Rampart BoulevardÂ is a busy urban street in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Rampart Village. AnÂ areaÂ bordered by McAurther Park, Westlake and Echo Lake.
The house at 206 South Rampart Boulevard was shrouded in darkness by 10:30 PM on Wednesday June 10th, 1936. A most typical night with the usual hum of traffic – cars, busses and streetcars. However homeowner Mrs. EthelÂ Read heard what sounded like 3 gun shots. She looked out her window. Nothing unusual was seen in the light or in shadows of her front porch. Nor in the darkness beyond.
“Backfires from a car,” she thought. She and her husband George Read retired for the evening.
By the light of morning Mr. Read would discover an entirely different and shocking scene on his front porch as he went to pick up the newspaper.
He shouted “Ethel come here!” She rushed downstairs and laid her eyes onÂ the horrific sight that George had just stepped upon.
A hand written caption on the back of this photo reads “Otto. Who would ever think that he would do what he did. Poor boy Otto.”
He was bornÂ Rudolph Otto Martin, 1890. He went by Otto until early adulthood when he then decided he liked being called Val instead.
Mom told me he envied/idolized the film actor Rudolph Valentino, the most celebrated romantic lead actor of the silent film era. Â Being that Rudolph was already his birth name, going by Rudolph Otto “Valentino” MartinÂ probably seemed like a good fit to him.
Otto “Val”Â was the first born child of German immigrantsÂ Otto Rudolph Martin of Saxony, andÂ Agnes Franzenbach ofÂ CÃ¶ln. They are my great grand parents. Their son Otto (“Val”) is my mom’s dad. He’s the grandfather I never knew – and that was because of that most disturbing event on that Rampart Boulevard front porch on the night of June 10, 1936.
Otto “Val” Martin 1893
I’m not sureÂ we can ever pinpoint exactly when the mind of Val Martin started having dark disturbing thoughts. Certainly the face of a child provides no clues. Not that I can tell.
Otto “Val” Martin, 1894
He seems to be a perfectly happy child.
The Martins – “Dad” and “Mutti”
Val’sÂ mother and father certainly provided very well for him. And his brothers and sisters appear to have all had “normal” lives.
“Dad” in front of one of the beach cottages he built in Long Beach, Washington. A family vacation spot as well as rental revenue source. Jeanne went vacationing there in 1938 – and documented in this posting Â Jeanne Martin â€œPictures Of My Vacation In Washington (Long Beach) Summer 1938â€
Val’s father Otto Rudolph Martin “Dad” wasÂ born July 19, 1853 in Oederan, Kingdom of Saxony – today part of Germany. He immigrated to the US on August 5, 1881. His livelihood or trade as listed by the Census was inÂ bakery and grocery.
Val’s mother Agnes Franzenbach, “Mutti” was born April 4, 1865 in CÃ¶ln, Germany . She immigrated to the U.S. on October 25, 1889 along with her first husban John Michels.
The 1900 census noted her livelihood was saleswoman.
Father Otto, who preferred going byÂ Rudolph or “Dad,” and Agnes Frazenbach “Mutti” were married in Walla Walla, Washington on Â June 18, 1891.
“Mutti” in 1895 – Perhaps in her saleswoman role, donning a Horse Shoe Tobacco Company hat.
All the while “Dad” was selling and delivering grocery and baked goods, the photo record reveals something else. “Dad” was a one man land developer – the Martins built and owned rental property. This photo shows him in a wagon as the caption reads “Dad Martin – the building being built is Dad’s State Hotel. His Delivery wagon.”
The back caption reads, “The Pendleton house where all of us were born.” That would include all the Martin brothers and sisters. The first wasÂ Rudolph Otto “Val” Martin. Then came Carola Susanna Martin born in 1893, Frances Amelia Martin in 1897, Â and Lewis Burdette Martin in 1903. Likely the home shown here was sold byÂ the family to upgrade for needed space and to boost potential rental income or real estate sales profit.
Jeanne’s cousin Bette (Bette was the daughter of Val’s sister Frances) wrote in her autobiographyÂ “You see, my grandparents were LANDLORDS!. They rented everything they could!”
A front caption reads “We are all here 1907 Carola, Mama, Otto, Frances, Dad, and Lewis. Home on Kerby and Graham Avenue (Portland Oregon) that Collins (Myrtles people ) bought from us.
Again the sellingÂ of this house likely paid for construction of their next home.
Otto “Val.” from the above photo, 1907
We can only have a general guess what young Val’s life dreams were. But we can learn something from his own words. He was an adventurer. Seemingly in search of something undefined and perhaps elusive.Â However his descriptions are void of satisfaction or self worth as he traveled the globe – in search of “whatever.”
We know that he was in China in the year 1911 as indicated byÂ a letter he wrote from the Philippines to his sister Carola.
“I just returned from a four months stay in China and at present in a very unsettled state.
“At some later date I shall describe to you in detail my visit to the Orient. But at present my mind is too confused to attempt it.
“Sis my life this last four years has been one of ceaseless roving. The Wanderlust dear, and it seems as though I can not banish it.
“Lack of will power I guess. But someday it must cease.
“Just a few weeks ago I was contemplating a trip to South America. I long to go there but I simply have banish all thought of it.”
More negative “self talk” from the same letter he wrote to Carola in 1912
“I now realize I am the most ungrateful – no, no, I don’t mean that – for God knows how grateful I am to be the possessor of the love of such a mother as ours, but it looks as though I were not grateful.
“I mean Sis I’m the most undeserving son that God ever let live.”
ThenÂ his wanderlust took him to Alaska. In a letter dated September 18th 1915, Otto wrote,
“Dear Mother & Dad.
“Things are very quiet here and I am working only about half time. But I get as much as $7.00 a day when I do work and I think I have a very good proposition in view for the winter.”
“I am batching. I live in a little cabin, and it does not cost me a great deal to live.”
“I like it here very much, and I think that I will go into the interior in the spring, that is if I make enough here this winter.”
“We have just about the same weather here (Juneau) that we have there in Portland.”
“It sure knows how to rain, but itÂ sure was fine here this summer.”
The caption only reads “Val in Alaska with ?”
“I made $8.00 a day for three days with them, and I had a good time on the side.”
“I hope that you all are well. I have a pretty bad cold but I guess that will pass in a little while, I sure hope so. My nose is running all of the time, and I have to use three or four handkerchiefs a day.”
