Train wreck delays opening of Lillian Russell’s play at the Mason

The famed actress is unperturbed but worries about the audience leaving in droves

Los Angeles in the 1900s

April 1907

Los Angeles Express, April 2, 1907

Cleaning Up the Filthy Cholo Courts Has Begun in Earnest

A hegira from the Utah Street cholo court is in progress.

Mrs. Constance Goytino, who owns the land which is covered with the foul dwellings of Mexicans, has ordered all her tenants to vacate, as she intends to use the land for factory purposes.

Among the concerns to locate there will be the Sunset Iron Co.

The property owner’s decision forestalls an order which the city would . . . [otherwise serve] on her April 5, to bring the dwellings on the land up to the standards of cleanliness set forth in the city’s new housing ordinance.

The evicted cholos are scattering throughout the flats in the northeast part of the city.

For the most part they built with their own hands — sometimes with wood, often with gunny bags or tin — the shacks in the court and placed them hit or miss over the ground owned by Mrs. Goytino and her sisters.

Wholly or in part they are daily carrying away their homes. Within a few weeks, the 10 lots, who rental as ground space for homes amounted to $1.50 a month from about $150 families, will be bare and ready for sale as factory sites. . . .

The cholos, a little bewildered by the order, but obeying it as unquestionably as they obey to all authority or authority’s semblance, will be prevented from housing themselves in such miserable fashion again.

Wherever they go, city deputies have orders to see that decent habitations are erected — the Board of Health Inspectors to look after the sanitation and the Board of Works Inspectors to be sure that the houses are built with enough room, light, air and space between them.

Some of the Mexicans are moving to Reinhardt Street, some are settling along Mission Road on ground that has been rejected by English-speaking races, and some are moving to the outskirts of the Boyle Heights district.

Occasionally there is real distress among the evicted. The diseased and the slovens of the community find no place to go or no means of getting a place found for them.

The ruthless Goytino agents tear down the house of a tenant who does not obey the moving order, . . . and the afflicted suffer.

One man found himself with a few household goods, a sick wife and six children just outside the enclosure this morning — absolutely homeless.

He was a street sweeper out of work, and four days of idleness had swallowed his savings. The women of the Unitarian Church who have built a maternity hospital in the vicinity will probably take care of him, but there are others like him. . . .

The Housing Commission promises to enforce the law, despite the sufferings it will cause the ignorant and sinful cholos, if the owners of the courts do not do it themselves.

Los Angeles Express, April 5, 1907

Los Angeles Express, April 5, 1907

Foul Cholo Courts Disappear; Many Occupants Shelterless

Almost like magic the worst external features of cholo life which have been maintained almost in the heart of Los Angeles have vanished. . . .

Feb. 5 the [City] Council passed its “housing ordinance,” which declared that the foul courts must be made decent or abolished within 60 days.

The 60 days ends tomorrow night, and every dwelling that has not been torn down is being cleaned up to the heights of the cholo — not the Yankee — idea of cleanliness.

Most of the noxious courts, where the Mexicans lived in conditions which would have been considered shocking five centuries ago, have been torn down. . . .

In the more permanent of the cholo courts, where the inhabitants or their landlords made any effort toward decent living, . . . rehabilitation is going on.

In the Lopez Court on Buena Vista Street [now North Broadway], more and better lavatories have been installed, and there are more hydrants in the enclosure.

An adjunct to the Goytino court on Utah Street still remains, and the owners are improving instead of turning the tenants out. . . .

Where are the evicted going? . . . much vacant land along Mission Road and on East 7th Street has presented itself to the wanderers, and it is beginning to be dotted with

little huts much like those built before.

The hardship which the cleaning-up works on the Mexicans is doubled by the fact that they do not comprehend the necessity for better living. . . .

Reform movements always cause discomfort somewhere, say the members of the Housing Commission, and it is for the eventual good of the cholos that they are turned out of their homes now. . . .

Dr. Titian Coffey, head of the Housing Commission, said . . . that practically all of the homes of the hundreds of Mexicans who earn an uncertain $1.25 a day from the big corporations are below the new laws standards of decency. . . .

This map highlights the Utah Street of 1909, target of a cleanup campaign two years earlier.

Los Angeles Express, April 16, 1907

Not Even a Train Wreck Can Ruffle the Temper of Lillian Russell

“Oh, I never let anything worry me.”

A beautiful and talented woman, sitting on a box on a great, bare theater stage, behind a closed curtain, waiting for the scenery for The Butterfly to come from somewhere out of the darkness, said this.

And, mind you, when she said this it was within 10 minutes of 10 o’clock, the stage hands were standing idly by, an impatient audience was melting away because the first curtain had not gone up, [and] the orchestra had exhausted its repertory.

Many another star in this circumstance would have stormed and fumed and fretted and, perhaps, used expletives. But Lillian Russell was unruffled. And in this she discloses the secret of her perennial beauty, her perpetual youth, her peace of mind.

“Yes, it was dreadful to be so long getting here,” she said. “. . . there was a freight train wreck . . . that would delay us. But I didn’t worry. It wouldn’t have done any good.

“So I just looked at the country out of the glass end of my car. It was a curious wreck, mixture of furniture and groceries and almost everything.

“I admired the scenery very much. It was novel to me, especially the way those rivers had rolled out of their beds.

“Everybody was good to us, and we endured the 12 hours’ delay.”

[Changing the subject:]

“Are there many people going out of the theater?” she asked, with a tone of concern. “Do you think many of them will come back? I am so sorry we disappointed them, but we couldn’t help it, could we?”

Now that was almost pathetic, coming from this famous star, clad in a white shirtwaist, some kind of a dark skirt, a hat and a tiny veil that did not conceal the beautiful face beneath it.

Miss Russell, even at such close range, discloses no sign of age. She never will, while she lives up to her motto of Don‘t Worry.

From the Los Angeles Herald, April 16, 1907

The Butterfly at the Mason

That portion of the Mason audience that waited until the rising of the first curtain at 10 o’clock last night enjoyed a clever comedy prettily presented despite the difficulties that had beset the hitherward flight of The Butterfly.

At the usual time for the curtain rising, the theater contained a large and representative assemblage. As time wore on, many became impatient and went out in such a stampede as almost to overwhelm the box office man in demands for their money.

But a goodly audience remained and gave a cordial greeting to Lillian Russell.

The story of The Butterfly concerns itself with the experiences of a young and attractive widow of a millionaire.

She had made up her mind to marry a title, and ambition that seemed destined to be thwarted by a provision in her late husband’s will, stipulating that if she married a second time, she must choose a native American or lose her inheritance.

She discovered that as nothing was said about a third marriage, she would take an American as a temporary second and after “shipping” him would be free to wed the foreign Earl of Dexminster.

The she falls in love with her temporary husband.

That doesn’t sound very consequential or unusual, but with Miss Russell as the widow, Mrs. Betsy Killigrew, Eugene Ormonde as Jasper Mallory, common friend, and John Flood as Teddy Bacon, the husband pro-tem, the piece becomes a rollicking comedy.

Others in the cast are well-chosen for their respective roles, and all, despite the rigors of their long journey, entered into the general fun.

Of course, a captious critic might say that there is too much unconventionality in the comedy. But allowance must be made for that.

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