(by Student #14 AMH 2010 1115)
I started this project researching Mollie Trans who was arrested for second degree murder. At first it was just a random pick, but I was interested in finding out who she killed and why. After trying for week on multiple websites, I am sad to say I had to let her go. Looking through the prison record I came upon the name, John Hamanjian. There was look in his eyes when he took the mugshot, I could see that he wanted his story to be told. I wanted to learn about his life and if I was lucky, what he stole. He was sentenced to four years in jail for burglary in the second degree. I learned that the difference between burglar and robbery is when a burglary occurs, the person who you are taking from is not present. He was arrested in Los Angeles and received December 10, 1927 which is where I got his information from Folsom State Prison.
When first picking him I got a hint to begin looking at the Armenian Turkish War which took place between 1920-1940. Even if he was not involved in the war maybe one of his ancestors was. I began to read about the war and soon realized that I did not have enough information on John to look up his ancestors. This included searching the local newspaper in Armenia, called the Armenian weekly. Because my first realization of his existence was through an California prison and coordinational records, and because he is charged for burglary, I figured to look through the California State archives. I thought to look there because I learned that most burglars tend to be homeless. Happily, I found a John Hamanjian who attended Whittier State School. Whittier State School was built as an orphanage for boys. A State Board of Prison Directors created the Reform School for Juvenile Offenders. It soon changed its name to Whittier State School in 1893, then continued to change its name. But at the time of Hamanjian, it was considered Whittier School. He attended the school around 1919’s. When looking up the school
in correlation to him I failed to find something so far. The difference was I choose to only look up the school. According to Child Protection in California, which I came across researching the school, Whittier has a means to deal with troublesome youth. People believed kids at this young age, are people of the working class they have culture embedded in them. But, not the guidance they need in a world that is going through so much at the time. Because they have no moral guidance they are forced to live a life of crime and scavenging. I found the most information in the Los Angeles Herald, where it gave me the head line having to do with this scandal. The school accepted children starting from the age of ten, and has a mandatory discharge at the age of
21. I found an article about scandals that occurred in Whittier school. To start off the bandmaster, whose name was L. Eugene Willes, he was accused of writing a questionable letter to some girls. When the school found out about his incident, they decided to only discharge him for four days. To make it better, the bandmasters wife was accused of improper behavior with the children. She let boys stay in her room up to an hour and a half. How lovely to know that a married couple treated kids this way. During the time of this, the head farm was said to be kicking multiple boys. The boys were also found underfed, anemic, and beaten. This lead to another discharge for four additional members of the school. The head farmers name was A. L. McLouth, it was not said, but I am assuming he was a racist because in the Los Angeles Herald, it said he would use curse words constantly toward more dark skinned people. There was a very bad case discovered. A boy whom in the article they name Rodriguez, had a procedure for a hernia that resulted in seventeen stitches. During the night, McLouth came into his room and kicked and jumped on the boy. The stitches popped open and another hernia appeared. McLouth also harmed the other boys in room. Taking Rodriguez and another boy into the farm field,
McLouth stuck their heads in mud puddles. After this I tried to look up both the bandmaster and the head farmer at the school. Although I did not find anything about them, I did come across a silent film that showed some boys training in both educational and athletic field that was provided by Whittier. They were orphans who were reckless. So most are paroled and for the paroled they have a monthly breakfast. At one point the school had a total of 270 boys and only sixty girls. When the school first opened it was only boys until 1916. When girls transfered; most boys who attended were Mexican. This school has many secrets and what I have learned is that the school put orphans away in a reformant, to keep them away from society. There was a point in my research where I lost touch of who John Hamanjian was. I got confused after finding a guy named John Krikorian thinking they were the same people. I made his whole story come together mixing the too, but I thought something was fishy because it could not have been that easy putting the pieces together. I had Krikorian’s files and it said he was from Turkey which made sense because his last name was Armenian. So I figured his family and him were born in Turkey and that they moved to Los Angeles to hide and start a new life, sending “John Hamanjian” to Saint Francis Orphanage would help cover up how poor and Jewish they were. He also had marks on his neck that I thought represented a threatening message. Soon I realised I was going in the wrong directions and had to reverse. Also, after the idea to go to the newspaper website, I found a man with the same name although that does not mean there are the same person.
Before discovering John Hamanjian, all I had was his mugshot and the facts of how long
he was in jail, why is was convicted, prison number, etc. The thing that caught my eye was that he had escaped prison. Both him and the guy next to him. I suppose it was easy for them to escape, it is human nature to want to be free and break free of those things that hold us back. On
the newspaper website I looked up his name, finding multiple people with the same name, after reading a couple none of them built up the information necessary to be the John Hamanjian I was looking for. The real John Hamanjian was born in Massachusetts around 1906. His parents both were born in Armenia. I do not know exactly how they went from Armenia to Massachusetts, but perhaps what I thought was happening earlier to the fake John actually occurred just not exactly how I pictured it. The findings were discovered on ancestry bringing me to the year 1930s where he was 24 and he was filed as a prisoner under the Sacramento Federal Census. On his files it gives the question read and write and it is answered yes. I tell you this not because it is life changing, but because it shows you that we are in a era that some people do not know. He was a labor worker on the grounds and was not a veteran. People have no idea John Hamanjian even existed and the beauty of this project is to share my findings. I started with a completely different subject and have now transformed into a storyteller and researcher. Beyond the assignment imagine his life as a whole. He began as an orphan and his environment created an influence on him causing him to steal. His life was lived in a run down abusive household. The Whittier School was created by a man named Fred C. Nelles, and closed in 2004. Apparently, Nelles focused a lot on sports and getting active which helped to create the image of YMCA and YWCA for younger people. Obviously not the image of abuse, but the imagine of bringing students together and to be sponges in an educational field.
Discovering everything I have I learned, taught me the importance of research. This
project has lead me to things that have gone nowhere, but also has guided me to learn about things I did not know exist. For example, if you asked me Whittier school was I would have no idea. Sadly, I was not able to find out what he stole. Although John Hamanjian is not relatable,
the project still radiates that we have the ability to know him if we wanted to. To conclude, this project has made me become more aware of me surrounds and has shown me the power we have as young people.