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John Hamilton Part 1

30 Years Ago in Free Venice Beachhead

30 Years Ago in Call Someplace Paradise and/or Ghost Town

Free Venice Beachhead Archives 1980-81

Beachhead Archives 1982

Beachhead Archives 1983

Beachhead Archives 1984

Venice in Books A-C

Venice in Books D-K

Venice in Books L-P

Venice in Books Q-Z

Quotations about Venice

Venice in Magazines and other ephemeral sources

1981 Resistance Celebration Schedule

1981 Resistance Celebration Articles

Birth of Venice:
old-timey magazines

1914-1916 Part 1

1914-1916 Part 4

1914-1916 Part 5

Lighthearted Beachhead pieces

People of Venice (from Beachhead)

Windward Avenue Articles from Beachhead

Art in the Beachhead

Venice institutions from the Beachhead

Destiny's Consent by
Laura Shepard

Lions and Gondolas

Rana Ayzeren

Tales of the Blue Meanie by Allan Cole

Another Chapter from Tales of the Blue Meanie by Allan Cole

"Brick" Garrigues

The Spectre

Venice Historical Society

1969 Police Riots

Jack the Liar




Windward Avenue Sketches Part 2
from Free Venice Beachhead #125 May 1980
(Part 1 is here)

by John Hunt

John Hamilton was a long-time resident of Windward Avenue and in intimate observer of life on that changing street. The following is the second part of a tape-recorded "architectural memoir" he did with the author, John Hunt.

Windward Apartments, N.W. corner Windward and Pacific Avenues

Hunt: What’s the story of that building?

John Hamilton: Oh, bad news. Right through that door as you walk directly down the hall there’s a room and there was a guy, 71 years old, Joseph De Loche, he got all his checks on one of those four day holidays and a couple and a couple of guys got in there with him and they were running around here trying to cash the damn checks and no one would cash them. Irma here at the liquor store wouldn’t cash them and they finally did get the checks cashed, but the checks were signed in three different signatures, that is, three different writings, two different pens and Joe De Loche died before the checks were cashed. Old guy, nice guy, nothing important about him except he was 72 years old and $466 worth of checks. What they done was kept him on wine and he died of alcoholism while they were keeping him propped up for the cashing of the check. They overdid it. They had him in custody really, he was a prisoner.

Hunt: Who owns that place, do you know?

John Hamilton: I think it’s under Abbott Associates. The way they do it, they change the ownership every time they run up a big bill or come to a lawsuit, they change the ownership. It’s Abbott Associates this time, it’s actually owned by Priscilla Loring and her son Robert Abbott. You ought to see the back of that building. The windows will never close back there because the windows ain’t there…if you go around the backside you’ll see even worse than that. The building’s falling into the street…Now she has welfare tenants. Welfare tenants can’t complain and the money’s good and when they die and speaking of dying, when they die, she sends in the notice at the end of the month, they die on the first, why they didn’t die, not until the 30th, then she notifies the Welfare they’re dead, after she gets and cashes the check.

Hunt: How long has she owned this place?

John Hamilton: About 15 mean years. You see this door here? At the bottom of the stairs that’s supposed to be a fire escape, it’s locked now, you can’t get in and you can’t get out. It’s kinda come loose at the hinges, too. At the bottom of those stairs two men were found dead on separate occasions. One was a barber from across the street. He got up there and he got stoned stoned and somebody beat him on the head with a bottle and he came to the bottom of the stairs with glass in his ears and a fractured skull and dead. And there was another one came to the same end. Small guy. I had an idea who did it but ideas don’t pay off.

While you’re down on level - right behind that sign that says Windward Avenue and this doorway there used to be a bar called the Pub and it was a hellish bar, too. A great hellish bar. One day this guy, the bartender, and his old lady got into it and she had priors (prior convictions), but I’ll tell you what she tried to do. She horsed him into an argument and she went to the back of the room towards the can and she pulled out a gun and fired one round but he had known her priors so he had a gun and he put three in her. She shot him in the balls and he put three in her. He made it. One ball less but he made it. She’d done the same thing in Texas - horsed a guy into an argument and then blasted away. In the company of witnesses. Well, in this case, too late, for her. He was already ahead of the game and he got her. Of course the guy’s walking around light on one side. But she was dead dead. She left here dead. Curious town, very curious town…Let’s take a walk. Every step in this town is a damn shame.

