CALIFORNIA, THERE I WENT
About June 1,
1923, I drove to Los Angeles to make plans to enter USC law school and
find a job. The trip was a trying experience because the roads were rough
and unimproved for long stretches. My little Model T fought bravely and
we managed to make Yuma the first night. Motels were rare then and were
called tourist cabins. Air conditioners were unheard of. Some hotels had
living and cooking arrangements, and I managed to find one with an icebox.
I had been told by people familiar with Yuma that one of the best ways
to fight the heat was to wet the sheets and put them in the icebox until
bedtime, then get under them with an electric fan running -- also a pretty
good way to catch pneumonia.
The sand dunes out of Yuma were impassable, so they made what was called
a corduroy road of railroad ties wired together and laid down over the
dunes, with frequent offsets for passing. The rule of the road was that
the one closest to the offset had to pull out or back up in order to let
the other pass.
The day I crossed, a blinding sandstorm blew up. Sand drifted over this
corduroy road until it was impossible to see the ties. A car that strayed
off them would sink into deep sand.
All I could do was wait it out. Most of the paint was sandblasted off
my car and the windshield was pitted. All travelers across the dunes were
warned to wait for the plow in case of drifted sand. It was like a snow
plow, pulled by mules, that scarped the sand off the ties. After four hours,
I saw the relief plow coming around the bend. I followed his trail and
was soon out of the dunes and on my way, rejoicing. Ordinarily, it took
twenty five hours to get from Tucson to Los Angles in those days.
On arrival, I prepared to enter law school and lined up the courses
I would need. My bachelor's degree was sufficient to qualify me as a full-fledged
applicant. Meantime, I stayed at the Los Angeles YMCA. It was located in
the middle of Los Angeles, not far from the USC campus, where the law school
building was just being completed.
One evening I received a call from Norman Hayhurst, an Arizona graduate
and head coach at Glendale High School, five or six miles out of Los Angeles.
It wa an incorporated city of a few thousand people, and commonly known
then as the bedroom of Los Angeles. Middle-class and working people commuted
to work daily on the Pacific Electric Railroad, which was the largest streetcar
system in the world before its destruction by the automobile and freeway
Glendale was a well-run city growing rapidly. It had just built a new
high school, Broadway High, and needed teachers and instructors of all
I had met Hayhurst, the athletic director at Glendale in Tucson at a
homecoming event. He was quite a loyal alumnus and once a pretty good athlete
himself. He had asked "Pop" McKale for help in locating a coach, and McKale
had recommended me.
I was elated and soon met with the school board. The job was all set,
but there was one hitch. The State Board of Education had a strict rule
that all teachers had to pass an examination for a credential to teach
in any elementary or secondary school -- even though I could teach in a
university, such as Arizona.
It was impossible to go to law school full time and also get the courses
required for certification. Instead I settled for two night school courses
at USC while attending school three nights a week to prepare for the state
exam. It was a rigorous schedule, but I managed it. I passed the law classes
and got a temporary certificate to teach in Glendale. Another two years
of work was needed for a permanent certificate.
When high school opened in the new place, I was appointed head
line coach for football and head Class A basketball coach as well as teaching
three divisions in all sports, according to age, weight, and grade, so
that even the little guys in Class C got to play full schedules.
I roomed in a private home within walking distance of the high school,
but still needed my trusty Model T to travel to USC.
Lillie Belle had gone east for the summer to enter Smith college for
graduate work. Our plans hadn't changed, but I didn't see her until the
following summer when she came out to Santa Monica to spend her vacation.
We exchanged long letters of endearment and happy plans for our future
were still contemplated. She was convinced I would become a successful
I became deeply involved in my athletic work. Hayburst, head coach of
Class A football, and I hit it off in great fashion. He had been a backfield
player and was not as experienced in line work as I. My line became exceptionally
strong and all my savvy was passed on effectively.
The team caught fire and we won game after game by a large margin. Glendale
High was suddenly on the map as the Dynamiters. We did not lose a game
all season and led the league. In the Southern Cal Championship playoffs,
we won all of our preliminary games and beat Compton in the final game,
The annual of Glendale High School, the Stylus, said in 1925 that my
coaching "was a large factor in producing a winning team. It was
he who polished the rough edges of the line and put the team in fighting
Law was still my ultimate goal despite the fact that I could have had
a lot of good coaching jobs in Southern California. I had several offers
from colleges and universities around Los Angeles, but declined with thanks.
The days fell into a routine. I would return from night school around
11 p.m. and settle down to one or two hours of homework for the next night's
classes. I seldom got more than five or six hours sleep each night. My
grades were average but I never once became discouraged.
Later in the fall, our basketball team started with a tremendous handicap.
The gym was not completed and football ran long into the basketball season
because of the championship playoffs. We had to wait for the use of the
football field to practice outdoors.
