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Opinion

Verdugo Views: Why is there a photo of Charlie Chaplin in the Glendale Police Museum?

 Ralph Easton Murdy
Glendale police officer Ralph Easton Murdy, left, writing a ticket in front of the old City Hall. This photo was taken in 1928, around the time that Murdy also had a photo taken with movie actor Charles Chaplin while on location for ‘’The Circus.’’ The original of the above photo, with the name of the offender on the back, is in the police archives.
(Courtesy of Sergeant Teal Metts / Glendale Police Department)

The Glendale Police Museum, which opened last fall in the local police department’s headquarters on Isabel Street, is a treasure trove of 110-plus years of local history.

Two photos on display are of a local police officer, Ralph Easton Murdy — one of him giving a ride to movie actor Charlie Chaplin.

Because of its proximity to Hollywood, Glendale was often used for location shots in the early days of making movies.

Police historian and officer Teal Metts, who received the photo in 2015 while preparing the exhibit, told me in a recent email that he thought the photo “was pretty cool! Definitely something we would want to showcase in the museum.”

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It had been sent by a Murdy relative, Sgt. Bill Wann, with the Sacramento Police Department.

The Chaplin/Murdy photo came to my attention when Bruce Hinckley, then president of the Glendale Police Foundation, asked me to join the museum’s planning committee. When I saw the photo, I asked for more information.

Metts put me in email touch with Wann, who said Murdy was his grandmother’s uncle.

“I didn’t know that Uncle Easton (his name was Ralph, but he went by Easton) had been a police officer until my mom found that photo,” Wann added.

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He learned from his mother, who grew up in Glendale, that Murdy was well liked and friendly, and had worked around movies.

“The story goes that he took turns working security on movie sets and occasionally doing stunt work for the movies.” Wann said.

Curious as to where the photo had been taken, Metts contacted film location expert Paul Ayers.

Metts had discovered Ayers several years earlier when he came across an online photo of one of the last trains to traverse the tracks on Glendale Avenue in 1956.

“As if that image wasn’t amazing enough, I also happened to see a police motorcycle in the background, so I wanted to get a high resolution copy for us to archive,” he said.

When Metts discovered that the photo and the rights belonged to Ayers, he “connected with him and got the image.”

In 2015, recalling Ayers’ skills as an historian, Metts sent him the Chaplin photo. “He was floored and had never seen the photo before. He said he knew a Chaplin expert, John Bengtson, and would reach out to him.”

Metts learned from Ayers that, “based on the year the photo was taken and the trees in the background, the photo was taken with almost certainty in the area of Verdugo Circle and Glenoaks Boulevard, just north of Monterey.”

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Ayers also identified the Chaplin movie at that time was “The Circus” (1928).

In a later email, Metts said that during the late 1920s and early ‘30s, there were only six or seven motor officers in the local police department. Wondering if there were other Murdy photos, he dug into the archives and, amazingly, found one more.

The second photo was of Murdy writing a ticket in front of the old Glendale City Hall in 1928. When Metts sent that photo to the Murdy family, he learned that they had never seen it.

“These are the times in my role as a historian that are the most memorable … to reconnect stories, people and, in this case, a family with a photo,” Metts said.

Both Murdy photos are included in the local police museum, located in the foyer of police headquarters and open during regular department hours — 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

More about Chaplin’s movie “The Circus” next time.

From the readers:

Philip Mislay, who operated a market in the Five Points building on Burchett Street at Pacific Avenue in the 1930s, was the subject of the June 29, 2019, Verdugo Views column.

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A photo of the interior of the market (posted online only) showed Mislay and another man standing behind the meat counter. On the wall behind them was a sign, with the initials NRA above an eagle.

Mislay’s daughter, Judy Gorham, who provided the photo of her father in the market, emailed to say she’s heard from some of her friends, commenting about the sign. “I didn’t think my father was a gun advocate but didn’t know for sure,” she wrote.

She did some investigating into what the sign represented. According to Wikipedia, the National Recovery Administration, or NRA, was established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933 with the goal of reducing “destructive competition.” It was created to allow workers to set minimum wages and maximum weekly hours, as well as minimum prices at which products could be sold. Supporting businesses displayed the signage.

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