Compiled by Pablo Capra Topanga Historical Archivist
When Pablo Capra, The Canyon Chronicleâs (and Topanga Historical Societyâs) intrepid researcher of Topanga history, began reading old newspapers, he discovered numerous vignettes that caught his attention but werenât relevant to the books and articles he was writing. Too small to publish on their own, we found them interesting and amusing enough to present them as ongoing glimpses into our local history. Check out Capraâs video trailer for his book, Topanga Beach: A History, 1820s-1920s. (youtube.com/ watch?v=y5A9lkEhHyY)
âBelieve Old Man Has Banditsâ Treasureâ
April 27, 1907, Los Angeles Record,Ocean Park (Spl.)âJohn Stokes, living the life of a primitive man in the Topango canyon, far from the haunts of man, has been the cause of a great deal of talk in the last few days. Stokes has apparently no occupation or way of supporting himself, yet he always has gold to purchase whatever he desires. Occasionally he has sold discolored golden ornaments of antique pattern, and several times he has disposed of small lumps of gold that had been recently melted, and once he tried to pass a coin that was without date and bore an inscription in Spanish.
At one time there was considerable talk of buried treasure on this coast, supposed to have been buried by a band of Mexican bandits in the early part of the last century, and some people think that he has found the buried treasure. Several men have gone up to the canyon to question the old man, but he refuses to answer the questioners.
Prospectors have recently gone over every foot of the canyon in the neighborhood of his camp, in the vain hope that Stokes had found a gold mine and the melted lumps of gold were the results of his labors there, but they have declared that there are no âindicationsâ in sight, and the stories of the golden ornaments and the old coins tend to strengthen âthe belief that the old man has found the cached booty of the bandits
Girl Is a Recluse
Young Woman Jilted by Fiance Leads to Act. Spends Her Time Working on Farm, With Only Two Deer Hounds For Her Companionsâ Attires Self as Man.
July 26, 1912, Essex County Herald, Santa Monica, Cal.âLike a chapter from a novel is the present career of Miss Alma Pitlinzer, a handsome young woman, who, wearing male attire, is living the life of a recluse, apart from all relatives and friends, in the beautiful Topanga canyon, eight miles north of this city.
Several days ago, a friend of the young womanâs father, who was a visitor at one of the mountain resorts, recognized her and urged her to return home, but without avail. Miss Pitlinzer declared she had left all her old life behind and did not wish to return.
âI am living contentedly here, next to nature,â she said, âfree from everyone, and I do not care to go back to the sham social life, where there is no real happiness. All I desire is to be let alone. Tell my people that I am happy and contented here in the mountains with my dogs and ranch.â
Eight years ago, the young woman, who was then nineteen years old, and had just been graduated from high school, was living in a beautiful home at Walnut Hills, a fashionable suburb in Cincinnati. She was one of the belles in the younger social set, and a short time after her graduation was betrothed to a young lawyer of that city, the marriage to take place the following year. Miss Pitlinzer was happy at her contemplated wedding and took pride in exhibiting her engagement ring to her wide circle of friends. She had just begun to prepare her wedding gown when her fiancĂ© became infatuated with her chum and eloped with her to Louisville, where they were married. When Miss Pitlinzer received the news of the wedding she fell ill. The shock caused her to have brain fever, and for three months she hovered between life and death. The young lawyer had called on Miss Pitlinzer almost every evening up to the day of his elopement, and she had idolized him as a man of the highest honor.
After partly recovering from her illness, Miss Pitlinzer bade her parents good-by and left home, saying she was going on a trip to California to recuperate. She came to Santa Monica seven years ago, and after spending five weeks at the beach, purchased a small ranch in Topango canyon, three miles from the ocean shore, where she built a two-room cottage, being assisted in the work of construction by an elderly Mexican, who owns a ranch adjoining Miss Pitlinzerâs property.
Miss Pitlinzer has not worn womanâs clothing since she built the home. Except for the assistance given by her Mexican neighbors she has cleared and cultivated the entire ranch alone. She receives no callers, has no friends and lives as a hermit.
