From the Los Angeles Daily Times, March 15, 1904


Hungry Sharks Lie in Wait at Very Gates of Soldiers’ Home.

With wolfish eagerness, a horde of thugs, gamblers, prostitutes and sellers of evil liquors lay in wait yesterday at the very gates of the Soldiers’ Home, for the pension money paid in large amounts to the old veterans last Saturday.

In order to protect the old soldiers, number of these creatures were driven out of Santa Monica just before the pension day — only that they should come with dripping jaws to wait in Sawtelle, the little hamlet at the doors of the home reservation. . . .

Three gambling hells were running in full blast yesterday in Sawtelle, just by the gates. Two are run by veterans, the third by a French gambler. In their greed, they kept open, shamelessly, carelessly. All were visited by Times men yesterday.

The first house of prostitution that ever had the brazen effrontery to flaunt itself at the very door of the government reservation was opened in Sawtelle just a few days ago. . . .

Although the law forbids the selling of liquor at a soldiers’ home, the veterans are sold the most villainous concoctions of alcohol at “blind pigs” in the town, and stagger into the reservation late at night, robbed of their money and poisoned with the atrocious mixtures on which they have been fed. . . .

[One of the gambling houses] was going a wide-open business yesterday. . . . Inside were four poker tables covered with white cloth. At the one furthest from the door were four old soldiers playing. They had chips piled high in front of them.

One of the players was John Augustine, the proprietor of the place. Comrade Augustine seemed uneasy in his mind and rose from his seat as the reporters entered, causing the game to stop.

Finding that only a burning desire for cigars had drawn the visitors in, he hastened with the eagerness of relief to produce them.

As the players waited, he said piously, “Go on with your game of hearts, boys.”

Wasn’t that a sly trick, though?

There, with big piles of poker chips in front of them, the three old rogues began playing the fascinating and thrilling game of hearts, a famous diversion at pink teas.

One of the old fellows did not know the game, and they had to punch him and shove around to make him go through the motions rightly. . . .

Incidentally, Sawtelle is simply overrun with every sort of sure-thing nickle-in-the-slot-machine known, even to the poker-card hand, which has never been beaten yet.

Something like $80,000 in cash was distributed among the pensioners at the Home last Saturday.

Where does this money go?

A good share of the pensioners do not have a cent a few weeks after pension day. Dive keepers in the city, who lay traps for the simple-hearted old men, reap a rich reward.


Los Angele

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