Aug. 8, 1953: An extension of the Harbor Freeway carrying traffic into downtown Los Angeles opens — and is jammed immediately. Traffic engineers say the backup was caused by the timing of the signals at 6th Street and Figueroa.
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Benjamin Ward Tims Jr., a 22-year-old Marine from Long Beach Naval Station, thought he would rob a liquor store at 3540 Santa Barbara Ave. (now Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard).
About 10:30 p.m., while his girlfriend, Sue Ann Cook, 22, waited in the getaway car, Tims entered the store, wearing a brown tweed jacket, yellow T-shirt, white gloves and a straw hat.
Carl Baggett, 23, and his wife, Virginia, 21, who bought the liquor store in January, were watching TV in the rear of the building when Tims entered. Virginia nudged her husband because she thought Tims looked suspicious. They had been robbed of $268 the previous day and were taking extra precautions.
The 3500 block of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. via Google Street View.
Virginia went to the front of the store to wait on Tims while her husband watched from behind a two-way mirror. Tims drew a .45 revolver and Virginia screamed and dove behind the counter.
Her husband grabbed a Luger, broke the glass and fired four times. Two shots went wild, but the other two hit Tims in the chest and the arm. He “fell forward onto the sidewalk, rolled over and died,” The Times said.
Cook told police that she fled from the liquor store when Tims was shot, picked up her mother and went to the University station to surrender.
Further investigation revealed that Tims had been married in January to Grace Burge Tims of Decatur, Ill.
Cook was held on a charge of murder, but The Times never followed up on the resolution of the case.
I have spent years looking at old newspapers and there isn’t much that surprises me anymore, but to see something like this as late as 1953 in a mainstream newspaper is pretty shocking. This sort of material appeared in the 1910s and ’20s, maybe even into the 1930s. But the 1950s? Wow.
Adjacent to Harbor Freeway traffic jam article, a wire story in the paper edition of the LA Times, there is a report that an assemblyman questioned the wisdom of using state money to pay for freeways. As cities consider multimodal transportation solutions, his views seem prescient today since he argues that freeways are subject to traffic jams and are dangerous because of speeding cars. He even advocates mass transit options, “I don’t care what kind– elevated or surface or subway or what.”
And you’re about the comic, it’s pretty harrowing for only sixty years ago.
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