The Call Box: Welcome to the 19th Century, part 3




By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

Ward transferred to a staff job and Hal went to the day watch. Years later he would become one of the first helicopter pilots when “air support division” was formed. [see The Call Box August 16th for more on Ward Fitzgerald and Hal Brasher].  


3A15 was now “my” car [see The Call Box August 24th for more on 3A15].  George Flanders soon transferred to motors, and Frank (Isbell) and I worked with a succession of newbies. When we were together though, we were the perfect partners. Frank was a year or two older and from Corpus Christi, Texas, a former Marine (as was I) and an all-around good guy. He had a good sense of humor and was smart as a whip (he made captain before retiring). We developed an easy relationship when on the street.


Eye contact with each other was important because a certain facial expression conveyed a message. We had code words to pass information without alerting the person or persons we were talking to. Just a look conveyed a message. He was a great street cop and a great partner.


The police unit or patrol car

All cars in our division were two- or three-year-old four door Fords, Chevys or Plymouths. All were standard transmission. They actually had one unit with automatic transmission. The officers assigned had to do a report every week to see if it was suitable for police work. Honest.


At age two or three they had been on the street 24 hours a day unless pulled for service. And they were tired. They were the most inexpensive cars the city could buy. They also did not have seat belts. I think oversized springs was the only concession to street work.


The emergency lights were two round non-flashers mounted on the roof with a siren between them. Both were activated by pulling two buttons on the dash then operating the siren with the horn ring. The car was so under powered that as the pitch of the siren went up the car slowed down.


Again, honest.



Most of the cars had a string tied to the dash buttons running to the shift lever so they could be activated by pulling on the strings. Hi-tech. The “hot sheet” which was the list of stolen vehicles, was displayed by bending a paper clip and hanging it from the dash, where it swung freely.


Frank used to envision something like a TV screen in the cars that would give us up to date information. Yeah, right!!


This was when computers were in their infancy. After we left patrol we worked together several more times but that is for future stories.


As to the mystery building glued to the east end of the station, I never could find anyone to explain it. It was made of faux logs, was approximately 20’ by 20’, painted a bilious yellow, and it had once been a hamburger stand. It now served as the office for the Vice Squad.


More on that later…



3 thoughts on “The Call Box: Welcome to the 19th Century, part 3

  1. Loved the talk about the cruiser. Oddly enough I often talk about the cars a couple of my law enforcement (Deputy Sheriff and small town Chief of Police) characters drive. Somehow, plan to “steal” and use this info in a story sometime…

    Yep, keep ’em coming. I don’t always comment, but never don’t read!


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