The Daily Mirror

Larry Harnisch reflects on Los Angeles history

Category: November 2007

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Rampages revisited

 

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Photograph by Larry Harnisch / Los Angeles Times
Here's 307 Tamarac Drive, where Harvey F. Rawlings killed his family and committed suicide.

 

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And this is 555 Avenue 64, where Harold Oilar killed his family in 1954.



 

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And here's the home as it appears today

 

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Photograph by Larry Harnisch / Los Angeles Times

How terribly tragic and utterly needless. Whatever problems these men had, surely there was nothing so great or so permanent that could explain or justify their actions.   

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Murder-suicide

1957_1127_rawlings

Nov. 27, 1957
Los Angeles

Everybody says the Rawlings family are fine people. They have a big house at 307 Tamarac Drive in San Rafael, one of the finer neighborhoods in Pasadena.

Nice house, isn't it? Four bedrooms, two baths, 2,300 square feet by the arroyo. Maybe you'd figure whoever lived here was happy. That's what the neighbors thought about Harvey Francis Rawlings Jr. They were wrong.

It's about 5 a.m. and still dark outside. This is a bloody, nasty crime scene that involves a couple of kids. If you don't want to go in, that's fine with me.

OK, keep your hands in your pockets and don't touch anything.

1957_1127_cats Quite a place, isn't it? The whole house is wired for the hi-fi system.

Harvey is a 43-year-old attorney with a legal practice in Pasadena. Has an office on East Green Street. Except for a round of golf now and then, Harvey's life is his job.

His wife is named Marjorie Ruth but she goes by Ruth. She's 43, a UCLA graduate, sorority girl--Gamma Phi Beta--and keeps busy with women's clubs like the Lawyers Wives of Pasadena.

They have two boys. The older one is Robert. He's 16. The younger one is Raymond. He's 12. For a while they thought Raymond was mentally disabled, but it looks like he was just partially deaf and the doctors have been treating him for it.

Nice home, good family. You'd think Harvey would be grateful a few days before Thanksgiving. But underneath whatever looked like success, his life was a mess. He was worried about Raymond and deep in debt from some bad investments.

This is him, lying in the bathroom with a bullet between the eyes.

Let's keep going.

This is Ruth, lying in the hallway. From the way it looks, Harvey attacked her first by beating her in the head with a brass ball peen hammer. Then he went into Raymond's room and shot him as he was sleeping.

Looks like the gunshot woke up Robert because he's lying next to his bed. Police will figure that Harvey shot him as he was getting up.

Ruth wasn't dead though. You can see her trail of blood where she went into Raymond's room and bent over him. Then she came out here to the hallway and Harvey shot her twice in the head.

These are their cats, Charcoal and Cinder. One of the neighbors heard screams and shots but "didn't want to interfere." He'll get home from work tonight and wonder why the Rawlings home is so quiet except for the cats yowling because they are hungry. He'll get a ladder and look in one of the windows.Then he'll call the police. 

We don't know exactly what made Harvey go crazy. Before he killed everybody, he called a doctor and said he was under enormous strain. The doctor wanted him to come over to the office right away, but Harvey refused. Other attorneys say Harvey was having a hard time but seemed to be "over the hump."

Nice folks, the Rawlings family. The neighbors say they are "wonderful people."

Some will say this reminds them of the Harold Oilar case. That was the Alhambra rug dealer back in 1954 who slaughtered his family with a hatchet a few hours after having friends over to sing Christmas carols.  There was a little girl, one of his daughter's friends, sleeping over and he made her go out on the porch before he finished everyone off. Less than a mile from here at 555 Avenue 64.

He didn't manage to kill himself, though. They found him hanged with some towels on death row in San Quentin.

Ready? Let's get out of here.

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Nov. 27, 1957

 


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Caryl Chessman

Nov. 26, 1957
Los Angeles

Here's an update on two stories we have been following....

After 98 witnesses and eight weeks of testimony, the prosecution is about to rest in the murder trial of L. Ewing Scott.

Throughout the trial, the defense raised objections that there was no evidence Evelyn Throsby Scott was dead because no body had been produced. However, the motions were always overruled by Judge Clement D. Nye.*

Meanwhile, Caryl Chessman is getting a new defense attorney and awaiting a decision on whether the manuscript of a proposed book, "The Kid Was a Killer," will be returned to him.  The manuscript was seized in 1954 by Harley O. Teets, the late warden of San Quentin.