Hunt: When was that?

John Hamilton: Oh, about six-four, one-nine-six-four, and where that drain is up there, that’s where Lalla P. Karres came off the roof, right down here to the edge of the curb where that trash is in the gutter. She ended up right here in the god-damned gutter! Lalla P. Karres, the daughter of a revolutionary from Russia, her sister was a judge in South Bend, Indiana. She was just a fuck-up but she was alleged to have jumped off the roof. She didn’t. She couldn’t get that high. She had a broken hip. She couldn’t get over that railing under any circumstances and she certainly did not come through the side to get this far out. Somebody threw her off the roof. That’s a great passion here in Venice, throw ‘em off the roof, get ‘em up on deck and throw them off the roof and if anybody asks you anything why "she jumped, I asked her not to."

Now let’s get back on the roof, we got another one. Some hype was up there, a big fat tub of a girl and she o.d.’ed up on the roof and the only way they could get her off the roof they had to call the whole damn Fire Department to throw the hook and ladder up there and bring her down in a stretcher and park here in the alley, bring her down in a stretcher cage and get her to the hospital. She didn’t make it.

Townhouse Bar, 52 Windward Avenue

John Hamilton: I don’t think you really want to know this…That’s Petey Owens, many missions, many missions in "Q" (San Quentin), and they had a shoot-out at the Townhouse when his brother got hit, he got hit pretty good, too! The bullet entered here and instead of penetrating his brain it rambled around the brain pan. He’s got a permanent headache. That’s another story.

Security Pacific Bank, 121 Windward & Ace Gallery, on the Windward Circle (formerly Bank of America)

John Hamilton: I got to tell you about the holdup. There was this junkie, he held up the bank one morning, he knocked over that one the second morning, the fourth morning he knocked over this one again, and the fifth morning he knocked over that one again. He was shooting $100 a day so he’d come in, hold up the place…The people told me the FBI was sitting here, two cars, one here and one there waiting for the guy. Somebody said he walked over here and he went down Horizon. Well, Horizon is only two blocks long. I said, well, if that son of a bitch went on Horizon he lives right there - and we were on Market Street and I pointed to the building. They guy must come here, the street ends, and if he’s walking, it’s all over. It was beautiful…He knocked over this one twice, he got the B of A once, the holdup man… It was beautiful…It was beautiful….

Mobil Oil Well, 1 Market Street

John Hamilton: That was a real put on. It took six years to get that thing squared away but Standard and Mobil went around signing up every landholder in Venice for the rights to the oil underneath their property. This is not one of those covered properties where you don’t get the mineral rights. The landholders here still had their mineral rights and they went around from here to Lincoln Boulevard buying up mining claims or undersurface mineral claims. They did, and then while they were mapping this area, Standard came up short and Mobil went long on their bids. Now Mobil’s bid consisted of that they put that oil well there and part of the royalties from the oil well would go into this recreational area, or most of it would go into this recreational area. That’s why we have all these new structures on that oil well. That oil well which looks like it’s going straight down, isn’t. They have a slant drilling device where they can go down almost a mile under the ocean. That’s what they’re doing now, they’re putting in another slant well. They have about eight now. The first problem we had with the blessed oil well, they were also putting in natural gas and the natural gas was bowing in the wind and people were calling the gas company saying there’s a gas leak in my neighborhood. And with this prevailing offshore wind that meant all the way from here to Washington Boulevard, the smell of gas and it was dangerous. They finally forced Mobil to capture that leaking natural - that was part of their pickup - and put it in tanks and haul it away. Another thing about that oil well was one death related to that structure, but that’s another story. And that’s at the end of Market Street.

John Hamilton’s House

John Hamilton: Here’s the script. I must not take drugs, the drugs have a hook on you. I was 70 days in a brand new VA hospital and all I had to drink was half and half, milk, water, phenobarbitol and codeine to make me sleep. When I was leaving the VA hospital at the end of 70 days I had my truck out there, they offered me a 6 months supply of codeine, opium paregoric, the whole bit. I could keep it up till I fell over. I didn’t fall over, I cut it cold turkey.

Hunt: How long have you been drinking?

