mounted on the hood; another carried the Kaiser’s coffin.  Patriotic adults distributed packages of firecrackers to kids on the street.  At 3 p.m.  three German flags were burned.

An “official” celebration had to be delayed because of the influenza quarantine (read more about this in my 1917 blog).  “Victory Day” was eventually held on Sunday, December 8th. 3,500 people thronged the Municipal Auditorium for the three hour program.  Allied nations were represented by speakers from France, Canada, Japan, Belgium, Italy, Australia, Serbia, Armenia, Czechoslovakia, Britain and America.

Another celebration was held the following year, when 400 men and six women were welcomed home to Long Beach on September 9, 1919.  All were given bronze medals following a parade in which the latest war veterans were honored.  The medal was designed by Long Beach’s own Bert Paul.

Long Beach’s service banner would have looked like this but the numbers would have been different.

That evening eulogies were spoken for those that died.  The weather-stained city service banner, which had flown over the city since the war started, was retired.  Attached to the banner was a mammoth gold star inscribed with the number 50, signifying the number of men who gave their lives in the war.  A blue star bore the numerals showing that 2437 others had stood willing to die, if necessary, in the cause of humanity.  Following a tribute to the returned war heroes and to those who would never return, Mayor Lisenby adjusted a white silken streamer diagonally across the banner, partly obliterating the numerals on the service stars, indicating the closure of this chapter in the history of the City of Long Beach.  For sixty seconds, the three thousand people in attendance stood in silent reverence before the service banner, bidding unspoken farewell to the flag that for more than two years had stood as a constant reminder of the sacrifices made by residents of Long Beach during the Great War.

2437 Long Beach men and women had gone to war; 50 of them did not return.  In comparison, 9000 cases of influenza were reported in Long Beach between October 1, 1918 and February 1, 1919; 148 Long Beach residents died.

The flu buried more than 50 million people throughout the world in eighteen months.  The death rate stunned physicians.  It took the battlefields of France four years to kill 15 million men but the flu did the same work in much less time.  In the United States alone more people died of the flu (550,000 adults) in 1918 than the U.S. military lost to combat in both World Wars, Korea and Vietnam.  In Alaska, whole Indian villages disappeared while India lost more than 12 million people.  Adults with flu finished a poker game or army drill one minute, only to drop dead the next.  Although the epidemic initiated the biggest plague die-off in world history, it is remembered, when it is remembered at all, as no more than a bad outbreak of “the flu.”

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TIMELINE

From the Daily Telegram (DT) and Los Angeles Herald (LAH)

January

3 (DT) – Sugar rationed: household purchases now limited to five pounds.

7 (LAH) – Members of the fire and police departments at Long Beach are deserting for more lucrative positions at the ship-building plants at San Pedro, according to a report to the beach city commissioners. About, a score of the city employees have resigned.

17 (LAH) – Hawaiian surf-board riders probably will be employed as life guards at Long Beach next summer. The plan to employ the Hawaiians was submitted to the Long Beach Chamber of Commerce today. It was stated that all of the life guards employed last summer either were drafted or enlisted in the Army.

– The work of constructing a lighthouse station at the entrance to Long Beach harbor was started today when the first piles were driven.

28 (DT) – City begins flood control work.

February

11 (DT) – Southland’s first ship of new merchant marine successfully launched at Craig Shipyards – named the Silverado.

March

4 (LAH) – Three Austrians were held by the Long Beach police today for threatening to spit on the uniform of an American soldier.

8 (LAH) – A syndicate to place whale meat on the Los Angeles market is being organized by Capt. John D. Loop of Long Beach, famous whaling master. Capt. Loop will superintend the capture of the whales off the Pacific coast and the delivery of the meat to Los Angeles markets. It was claimed that whale steaks can be placed on the market at one-fourth the cost of beef.

17 (DT) –  New Saint Luke’s episcopal church dedicated.

20 (LAH) – Arrangements have been completed for the Chicago Cubs to meet the Long Beach Poly high school baseball team, Monday afternoon.

