W e had an interesting letter from a Wattles neighbor, Gaby Stuart, Ph.D., who commended us on the ‘Wattles Edition’ of the newsletter. In 1965-71 she lived at Bonita Terrace (not far from Wattles) and her landlord was a Ross Urquhart, (same last name as Gurdon Wattles’ head gardener). “We thought he was an eccentric millionaire: he’d drive up in a Rolls Royce and come with a tool kit to perform plumbing repairs & such. When we told him we were moving, having bought the property at 1635 N. Genesee Ave., he knew all about that place when it was still a horse ranch, where his grandfather had once taken him as a boy, where he met Jesse James.”
Doing the math, it’s possible that Ross Urquhart’s grandfather was Alexander, who was hired by Gurdon Wattles as head gardener around 1910. If Alexander served his apprenticeship in Scotland, then he was probably at least 20 when he arrived in the US. He was in Southern California for 10 years before being hired by Wattles, so let’s assume he was 30 years old in 1910. If he then had offspring, the child would be 20 in 1930. If that child then had a child, that child would be 20 in 1950 (and 40 in 1970). You get the idea: Ross Urquhart could have been Alexander’s grandson.
Fun speculation! If any of you are geneology buffs and want to look into this further, please keep us posted.
For a carefully researched architectural and cultural history, I am seeking information regarding a seance which the widow of the incomparable Houdini held on the roof of the Hollywood Knickerbocker Hotel on the evening of October 31, 1938 (Halloween), the tenth anniversary of the great showman’s death.
A search of the published literature on Houdini has not yet offered any explanation for the curious fact that this seance was held on a roof. Was it because a roof, any roof, or perhaps that roof in particular, offered some distinct advantage over other types of spaces in which (or, in this case, on which) the seance might have been held?
Related questions are the following: Are there any other historical records or anecdotes about other seances being held on any roofs? Who was responsible for choosing a roof, that roof, as the site of this event? Why did the seance take place in Hollywood? Is any other person known to have asked these questions before, or proposed answers to them? Have such questions and proposed answers been published? If so, in what publications? Even if you do not have definite knowledge regarding the choice of the roof as the location for this seance, are you able to offer any plausible hypothesis to account for this curious choice?
As an architect and cultural historian I am interested learning in how buildings, and all their various interior and associated exterior spaces, are imagined, designed, and used. My rationale is that only with such knowledge can we as designers and users of buildings perhaps improve our designs in such a way as to make every interior and exterior space function optimally for any purpose we might need or imagine, even for such a curious purpose as holding a seance!
If you have answers to any of the above questions, or can offer any reasonable or interesting hypothesis to account for the choice of the roof as a venue for this seance, please respond either by telephone, by surface mail, or by e-mail. Telephone:  524-8446 Mailing address: 1410 Milvia Street / Berkeley, CA 94709-1917 e-mail address: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Mrs. Trudy Koene, whose home is in the Beachwood Canyon area of the Hollywood Hills, sent in some news clippings and reminiscences regarding the Hollywood Hilltoppers RWF, founded in 1950 and still here, which other readers may find interesting. Mrs. Koene is a past president of the group.
She characterizes it as “a political organization”...(RWF stands for Republican Women Federated)...” deeply involved in non-partisan community affairs.”
Six women from homes in the Hollywood Hills and three “flatlanders” were the charter members. Towards the end of 1950 a large meeting was convened on a member’s tennis court. The food donations included beverages from Nestle; “...the first time we tasted powdered coffee.”
In 1956 the group had grown to 36 women and meetings were relocated to The Women’s Club of Hollywood. By 1981 there were 150 members involved with political issues, presenting high-caliber legislative reports, organizing candidates’ support and broadening their interest and involvement in community affairs. That year the group presented scholarship funds to a local college student studying political science and donated books to Hollywood High School.
As of October 2002, when Mrs. Koene sent her material, the president was Mrs. Haigouhi Meymarian.
USAF Captain’s Hostile Fire Pay to Hollywood Heritage
The following letter was received in response to our year-end appeal:
6 Mar 03
I left for the Afghanistan area for a 90 day deployment the day before your year-end donation request letter was postmarked on 2 Dec. While I was sorting through my 3 month backlog of mail today I found the letter. While I was overseas in a hazardous area, I was paid hostile fire pay. Here is $100.00 of that pay to support our Hollywood preservation effortsthere is some irony in that. As I have written before, if I can get back to the LA area I will be glad to assist with volunteer needs and attend all of those great events being offered
Michael McCloudCapt, USAF
Captain McCloud is a resident of Mary Esther, FL, one of our many members from outside the Hollywood area who is helping to preserve the historic fabric of our world-renowned community.
Thank you Captain McCloud, for your contribution to Hollywood Heritage and to your nation as a member of the US Air Force.