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September 01, 1989|STEVE HARVEY | From staff and wire reports

The four-day Invention Convention opens in Pasadena today, and the latest crop of gizmos in search of financial backers includes:

* Running shoes with springs on the soles, which allegedly cushion the knees and give more lift. (Warning: They have not been approved for use in the Olympic Games.)

* A flying disc that contains a gyro, enabling it to be thrown more accurately. (Just think: No more bouncing one off that 240-pound guy who's asleep on the beach.)

* And, Rapel, an anti-rape device that consists of a capsule filled with a synthetic skunk juice that can be punctured to ward off an attacker. Rapel also includes a companion capsule of skunk-juice neutralizer for the victim to use afterward.

"It completely removes the smell," said convention spokesman Jim Hughes. "And the would-be attacker can be easily detected."

Not all of the novelties are fresh off the drawing board. Canadian-born inventor Paul LeBlond has been trying to find a backer for Rapel for more than a decade.

The most profitable product of all may be the Invention Convention itself, which extracts fees from the inventors as well as $10 per head from members of the public.

It's a laudable idea even if it doesn't sound very poetic.

Supervisor Kenneth Hahn wants to proclaim September "Adjustable Wrench for Gas Meter Shut-Off Month," a challenge for any scroll-maker. The idea is for residents to familiarize themselves with how to shut off their gas in case they discover a leak after a disaster.

This, of course, follows another disaster preparedness proclamation issued by Santa Clarita, which chose August to celebrate "Flashlight and Batteries Month."

Bruce Compilli of Pleasanton, Calif., was rolling in the money--60 tons of quarters--at Universal Studios Wednesday. As the announced 60-millionth visitor to the attraction, he was given the opportunity to grab as many of the coins as he could in one minute. He then took the option of trading it all in for a mystery grand prize, which turned out to be $25,000 in cash and prizes.

A s a young man, novelist William Faulkner worked in a post office in Oxford, Miss. So who knows? Maybe there's a another future winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature represented in the book, "Men & Women of Letters: An Anthology of Short Stories by Letter Carriers." Among the entries included by Los Angeles-born editor John Yewell is "Tempe," by F. N. Wright of Agoura.

Faulkner, by the way, was fired from his postal job after he was accused of being so negligent that the only way residents could obtain their mail was to dig it out of the trash can at the back door of the post office.

Even Faulkner would have been able to find the "AIRMAIL" box on a front lawn in Sherman Oaks. But the neighborhood landmark, perched on a 15-foot pole, doesn't really receive mail from the U.S. Postal Service or carrier pigeons, for that matter.

It's actually a signpost that the owner installed so that friends would be able to spot his house, which is hidden from traffic on fast-moving Beverly Glen Boulevard.

Vineyards Street, Mother Ditch and Grasshoppers Street might not ring a bell with workers in downtown Los Angeles today. But those were the names of roads in the Civic Center on Los Angeles Map No. 1, which was completed 140 years ago this week.

The map maker was Lt. Edward O.C. Ord, who was hired for $3,000 to number the blocks and lots of the impoverished town--a task that was needed before the sale of public lands could begin.

Some names, such as Vineyards, give a clue as to the agrarian character of the region. Vineyards, later Orchards, now is not-so-sweet-smelling San Pedro Street. Mother Ditch and Grasshoppers are better known today as Los Angeles and Figueroa Streets, respectively.

The dusty pueblo wasn't so sprawling then. In fact, Ord only bothered to number as far south as 8th Street. But he did draw unnamed streets as deep into the country as present-day Pico Boulevard.

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