“I certainly do not propose to send him five dollars and then go hungry myself. Things are damn high up here.”
“I have $25.00 in the bank here, and I sure intend to keep it right there. And if it should happen that work is slack I will have something to live on.”
“I intend to keep that much ahead all of the time. I know I have gone without a number of meals just in order to save that amount. I will pay every cent that I owe some of these days. I know I will make good here, but it will take time. And so it is absolutely no use to try and rush me.
“I hope the kids are all O.K., and that they have a good teacher there at Oak Grove Grove.
“Answer soon General Delivery Juneau Alaska. –Otto.”
My mother pointed to World War I as the event that damaged her father mentally. She said he was gassed in France.
There are three surviving letters he wrote from England in 1917 and 1918 to his sister Carola. There is no description of a mustard gas attack. Although there is mention of illnesses, injury and recovery. There’s nothing from him afterÂ February 12, 1918. From that date to November 11, 1918 it may well be possible his suffered injury from chemical warfare.
He could have beenÂ in the thick of battle as his letter from January Â 4, 1918 states:
“To begin. My ailment – While in France I am attached to a field ambulance. One dark and stormy night, Fritz (the German army) was putting them over hot and fast. My it was formidable to say the least. And dear my delicate constitution couldn’t stand the strain, and in order to make sure that I got a rest, my appendix appendicated, only it played just a little too rough and I came very near turning up my dear little toes before they could get me to the doctor. But (so the Doc says), I got there just in time, and am feeling none the worse for my experience. ”
Apparently ValÂ had the appendix removed at a certain point. His letter from February 12, 1918 reads:
“I have quite recovered from my illness. The wound has healed wonderfully – it is about a neat an operation one would care to see. I enjoyed my vacation thoroughly.”
He went on to describeÂ his time off – aÂ visit Scotland.
“During my checkered and desultory career, it is reasonable to suppose that I have been party to numerous affaires d’ amour, flirtatious intrigues, infatuations, and what not. Â But thus far have avoided ‘the net.’
“At present my affections have been hopelessly captured by a bonnie lass in Scotland. I have been just as hopelessly involved before.
“Our life is monotonous to be sure. But we have our odd moments of enjoyment and inertia. At five o’clock our day is finished and from then on until nine o’clock our time isÂ our own. We employ our free hours in our own ways, according to our individual likings. Some drink (I am not one, I have not acquired that vice, though I have many). Others gamble (one of my vices in a small way). Others go for walks about town. A few of the more fortunate ones call on girl friends living in the adjacent villages.
“I go to the movies.” His letter from Alaska years earlier said that too.
“I spend most of my money on smokes, soap and toilette necessities, tooth brushes, paste, etc.”
His letters spend a great amount of ink describing the unpleasant rigors of roll call, drilling – beingÂ yelled at by drill instructors – and the strict regimentation and discipline demanded of soldiers.
“I am at present attached to the 1st Canadian Command Depot undergoing the torture of physical training and am gaining strength very rapidly.
“I hope to get up to London within the next few days. But hopes are fragile structures in army life. It is mostly a case of live in hopes and die in despair with us.”
With his assignment inÂ a field ambulance if Val was not directly in the line of fire, then it is Â likely he saw the aftermath of it. Picking up injured or dead soldiers.
“You surely can be glad that the awful war has not penetrated into our home land. The wanton devastation and cruel murder of women and defenseless children is appalling. God grant that you never have to suffer the torture of this side.
“They may rake your loving brother out from under the debris of some ruined chateau. ”
The P.S. from Val’sÂ letter of November 12, 1917 is worth noting.
“I was given theÂ sobriquet of Val years ago, and have used it more or less ever since.” Â Signed, “V”
The back caption reads “Val after he came back from war.”
Regardless if he was gassed in France or not, as my mother said he was, boysÂ who go to war come back changed men uponÂ resuming civilian life. It was a time when there was no real evaluation of a soldier’s mental health, much less treatment for it. If something was slightly off about Val before serving on the battlefield of France, it can be assumed it was far worse afterwards. The two women that Val married after the war would be the witnesses to that mental condition and behavior.
The next few photos show Val had returnedÂ to the Martin family home during his post World War I period.Â This one was located in Oak Grove, Oregon.
Caption reads “Val at our home in Oak Grove, Or” There is a pin Val wearsÂ in several photos from this period. Perhaps an Army pin or serviceÂ medal.
Another photo with Val, the pin, and the Oak Grove home.
There is no telling what brought Val Martin to Santa Rosa sometime between 1918 and 1921. At one point his sister Carola moved toÂ San Francisco. He may have gone to see her. In his letter from Alaska there’s mention of anÂ individual named “Doc” Â he owed money to, but planned to take his time repaying.Â The man pictured on the far right next to the cigarette smoking Val is “Doc,” according the caption written on the back.
At a certain point Val Martin realized he could utilize his good looks, smart attire, tales of his world travels, to charm if not mesmerize younger women. Teenage girlsÂ were his obvious preference.
It would turn out he would fabricate many fanciful stories, tell tales, and to make claims and promises about money and a quality of lifeÂ he was never able to fulfill. At some point he learnedÂ to be very manipulative of the girls he courted, Â which sadly in the endÂ took the form of fatal obsession.
Helen wasÂ an orphan at a young age. Her mother Julia Delano Cordes was a professional singer and music teacher. Her father John Cordes was in the mining business. A prospector, perhaps.
When Julia suddenly passed away at a young age, Julia’s third husband William LarkinÂ put tiny Helen onto a train that connected with aÂ ferry to San Francisco – with a note attached to Helen reading “I am an Orphan.”
Julia’s sister May Delano Bridinger and May’s husband Leon were either at the train station in Oakland or at the ferry landing in San Francisco waiting for Helen.
Helen was well loved and cared for but had a very strict upbringing, according to what Helen told me. Â And she never forgot that she had been an orphan. And she never had much affection or felt close to her step father Leon. She knew very littleÂ about her father John Cordes. And just as littleÂ about William Larkin.
Perhaps those early life experiences – the void of not having a close father figure – that crafted her interest in older men. She was only in High School when she met Val Martin. He was at least 30 years old at the time. She was a teenager. Her second husband Sam Hussey wasÂ also notably older than Helen.