26 (LAH) – The Chicago Cubs defeated the Long Beach high school lads by the tune of 4 to 1.

30 (DT) – Daylight savings time goes into effect for the first time.

April

10 (DT) – Military training at Poly High compulsory.

11 (DT) – Construction of big new amusement park on the Pike’s Silver Spray pier begins.

17 (DT) – German songs to be eliminated from books used in Long Beach classrooms.

22 (DT) – Quake shakes Long Beach but does little damage.

24 (DT) – Shipbuilder John Craig acquitted in Hindu plot case. Had been charged with planning a revolution in India against British rule.

27 (DT) – Week long Chautauqua opens.

May

7 (DT) – Long Beach patrolmen threaten to quit jobs unless advance provision is made in next year’s city budget for increased salaries.

8 (DT) – California Shipbuilding and Craig Shipyards consolidated. Long Beach Shipbuilding Company to operate both yards.

10 (DT) – Camping to be permitted in Belmont Pier area.

13 (DT) – Gas mask chemicals to be manufactured by Long Beach men.

21 (LAH) – Long Beach Apt. Houses Bar Pets – With members asserting that American women should “raise babies instead of pampering pets,” the Long Beach Apartment House and Hotel Proprietors’ Association adopted a resolution barring animals from their premises. George K. Marsh, who introduced the resolution, stated that the association would be doing patriotic service by discouraging the pampering of pets by women.

22 (LAH) – The Long Beach commissioners have under consideration an ordinance providing for the licensing of cats and the shooting on sight of unlicensed dogs. Mayor Lisenby stated that wartime conditions demand stern measures to lessen the number of hungry dogs.

27 (DT) – First of annual clip from San Clemente Island sheep brought to mainland for processing.

June

10 (LAH) – Demanding an increase of $25 per ton for tuna, 1300 fishermen, operating 375 boats, went on strike at Long Beach, San Pedro and Wilmington today. The strike tied up 25 canneries at Long Beach and in the harbor district.

12 (LAH) – Seven Austrian fishing boats manned by Americans and Italians, were used by one fishing plant to break the fishermen’s strike at Long Beach today. This company did a capacity business all day with the Austrian boats and a small fleet of Italian boats. Two plants were closed entirely, while other concerns did a minimum business with Italian fishermen.

19 (LAH) – A Long Beach girl with a $l6 graduating dress is not going to be allowed on the platform at the graduation tomorrow night if she persists in wearing the expensive gown. This was the ultimatum issued by the principal of the high school, David Burcham, at the meeting of the Long Beach Board of Education today and the board members upheld him. The name of the girl was not given. However, she was accused of breaking faith with the other girls of the graduating class, who had entered a pact not to wear dresses the material for which cost more than $5.

July

1 (DT) Charles I.D. Looff, amusement promoter, dies.

2 (LAH) – Two gold stars have been added to the service banner at Long Beach. The stars mark the death in service of David Evans and Guy Nowlin. Evans, was killed in action in France. He was with the infantry. Nowlin, was a member of the crew of the naval collier, Cyclops, regarded officially by the government as lost.

3 (DT) – Mrs. Bernice Edgar of Long Beach files nominating petition. Is first woman in state to run for State Assembly.

8 (DT) – Buster Keaton leaves Arbuckle’s film studio in Long Beach to don U.S. khaki.

11 (DT) – Japanese fishermen openly defy Food Administration and threaten to kill president of their own organization – vote to continue strike.

17 (DT) – Famous comedy star is leaving Long Beach: Roscoe Arbuckle and Company to seek another location for purely business reasons.

24 (DT) – West Beach seawall is completed.

August

6 (DT) – Long Beach Fisheries Company purchases Golden State Tuna cannery.

10 (DT) – Eleventh annual picnic of Iowa Association held.

13 (DT) – City of campers brightens life around Belmont Pier: 700 people who tire of cramped housing conditions spend vacations on the beach.

