Saturday, May 17, 2008

Around Town: Devil wagons and vigilantes

La Cañada Valley Sun: La Cañada Flintridge, California


Published Thursday, May 15, 2008 4:33 PM PDT
Around town:
Devil wagons and vigilantes
By Anita Susan Brenner

It was a rainy afternoon in La Cañada. Surprising weather.

I had stopped by Hill Street Cafe for a quick salad. I was in the parking lot when I saw her, revving the engine of a highly polished Anniversary Edition Harley Dyna Lowrider. The bike looked suspiciously familiar.

It was the Anonymous Source, an attractive lady in her 40s who provides ubiquitous scoops to enterprising columnists.

“What are you doing here?” I asked.

“Why are you ignoring me?” she asked.

“What do you mean?”

“Your columns are boring. Enough with the beet recipes,” she said. “Get back to the basics.”

And then, she unzipped a pocket of her vintage brown leather motorcycle jacket, pulled out a tattered envelope and tossed it onto the ground. I picked it up.

She gunned her engine, exited the parking lot and took off toward the ’Crest.

I heard sirens in the distance.

Inside the restaurant, I opened the envelope. It was an article from the Los Angeles Times, dated April 10, 1905. I read:

Boy Stunned, Buggy Wrecked: Dangerous Automobiling in La Canyada Valley

Fair enough. Back then, there were no sewer-constructive-single lanes to calm the Foothill Boulevard traffic. Automobiling was dangerous.

The next line caught my eye:

Citizens form volunteer vigilante committee to protect life and limb against devil-may-care chauffeurs.

Vigilante groups? In La Cañada? Did the Lanterman Museum know about this?

The Times reported that drivers of a death-dealing ‘devil wagon’ (an automobile) collided with a horse-drawn buggy. The automobile was being driven down Michigan Avenue (later renamed Foothill Boulevard) westward at a high rate of speed.

The buggy was occupied by three young boys. Their horse was frightened. The boys were injured. One was rendered unconscious.

Even though the buggy was totally demolished by the automobile the driver continued to spin along the avenue, not even turning his head.

Big mistake. Perhaps the driver did not realize that his crime occurred in front of the residence of Judge D. S. Carnahan.

Judge Carnahan lived on Michigan Avenue. He responded to the scene. Witnesses described the two men in the vehicle. One was about 50 and the other about 25 years old.

Dozens of residents responded to the scene. Their frustration grew.

Alas! The judge did not see the license number distinctly.

Sentiment against the automobile scorcher grew rapidly A number of the citizens declared their intention of taking the matter in their own hands.

Several citizens announced, if necessary, we will carry arms to protect ourselves against the reckless chauffeur.

It happened right here, in La Cañada. In 1905, when a judge lived on Foothill and vigilantes roamed the valley.


ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime resident and a regular columnist. The last time she got a ticket was in Pasadena.

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