Buck Jones Dies of Burns; Boston Fire Toll Hits 487.
Probe May Cause National Safety Regulations for Clubs.
By Robert C. McCormick, Staff Correspondent.
International News Service | As published in the Los Angeles Examiner, December 1, 1942.
Bonelli Seeks Midnight Ban on Liquor Sale.
Earlier Bar Closing as War Aid May Start Dec. 10; 'Off-Sale' 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Limit Asked.
Los Angeles Examiner | December 1, 1942.
Statewide "dim-out" on liquor sales at midnight instead of 2 a.m. was proposed last night by William G. Bonelli, Fourth District member of the State Board of Equalization.
The official, who left last night for Sacramento, said he will present a formal resolution to the board tomorrow providing that:
All sales of intoxicating liquors and wines in "on sale" establishments, such as cocktail lounges, bars, hotels and similar places, be restricted to the hours between 10 a.m. and midnight.
All sales of intoxicants in "of sale" establishments — where liquors are purchased to take out — be restricted to the hours between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m.
The resolution would take effect December 10.
At present liquor sales are permitted between 6 a.m. and 2 a.m. of the following day.
Bonelli said his proposed action was in accord with a policy of cooperation with military authorities. He said Lieutenant General John L. DeWitt of the Western Defense Command and Admiral J.W. Greenslade of the Western Sea Frontier have issued orders, effective December 10, restricting sales of intoxicants to Army and Navy personnel, including Marines, to the hours proposed in his resolution, which would not affect beer.
"If in the judgment of the Army and Navy this is a way to further the war effort," said Bonelli, "then it ought to be a reasonable sacrifice on the part of the liquor industry, war industry workers and the general public.
"It will help relieve the problem of employment, health and welfare in agricultural and in defense industry areas by making the rules of sale uniform for everyone — both in and out of active service. Further, it should alleviate the employment problem of the licensees themselves.
"It will eliminate confusion over who is eligible to drink and who is not, will aid enforcement officers and in observance of dim-out regulations."
In connection with the fact that the statutes now fix 2 a.m. as the legal hour to stop sale of all alcoholic drinks, the board member declared:
"The proposed more limited hours for such sales can be justified because of the war emergency and in the interests of the public welfare and safety. In the opinion of the Army and Navy, this is necessary to a successful war effort and in my opinion the emergency justifies its application to war defense workers and civilians as well on a statewide basis."
BOSTON, Nov. 30. — Charles (Buck) Jones, famed cowboy motion picture star and hero of thousands of kids of silent movie days, tonight became the latest victim of the tragic Cocoanut Grove night club fire which already has taken 487 lives in a steadily mounting toll.
Jones, one of a large party of nationally known film people attending the Saturday night, merrymaking at the once swank night spot, died as a three-pronged investigation brought promises of a nationwide wave of legislation regulating similar night clubs.
> The Associated Press early today said Scott Dunlap, Monogram film producer and Boston night club fire victim, still is on the "danger list."
Previously listed as "critically injured," he had been unconscious since he was taken from the blazing club. His hands, face and throat were seared and physicians feared for his life from the start.
The former cowboy star was 53 and was born in Vincennes, Ind. He was the guest of honor at a party given by New England film executives. Included in the group was Herman Rifkin, nationally known head of Monogram Pictures for whom Jones was scheduled to start work on another picture tomorrow. Rifkin was reported injured and Mrs. Pauline Rifkin was listed among the dead.
> Editor's Note — One Boston dispatch said Mr. Rifkin had died in the fire but this was discounted when his name was not listed with the known dead.
Another name added to the death list late today was that of Maximo Coleman, Hotel Bradford, Hollywood, Calif.
Meanwhile, a union funeral service in which all races and religions would participate, was being planned for the nearly 100 unidentified victims. The plan was disclosed when General Chairman William J. Mahoney of the city's funeral directors and embalmers offered their services free.
The group offered to furnish caskets and all other necessary appurtenances and suggested the union funeral with burial in a common plot.
With the indications that the known dead soon would reach the appalling figure of 500 of the club's 1,000 guests, city, state and national officials began immediate criminal inquiries as a national fire protection association executive predicted early passage of legislation to guard against similar occurrences elsewhere.
