My mother Roma Gibson was born in 1935 and grew up in the Pico-Robertson area on Los Angeles’ Westside. This is one of her stories.
The Man with the Monocle
Roma lived with her mother in a rented house at 8854 Alcott St., in a fairly quiet, residential neighborhood just a few blocks south of Robertson Boulevard. Their next door neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Pyrosh, both worked (Robert Pyrosh was a well-known scriptwriter who worked on several Marx Brothers films) and as such, were not home during the day. With their consent and her mother’s, Roma was allowed to play in the Pyrosh’s backyard.
The Pyrosh’s backyard had a fishpond surrounded by lush, tropical plants and a bench where Roma loved to sit and watch the fish. Most every day Roma, who was about 6 years old at the time, would go to the Pyrosh’s backyard, sit on “her” bench and watch the fish in the pond.
One day in 1942, when Roma went over to the Pyrosh’s backyard to sit on “her” bench, she found a stranger sitting there. The stranger, who had a shaved head and wore a monocle in one eye, was new to the neighborhood and was renting a room from the Pyrosh’s. During the Depression, many people rented out rooms and this practice continued through wartime.
The stranger was looking at and studying maps. For several days in a row, Roma would go over to the Pyrosh’s backyard and the strange, new man would be there with the monocle in his eye, sitting on the bench by the fish pond, studying maps. Roma would ask him about the maps and he would explain to her all the different places on each map.
This went on for about a week until one day Roma casually mentioned to her mother about the man next door looking at maps.
“What man?” her mother asked.
“The man with the bald head and the monocle,” Roma replied. “Who?” her mother asked.
“The man with the bald head and the monocle who’s always looking at maps,” Roma again replied. Roma’s mother became very curious and very suspicious at the same time.
“He’s over there right now sitting by the pond,” said Roma, “you want to go meet him?”
Roma’s mother told her to stay in the house as she quietly crept next door to peer through the bushes and take a look at this mysterious man. After a few moments she came back into the house and made a phone call.
The next day, Roma went back over to the Pyrosh’s backyard to look at the fishpond and talk to the man, but the strange man with the monocle wasn’t there. In fact, he never came back again. The phone call Roma’s mother made the previous afternoon was to the FBI, who came and picked up the strange, bald man with the monocle.
As it turns out, the stranger was a German spy who was studying maps of the California coastline for possible bombing raids.
Just another typical event in the life of a 6-year-old girl on Alcott Street!
A lifelong resident of the Crescenta Valley,
Bruce Gibson invites you to reminisce about places and things from our community’s past.
He can be contacted at