Regardless by the end of High School Helen was anxious to start adulthood. To be free from the watchful eye and control of her step mother and father. Especially her step father.
Helen took up smoking cigarettes – a rebellious habit – knowing they would disapprove.
TheyÂ had herÂ enrolled inÂ Elocution classes. Part of the class was public speaking which she was good at. So much so she wasÂ encouraged to be in the school play. But Helen was busy focusing on extracurricular activities of young adulthood. She didn’t have time for that – asÂ she sought her independent identity.
“Every Saturday night was a country dance,” said Helen. “It was so much fun. I went with a fellow who didn’t go to high school. Otto. I went out withÂ him a few times.
“After high school I started Junior College butÂ had to make up a chemistry class I didn’t take in high school. So then I decided I’d go to a business school.
“Mother was terribly disappointed. They wanted to send me to Mills College – but I don’t think they could afford it.
“I had a friend living in San Francisco. She had a job and could have gotten me a job. But I needed money to go. But my parents wouldn’t let me.
“So I decided I’d try borrowing money from Val. He wouldn’t let me either but took me down and said ‘Let’s get married’ instead.’
“I was so determined to get away from home, so I said yes. Which was a mistake. I was 18 and he was 31.”
A caption reads “The Newlyweds Helen and Val.” Helen graduated from High School in June, 1921. She became Mrs. Val Martin almost exactly a year later on June 23, 1922.
Helen and Val in Santa Rosa.Â The photo suggests no cracks in their marriage yet.
Val basking on a beach along the Russian River near Santa Rosa. Happier times for the couple. Perhaps being near the watchful eye of Helen’s parents kept Val’s behavior in check. Or just the initial fun of married life hadn’t worn thin yet.
The R&R in this photo would eventually come to an end. The man who loved to watch movies in his free time sought to make movies his career. The couple moved to Southern California.Â Perhaps he had a Â fantasy of himself being the next Valentino. Because in his mind he was indeed “Valentino,” if in name only.
Helen and Val came to Long Beach, CA where their daughter Jeanne was born September 22, 1923
Val and Baby Jeanne. OneÂ address listed was 1147 Appleton Street, Long Beach. Â Another was 2239 East Sixth Street, Long Beach
There appeared to be some domestic happiness in the early days if notÂ years of the marriage.
Some entries from Jeanne’s Baby Book.
November 1, 1923 – “The first time Jeanne slept through the night without once waking.”
Sunday November 4, 1923 – “Jeanne’s longest motor trip so far. As far South as La Jolla.”
Friday November 9, 1923 – “Baby noticed her hands. Just lay and gazed at them.”
Wednesday November 14, 1923 “Baby laughed, surprised me so. She gazed at me and heard Lewis’ fish story – it was too much for her. She just began to chuckle to beat the band.
“Baby Jeanne showed her ability to mimic when not quite seven months old. Her Daddy made a peculiar noise in his throat which she mimickedÂ exactly. And they kept it up for some time.”
“At first Val had a window shade business in Beverly Hills. It was just a small place back then. Not like it is now with all the fancy shops and what not.
“Then we moved to Hollywood and he worked on movie sets – he worked in the studio props department. Then I worked at the studios too. Â I worked at the Make-Up department, the Costume department, and I did “extra” work.
“I worked at United Artists. Douglas Fairbanks, Mary Pickford and Charlie Chaplin had that. Although Chaplin didn’t work there. He had his own studio on La Brea. ”
Chaplin at work at his Studio on La Brea. Scene from “A Day’s Pleasure.”
“I used to see him (Chaplin) all the time when we lived in Beverly Hills. He had a topless car, a roadster sort of sports car.
“Once Jeanne and I were in a restaurant on Hollywood Boulevard. Chaplin and his manager were two booths away. All of a sudden Jeanne jumped up and ran to him. She called him daddy! I grabbed her and he just laughed. I think he said something.”
Maybe the incident indicates Val might not have been a steady presence in Jeanne’s life by that time.
No written or oral account of the car. But Val looking very Hollywoodish indeed. The note is Jeanne’s writing.
Val’s mother and niece – Â Mutti and Jeanne’s cousin Bette – came to visit Hollywood when Jeanne was only 3 years old. This paragraph is from Bette Clarno’s autobiography.
“Mutti and I then went to Los Angeles to see Uncle Val (my motherâ€™s brother), his wife, Helen, and their little three year-old daughter, Jeanne. Uncle Val was doing the â€œextra in the moviesâ€ bit, and he took us to see a movie set. I remember a bunch of fake trees. Funny what sticks in your mind. The night we were there, Jeanne came running into the room before bedtime, stark naked, and danced the â€œBlack Bottomâ€ for us…a jazzy little number of the 20’s. I saw Uncle Val just one more time when he came to the beach one summer while we were there. He didnâ€™t stay close to his family.”
“And when I went to the market in Beverly Hills at the time I’d see Fritz Lang. I’d see him marketing there. And I used to see Theda Barra parked out front. With those brooding eyes, she was always the vampire!
“At MGM there was Joseph Schildkraut–Cecil B Demille was directing that picture. I think it was the King of Kings. H.B. Warner played the part of Jesus. Schildkraut played Judas. I used to see Buddy Rogers and Marie Dressler. They were interesting to watch work except it got so boring. They did the scene over and over and over again. I don’t know if they do the same thing with talking movies, but the silent movies were that way.
In 1926 Helen and Jeanne were extras in Valentino’s Son Of The Sheik. That’s Helen and Jeanne in the background.
“I worked on a John Barrymore picture. But I didn’t meet him directly. One time they were shooting at night and he was on the set. He said something and I made a crack to whomever was next to me. Barrymore thought it was funny and he laughed. I had spoiled the shot.
“So next day the head make-up woman and her daughter who worked there came over and said John Barrymore wanted to see me for some make up. Back then he was making passes at everyone. I didn’t want to get mixed up in that. I said “Well, I’m not the one to see, you’re the one to see about his make-up. I don’t know that much about John Barrymore’s make up.
“I wouldn’t go.”
On that note and at this juncture of the story it would be appropriate to mention that Val had become an “insanely jealous” husband. He was becoming increasingly unhinged.
“He was insanely jealous. We’d walk down the street and he’d accuse me of flirting with somebody IÂ didn’t even notice. Then at the studios too.”
