by Paul R. Spitzzeri
As other posts on this blog have shown, Walter P. Temple’s economic situation changed rapidly after 1925, as revenue from his oil projects, particularly the Temple lease at Montebello, did not keep pace with rising expenses with a raft of real estate projects in the region, including the development of his Town of Temple (renamed Temple City in 1928) and the escalating costs of completing La Casa Nueva at the Homestead.
In 1926, Temple took out bonds to finance his various projects, putting himself at greater risk with debt if matters did not improve with his real estate ventures. Within a year, however, his attorney George H. Woodruff was issuing warnings about the worsening situation.
In this light, tonight’s highlighted artifacts are interesting as part of remaining evidence showing the downward trajectory of Temple’s financial picture. On this day in 1927, Temple Estate Company auditor Charles W. Tandy sent his boss a letter and three reports indicating where matters stood.
The first item was a “Summary of Outstanding Obligations,” dated 25 August, which showed debts of about three quarters of a million dollars, nearly half in the bonds payable and about as much in notes payable, as shown in an attachment. By far the largest of the notes was a $200,000 loan due in $5,000 installments. About $90,000 was borrowed from California Bank, with $50,000 due on 29 October 1929 and the rest payable on demand.
Notes were also due to the First National Bank of Alhambra; the Bank of Italy (soon renamed Bank of America), and a bank in Monterey Park. Temple also had notes with contractors for his building projects and, likely, La Casa Nueva totaling about $40,000 and one with another firm, H.M. Baruch Corporation, for over $17,000. The latter was on demand while the others were mainly due in 1927 and at the beginning of the following year.
Other liabilities included trade acceptances with six companies totaling over $6,000, much of it from a furniture manufacturing company and contracts payable of about $4,600, a large portion of which was from a firm providing fixtures for a Youngs’s Market in one of Temple’s commercial buildings in Alhambra, the newly completed Edison Building (opened in April).
Unpaid audited vouchers of about $8,500, included about three-quarters of that sum to financial firm John M.C. Marble Company, but also a law firm, a lumber company, and a nurseryman, Edwin Rust of Pasadena. A little more than that sum was for unaudited vouchers and what was listed as “unrecorded liabilities.”
This was a lengthy list, including individuals and businesses, ranging from an electric supply firm to a hardware store to an auto dealer. The largest single amount was to a dental supply company on the account of Temple’s nephew, dentist Charles P. Temple, Jr., whose education and early start in his career was paid for by Walter Temple. Another $530 was described as overdue bills for electricity, gas, water and small repairs at the company office, located in the Edison Building as of its completion.
Accrued interest on the bonds, loans and notes was nearly $2,000, while that for the bonds payable to Farmers and Merchants Bank of Los Angeles totaled nearly $3,500. Then, there was a miscellaneous category of not far south of $5,000, including a disputed amount to an individual of almost $1,500, taxes and assessments for property at Beaumont near Palm Springs of over $1,800, overdue subscriptions to the Federation of Jewish Welfare Organizations and a couple of others.
A separate report tallied up expenses, including monthly salaries of a dozen people employed by the Temple Estate Company. Topping the list were Woodruff and Temple’s business manager, Milton Kauffman, who each received $500 per month. Total salaries were over $2,100 each month.
Temple’s personal account included salaries paid to his brother-in-law, Manuel Zuñiga as foreman of the Homestead ranch at $75 per month, Maude Bassity as housekeeper at La Casa Nueva (though she was also Temple’s companion) at $150, and Eulalia Delgado as cook at $50. There was a note, however, the stated “all other Ranch salaries are paid by Mr. Temple out of the $250.00 transferred each week to his account at Puente [National] Bank.”
Miscellaenous expenditures included educational costs to his four children at close to $300 monthly and expense allowances for his children, including $150 to Thomas, $100 to Agnes and $30 each for Walter, Jr. and Edgar. He also advanced $25 a month to his eldest brother Thomas’ widow, Nettie, and $50 for his sister, Maggie Rowland. also a widower. He paid $140 a month to Dr. Perry Worden for a “book contract,” involving a history of the Workman and Temple families that went unfinished, though Worden was on the payroll for over five years by that date. He also paid a William J. Clark $125 a month, though for what is not known. Finally, Temple had his own account at $1,000 a month.
Land rentals for the Temple Estate Company Building in Alhambra, life insurance premiums and more bills for the ranch and office totaled more than $2,000. Interest expenses; insurance for fire, earthquake, workers compensation, and autos; taxes and assessments; and repairs and other costs, including over $1,100 for the Homestead ran over $7,000.
Then, there was the income statement, with about $8,400 a month coming in royalties over a four month average earlier in the year from the Montebello oil lease to Standard Oil Company of California (now Chevron), about $4,100 in rents from the firm’s various commercial properties and interest on loans of over $1,800, though most of this latter was for loans to Temple’s own oil company and the Temple Townsite Company. The monthly total was a little over $14,000 a month. Anticipated rents from existing vacancies in company buildings totaled almost $2,600.
Detailed lists of rents paid from tenants in the estate company’s eight commercial structures in Alhambra, San Gabriel, El Monte and the old Rowland Hotel in Puente were also provided. There was also the interest due on notes for loans to 20 individuals, including his sister, Maggie Rowland, close friends, and others, with amounts ranging from $100 to $15,000.
The larger amount was to Puente businessman Casimir Didier (mentioned in a recent post about a 1904 letter written from Fidele Amar from Paris to Jean Allec in Puente), who is buried at El Campo Santo Cemetery. Another $14,000 was loaned to Mountain View Church, the location of which is not known. Then, there were large loans to Temple’s oil company, totaling about $170,000 and to the Temple Townsite Company of over $80,000, all of which accrued interest at 7%.
So much of the stated revenue was from rents in commercial buildings that could fluctuate in normal circumstances and be more volatile if the economy soured, while a fair amount came in the form of interest that had to be collected and may not be. In any case, what was clear was that revenue was not nearly keeping up with expenses, especially with notes payable, interest due on bonds and other significant liabilities.
A few items really stand out. One is an irony in that Temple borrowed from the Farmers and Merchants Bank of Los Angeles, founded in 1871 by Isaias W. Hellman, after Hellman ended his partnership in the prior bank he owned with Temple’s father, F.P.F., and grandfather, William Workman. When the Temple and Workman bank collapsed in 1876, Farmers and Merchants was the only other commercial bank in Los Angeles. A half-century later, Walter Temple was indebted to Farmers and Merchants.
Another is the extent to which he assisted family and friends, either by putting them on the company payroll or extending significant amounts in loans. This is indicative of Temple’s concern for those close to him, though the old canard about not doing business with family and friends does come into play here.
Finally, there is the $90,000 loan from California Bank, $40,000 on demand and $50,000 due on 29 October 1929. This was for the completion of La Casa Nueva with the 92-acre Homestead used as collateral and the due date for the larger amount was just five days after Black Thursday, 24 October, when the stock market crashed ushering in The Great Depression. When Temple was not able to pay back the loan, which was extended, California Bank foreclosed in July 1932, taking the last piece of property he had.
Temple’s story, however, was far from unique or unusual in general terms. America was on a credit binge in the 1920s, as it has been in other periods (including a decade ago this month, September 2008, when the Great Recession hit.) The particulars may vary, but the overall scenario is far from uncommon and ties Walter Temple’s life and circumstances to many others in the near and distant pasts.