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Tunnel found underneath Watts bank

Tunnel found underneath Watts bank

Sept. 1, 1935: Police officer T. C. Harkem crawls out of tunnel discovered beneath the Farmers and Merchants Bank of Watts.

A story in the Sept. 2, 1935 Los Angeles Times reported:

An abandoned plot to rob the Farmers and Merchants Bank of Watts was discovered yesterday.

Tunnels had been excavated beneath the floor of the bank, apparently years ago, but no entrance to the banking room from the subterranean diggers had been effected.

Acetylene torches, tanks and hose–moldy with age–were found in the human-gopher holes beneath the bank floor. They had not been used.

Police said indications were that the digging had been abandoned, along with the vault cracking equipment, two or three years ago. About that time human gophers made entry to several banks in a similar manner.

Detective Lieutenants Anderson and Vaughn said discovery of the bank-breaking plot came when worn flooring in the bank was torn up to replace it with new. Workmen saw the outlet of the main tunnel and summoned police.

Investigation showed that the diggers began operations by sawing fastenings from an iron grill covering a ground-level window at the rear of the bank building. Beneath the floor of the bank they tunneled forward about twenty feet, the bore passing the bank vault and opening beneath the bank floor a few feet forward of the vault doors.

In a lateral dugout, officers found the acetylene tank, torch, hose and burglar tools. These were taken to the Seventy-seventh street police office in the hope of tracing ownership.

C. R. Church, founder and president of the bank, said that the bank has never experienced a robbery or burglary in the twenty-five years of its history.

The Farmers and Merchants Bank of Watts has no connection with the Farmers and Merchants Bank of Los Angeles, it was stated.

Sept. 1, 1935: Jailer James Reid is shown inspecting acetylene torch equipment abandoned by bank robbers in tunnel beneath bank. Corrosion indicated the implements were abandoned two or three years ago. The equipment was found under the Farmers and Merchants Bank of Watts. Credit: Los Angeles Times Photographic Archive/UCLA

scott.harrison@latimes.com

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1 Comment

  1. July 1, 2015, 8:44 am

    I love how the photographers used to get these posed photos!

    By: Mac Daddy

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