It is only rarely that Miss Pitlinzer leaves the ranch. Her only companions are two large deer hounds, which are with her almost constantly.
The animals act as a bodyguard, and whenever a curious person attempts to reach the cottage the onrush of the hounds soon causes the intruders to make a hasty retreat.
2nd Fernwood Resident Sees a Flying Saucer
October 31,1952, Topanga JournalâMrs. John Nelson of Basin Drive told the Journal this week that she saw what she believed to be a flying saucer about 3 weeks ago. She said she hadnâșt mentioned it until she read in the Journal that another Fernwood resident had seen it. She described the saucer as being a round, globelike object that emitted a penetrating green light. It was flying eastward. The light from the object was so strong, Mrs. Nelson said, that it detracted her attention while she was watching a television show at about 7 p.m.
âSons of Beaches Square Dance Groupâ
From âThe Younger Set,â A column by Judy Archer December 8, 1955, Topanga Journalâ Helen and Chuck Rice and the Malibu âSons of Beachesâ Square Dance group are planning another party for the boys at the NIKI plant [Nike missile base] on Dec. 17th. They all had such a good time before, that they decided to repeat it. The women are all asked to bring a cake or some cookies... you donât have to be a square dancer to go and the spot is easy to find... just drive three miles up Rambla Pacifico... and there you are.
Motorcyclists on Tear in Canyon
August 8, 1957, Topanga JournalâSeveral cars from Malibu Sheriff âs Station, manned by deputies, were rushed to Topanga Canyon shortly after 6 p.m. Sunday when calls for help were received from cafe owners threatened with depradations by a group of a dozen unidentified motorcyclists entering the canyon from the Coast Highway and escaping over the Topanga Summit into San Fernando Valley a few minutes before the officers arrived. â
Les Hite: Former Band Leader Dies in Topanga
February 8, 1962âLes Hite, 57, formerly a wellknown jazz musician and band leader, and for the last twenty years chauffeur and personal servant for Mrs. Vera Crofton of 21532 Entrada Drive in Topanga, died suddenly Tuesday morning of a heart attack. Hite was stricken suddenly about 8 p.m. on Monday evening and was rushed to St. Johnâs Hospital in Santa Monica. Death came at 5:30 a.m.
Prior to an auto accident in 1939 which injured his lip and put an end to his career as a musician, Hite was well known in the entertainment world. For seventeen years he was a band leader and musician for Frank Sebastian in his famous Cotton Club and he also appeared in numerous other night clubs and restaurants in Los Angeles and the San Fernando Valley. He is said to have given Louis Armstrong his start in show business. He was an associate and coworker with such celebrities as Tommy Dorsey, Fats Waller, and Nat King Cole. Aside from his night club work, he was a recording artist, a song writer, and appeared in several moviesâamong them, âTop Hatâ with Fats Waller. In recent years he was a partner in a theatrical booking agencyâ the Hite-Fain Artists Agency of 4477 W. Adams Boulevard, Los Angeles.
Hite was born in Champaign, Illinois, in 1905. He is survived by his widow, Lee, with whom he maintained a residence at 2021 S. Redondo Boulevard, Los Angeles. Services will be held at the Los Angeles Funeral Home at a time yet to be determined.
Supervisors Ban Beach Nudity Residents allege public sexual acts
June 6, 1975, Independent LA Bureau â Supervisors Tuesday, on a 3-1 vote, gave initial approval to an ordinance banning nudity on beaches and at parks in unincorporated county territory. Adoption of the ordinance came after a handful of proponents and opponents had spoken before the board.
Several women residents of the Topanga Beach area claimed that the beach was no longer safe for their children because of nude bathers and the acts they committed. A male resident claimed acts of oral copulation were committed by nude bathers. One woman said taking children to the beach for shell hunting meant crossing over 200 to 300 nudes every day. âItâs horrible, just horrible,â she told the board. Several men spoke against the ordinance Topanga Before