Then came the fictional and phony stories he told people.
“He told a lot of lies that people believed. He bragged to people that he had bought me Cadillacs. That he did this for me, and that he did that for me. Half the time he was not providing enough to even buy food. And it got so bad I decided to divorce him.”
The divorce. Rather than it being closure to a story gone bad, unfortunately the story gets uglier. Much uglier.
Val had become intimidating and harassing. To the point Helen decided to quit working at the studios. Then took Jeanne with her to live in San Francisco.
But it didn’t work. He found out and went to San Francisco himself.
“Val came up there. He used to follow me and peer into my windows at night and what not. I got so fed up I came back to Southern California to stay with my parents who were living in Bell. When I got a job I moved to Huntington Park. The lady who owned the house also had a little girl, and she took care of Jeanne when I was at work. But Val was still bothering me.
“I got an apartment and had someone take care of Jeanne there. But Val made a fuss and went to the District Attorney. Val said I was leading a horrible life and wasn’t fit to take care of my child. And this, that, and the other thing.”
“My dad Leon went to the District Attorney’s office and told him about all the trouble I had with Val. ‘If I were you,’ said the DA, ‘as long as he’s around here I’d put Jeanne into a children’s home at the Episcopal Church because you’re going to keep having this trouble.'”
Helen wondered why authorities wouldn’t do anything to stopÂ him. The same question would be asked years later by the mother of another young girl Val had met.
“We went to court the Judge threw out Val’s case. The Judge noted that Val was a dead beat and not making his child support payments – and was ordered to start making them.
“Then I went to live in Hollywood with Gladys Miller, and I was taking a business course. But I was also helping her for my room and board.
“This was still in the days of prohibition. One night this woman called me up. She wanted me to come down–she had a Speakeasy. And she said she wanted me to meet somebody. So I went!
“It was a house in Los Angeles on 14th Street. She just served people she knew.
“That is where I met Hussey.”
“That’s when he pulled this amaranth ring off his finger and gave it to me, the night we met. And it wasn’t so awfully long after that we got married.”
In and out of Foster care, different homes, different cities, a strange and erratic father, and a mother trying desperately to chart a stable course, Jeanne’s childhood through these years was not easy. Not much to smile about when posing for the camera.
My dad said when he looks at pictures of Jeanne from this time in her life he believesÂ her eyes are void of joy or fun. There’s a fatigue, emptiness, and weariness there, he said. An unfair burden for a young child.
Suddenly having a new step father must have been an adjustment for Jeanne among all the other events swirling in herÂ life. But she would later say that she considered Sam Hussey her real father.
My dad once stated that Sam Hussey saved their lives. That might not beÂ an exaggeration. It is also worth noting that Helen’s step father Leon probably was a saving factor as well, even though Helen never felt close to him.
Helen recalled the events following her marriage vows with Sam Hussey.
“We had an apartment in Los Angeles first, But Jeanne loved the beach so we got an apartment at Ocean Park near Pico. That’s when we got Jeanne back so she could be at the beach. ThenÂ we still had trouble with Val.Â But with Hussey there he didn’t dare pull some of the stuff he pulled before.
“But we would still see him there at the beach. And then he got married again. He’dÂ bring the girl over to our house! Why? We didn’t want to find out because we weren’t interested. We didn’t want anything to do with him.
“The next thing we knew aÂ police woman came and asked me about Jeanne. Â And she warned me that news reporters might to go to her school, and to go and get her.” Something horrible had happened.
She was born Elizabeth Hope Evans. She was still in High School, an art student, at Hollywood High when she met Val Martin. It was on a school holiday and she had gone to the beach to do sketches of the ocean. Â At the time Val was working as a masseur at Santa Monica and he became enamored upon meeting her. No doubt lavishly praising her art work after approaching her.
Elizabeth was not only a virgin but had virtually no experience whatsoever interacting with the opposite sex. Her mother insistedÂ she had neverÂ kissed a boy before. She was very dedicated to her studies and never paid attention to what boys were up to. Her focus was entirely on her goals of becoming a successful commercial artist.
“She was serious and her art classes meant more to her than anything else,” Said her mother.
“Although she was very pretty she did not smoke or drink. ” Not a party girl at all.
Perhaps recognizing her naivety and innocence Val likely plied the sameÂ tactics he used to lure Helen’s interest years ago. Â When HelenÂ was so determined to leave home – when he impressed her with his promises.
Just as Helen was fixed on leaving home, Â Elizabeth was looking to advance her education and training as anÂ artist. One canÂ imagineÂ Val’s promises of trips to foreign lands to see the art masterpieces of the world. That he’d help pay for her classes if not sponsor her career entirely.
Whatever transpired between Val and the girl worked. Sparks flew between them once he got her attention on that fateful beach holiday. And Elizabeth soon became infatuated with her middle age suitor.
Elizabeth’s mother had hoped this would be a short lived infatuation. But those hopes were dashed on August 18, 1934.
Avoiding the mother’s objections and possible interference, Val and ElizabethÂ eloped and gotÂ married in Ventura County.
“No happiness can come from a marriage of an unsophisticated girl and a man twice her age,” the motherÂ said.
And she was right. All of the disturbing behavior Helen and Jeanne witnessed and experienced came upon poor Elizabeth.
The record showed ValÂ could never hold a steady job and he made no effort to find steady work when he was idle. It became clear to Elizabeth she would have to work. But being so young and inexperienced she had no real skillsÂ to offer employers. There were noÂ McDonald’s around in those days.
And it is very likely he played the jealousy card on her just as he did on Helen.
All the circumstances leading to their separation will likely never be completely known, other than from his track recordÂ with Helen, with what Elizabeth’s mother andÂ friends had said.
But Val couldn’t stand that separation and began looking for opportunities to accost her. When he succeeded he pleaded for a second chance and reiterated his previous agenda of promises. But the second goÂ at their marriage was just as unsatisfactory as the first. Â This timeÂ Elizabeth filed for divorce.
The divorce was finalized, but that set Val off even more insanely than ever before. Once again he resumed stalking, peering in windows – he hunted her day and night. He was always appearing at her school, restaurants, or where she left the street car. Then came threats of violence if she didn’t take him back. She became so terrified by his threats she moved to a friend’s house.