The goal posts were removed and basketball goals were put up, but it
felt unnatural to play basketball on grass. The annual correctly surmised
that we might have won the championship with more practices. As it was,
we finished third in a field of six teams, winning 60% of our games.
I was rehired for the following year and entered USC summer school full-time.
My grades improved with extra time to study. I became especially interested
in criminal law and enjoyed preparing and trying cases in the moot court.
I became good enough as a defense lawyer that m instructor complimented
me several times on my performances. Some phases of the law bored me, though,
such as researching cases on dry subjects.
Life was not actually all work and no play, though. An old college buddy,
Charles Cash, looked me up. He was a typical "Joe College" while in school
and never seemed to plan more than one day ahead. He was a Sphinx Clubber
and a good friend, but he never took anything too seriously. He was broke
with no job in sight, but wasn't too worried about it. Feeling sorry for
him, I arranged for him to share my quarters. He was good company and had
a tremendous sense of humour. I checked around for a possible job for him
and located one at a land title search company.
Charley soon met a high school girl, Marian Dewey who had a sister attending
USC and also working part-time for a commercial art company. The sister,
Alice was sweet as a peach, though she didn't cling. I could easily have
become serious about her had it not been for all my dream castles with
Lillie Belle. We had many dates and almost every weekend there was some
sort of a picnic or beach party.
Fall opened with the usual football excitement. Several of the championship
teams were back and we had high hopes for another winner. Several good
men had come up from the "B" team and replaced those who had graduated.
The line was heavier and stronger, the backs fast and aggressive.
One of my linemen,
who was especially strong and aggressive was Marion Morrison. He played
guard and was really rough and tough, fit training for his later career
as John Wayne.
We started right off on the winning trail and reached the Southern California
Championship playoffs, but lost the final game to Long Beach in a bitter,
hard-fought battle. Basketball improved since we could practice inside
and had a better all-around team. We did not win the league, but finished
near the top.
During one summer hiatus from my coaching duties, I was cast in Temple
of Venus, a fantasy picture and sea story combined. The temple
was a large interior cavern in a cove along the shores of Santa Cruz Island.
The only other people there were some sheepherders and the people looking
after us and servicing us, catering and feeding us, and taking care of
Centuries of tides and waves had cut out this fabulous cave area far
back into the mountains that came down the the water level, somewhat like
the Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, only on a smaller scale.
Venus, the goddess of gardens and spring, was to reign in the fantasy
episodes and later this same Venus played the female lead in the sea story.
Elaborate decorations were installed in these caverns under a terrible
handicap at great expense. All of this had to be done at a certain time
of day because when the tide came in, it filled up these caverns so it
was impossible to go any farther inside than the edge.
On the day for the shooting inside, there were to be huge fireworks
and a big display, a Walt Disney fairyland within this cavern. All was
ready for the prop men to bring in t eh fireworks. Everyone was in a big
rush to get the scene before the tide drove us out. In this great rush
and under pressure from the director, one of the prop men accidentally
fired a Roman candle, and it landed out of the scene where they ahd a lot
of extra fireworks piled.
Hell not only broke loose, but brought its own brimstone as the fireworks
exploded. It was many minutes before it stopped and the place was blanketed
with suffocating powder smoke. The decorations were destroyed and the set
ruined. Work .closed for the day amid much moaning and griping by the director
and the business managers.
Several days after shooting began, the studio told director Henry Otto
that the woman playing Venus would have to be replaced. This meant more
trouble because all her scenes had to be reshot. Jean Arthur was the one
they threw out of the picture because they said she couldn't act! How wrong
they were! Later she became one of Hollywood's biggest stars. A frail-looking
ingenue, named Mary Philbin, replaced her.
During the changeover, we worked on the sea story and I was in a gang of
poachers and renegades including William Boyd, Dave Butler, and Stanley
Blystone. Bill Boyd later became Hopalong Cassidy and David Butler one
of Hollywood's finest directors and producers. The three of us roomed in
a cabin for weeks. Fog, rain, and had luck dogged us through this whole
location. My friendships with them stood me in good stead. In later years,
I got quite a bit of work from Dave Butler and appeared in some of the
Santa Cruz is a lonely island about fifty miles west of Santa Barbara.
There's nothing there but a cove, a sheep camp, and a narrow, sandy beach.
We had nothing to do after work but play poker, and there was a lot of
drinking. Booze was brought in by the supply boat that plied back and forth
each day from Santa Barbara. Prohibition was in force then and many booze
transactions were made at night in this small harbor. Speedboats
would meet the ships a little way out from the shore and run the booze
back to the mainland to smaller boats or boats anchored off Santa Barbara.
My working summer vacation ended soon enough for me to return to the
coaching and law school grind.