In February of 1947 Bill and Jeanne Soderberg, with baby Sam in tow, hit the road and struck toward a new life and livelihood in the Chicago neighborhood of Homewood, Illinois. No mention of the decision factors in this bold move. But considering Bill was mustered out of the Marine Corp at the end of July in 1946 he was probably looking for the best opportunities to earn the family bread. Weighing his skills as a carpenter and home builder he may have seen Chicago as opportunity where carpenters earned good Union wages. He possessed a Journeyman Carpenter Certificate.
It appears the genesis of the Chicago idea emerged during the Yule season of 1946
From Helen Hussey’s Diary. December 22, 1946 – “Jeanne and Bill over – they are thinking of going to Chicago!”
Helen’s diary reveals an extremely active time in 1946 for her, Sam Hussey, Jeanne, Bill, and Sam. Their lives and households interfaced on a daily basis. Sam and Helen Hussey had a very active social life with names such as the Kings and the Grandjeans. Husseys over to their place. Them over to the Hussey’s. M0vie going, concert going, site seeing, eating out a lot, night clubs “bar hopping,” nights listening to the radio and reading, and the ever consistent “sherrying” before bed.
Helen’s Diary. January 11, 1947. “Kids in for a minute. They expect to leave for Chicago around the first (of February).” Helen also mentioned meeting Hussey at the plant, then having lunch at Gotham. Then went to a cat show. “Good!” They went to the Shepards at night. Irene and Leon came to visit, as well as “the kids.”
1931 Model A Ford with fully loaded trailer in tow.
Helen’s Diary. February 11, 1947 – “Took care of the baby while Jeanne and Bill were over at their place cleaning and packing.”
Helen’s Diary. February 12, 1947 “Bill finished packing the trailer. They’re all here, all night.” Helen had been downtown shopping and bought Jeanne long underwear and jeans. She also bought yarn to knit a sweater and socks.
Helen’s Diary. February 13, 1947 “Another mad day. The Kings over at night to bid Kids good bye. Also Bob Beattie. Then the kids went to Bill Beattie’s house after 10. I had a hard time getting to sleep. Hussey bought Jeanne and me Valentines Candy.”
Helen’s Diary. February 14, 1947 “Up about 4:30. Kids left a little after 5:00. Found they forgot their food!
Washed a lot of clothes, and got the mess fairly organized. Nite, awfully quiet here without the Kids. Sam and I shared a bottle of sherry.” Helen started knitting a white sweater.
Helen’s Diary. February 16, 1947 “I miss the kids and wonder where they are tonight.” The day before “Sam to meet Harry Olsen, some new business deal. He stopped in on his way home and TALKED! Kings over with Sherry – quite a session.”
Helen’s Diary. February 17, 1947 “I wrote to Jeanne. Got a card from Jeanne mailed in Arizona. They discovered they forgot food at Riverside.”
Helen’s Diary. “February 18, 1947 “A card from Jeanne from Phoenix.”
Helen’s Diary. February 19, 1947 “Ash Wednesday. Wrote to Jeanne.”
Helen’s Diary. February 22, 1947 “Wire from Bill, safe arrival in Homewood!!” Helen writes it was a busy day with Gordon and the the Grandjeans there at night.
Helen’s Diary. February 23, 1947 “Lovely midsummer-like day. Wrote to Jeanne and sent airmail. Also sent them a wire.” Helen spent the evening reading, knitting, and listening to the radio. John King was there for a few hours.
February 24, 1947 “Wrote to Jeanne and Tony.” Knitting at night
Helen’s Diary. February 27, 1947 “Cards from Jeanne.”
March 1, 1947 “I started knitting socks for Bill for Easter.”
Helen’s Diary. March 13, 1947 “Two letters from Jeanne.” The day before Helen mentioned having lunch at a drive-in, then to see a model Post War home on Wilshire. “Really something,” she said.
Helen’s Diary. March 15, 1947 “John King over in the afternoon and for dinner. Nite, Grandjeans over and stayed all night. Didn’t get to bed until 4 a.m.”