But that did not stop Val. He found out where she lived. He probablyÂ observed her coming and going from the house and learning her routine.Â One night she told her friend that Val was stalking her and threatening her. The friend said she came home on a Sunday after visiting her mother and was very nervous and pale. She told her friend that her ex husband was looking for her and making threats.
“She was deathly white and so frightened.” her friendÂ saidÂ -Â that friend was Mrs. EthelÂ Read. She and her husband George Read owned the house at 206 South Rampart Boulevard.
Val had came toÂ that house on the night of June 10, 1936. In his stalking manner he stoodÂ in the shadows outside the homeÂ waiting for Elizabeth toÂ appear.
When Elizabeth arrived she carried bundles of art supplies in her arms. With a free hand she lifted her key to the door lock. At that moment Val appeared at the far endÂ of the long front porch. He raised a .22 calibre revolver and shot her through the temple. She fell to the porch, her bundles of art supplies scattering.
He then raised the gun to his own head and fired. He stood there bleedingÂ and likely wondering why he was still standing and looking at the crime he had just committed. So he fired another shot into his head. Â This time he fell to the porch. But he still remained conscious!
It was a trail of blood on the porch indicatingÂ he still had enough life left in him to drag himself across the long porch to finally lay next to Elizabeth. There theyÂ both bled on the porch – all through the nightÂ as cars, buses and streetcars hummed and rattled byÂ up and down Rampart Boulevard.
When George Read stepped out pastÂ the front door to pick the newspaper from the porch he saw the murder/suicide scene.
“Ethel come quick!”
Even with two bullets in his skull and bleeding out all night Val Martin was still breathing when the ambulance arrived. Elizabeth was dead. ValÂ died later in the hospital without regaining consciousness.
Police found a quasi suicide note in Val’s apartment. It was in the form of a letter written to Jeanne.
June 10, 1936
“My dearest darling Jeanne – In event of my death I wish you to have my union insurance, about $2200 or more, I.A.T.S.E. Local 37. . . Be a good girl, darling, I love you though I have been the most wretched of fathers. Do not cause over $100 to spend on my funeral. Do not come yourself, remember your father as you last saw him.
“I wish my personal effects to be sold and the amount given to Mrs. Ellis Wheeler, 1439 Gordon Street, in slight return for her kindness . . .Your loving father, Val Otto Rudolph Martin.”
206 South Rampart Boulevard today. The site where Elizabeth Evans Hope was cruelly murdered by her insanely jealous ex husband Val Martin. The porch was originally much larger than seen here in the photo. The area to the right, where you see the awning, is a room extending out to where half the porch used to be. The ficus tree in this photo covers the other portion of the porch.
The horrible news had already been anticipated by the mother of Elizabeth Evans Hope. She had felt the crime was going to happen. And it did.
“This day is not so terrible as the day my daughter had married that man!”
The tragedy was the fulfillment of her darkest fear.
The Mystery of why?
It is possible Val Martin had symptoms of bipolar disorder before the war. His wanderlust, his seeming self-deprecation in contrast with some of his photos of him as a carefree man. But he also describes himself as someone with a delicate constitution. World War I was called the war to end all wars because itÂ raised the horror factor of war by several notches. Returning from that war was no doubt difficult for anyone including those with strong constitutions. It could have been devastating for those with delicate ones.
Now probably more than ever you read about veterans coming home to either commit suicide, but also murder suicide. It happens far too often.
Bipolar disorder is much better understood today. Val Martin might not have been put onto the battlefield or anywhere close to it if he had the advantages then of today’s understanding. It’s a disorder, along with depression, that is treatable nowadays. Back then, nothing.
At the core of a murder-suicide lies a frustrated, turbulent, intimate, long-term personal relationship. The perpetrator has had a strong ambivalence about the relationship, vacillating between anger and love.
Perpetrators suffer from jealousy and/or morbid jealousy (a delusion that oneâ€™s sexual partner has been sexually unfaithful). “Amorous jealousy”, involves one half to three quarters of all murder-suicides in the U.S.
The triggering event is most often a separation or threatened separation from the loved one.
The perpetrator feels helpless and powerless in the relationship; the homicidal act is the culmination of this sense of intolerable powerlessness. When the perpetrator realizes his guilt after the crime, he proceeds with a suicidal impulse. Suppressed rage is the most common reason for homicide followed by suicide scenarios.
- 90% of the perpetrators are men.
- 80-90% of their victims are spouses or intimate partners.
- Adults aged 55+ have homicide-suicide rates that are twice as high as younger adults.
- Homicide is the only crime that regularly results in offenders taking their own lives following a criminal act.
- 25% of the cases involve more than one victim
- Men tend to kill their children and their intimate partners prior to suicide.
- Women tend to kill their children but spare their partners.
- Over 75% of murder-suicides occur in the home.
- Within the home, more murder-suicides are committed in the bedroom than any other room.Increased Risks
- Killing an ex-spouse/lover increased the risk of suicide the most (13X)
- Killing a child (10X)
- Killing spouse (8X)
- Boyfriend or girlfriend (6X)
- Friend (2x)
Jeanne at about the time of sixth grade graduation. Which would have also been about the time her father Val Martin killed himself. I grew up with the impression Mom was too little to remember much about her father or what happened. That’s not true. Sixth graders going into seventh grade remember everything.
Wednesday November 22, 1939Â “To the Paramount – Garbo in Ninotchka – good. Bought 2,000 tissues – Nite library. Read till 11:30.
Thursday November 23, 1939Â “Thanksgiving Day. Moved ahead a week early this year by the President. Jeanne and Duke to the Poly – Lowell game. Sam and I on the grandest ride down the coast to Half Moon Bay. Back through the Redwoods and Skyline Boulevard. Perfect warm day. At nite Jeanne and Duke to two shows. Sam and I read. I shampooed, etc.”
Anderson Design Group
Friday November 24, 1939Â “Jeanne and I to town – to Newsreel Theatre. Nite – Sam and I to town and window Shopped. Saw a big fire at Front and Pine Street. Took cable car home.
Saturday November 25, 1939 “Rained last night. but nice today. Picked up Sam at Jac’s. Rode with Tony in afternoon. Big Game today – University of Clarita 32 – Standford 14. Nite at home and read.”
From the San Francisco Municipal Record.
