First the bad news: On June 20 there was a major fire at the Manchester Sash & Door Co. The South-Central Los Angeles business, which had been in Wolski's family since 1922, was a total loss.
Now the good news: Wolski's doorknob collection, one of the finest in the United States, was unscathed. It was housed in a nearby bungalow and in several walk-in metal shipping containers that were unaffected by the blaze.
Wolski was philosophical about the recent turn of events. He said the 60-foot-by-160-foot corrugated metal structure was one of the "greatest fire hazards" in South-Central. Filled with lumber, tools, machinery and completed doors and window sashes, the structure was uninsurable, Wolski said. Fire officials placed the loss at $800,000.
They said the blaze started when some youths tried to steal a car that was parked near the rear of the building. When they could not "hot wire" the vehicle, they abandoned it, leaving behind a smoldering fire. The car eventually exploded.
Wolski plans to re-establish his door and sash company on a limited basis. And his prized doorknobs are still on view and for sale.
"I get discouraged sometimes," said Wolski, 73. "It's a helluva way to retire."