March 28, 1947 “I made Jeanne’s dress and knitted the baby’s socks.”
Helen’s Diary. March 29, 1947 “Packed and mailed kid’s Easter package.”
Helen’s Diary. April 1, 1947 “A letter from Jeanne. I wrote some to her at nite.”
This appears to be an accidental double or triple exposure which can happen in older cameras when one doesn’t realize you’re at the end of a film roll. Or if you fail to advance the film at any given point.
Judging by the number of similar shots featuring the packed Model A ford as a focal point, conceivably Dad considered this packing job to be a personal feat of engineering.
Helen’s Diary. April 11, 1947 “Went to an antique show at the Pan Pacific Auditorium. Lots of things to see.”
April 17, 1947 “Went to the beauty parlor at 3:30 – did a Rotten job on my hair.” She went back the next day to have it redone. “Better,” she said.
April 20, 1947 “Wrote to Jeanne.”
April 23, 1947 “Went downtown and bought the baby birthday gifts – train, t-shirt and cards. Hollywood at night with Sam. Then to the library and home for sherry.”
Helen’s Diary. April 24, 1947 “Received photos from Jeanne.”
March 1, 1947 “I started knitting socks for Bill for Easter.”
May 5, 1947 “Wrote to and sent Jeanne a package.”
Helen’s Diary May 10, 1947 “Got a card from Jeanne for Mother’s Day. ”
Helen’s Diary May 19, 1947 “Kings here for dinner then we went to the Wallace rally at Gilmore Stadium. It was packed. A terrific speech by Katherine Hepburn. Wallace was fine.”
May 21, 1947 “Up early, wrote a long letter to Jeanne. To Main Street to see Duel In The Sun.”
May 26, 1947 “Wrote a long letter to Jeanne.”
May 28, 1947 “Wrote to Jeanne.”
Helen’s Diary June 12, 1947 “Letter and card from Jeanne, wrote to her.”
Helen’s Diary June 19, 1947 “Went to the Home Show at the Pan Pacific Auditorium. And stopped at Frank’s bar!”
June 21, 1947 “Letter from Jeanne and Bill. They want to come back to California”
Helen’s Diary June 23, 1947 “Wrote to Jeanne and Bill. Went to Post Office.”
Helen’s Diary June 29, 1947 “Bill phoned. Jeanne arrives Tues 8:30 A.M. on the Chief!! Short notice. Have date that night at Grandjeans”
Helen’s Diary July 1, 1947 “Up early and drove and met Jeanne and baby. Train on time, 8:30. Kids look fine. Night at Grandjeans.”
Helen’s Diary July 2, 1947 “Hot day. Worked a lot in the garden. Nite, John King over for a minute. Jeanne and I took a walk.”
July 5, 1947 “Slept most of the day and finished doing the dishes. Jeanne and baby to Mrs. Teter.”
Helen’s Diary July 7, 1947 “Jeanne and I to the pictures. Odd Man Out with James Mason.”
Helen’s Diary July 10, 1947 “Jeanne over to Teters and came home upset.”
Helen’s Diary July 14, 1947 “I watched the baby while Jeanne went to Santa Monica.”
Helen’s Diary July 19, 1947 “Bill called from Blythe at night.”
Helen’s Diary July 20, 1947 “Lazy quiet day. Teter came over for Jeanne. Bill and Jeanne over in the evening. Sherry.”
Helen’s Diary July 21, 1947 “Kids over to pick stuff up.”
Helen’s Diary July 26, 1947 “Jeanne and Bill over for dinner. Nice evening.”
July 29, 1947. “To Main Street today. At nite Jeanne and Bill over.”
July 31, 1947 “Went downtown early for Month End sales. Terrific crowds. Bought shoes, P.J.’s, robe and seersucker suit. Jeanne here in the afternoon and left at 4:30. Claire here at night. Tom Collins.” They were on a Hi Ball streak for a while. Then Tom Collins. With Sherry in between.
Helen’s Dairy August 3, 1947. “Jeanne and Bill over again.”