JACOPETTI’S SANDWICH – Specializing in the Finest
Ham, Cheese, Sardine, etc. â€” Free Buffet Lunch Beverages â€” Full Line â€” Rainier Beer
No. 1 Columbus Avenue, corner Washington
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF.
E. JACOPETTI,Â GArfield 6498 J. CASSINELLI ,GArfield 9260Guessing that Number one Columbus Ave was on the right. This is looking from where the Transamerica building is today.
Sunday November 26, 1939Â “It was a grand day. Tony, Duke, Jeanne, Sam and I to Sonoma, Santa Rosa, Mark West Springs – Perfect! Country gorgeous Autumn coloring. Saw a car over a cliff near a bridge. Nite – Hi Balls and Radio. Duke was here.
Monday November 27, 1939Â “Swell day. Cleaned house and went to town. Letter from Irene – Mack in jail! Nite – answered Irene’s letter.”
Tuesday November 28, 1939 “Sent suit to Sara and things to Irene. Walked along Land’s End Cliffs with cat on a leash. Gorgeous day.
Wednesday November 15, 1939 “Vacuumed in the A.M. Went to matinee at the Alexandria and saw Stanley and Livingstone. Nite – read. And to bed early.
Thursday November 16, 1939 “Gorgeous day. Housework. And then to walk in the park. Nite – Tony and I to the Coliseum – saw Golden Boy with Blackmail.
Friday November 17, 1939 “Up early and walked in the park with Sam. Another perfect day. Drove Sam to work. Came back through the Presidio. To the zoo and another walk in the park. Nite – Fillmore Street to get stuff for supper. To bed early.
Saturday November 18, 1939 “Prepared turkey, etc. Afternoon Terry over. Jeanne, Terry, and I listened to the Santa Clara – U.C.L.A game. Sam napped. Nite to Waldrons. Records by Carl Sandburg. Home by 12:15 Tom Collins.
Sunday November 19, 1939 “Gen and Jess over for swell dinner. Drove them through the Presidio. Then to Oakland. Grand warm day. Nite – Sam and I several highballs and listened to the radio.”
Monday November 20.1939 “Downtown to pay phone bill. Window shopping and went to the Warfield to see Cat and the Canary. Back home and went with Mrs. H. to Lachman’s Furniture. Nite – up till 11 reading Jamaica Inn.”
Tuesday November 21, 1939 “Bijou got lost in the park for a short time this morning. Took Sam to work. Shopped, and in the afternoon went to the Presidio to see 30th infantry parade. Very interesting.
Â The 1941 30th Infantry review, at the Presido’s Crissy Field. This image showsÂ Lieutenant Colonel DwightÂ D. Eisenhower (General Thompson’s Chief of Staff and future United States President)Â in the imageÂ (middle of second row facing the photographer).
Photo Credit: Courtesy of the Bancroft Library, University of California, Berkeley.
Mom would be 93 today.
Diary of Helen Hussey
Shopping along Fillmore Street and the New Fillmore Hotel on the right. Image source: http://newfillmore.com “The New Fillmore – The Latest News From The Heart And Soul Of San Francisco.”Â Robert F. Oaks the the author of the Arcadia published “San Francisco’s Filmore District.” https://www.arcadiapublishing.com/9780738529882/San-Franciscos-Fillmore-District
Wednesday November 8, 1939 “Went to the bank and post office. Money Order came from Ruth McKales. Sent receipt and final payment on tires! Matinee at the Alexandria. Nite – Sam and I to Fillmore to buy dinner for tomorrow. Bought some Port.
On the marquee “Tea And Sympathy” starring Deborah Kerr. It was released November 5, 1956. Image source: Richmond Street Blog
From Cinema Treasures
The Alexandria Theatre opened on November 26, 1923 with Douglas MacLean in â€œGoing Up.â€ It was built at a cost of $350,000 by Oppenheimer & (Alex) Levin; Reid Brothers were the architects. From the beginning, it was one of the Richmond districtâ€™s leading second-run theaters.
In 1941, it underwent extensive remodeling, emerging totally Moderne, with only the original stone pillars on its corner facade still exhibiting evidence of its original Egyptian roots.
It re-opened on June 19, 1942, but due to wartime blackout restrictions, much of its new neon elegance had to be subdued until sometime later. In the late-1950â€™s it was upgraded to a first run 70MM, reserved seat policy premiering such roadshow attractions as â€œSouth Pacificâ€ (48 weeks), â€œExodusâ€ (20 weeks), â€œCan Canâ€ (19 weeks), El Cid (21 weeks), â€œThe Longest Dayâ€ (19 weeks), â€œCleopatraâ€ (56 weeks) & â€œOliver!â€ (43 weeks).
On November 24, 1976, it re-opened as Alexandria 3, with the former balcony and loge sections converted into two separate, smaller auditoriums, but with the original downstairs section more or less intact.
Beneath the remodeling, rumor has it that the original dome and atmospheric ceiling still exists, retaining itâ€™s twinkling lights, or at least the sockets, and that behind the bland walls of the lobby one can still see lotus-topped columns and colorful hieroglyphics.
The theater closed in the beginning of 2004 and its future is uncertain.
The Golden Gate Theater
Image Source: Amazon
Thursday November 9, 1939 “To town and bought shirts and shorts for Sam. Went to the Golden Gate and saw the
Marx Ritz Brothers. Very funny. Marc out with Sam for dinner. Phil stopped in tonight.”
Friday November 10, 1939 “Busy morning. Shampoo and bathed Bijou. Washed, shopped, etc. Walked in the park. Nite met Sam and dinner at Hotel Espanol. Stopped at Tony’s. She’s not feeling so well. Home and port. Sam doesn’t have to work tomorrow. Found a parking ticket on the car. Pacific.
Hotel Espanol was at 719 Broadway. There is no 719Â there anymore – probably demoed. The highest number on the corner building goes to 715.Â The peach color stucco building next to it is number 777. Google maps points to the empty space of an alley for 719. Nothing there.
Saturday November 11, 1939 “Jeanne and I to town. Had to walk from Civic Center on account of the Armistice Day parade. Bought new hat, sweater for Jeanne. Nite Ruth and Bill came in. Quite a binge. They brought a bike, etc.”
Sunday November 12, 1939 “Tony, Jeanne, Ruth, Duke, and I to see Winchester House. Picnic in San Jose – lot of fun. Beautiful country. Home about 3:30. Nite gabbed and beer. Bed about 11:30.