19 (DT) – Fanny Bixby, daughter of “father of Long Beach,” Jotham Bixby, weds Socialist co-worker, Carl Spencer.

27 (DT) First man who registered for draft in Long Beach, Hall W. Watts, killed in France.

September

3 (DT) – Gold star with numerals “16” placed on city service banner for those who have died in the war.

16 (LAH) – With high school girls from Long Beach raking hay and cutting and stacking beans, the crops on the Bixby ranch are almost harvested. This is the first year that women have worked on the Bixby ranch, and the success obtained with women employees has caused other ranchers in the vicinity to send out S. O. S. calls for girl helpers. R. C. Andrews, the superintendent, said that the girls supplied from the high school had worked diligently and faithfully and had gotten in the hay and bean crops just as well as men.

23 (DT) – Balboa Film Studio may be dismantled and sold unless one of two deals materializes.

28 (DT) – Fourth Liberty Loan drive begins.

October

2 (DT) – City health officer says Long Beach is free from Spanish influenza.

3 (DT) – Balboa Film plant may be leased to Goldwyn Corporation.

4 (LAH) – A movement to provide a temporary channel to divert storm waters from inland and prevent silting has been launched by flood control workers at Long Beach. The channel could be constructed within two months at the cost of $30,000 and would protect the harbor and industries at the beach, it was stated. The proposed channel would extend from the ocean to a point where Cerritos slough now empties into the harbor.

(DT) – California lightless night order continues: will be in force indefinitely with no exceptions, even during the Liberty Loan drive.

11 (DT) – Drastic action taken by City because of Spanish influenza: all schools, churches, theaters, dance halls, bath houses and lodges ordered closed and public meetings forbidden.

19 (DT) – Churches are closed because of the influenza so sermons will be published.

25 (DT) – City creates Board of Harbor Commissioners.

26 (DT) – Dr. William J. Cook dies at Seaside Hospital from influenza.

30 (DT) – Increase in influenza cases but health officials say many are of the mild type.

November

1 (DT) – City’s mortality rate high in October: health officer reports 107 deaths during the month, 57 of them from influenza.

4 (DT) – Health authorities prepare to lift ban: order fumigation of all schools, theaters, churches, lodge meeting rooms and public meeting places.

5 (LAH) – Demanding a 25 per cent increase in wages, more than 50 weavers and spinners employed at the Golden State Woolen Mills, Long Beach, were on strike today. Officials of the company refused to grant their demands, it was reported. The mills are engaged in government work exclusively.

6 (LAH) – 500 homes for shipbuilders in San Pedro and Wilmington, and the same number for Long Beach is requested. The need for these homes for ship workers was revealed by the canvass of housing officials. The work of building was stopped at both harbor sections weeks ago, after the order of the war industries board was issued prohibiting any building except for necessary war industries or repairs.

7 (LAH) – All of America is celebrating with rumors the war has ended. At Long Beach city the women tore their hair and became hysterical. One or two rolled and jumped on the beach like little children obsessed with excitement and exaltation. In the flash of the reported news the depression and tragedy brought by the Great War collapsed. Drooping shoulders straightened; strained, pale faces brightened into highest enthusiasm; voices that had been trembling shouted huzzahs and prayers of thanksgiving in clarion tones.

17 (DT) – Closing ban due to the flu is only partially lifted: theaters, churches and other places opening, children under 16 barred – schools remain closed.

23 (DT) – Ban entirely lifted after 6 p.m.

December

8 (DT) – Victory Day celebration draws an immense crowd.

9 (DT) – Schools open.

13 (DT) – Quarantine ordinance a drastic measure: failure to report cases of influenza and pneumonia made a misdemeanor.

17 (DT) – City considering annexing Signal Hill and Los Cerritos.

18 (DT) – To dismiss schools only Christmas and New Year’s Day: 30 minutes added to high school day – grade school year extended two weeks.

27 (DT) – Historic American Avenue school building destroyed by fire.