Caryl_chessman_1957_1128_dan_mccorm
Photograph by Dan McCormack / Los Angeles Times
Deputy Atty. Gen. William Bennett, left, watches as San Quentin Warden Fred Dickson displays the manuscript of Caryl Chessman's "The Kid Was a Killer," which was seized on the belief that it was "prison labor." Chessman is flanked by attorneys A.L. Wirin, left, of the American Civil Liberties Union, and Paul N. Posner.  The man in the background leaning on a counter is Dist. Atty. William R. McKesson.

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Photograph by Bruce H. Cox / Los Angeles Times
Chessman finally received the manuscript, a novel about a boxer, in December 1957, from Lt. L.T. O'Brien of San Quentin.  It was published in 1960.

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*Judge Clement "D. Nye." Only in L.A.

Mystery photo

I came across this photo in the archives and thought I'd share it. This is Orson Welles at the Stork Club in New York in early 1946. Who's the blonde?

 

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Los Angeles Times file photo
 
  • Virginia Mayo? Interesting guess! But no.
  • Mayo Methot? Sorry, no.
  • Zsa Zsa Gabor? Interesting! But no.
  • Frances Farmer? Alas, no.
  • Lily St. Cyr? Aha. Interesting guess. (But no).
  • Nancy Valentine? (Greg Clancey). Bravo! Yes, it's the future star of "-30-."

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Nov. 26, 1957

 


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Things to come


Nov. 25, 1957
Los Angeles

The designers display a painting of the proposed Theme Building at LAX:

 

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Sex change

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Nov. 25, 1957
Scotland

1957_1125_little_pix_2 Frank Little, 40, was a brilliant scientist, a husband, the father of three children--and he was terribly unhappy being a man, according to an Associated Press story from Rosyth, Scotland.

Little said that his psychological and biological systems had started changing recently. "About 10 months ago I began to go out with my wife, dressed as a woman," he said.

Appearing at a news conference with his wife, Little wore a green coat, nylons and high heels, the AP said. He carried a red purse and wore makeup and jewelry. He announced that he would be "changing sex," the story said without elaborating.

Little planned to continue dressing as a man to comply with the requirements of his electronics research job at an Admiralty research facility, the story said. Otherwise, he intended to take on the role of his wife's sister.

His wife, whose name was not given, said: "There will, of course, be some cruel people who will cause our children a great deal of anguish, but we have to decide for the best. My husband and I think there will be more benefits for the children if the home is not broken."

She added: "I have now learned to accept it and I now feel toward my husband as a sister and I believe we can still keep our home a happy place for all of us."

Unfortunately, neither the AP nor The Times followed up on this story, coming five years after the sensational case of Christine Jorgensen. In fact, I cannot locate any further information anywhere about Frank Little. As always, we can only hope for the best.

If anyone knows anything more about the Little family, please:
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Brenda Allen

The scanner at the Daily Mirror has been working overtime on the Brenda Allen photos. It's interesting to put all the battered old pictures in order and go through them, as if you can pick up a feeling for someone. She dressed quite demurely for her court sessions and often wore the same outfit. She always had a hat and she always wore sunglasses.

Brenda Allen was a lady who wanted to disappear and after her divorce in 1961, she dropped out of sight.

 

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Los Angeles Times photograph

Here she is in 1950 with her longtime attorney, Max Solomon. I think this photo captures a bit of personality. Note the gloves and the suit--the Hollywood vice queen always wore a skirt that fell below the knee. 

Nov. 25, 1957

 


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Brenda Allen

 

 

Brenda_allen_1948_0519_max_solomon_
Photograph by Al Humphreys / Los Angeles Times

Someone asked: Who was Brenda Allen? I imagine you've read something about her or more likely you have at least heard of her. This is Brenda (she also used the name Marie Mitchell) with her attorney, Max Solomon, on May 19, 1948. Vice officers arrested her during a prostitution raid at 8436 Harold Way and seized a file card box full of prominent names. But that was only the beginning.

I'm going to start posting some pictures of her so maybe you'll get an idea of what she was like. She is wearing sunglasses in every single photo. I'll fill in some details along the way.

Best sellers

Nov. 24, 1957

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