Monday November13, 1939 “Ruth and Bill left about 9. Met Tony at 5 and to the Palace Hotel. Saw Boys of Brazil band. To Jacopetti’s for sandwiches. Then to the Curran – first night of Taming of the Shrew, Lunt and Fontaine. Swell!!
Tuesday November 14, 1939 “Ironed in the morning. Then shopped, library, and walked Bijou in the park. Afternoon and Nite, Read + Radio.”
Lunt and Fontanne,Â American husband-and-wife acting team who performed together in more than two dozen theatrical productions, from Sweet Nell of Old Drury (1923) to The Visit (1958). Alfred Lunt (b. Aug. 19, 1892,Â Milwaukee, Wis., U.S.â€”d. Aug. 3, 1977,Â Chicago, Ill.) and Lynn Fontanne (original name Lillie Louise Fontanne; b. Dec. 6, 1887,Â Essex, Eng.â€”d. July 30, 1983,Â Genesee Depot, Wis., U.S.) were long associated with the playwright NoÃ«l Coward, whose play Design for Living (1933) was written for them. They eventually earned a reputation as the greatest husband-and-wife team in the history of the theatre. — EncyclopÃ¦dia Britannica
Thursday November 2, 1939 “I went to cooking school in the morning. Afternoon to the library and the park. Nite at home and read. Tony over for a few minutes. Marc and Ruth phoned. ”
Friday November 3, 1939 “Jeanne home with a sore back.Â Went to cooking school in the afternoon. Jeanne feeling better – walked in the park + to Clement Street. Had dinner at the Grotto. Went out with Marc and the Rosses to Burlingame + saw Ruth. Good Scotch. Home at 12:30”
Number 9 Fisherman’s Grotto was typically referred to in 1939 as “The Grotto.” It was built on stall number 9 at Fisherman’s Wharf in 1935.
But there was also Bernstein’s Fish Grotto, dating back to 1880. It was at this location, 123 Powell Street, since 1911. Its street-front replica of the bow of a ship was added in 1930. Fun! But sadly it all came to an end in June of 1981.
Another Grotto, Exposition Fish Grotto
Saturday November 4, 1939. “Jeanne and IÂ downtown in the morning. Met Sam at noon. Ate at Jacopetto’s. At nite Jeanne and Duke to the theatre. Sam and I to Filmore Street. It was interesting.
San Francisco rooftops looking toward Coit Tower on the right, and the Golden Gate International Exposition at Treasure Island on the left. 1939. Image Source: Brett Weston
Sunday November 5, 1939. “A Grand Day. Sam and I walked through the park to the beach, and along the beach, and then back. Tony phoned, also Ted! Jeanne and Duke went to a show. Sam and I stayed home. Read and Radio.
In view here on the left is Playland. It was a 10-acre seaside amusement park located next to Ocean Beach, in the Richmond District at the western edge of San Francisco along Great Highway where Cabrillo and Balboa streets are now. It began as a collection of amusement rides and concessions in the late 19th century and was known as Chutes At The Beach as early as 1913. It closed Labor Day weekend in 1972. Condos are there now.Â Beyond that are the windmills marking the Western entrance to Golden Gate Park.
Monday November 6, 1939 “Up early to town – paid electric bill and window shopped. Bought gloves and writing paper. Walked in the park. Nite – wrote to B. and Irene. Radio and read. Tony phone about card from Humberto.
Tuesday November 7, 1939 “Up early and voted in S.F. for the 1st time – machines. Took Sam to work. Went home and walked in the par. Afternoon Jap washed windows. Jeanne and I picked Sam up at 5:15. Up to 11:30 for election returns. Rossi re elected. Ham and Eggs beaten. Also number 5 – oil – defeated.
Angelo Joseph Rossi (January 22, 1878 â€“ April 5, 1948) was the 31st mayor of San Francisco. He was the first mayor of 100% Italian descent of a major U.S. city (top 10 most populous U.S. cities between 1776 and 1931). Rossi served as San Francisco’s mayor from 1931 to 1944. He was mayor when the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco â€“ Oakland Bay Bridge were built, and he presided over the building of Treasure Island and the Golden Gate International Exposition (World’s Fair) of 1939. Under his administration, the city resisted compliance with the Raker Act which required San Francisco to sell power from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir in Yosemite to municipalities or municipal water districts, and not to any corporations, a condition of use of the Hetch Hetchy Valley. He dedicated the Mount Davidson Cross in March, 1934. Though a Republican he was a strong proponent of the New Deal “alphabet-soup” roster of work programs and worked vigorously and constantly with Washington to bring as many dollars to the City as possible in order to create jobs and improve the City’s infrastructure. Being unfriendly to the Labor movement, Husseys most certainly voted against him.
“The Great Depression of the 1930s brought economic distress to many Americans. Although poverty was widespread, the elderly suffered more than any other segment of the population. Faced with a real threat of hunger, many Americans looked to government to provide them some form of financial assistance.
In response to this critical need, various special programs were proposed. The federal government’s New Deal initiative created the Social Security system in 1935. In California the most prominent pension schemes were Upton Sinclair’s End Poverty in California (EPIC) campaign, the Townsend Movement (named for its architect, Dr. Francis E. Townsend), and the Ham and Eggs or 30-Thursday crusade, which proposed a $30 weekly pension for every resident fifty years of age and older.
The Ham and Eggs proposal was first presented to California voters as Proposition 25 in the 1938 general election. The initiative was narrowly defeated with a statewide vote of 1,398,999 to 1,143,670. Because of the closeness of the vote, the movement’s backers, the Retirement Life Payments Association (RLPA) decided to try again. They were able to secure over one million petition signatures–enough to persuade Governor Culbert Olson to call a special election for November 1939.” –Chris Ernest Nelson, Graduate student, San Diego State University
Monday October 23, 1939 “Felt Low. Walked in the park. Cold day. ”
Tuesday October 24, 1939 “Cold clear day. Walked Bijou in the park. Read and shopped.
George Stinson “From Policeman to Opera Singer.” Image Source: HistoricImages – Store
Wednesday October 25, 1939 “Jeanne and I went to the Fair. Count Basie played. Heard George Stinson sing – grand voice. Also watched the Hawaiians, the Marimbas. 5pm met Tony at Brazil. Saw the gang. Home early. Then late had to pick up Sam and Phil at the plant. Lots of drinks.”