Similar diary entries up until August 17, 1947. But then…
On August 17 Helen went on vacation. Hussey stayed home. She got on an air conditioned bus that would take her to Las Vegas where she won a dollar!
“Quite a bus driver from Vegas to Cedar City where we stayed at a nice hotel. There was a desert storm.”
August 18 “Arrived at Zion at 11:00. Nice lunch then I took a one mile hike. The scenery is out of this world. The night is a starlit wonder. Good dinner, corny entertainment after which we left.”
August 19 “Took horseback ride to Angel’s Landing, back for lunch and left at 12:30 through Kaibab Forest – heavenly. Arrived at the Grand Canyon at 5:30 Nite, Grand Hotel. Huge dinner and a cute show.”
August 20 “Huge breakfast. Wrote cards, walked to Bright Angel Point. Afternoon to a trip around the rim of the canyon to Cape Royal highest point. To a program at night. It stormed over the canyon today.”
August 21 “Most spectacular day. Mule trip down canyon. Had to turn back on account of the storm, but 5 hours on the trail. Evening one of the best sunsets seen here. Last day at the canyon. Leave in the morning at 8:30.”
August 22 “Left Grand Canyon and arrived at Bryce at 2. Lunch and Rim Trip. Bus driver, Don,a geology student. Nite to lecture and show. And meet the famous Hodes Church. Cold, cold at night.”
August 23 “Terrific walk in the morning. Left Bryce at 2:00 p.m. and lovely drive to Ceder Breake. Chicken dinner there. Arrived Cedar City around 9 p.m. Stayed the night at Escalante Hotel and saw some Indians from India.”
August 24 “Up at about 6:45 NICE breakfast. Left Cedar City about 8:45. Stopped at Las Vegas for lunch. Then Barstow for dinner. Vegas to Barstow trip hot and tiresome. Arrived in L.A. at 9:39. Sam met me and we took a taxi home. Had sherry and talked.”
By August 31 everything appears settled and routine. Bill went on a fishing trip. The day before Helen and Hussey went window shopping in Hollywood. They played records at Wallach’s Music City. Then went downtown and visited the Bradbury Building, Olvera Street, and home about 9. And drank sherry.
All in all a two great weeks for Helen!
Rampart Boulevard is a busy urban street in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Rampart Village. An area 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. Ethel 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 on 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 born 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. Being that Rudolph was already his birth name, going by Rudolph Otto “Valentino” Martin probably seemed like a good fit to him.
Otto “Val” was the first born child of German immigrants Otto Rudolph Martin of Saxony, and Agnes Franzenbach of Cöln. 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 sure 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’s 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 Jeanne Martin Pictures Of My Vacation In Washington (Long Beach) Summer 1938
Val’s father Otto Rudolph Martin “Dad” was 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 in bakery and grocery.
Val’s mother Agnes Franzenbach, “Mutti” was born April 4, 1865 in Cöln, Germany . She immigrated to the U.S. on October 25, 1889 along with her first husband John Michels.
The 1900 census noted her livelihood was saleswoman.
Father Otto, who preferred going by Rudolph or “Dad,” and Agnes Frazenbach “Mutti” were married in Walla Walla, Washington on 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 was Rudolph Otto “Val” Martin. Then came Carola Susanna Martin born in 1893, Frances Amelia Martin in 1897, and Lewis Burdette Martin in 1903. Likely the home shown here was sold by 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 autobiography “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 selling of this house likely paid for construction of their next home.
A “go-to” source for a lot of this family history was put together by Mark DiVecchia on his site Family of Otto Rudolph Martin and Agnes Frazenback.
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. 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 by 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.”
Then 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 it 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 after February 12, 1918. From that date to November 11, 1918 it may well be possible his suffered injury from chemical warfare.
He could have been in the thick of battle as his letter from January 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 Val 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 describe his time off – a visit to 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. 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 is 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 – being 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 in a field ambulance if Val was not directly in the line of fire, then it is 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’s letter of November 12, 1917 is worth noting.
