Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Secrets In Your Own Back Yard

 I grew up in Los Angeles ,California back in the 60's and 70's back when you could stay out until midnight on Halloween and not have to worry too much about bad people. Back when every house had their lights on and you knew everyone on the block. I had been inside every house on our block, there was no one that you could not trust or so we thought. It was a time of innocence.
The home I grew up in

It's hard to not think of  the house I grew up in as home. I miss it sometimes, it was a place of safety. I look at the trees my grandparents lovingly planted and tended. But it is not ours anymore, another family lives there.

It wasn't until I grew up and moved away that I discovered we had some notorious criminals that retired with in blocks of my home. In fact one of my best friends fathers was one of them. We discovered the first one on our way to Nebraska, it was late fall and there was snow in the mountains, I knew the Mr. had never driven in snow so I opted to take the southern route, this took us through, Arizona, New Mexico,  a short stint in Texas , through the Oklahoma pan handle , into Kansas and then finally Nebraska. 

What a trip, it takes much longer but my families safety was paramount. Because I always loved to make our trips an adventure we made a lot of stops. Every time we saw a sign that looked interesting we stopped, we saw the kitchen that Jessie James and his gang stopped in and had breakfast from a kindly pioneer woman, two headed snakes, giant cement dinosaurs and a multitude of museums. When we arrived in Coffeeville, Kansas we saw signs everywhere directing us to see the museum dedicated to the bank robbery and consequent end of the Dalton Gang 
Splayed across the wall was the death photo of
Dalton gang following the Coffeyville, Kansas raid. Left to right: Bill Power; Bob Dalton; Grat Dalton, Dick Broadwell
Oct. 5.1892
Bob Dalton wanted to be remembered and he wanted to out do Jessie James so he decided to  rob two banks on the same day, both located in Coffeeville, Kansas but these boys were known and while they were robbing the banks the men of the town armed themselves and formed an ambush. When they appeared out of the bank the shootout began and four of the gang were killed. There was one survivor Emmett Dalton even though he received 23 bullet wounds he survived to go to prison with a life sentence, but as it goes he was pardoned after 14 years and he moved to California, his home was 2 blocks from mine. He died in 1937 and back then there weren't many homes in the area, no paved roads and he would have enjoyed relative anonymity. I was blown away.

in the '70s someone was digging up their back yard and found Spanish gold, mom had told me that when they moved to the area there were not many homes and at night you could see fires where people were out around the old Spanish Ranch digging looking for treasure. Because back in the day, there were no banks and the Ranch owners buried their gold and silver to protect it against bandits
There are rumors that the hills are filled with old caverns that were once used as vaults.

In fact the old hacienda was at the corner and our house was 2 lots down, Indians used our lot to camp out in, we found grinding stones, arrow heads, pottery and baskets in our yard all the time. There was bamboo at the very back of the yard and it was a source of many hidden treasures. 

But the most shocking to me was my friends father. She had told me he had been to prison but said she did not know why, he had been gone when she and her brother were small and she could remember her mother taking them to see him while he was in the hospital getting better. I didn't think anything of it. I remembered him always sitting at the end of the dinning room table sitting back and smoking.
He never seemed to have a job and he never seemed to be in a hurry. He would talk to me and I was a gabber, I could talk about anything even if I didn't know what I was talking about. I don't know if he was humoring me, having fun with my ignorance or if he truly liked me. But he would get into  long conversations with me and I loved him for it. This will be my memory of Mr. John Irwin. 
                                                                                                      (Mr John Irwin is third to the right below)
Imagine my shock because as an adult I became very into history and certain celebrities, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Clark Gable and Cary Grant were absolute favorites of mine. I remember getting into conversations about Frank Sinatra with Mr. Irwin, my mom had old 78's and he was interested in them, would she sell them. My mom would never sell anything, if she could she would have gone to her grave with all her treasures. Back to the story, I started to poke into my favorite celebrities lives especially when the internet became such a huge thing. Back then, there were no blocks or copy right bans you could find out anything about anyone as information was poured into the expanding info highway. So when I put in Frank Sinatra, I discovered what many people know already, his son had been kidnapped! But to my shock one of the men arrested was my friends father Mr. John There was the face that always sat half amused and always smoking in hand cuffs heading to court as an accomplice of Frank Sinatra Jr.s kidnapping.  I was stunned.

As the story goes they had a plan to kidnap Frank Sinatra Jr but then J.F.Kennedy was killed and Mr. Irwin said they should not do it, he had a bad feeling about it all. But the ring leader who was a childhood friend of the Sinatra children, Frank knew him and took him for ice cream, was not going to back out of it, he wanted to go ahead. So he took the third man and went to Reno, snatched Frank Sinatra Jr and took him to the prearranged safe house. Which is where my friends father came into it, I have read many versions of this story and they all sort of match up (except for the Sinatra Story it varies a lot) but when I talked to my friend she told me the version she knew from her father which is slightly different again. I don't know if I can tell it because I don't have her permission so I will just keep it to myself. But it fills in a lot of the spaces and questions on how and why things happened the way they did. Long to short it was a fiasco and they may have gotten away with it except someone told the wrong person as he fled the state and that person turned him in and that was how the house of cards collapsed. My friend grew up with the other two men and called them her uncle, they were also their God fathers and her fathers dearest friends until his death. One of the twists in the story was that they all received life sentences but only served 3 years and there was a rumbling rumor that Jr. was in on it all. I want to tell the story I know it makes me bouncy sitting on this stuff.

There were other now famous men that I knew some I grew up with but they have to be stories for another day.