Jan. 4, 1947: Angry Sailor Sets Fire to Skid Row Hotel After Being Rolled

Jan. 4, 1947, Nancy

Note: This is a post I wrote in 2006 for the 1947Project.

Jan. 4, 1947: Suppose, for a moment, that you are a 19-year-old mess cook second class stationed in San Pedro. Suppose further that while you are on leave in Los Angeles you get drunk, check into a cheap skid row hotel and someone rolls you for $30 ($283.93 USD 2005).


The location: 659 Maple Ave. via Google Street View.Jan. 4, 1947, Hotel Fire What do you do? If you are Edward A. Pavlischak of Homestead, Pa., you get a can of gasoline from the nearest service station. Pavlischak used so much gas in setting fire to the hotel at 659 Maple St. that the explosion blew him backward into the street and singed off his eyebrows.

By the time four fire companies arrived, trapped hotel residents were hanging at the windows, about to jump to the street. Fire officials say 25 people were rescued with ladders. The fire killed Woodrow J. Tinsley, 28, of Bakersfield and injured five other people.

Pavlischak was charged with murder, attempted murder and arson, but The Times never followed up on the case. He told homicide Detectives Harry Fremont and Robert Lohrman that he set the fire in revenge for being rolled. Fremont was later involved in the Black Dahlia investigation—and “Bloody Christmas.” Lohrman was head of the Homicide Division from 1951 to 1957.

Bonus factoid: Associated Press reports from Columbia, S.C.: “Cleve Covington, a powerful Negro, went to death in the electric chair here today but only after he failed in a desperate eleventh-hour attempt to break out of the State Prison death house.

“Just before execution time, the 195-pound condemned strong man wrenched a stout iron bar from his cell and battered down the inner door. Only the solid steel outer door blocked his path to the prison yard. However, when he found he could not get beyond this door, he surrendered quietly, walked to the chair without further resistance and went to his death smiling.”

Quote of the day: “You teachers want to get hep to the jive language. You are going to hear a lot of it.”
Floyd Covington, executive secretary of the National Urban League, addressing educators at the Biltmore about the problems of juvenile delinquency and race, Los Angeles Times, April 20, 1943.

Bonus quote: “Is the faculty of telepathy a rare gift or can it be developed by any normal person through a rational process?”
Rosicrucian Order, AMORC

About lmharnisch

I am retired from the Los Angeles Times
This entry was posted in 1947, African Americans, Black Dahlia, Crime and Courts, Fires, LAPD and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Jan. 4, 1947: Angry Sailor Sets Fire to Skid Row Hotel After Being Rolled

  1. Youthful Seaman Given Life Term

    LOS ANGELES, May 5 UP) Edward A. Pavlischak, 19-year-old Navy seaman of Homestead, Pa., wag sentenced today to life imprisonment following superior court’ conviction on charges of arson, murder and attempted murder. A jury found Pavlischak guilty of setting fire to ar small hotel last Jan. 3, after being refused admittance. Two men were burned to death and two others critically injured.

    San Bernardino Sun, Volume 53, 6 May 1947


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