Thursday, February 26, 2009

Flintridge? A School for Scandal?

The lights were still on at Number One Valley Sun Lane, deep in the heart of La Canada Flintridge. Before me were stacks of old Los Angeles Times clippings, held in place by the odd can of tuna. My dog, a black Lab named Miss Audrey Hepburn, dozed nearby.

The La Cañada Valley Sun, now a Times Community News paper, has an ancient and illustrious history as an accurate source of local history.

Election looming? Turn to the La Cañada Valley Sun for the names of the candidates.

Sewers going in? Read the La Cañada Valley Sun for the numbers of the districts. Howard Hughes? Read the Valley Sun.

Scandal brewing? Ditto.

So it was no surprise it is after midnight, the night is cold and I am in the Valley Sun offices whilst rummaging through clippings from 1936:

July 12th: The police determine that Howard Hughes had been drinking but was “not intoxicated.”

July 13th: “‘This is my first accident,’ he declared. ‘Why, I’ve never even hit a cat or dog with my automobile since I was 12.’”

July 14th: “Debutante with Hughes, Flintridge-Santa Barbara Girl to Appear at Crash Death Inquest ”

July 16th: “Howard Hughes Held Blameless in Tragedy Nancy Belle Bayly, Flintridge and Santa Barbara debutante corroborated Hughes’s testimony she said later that she has flown frequently with Hughes but that no engagement is pending ”

Immediately after her testimony, Miss Bayly “fled” to Santa Barbara with her mother, with no engagement pending. Her goal? To leave the scandal behind.

Her father, Roy Bayly, a broker, remained behind in Flintridge.

One year earlier, Ada Belle Bayley had filed for divorce from Roy. The allegation? Marital infidelity. The co-respondent was none other than Mrs. Bayly’s sister, Mabel E. Seely of Gramercy Place in Los Angeles.

Mrs. Bayly “accused her husband of carrying on a secret association with Miss Seely.”

Mabel E. Seely was the best sort of person. A member of the Women’s Athletic Club and the Flintridge Country Club, Mabel was a “prominent Los Angeles social figure, horsewoman and former president of the Los Angeles Junior League.”

In Flintridge, the love affair continued for a little while

Within the year, tragedy struck again. On May 28th, 1937, Mabel Seely “plunged 175 feet to her death” from the Colorado Street Bridge in Pasadena. “Her sister-in-law, Mrs. Walter E. Seely, reported that she could give no reason for Miss Seeley ending her life.”

But Mabel Seeley left a note. Perhaps it was about Flintridge.

Perhaps not.

“The conflict within myself makes for complete confusion. May peace reign in my absence.”

ANITA SUSAN BRENNER is a longtime La Cañada Flintridge resident and an attorney with Law Offices of Torres and Brenner in Pasadena. E-mail her at Cañada Valley Sun: La Cañada Flintridge, California: "Flintridge? School for Scandal"

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