Paul Coates — Confidential File, April 29, 1959


Pinball Machinery Tilts in El Monte

Paul_coatesI'm no crime-buster.

every now and then I come up with a morsel about some slightly illegal
activity being conducted under the noses of some slightly more than
indifferent officials in our cozy community.

And, going on the theory that the officials can read, I print details of the violation.

And, ever so gently, I suggest that maybe somebody with a little authority ought to open his eyes.

deep in the archives of The Mirror News there's a yellowing copy of one
of my penny lectures to public servants. It's in a column dated Nov.
12, 1957

The column dealt with a pinball-machine syndicate
which was operating with no apparent interference in a dozen cities
throughout Southern California.

The pinball games were nothing
more than thinly disguised slot machines, capable of gobbling up a
workingman's pay check in the space of a couple hours.

April 29, 1959, Cover In the
column I listed the names and addresses of some bars and cafes in the
town of El Monte, where the machines were doing land-office business.

assistant of mine toured a few of them and proved how simple it was to
drop $26 in two hours. He came back to the office with the additional
observation that adults weren't the only ones who were feeding nickels,
dimes and dollars to the syndicate.

High school kids — lots of them — were dropping their lunch money and allowances into the machines.

My column was strictly a reflection of my public spiritedness.

And, naive boy that I am, I figured that's how the city fathers of El Monte would take it.

They were incensed, all right. But not at the crooks who were taking money from the kids in their town.

Instead, the solons got mad at me. Me! I never did nothing to nobody (except hit them with a double negative if they weren't looking).

One city councilman pointed out to me a few days later. "Let's face it. Gambling is here to stay."

April 29, 1959, Chavez RavineAnd
a second council member added that he was positive that there weren't
any payoffs on the machines. "I asked some of the men who owned them,"
he said.

El Monte's police chief stood before the councilmen a week after my column appeared and begged them to outlaw the machines:

"I know they pay off," he said, "but I just don't have enough men to police every place that's got one."

But the majority of the city fathers were apparently very fond of the pinball operation. Staunchly, they did nothing.

a month later, though, some citizens started putting the heat on. Why
they demanded to know, was the City Council in favor of such a crummy
operation which could do nothing but hurt their town?

the councilmen about-faced. They didn't do anything so bold as to ban
the machines, as lots of other cities have done. But they did vote,
4-1, to put the issue before the people.

There the matter rested
until November of last year. Then, in a sudden reversal of course, they
brought it up again and voted, 3-2, to let the machines continue to

Finally, the people of El Monte took the matter into their own hands. Church groups, PTA's and other civic organizations began passing petitions early this year demanding the removal of the pinball games.

Things May Work Out

had the support of Mayor Dale Ingram, who's always been against the
machines. Two days ago, a group embracing many of the game operations
found a technical flaw in the presentation of the citizens' petitions,
but, with Mayor Ingram's help, the people of El Monte finally convinced
the City Council that private citizens should have a voice in what kind
of corruption they want in their town.

On June 23 a special
election will be held — and, at last, the people will be able to
decide for themselves whether they want their kids to contribute their
allowances to a gambling syndicate.

I'm not too worried about the outcome.

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in Columnists, Paul Coates. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Paul Coates — Confidential File, April 29, 1959

  1. Sam Flowers says:

    What ever happened to the Finn Twins?


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