The Call Box: Doin’ Hard Time

 

By Ed Meckle, Retired LAPD

It is July and I have just turned 22. I am a recent graduate of the Los Angeles Police Academy, a highly trained law enforcement officer, a former marine and I can run forever and I am assigned to the Lincoln Heights Jail—operating an elevator.

First let me tell you about the Lincoln Heights or Main Jail. Built in 1931 in Art deco style (whatever that means). It is five stories of cement in Lincoln Heights, an area just north and over the river from downtown LA. Railroad tracks were squeezed between the jail and river (just barely). At night when the trains went by they usually sound their whistle. It was sort of, “I’m out here and you’re not.”

 

The first floor is given over to administration, two very large courtrooms (division 30 and 31), the “Gray Bar Grill” (our in-house restaurant), the front desk information section together with the bail bond windows. Actually, I only got stuck with the elevator job a couple of times but I just wanted to bitch.

Floors 2, 3, and 4 are cell blocks for those serving time, generally short sentences of 30-60 days etc. Floor 5 is the Women’s Section, the only place in the entire city where you can book a female.

The front or information desk was where the action was, it was busy enough that usually four or five officers were assigned to answer the phones and handle the public. We maintained the index for all prisoners in the city and we stayed busy. This was before computers.

My first brush with celebrity

Even working nights, we stayed busy. One night, standing at the counter was Broderick Crawford (Academy Award winner for “All the King’s Men”) together with some studio functionary. He had just begun a new series ”Highway Patrol” and looked every inch the movie star—camel hair overcoat with up turned collar, fedora with down turned brim, dark glasses (indoors at night) and it would not have surprised me if there was an ascot under the coat. The functionary inquired about a prisoner, “Yes, we have him.”

“Where is the car he was driving?”

I gave him the information and they left. I later found out Crawford had been arrested for DUI so many times he lost his license, so the studio supplied him with car and driver. The driver later was arrested for—you guessed it—DUI. All they wanted was the car, forget the driver. Sort of “Leave the gun, bring the cannoli.”

I never did figure why Crawford was there. He never spoke a word….

Part 2 on Wednesday, September 21, 2016

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2 thoughts on “The Call Box: Doin’ Hard Time

  1. Our family loved this story, Ed. As a matter of fact, the day before it was posted we were watching episodes of Highway Patrol and discussing Broderick Crawford and his DUI and drinking issues. So interesting to see your account the very next day. We are Ward Fitzgerald’s family and as kids we watched Highway Patrol daily. We were NOT allowed to watch Mod Squad — the premise that hippy ex-criminals would become a police detectives galled Dad. (We had to go watch it at the neighbor’s — we kids thought the show was cool!). We love your stories! Thank you for posting them here. ~ Annie Fitz

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