“I was given the sobriquet of Val years ago, and have used it more or less ever since.” 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, boys who go to war come back changed men upon 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 returned to the Martin family home during his post World War I period. This one was located in Oak Grove, Oregon.
Caption reads “Val at our home in Oak Grove, Or” There is a pin Val wears in several photos from this period. Perhaps an Army pin or service 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 to San Francisco. He may have gone to see her. In his letter from Alaska there’s mention of an individual named “Doc” he owed money to, but planned to take his time repaying. 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 girls 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 life he was never able to fulfill. At some point he learned to be very manipulative of the girls he courted, which sadly in the end took the form of fatal obsession.
Helen was 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 Larkin put tiny Helen onto a train that connected with a 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. 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 little about her father John Cordes. And just as little 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 was 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.
They had her enrolled in Elocution classes. Part of the class was public speaking which she was good at. So much so she was 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 – as 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 with him a few times.
“After high school I started Junior College but 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. 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. Perhaps he had a 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. One address listed was 1147 Appleton Street, Long Beach. Another was 2239 East Sixth Street, Long Beach
There appeared to be some domestic happiness in the early days if not 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 mimicked 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. 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 – 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 mother’s brother), his wife, Helen, and their little three year-old daughter, Jeanne. Uncle Val was doing the extra in the movies 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 Black Bottom 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 didn’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 I 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 stop 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 believes 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 her 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 be 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. Then we still had trouble with Val. 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’d 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 a police woman came and asked me about Jeanne. 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. 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 insisted she had never 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 same tactics he used to lure Helen’s interest years ago. When Helen was so determined to leave home – when he impressed her with his promises.
Just as Helen was fixed on leaving home, Elizabeth was looking to advance her education and training as an artist. One can imagine 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 Elizabeth eloped and got married in Ventura County.
“No happiness can come from a marriage of an unsophisticated girl and a man twice her age,” the mother said.
And she was right. All of the disturbing behavior Helen and Jeanne witnessed and experienced came upon poor Elizabeth.
The record showed Val 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 skills to offer employers. There were no 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 record with Helen, with what Elizabeth’s mother and 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 go at their marriage was just as unsatisfactory as the first. This time 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 probably observed her coming and going from the house and learning her routine. 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 friend said – that friend was Mrs. Ethel Read. She and her husband George Read owned the house at 206 South Rampart Boulevard.
Val had came to that house on the night of June 10, 1936. In his stalking manner he stood in the shadows outside the home waiting for Elizabeth to 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 end 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 bleeding 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. This time he fell to the porch. But he still remained conscious!
It was a trail of blood on the porch indicating he still had enough life left in him to drag himself across the long porch to finally lay next to Elizabeth. There they both bled on the porch – all through the night as cars, buses and streetcars hummed and rattled by up and down Rampart Boulevard.
When George Read stepped out past 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. Val 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 it 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 one’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, 1939 “To the Paramount – Garbo in Ninotchka – good. Bought 2,000 tissues – Nite library. Read till 11:30.
Thursday November 23, 1939 “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, 1939 “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 – Speciatiling in the Finest TURKEY SANDWICHES
Ham, Cheese, Sardine, etc. — Free Buffet Lunch
Beverages — Full Line — Rainier Beer
No. 1 Columbus Avenue, corner Washington
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIF.
E. JACOPETTI, 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, 1939 “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, 1939 “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.
The 1941 30th Infantry review, at the Presido’s Crissy Field. This image shows Lieutenant Colonel Dwight D. Eisenhower (General Thompson’s Chief of Staff and future United States President) in the image (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.” 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 Going Up. 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 district’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-1950’s it was upgraded to a first run 70MM, reserved seat policy premiering such roadshow attractions as South Pacific (48 weeks), Exodus (20 weeks), Can Can (19 weeks), El Cid (21 weeks), The Longest Day (19 weeks),Cleopatra (56 weeks) & Oliver! (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 its 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 719 there anymore – probably demo’ed. The highest number on the corner building goes to 715. 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.”