‘Black Dahlia’ victim dined in the Inland Empire weeks before her death  – San Bernardino Sun

A wall inside the famed Sycamore Inn restaurant in Rancho Cucamonga has rows of photos noting the well-known celebrities who have dined there, such as Jerry Lewis and Marilyn Monroe.

But on that wall is a photograph of Elizabeth Short, better known as the “Black Dahlia,” victim of Los Angeles’ best-known unsolved murder case. Her tortured and mutilated body was uncovered 76 years ago in Los Angeles this past Sunday.

Short’s photo at the restaurant was noticed by reader John Atwater. The restaurant was mentioned in the investigation that filled the columns of local newspapers for weeks in early 1947.

An address book with the names of Short’s many male acquaintances was mailed to police a few days after her body was discovered. The book included the name of Jimmy Harrigan, a Navy veteran and civilian aircraft mechanic at the San Bernardino Army Air Base. He was among those questioned by police.

He admitted seeing Short twice the month before her death. On Dec. 2, after drinks at a local bar, they went to the Sycamore Inn for dinner and dancing. He said he never saw her again, and police apparently never considered him a serious suspect.

There was one other Inland Empire aspect of the Black Dahlia investigation that could have grown from an idle boast into something possibly dangerous.

At a Barstow cafe several days after news of Short’s death, Caral Marshall of Tulare was overheard saying, “I know who killed Beth Short, and if the reward is big enough I’ll talk.” The proprietor reported the comment to police, and she was taken in for questioning, reported the Sun newspaper, Jan. 26, 1947.

She was soon considered just a publicity-seeker by police. But shortly after her name appeared in local papers, police received an anonymous letter saying that Marshall would next be killed. Police later discounted that threat as one of dozens of people sending them useless tips.

Marshall did pay a bit of price, at least to her ego, in the nationwide publicity she attracted, mostly because she was blonde and 6-foot-1.

Reporters of the day were not hesitant to add their own bits of color in the way they described people. About 10 days into the investigation, one writer described her as an “amazon,” apparently due to her height. In all subsequent mentions in all papers and wire stories, Marshall was called an “amazon,” and some even added her weight, 160 pounds.

The Jan. 26 article in the Sun about Marshall and her bogus role in the investigation put an end to it all with the headline: “Police Dismiss Blonde Amazon.”

San Antonio lived

Our last column about the unsuccessful change of the city name of Ontario to San Antonio solicited some interesting related information.

In 1894, a few Ontario folks, apparently tired of being thought of as a colony of Canada, proposed the change, an idea that was soundly defeated.

Reader Brent Basinger, a long-time former resident of Rancho Cucamonga, sent me a copy of an 1894 government topographic map showing “San Antonio” was already a location here.

The map placed it in the unincorporated area of San Antonio Heights that exists today, at the point where Euclid Avenue ends at 24th Street. For a time it was the terminus of the mule-powered trolley from downtown Ontario to the base of the mountains.

As there was then no San Antonio Heights or Upland, a name change if it had been approved would have probably described the whole area from the mountains to downtown.

Admittedly, it would have helped all those geographically challenged airline travelers who think a ticket to Ontario International Airport today lands them in Toronto. On the other hand, a name change to San Antonio would have created new problems for those people trying to fly to Texas.

Lots of history events going on in the near future:

• The Historical Society of the Pomona Valley is in need of volunteers to give school tours to fourth-grade students at the historic Palomares Adobe in Pomona.

Tours are held on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Students are split into small groups which will hear volunteers at the six stations discussing the adobe itself, brick-making, blacksmithing, throwing lassos, the adobe garden or an historical overview.

The tours are already underway. Volunteers interested in participating should contact the society at pomonahistorical@verizon.net or calling 909-623-2198.

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