John Hamilton: I had to go into ____ in 1950 because I refused to take drugs and aspirin dummies me up for two days….Two beers, I’m dummied up for two days…I can’t stand up on my toes… would you believe a one arm officer? Would you believe that? Could you top that? I get semi-paralyzed according to the time of day and sometime the time of day… one arm and one leg but I did it. I was flight commander, I had 20 planes in the air, 10 planes on the ground, I can’t lose anybody. That’s important.

Hunt: What did you do in the war?

John Hamilton: I got six stitches in my ass. I was in the Quartermaster Detachment at that time, the 838, it was spread out all over the world and it was number uno…

Now, we’ve been out an hour, so turn five degrees to the north. Anything that goes north, take it, and we’ll go there. We did and we got back to the base and this silly second lou, he said, "How come you know all this?" I said, in the dark you have to go by the stars and the stars will change 5 degrees against you per hour and you will have to do it.

Hunt: How do you know all that?

John Hamilton: How do I know, God gave me quite a good grace. Each time fortune hits me… "In Sha’allah" God is in his heaven. I’m a flyboy. I didn’t die and I didn’t lose anybody. That’s the important thing. If you lose somebody then you have a guilt. You’re not very good for the next flight. I didn’t lose anybody. I was a first pilot. I dragged two instructors, one out of a plane and one I took him in the 68 journey, he didn’t like that. He wasn’t worth shit when I pulled a 60 split ass an him. I was first pilot on that flight. He was supposed to be checking me out but he threw us into the wrong spin, it’s a redling spin and upside down spin, in a Stearman. I bugged him, I pushed my button and said this is one helluva spin you got us through. We were only up at 3500 feet and I racked it and I racked it and we ended up 100 feet off the deck and we had smoke pots going out on the field and I said do you want me to follow the pattern or do you just want to get in. He said, he weighed 260 and I weighted 160 and I put her down.

Hunt: Did you see combat?

John Hamilton: Didn’t have to, they wouldn’t let me go. They gave me 20 chuck companies at a time. I was a training sergeant. I was big man. Just like Black Dick Pershing.

Hunt: How long have you been out here on Windward Avenue?

John Hamilton: Since 1960.

Hunt: How did you get to Venice?

John Hamilton: I’m standing here and I knew she was selling it and some small quiet person with brown hair said.. I said I would have to leave for LA and she said "Don’t go to LA, go to Venice." I said where in the great merry hell is Venice? Well, she told me to go and you get on the Washington Street bus and when you get to the end of the line, that’s Venice. I did it. It worked. It was beautiful.

Hunt: Do you think it’s going to be a good year?

John Hamilton: I don’t know, the birds didn’t sing this morning as they should have. If you want to know about Venice, you need two backpackers and three cameras. I read pretty good. The backpackers are for the batteries and the spares.

Hunt: What do you think about taping this stuff?

John Hamilton: Someone has to know. I don’t want to go to my grave knowing that someone does not know. I don’t want the dust to go unremarked and I don’t want it unremarked that there were not some pretty people here as well. They grew up and I was here. I was playing the drum in there for a while for the white human race. Darwin endeavored himself upon the etymology and the entomology and where we came from, and me, black like I am, I got an inside start. They didn’t know I was observing carefully biological specimens. They just happened to be white. It worked out all right, it worked out beautifully , so I have my white biologicals. There are more ways to conduct investigations than with a badge or a white coat.

Hunt: So you consider yourself a doctor then, in a way?

John Hamilton: No.

Hunt: Historian?

John Hamilton: Historian, yes.

Hunt: How about a novelist, they tell a story the way you do.

John Hamilton: Yeah, but they don’t see it. I’ve lived it. I’m not sorry. I’m not glad, but if you read it correctly, if you do it as it should be done, you have been a friend, or in some cases a foe, but his is the actual actual…How can you back off from that? Remember, I’m an airplane driver…You don’t back off from something like that because you don’t like it. No! You get with it! In the Air Force we have a procedure and a procedure takes place. You go through the procedure and if the procedure don’t work, you’re free to do what the fuck you can to stay alive…and then, give us the word on how you stayed alive.

Elizabeth Freeman, Susan Sullivan and Marilyn Emerzian helped prepare this remembrance. Copyright 1980 by John Hunt

© 2004 - 2010 Pat Hartman
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