Image: Harry Arnheim of the Hollywood Tropics, 1525 N. Vine St., protests being placed off-limits by the Navy. Credit: National Archives at Riverside.
To recap briefly, I have been digging into the historical basis of the movie “Zoot Suit,” which I saw this summer in the Last Remaining Seats series. The Times ignored the 1943 Zoot Suit Riots for several days, in what must be one of the worst news decisions the editors ever made, so I was forced to dig into the government records at the National Archives in Riverside for further information.
“Zoot Suit” and History, Part 1| Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10
Another theme running through the Navy records from the 1940s is sailors’ behavior while on leave. The Navy is a service with a long, proud tradition and anything that casts it in a negative light (like getting drunk, fighting, beating up civilians or patronizing prostitutes) is apt to be dealt with harshly. In fact, some junior officers chided the shore patrol for being too strict with sailors who were having a fling after a long time at sea.
Here are some examples of records that show how much the Navy investigated restaurants, taverns, bars and anywhere else that sailors were at risk of getting in trouble. There are also lists of all the bars and restaurants that were out of bounds in Hollywood, Long Beach, Los Angeles and San Pedro – and some in San Diego.
July 31, 1942: the Copper Kettle in San Diego is out of bounds.
Feb. 20, 1942: Trouble at Dell’s Place in Ocean Beach.
April 2, 1942: More trouble at Dell’s Place.
April 8, 1942: Recommendation to put Dell’s Place out of bounds.
April 27, 1942: Dell Thurber Jr., operator of Dell’s Place, gives his side of the story.
May 1, 1942: The Navy replies to Dell Thurber.
May 12, 1942: The shore patrol is criticized for being too strict with sailors who “should be allowed their fling after being at sea for long periods.” Enemy agents have infiltrated local bars to get intelligence from drunk sailors.
June 1, 1942: A warning for Long Beach and San Pedro — Disorderly premises that are gathering places for prostitutes and perverts (gays) will be placed out of bounds.
June 18, 1942: The following establishments in Hollywood, Long Beach, Los Angeles and San Pedro are out of bounds. Notice the concentration of bars on Main Street.
June 18, 1942: The Tropics in Hollywood is placed out of bounds.
July 15, 1942: Lawrence Potter, owner of the Jade Cafe, 6619 Hollywood Blvd., protests being placed out of bounds.
July 15, 1942: Navy investigators visit bars and file reports.
July 17, 1942: We were informed by Marines on the street that we could buy a piece of “Ass” there and that it was pretty good, upon approaching the top of the stairs we were motioned to leave the place.
A woman motioned for me to go out with her, I imagine she was soliciting business of prostitution. The girls in the place are of a tough caliber and use vulgar language.
July 18, 1942: A typical cover sheet.
July 21, 1942: The Tropics’ licenses is suspended.
July 24, 1942: Further correspondence will serve no useful purpose, as the matter is concluded with this reply to your letter.
July 26, 1942: Two solders and one Marine were sittin at a table with three colored, four Mexican girls and two civilian men , at 0018 this party broke up with one solder and marine leaving along with two colored girls. The other soldier left with the Mexican girl.
Aug. 10, 1942: La Reine Cafe is a low class cafe frequented by civilians and servicemen of mixed races and a large number of common unescorted women.
Sept. 7, 1942: Harry Arnheim, owner of the Tropics, doesn’t give up easily.
Sept. 15, 1942: Another typical cover sheet, on the Tropics.
Sept. 16, 1942: A typical, fragile, document, on the Tropics.
Another out of bounds list from the summer of 1942 for Hollywood, Long Beach, Los Angeles and San Pedro.
Military personnel could also find gambling up in homes in the hills like Hollywoodland. I found a couple of mentions where navy/army men were caught and arrested after someone called the cops.
You should check on the career of the San Diego cop V.F Buono who signed the police report on the incident at Dell’s. He left the force became involved with bird smuggling and the bizarre robbery turned murder of a reputed mob boss.
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