"It is indeed high time," said Robert S. Moulton, technical secretary of the NFPA, "that these potential death traps are brought into line with the established fire safety requirements that have long been applied to the theaters and other places of public assembly.
"The Cocoanut Grove night club tragedy is clearly due to gross violations of several of the fundamental principles of fire safety. The most glaring feature of this tragedy was the lack of proper exits."
Moulton's statement came as a grim public got immediate action on its demands for merciless and thorough investigation of the causes and responsibilities for the flash blaze which swept through the club killing nearly half of its young patrons by burning, smoke inhalation and stampede. Many were crushed to death in a wild, panic-inspired dash to the few available exits.
Most important of the proposed inquiries was the demand of Representative Edith Nourse Rogers (Democrat), Massachusetts, for congressional action to see to it that a night club fire or other disaster of similar proportions never occurs again in this country "so that those who died have not died in vain."
From Suffolk County District Attorney William J. Foley came an order to Massachusetts Fire Marshal Stephen C. Garrity to begin an immediate probe of the blaze with the promise that evidence of any possible crime in connection with the disaster will be presented to a grand jury for possible criminal prosecution.
Outraged and aroused citizens, too, received immediate action from Boston city officials whose inquiry began within a few hours of the tragedy and already has revealed the true cause of the fire — a tiny match dropped on a palm tree by a 16-year-old bus boy who was employed illegally in the club's basement melody lounge.
The bus boy, grief-stricken and fearful Stanley Tomaszekski, regarded as "perfect West Point material" by his school teachers, told his story of the fire to Fire Commissioner William A. Reilly. He told how a patron of the club unscrewed an electric light bulb near his table, how he climbed a ladder to replace it, how he lighted a match by which to see and how the flame ignited the palm tree and the next moment there was a "big puff of smoke and a flash of flame."
Conflicting stories as to the origin of the blaze, however, came from the second day's session of the commissioner's own investigation. Fire Chief Samuel A. Pope testified he was "satisfied" that the flames started in the palm tree, but Lieutenant Frank J. Linney of the fire department said his investigation disclosed several trees had not been touched by the fire.
The public, moreover, demanded to know whether there were sufficient exits in the club, whether the tinsled decorations were sufficiently fire-processed and why it was possible for the fire to sweep through the club so fast that only a few patrons were able to reach safety out of doors.
Buck Jones Idol of Boys for 20 Years.
Boyhood Spent on Oklahoma Ranch Leads to Star Roles as Western Hero.
Epitome of the "real" West to American youth for more than 20 years, Charles "Buck" Jones, the big, bluff, likable movie cowboy, died yesterday in Boston of burns suffered in the night club holocaust there.
One of the film industry's outstanding Western stars and veteran of more than 200 films, Jones rocketed from a $5-a-day extra at the old Universal Studio to a $2,500-a-week star with a tremendous following, especially among young boys. His fan clubs once numbered nearly 5,000,000 members.
He was born Charles Frederick Gebhard at Vincennes, Ind., December 4, 1894, but spent his boyhood on a 3,000-acre cattle ranch near Red Rock, Okla.
There, among the cowhands in his father's employ, he became as proficient in riding and roping as the professionals.
It was these well-learned skills that elevated him to movie stardom after an apprenticeship spent doubling for such luminaries as Tom Mix, William Farnum and William S. Hart.
Jones packed as much adventure into his real life as was crammed into his Western thrillers, in which right always prevailed.
He enlisted in the Army in 1910 and saw service on the Mexican border with the Sixth U.S. Cavalry. From there he was sent to the Philippines and was stationed in Mindanao, home of the fiery Moros, where he was wounded and sent home.
Later he was assigned to an aviation squadron, in which he flew the first planes purchased by the Army.
Capitalizing on his talents as an exhibition rider and roper, Jones signed up with a circus, where, in 1915, he married a fellow performer, Odelle Osborne, who survives him. They had one daughter, Maxine, now the wife of Noah Beery Jr.
He and his bride came to California in 1917 with Ringling Brothers Circus, but he quit here to take his first motion picture extra role. From then his rise was meteoric.
In recent months Jones had been recalled from semi-retirement by Monogram Studios, for whom he instituted a new series of "horse operas," known as "The Rough Riders."