Thursday October 26, 1939 “Slite hangover – long walk in the park. Saw a crazy nut in the street.”
Friday October 27, 1939 “Had to pick up Sam. Out for drinks. Home late.”
Image Source: Cruising The Past
Saturday October 28, 1939. “To the Fair with Tony. Heard Orrin Tucker. Met Ted and had a couple of drinks. Stopped at the plant. A few more drinks. Home and more drinks. Sam drunk with Cy and Tommy. To bed late.”
Sunday October 29, 1939 “Last day of the Fair – quite a time. Jeanne, Duke, Tony, and Phil closed Brazil House – got three bags of coffee. Danced and drank at various places. Saw the closing ceremonies. Home, and Sam in not very good condition.”
I haven’t been able to locate images of closing day. But below is a newsreel style summary of the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition
Monday October 30, 1939. “Felt low. Jeanne stayed home – in bed most of the day.”
Tuesday October 31, 1939 “Still slightly shaky. Lazy day. Jeanne and I went to a show. Halloween – quite a lot of noise.”
Saturday October 14, 1939. To the Fair with Tony, Dodo & Jeanne. Saw glassblowers, the Honolulu Clipper. Lovely day. Nite – Ted back the house with us. He and Tony left about 1 am.
San Francisco Fox Theatre, One of the grandest movie palaces ever built was demolished in 1963. Image Source Cinema Treasures
Sunday October 15, 1939 “Sam to Union meeting. Jeanne, Tony & I went to the Fox Theatre – Then drove to Fisherman’s Wharf and saw the fishing fleet go out. Nite with Sam to Scotts – Tired!
Monday October 16, 1939. “Downtown – paid phone. Shopped a little. Nite with Sam to Library. Ted phoned & tried to date Jeanne.
Tuesday October 17, 1939 “Lovely Fall day – Walked in the park. Shopped on Clement Street. Read.
Image Source Jazz Lives – Count Basie seated, middle.
Wednesday October 18, 1939 Sam and I to the Fair after picking up Press Card at Marc’s. To Palace of Arts and heard Count Basie. Saw the Guard Mount and the Clipper departs. Bought shakers for Carola. Home early Tony called – party to be Friday.
Views of Fillmore Street, image source http://www.cable-car-guy.com
Thursday October 19, 1939. “Went to Fillmore Street for Brazil coffee – window shopped – very interesting. At the library afternoon and nite. Went alone to a show at nite. Nice walk in the park. Beautiful Fall day.”
Friday October 20, 1939. “Cleaned house. Nite to the party at Tony’s for the Brazil band. Vic and Ginni had a fight on the way home.”
Lily Pons 1939. Image Source www.albionmich.com
Lily Pons was renown and successful on many tracks. She was an opera singer known for her coloratura soprano repertoire – distinguished by agile runs, leaps and trills. She was alsoÂ a successful concert singer with a lucrative schedule until her retirement in 1973. She was a recording artist, worked in movies and television.
Saturday October 21, 1939. “Hot today. Jon & Fred got in from L.A. Tony and I to the Fair. Heard Lily Pons. After coffee Tony and I went to the Press Club, etc. with Vic. Then home. Waldrons here. Drank Tom Collins. Vic stayed at Tony’s.”
Sunday October 22, 1939 “Jon, Sam & Fred to the Fair together. Tony, Jeanne, Phil & Vic and I met Sam and Jon and we did the rounds.”
Saturday October 7, 1939. “Downtown with Jeanne + To the Fair with Tony – Went through many buildings again. Coffee at Brazil + and saw Gen there. Beautiful day + clear nite. Home early.”
Using Opening Day of the San Francisco Oakland Bay Bridge to illustrate a long wait on the bridge.
Sunday October 8, 1939. “Warm day. With Tony, Jeanne, and Dodo to the Fair. One hour over the bridge. Biggest day of the Fair.
Image Source http://theredlist.com
“Saw and heard Bing Crosby. Nite – Brought Ted back and we stopped at his apartment for drinks. Met William Saroyan’s cousin. Went to Cat Show.”
WilliamÂ Saroyan was an American dramatist and author. He was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1940, and in 1943 won the Academy Award for Best Story for the film adaptation of his novel The Human Comedy.
An Armenian American, Saroyan wrote extensively about the Armenian immigrant life in California. Many of his stories and plays are set in his native Fresno. Some of his best-known works are The Time of Your Life, My Name Is Aram and My Heart’s in the Highlands.
He is recognized as “one of the most prominent literary figures of the mid-20th century.” Stephen Fry describes Saroyan as “one of the most underrated writers of the [20th] century.” Fry suggests that “he takes his place naturally alongside Hemingway, Steinbeck and Faulkner.”
Monday October 8, 1939. “Very warm today. Tired! Lazy day today – short walk in the park. Nite: to library. Read + bed early.”
Helen with the Hussey/Martin household pets, Bijou (left) Pancho (right).
Tuesday October 10, 1939. “Another warm day. Phoned Kathleen – wrote Ruth, Carola, M. Tinney. Sent Shakers. Bathed Bijou. Shopped for turkey for tomorrow. Got Pancho from hospital. She acted so cute! Nite: stuffed turkey and made cranberry sauce.”
Wednesday October 11, 1939 “Hot Day! Cleaned house. Tony + Phil here for turnkey dinner. Tony brought port + beer. Sam and I up late drinking port.”
Gayatri Devi often styled as Maharani Gayatri Devi, Rajmata of Jaipur. She was the third Maharani of Jaipur from 1939 to 1970 through her marriage to HH Maharaja Sawai Man Singh II. She has been counted in ‘The Ten Most Beautiful Women of the World’ along with actress Leela Naidu by the Vogue Magazine.
Thursday October 12, 1939. Another hot day. Jeanne and I to the Fair. Saw miniatures + rifle drill. Maharajah of Kaipur there. Met Tony + Ethelwyn at Brazil. Drinks at the Island Club. Jeanne and I home early.”
Friday October 13, 1939 “Nice Birthday. Jeanne gave me a lovely amethyst necklace, Sam a bracelet. Tony over in the evening with plaid skirt. Home most of the day. Fog in the evening. Jeanne out with Duke. Kathleen phoned in the A.M. Ross called at night.