The latest of his pictures to be released by Monogram included "Dawn on the Great Divide" and "West of the Law."
Jones had been unconscious since he was taken from the blazing night club Saturday night with severe burns about the face and throat.
Two L.A. Men Die in Boston Blaze.
Two Los Angeles men were killed in the Boston night club fire Saturday, revised death lists showed yesterday.
Marvin Katzman, 25, yell leader last year at the Los Angeles campus of the University of California and president of Phi Lambda Pi fraternity, was burned to death, and Maximo Coleman, Hotel Bradford, died yesterday of his burns.
Several Eastern film executives, familiar to the Coast, also were listed as dead.
They included Eddie Ansin, president of the Interstate Theaters Corporation; Philip Seletsky, chief film booker for the M. and P. Theaters of Boston, and Mrs. Seletsky; Charles Stearn, manager of United Artists Corporation; Fred Paul Sharby Sr., and his son, Fred Jr., of Keene, N.H., showmen; Eugene Goss of Cambridge, a former associate of Cecil B. De Mille; Harry Asher of Boston, president of Producers Releasing Corporation.
Early reports also included the name of Hal Horne, Disney representative in New York. It was pointed out that this was not the Hal Horne who is New York publicity and advertising head of 20th Century-Fox.
Katzman, son of Max Katzman, 1573 West 39th street, was enrolled at Harvard University Business Engineering School, and was a graduate here of Manual Arts High School and Virgil Junior High.
Girl Saves Leopard Skin Muff; Shoes, Stockings Lost.
BOSTON, Nov. 30. — (AP) — The "eternal, feminine" instinct of cherishing pretty things exhibited itself in the midst of the panic of the Cocoanut Grove holocaust in which at least 440 persons perished.
Pretty 21-year-old Joyce Spector of Boston, who suffered burns, told today how she clung to a new leopard skin muff as she crawled under chairs and tables to safety. In the confusion she was separated from her escort, Justin Morgan of Cambridge, listed as missing.
"I didn't have any stockings or shoes left on," she related as she lay on her bed, her face and hands blistered, her hair singed. "That was from everyone trampling and pushing, while I was crawling along the floor. But I had hung onto my leopard muff. My skirt was most burned off."
Ironic Twists Save Lives of 3.
BOSTON, Nov. 30. — (AP) — The birth of a baby, the flip of a coin, and a wife's persistence were among the ironies which saved a number of persons from possible death or serious injury in the Cocoanut Grove fire, which claimed nearly 500 lives.
Dr. Vincent M. Sena of Somerville was just about to leave his office to meet a friend at the night club when he received a rush call — and he was delivering a bouncing baby boy at Somerville Hospital when the fire broke out at the Grove.
Miss Allison Smith of Brookline said she and her escort, undecided whether to go dancing at the Grove or at a hotel, tossed a coin — and the hotel won.
And S.H. Rosenberg, also of Brookline, declared that when he and his wife started out for a night's entertainment with a group of friends, "everybody but my wife wanted to go to Cocoanut Grove — she wanted to go to the Mayfair."
"She held out and won," he said, "and without question probably saved our lives."
City Orders Survey of Clubs to Avert Any Disaster Here.
With the horror of the Boston fire fresh in their minds, city officials yesterday began making certain that "it can't happen here," with these speedy actions:
1. Demand that an immediate survey of Los Angeles cafes, night clubs and theaters be made to insure public safety, particularly in the use of inflammable "party" decorations, was sounded in the City Council.
2. Fire Chief John H. Alderson declared he would instruct his fire prevention squad to crack down on cafe and night club owners using illegal draperies or decorations which might burst into flame.
3. City Building Superintendent G.E. Morris instructed his inspectors to make an immediate check of all night clubs, bars and theaters to make certain that city building laws are being followed as to entrances, exits and the use of revolving doors.
Councilman Roy Hampton introduced the resolution asking that the survey cover all places of amusement "to insure full public protection."
Fire Chief Alderson asserted the use of inflammable decorations and hangings has been outlawed for many years.
"However," he said, "I am instructing my fire prevention squad to be particularly vigilant during this holiday season and to make doubly certain no decorations are used which might easily be ignited."