Greene County Arkansas
Centennial Edition Section 5
Monday, August 29,1983, Paragould Daily Press Section 5, Centennial Edition -5
|I remember: When five houses burned|
The massive fire at the Magnolia Petrolium bulk plant Jan 4. 1951
| A night in July, 1919, that I
Soon after midnight, I was awakened by the long, shrill wail of the steam fire whistle being blown from one of the Wrape's Mill boilers. My brother, Hardy, and I were sleeping in our parents' home at 400 W. Poplar St.
About that time, we could hear the ringing of the bell and the loud siren on the fire truck that had recently been bought by our city. The truck went on past our house and stop-ped at the last house in the 400 block. By the time we got out on the street, we could tell the house was engulfed in flames.
The hose from the fire truck was connected to a fire plug. As the valve opened, only a trickle of water came out. There was a fail-ure at the water plant.
This house was the property of the Tom Fletcher family and soon burned to the ground, helped by a brisk southwest wind.
At this time -- and still no water pressure -- the Bob Gardner home was afire. A large crowd had gathered and people began going into the homes to carry out furniture and other items, taking them across the street. There was lots of talk about pilfering of small items.
Still no water pressure. The Gardner, Lackey and Heaton homes all burned to the ground.
A pow-wow was held by officials, who decided to send E. O. Newsome, one of the firemen, to a gravel pit and bring back enough dynamite to blow up the Crawford home, which was next in line, to stop the fire.
Along came a town character named Ernest Smith, who suggested that the officials bring up the city street washer, which was a big tank of water on wheels with a Studebaker
engine on the rear, to build up the water pressure.
Fire hoses were connected and the engine was started. The water started to flow and in a short time the fire was under control.
By this time, things were being taken out of other homes along the line. Pilfering and vandalism were getting worse. The next house was the Maddox home. They were bringing out the lavatories and bathtubs. At the Hawkins home, two barrels of wine were found in the basement. Fruit jars and other glass containers were filled and the wine passed around freely for all whowanted to partake. The Weatherly home was next. By this time, the fire being under control, the officials stopped all from going into the houses.
Our home was the next house down, the last house on the south side of Poplar Street. From the start of the fire, our father had sent to his wholesale grocery firm and brought out all the fire extinguishers, along with a stock of #3 washtubs to fill with water to soak blankets, quilts and whatever to put on our roof. He also stated he was not going to have the vandalism at our home. To warn all, he loaded his automatic shotgun and sat on front porch with it in his lap.
Soon it was daylight and the five houses burned left a nasty sight. It was not long until the mess was cleaned up and new houses were started.
I was only 11 years old when this happened.
Joe E. Wilbourn
The First Methodist Church
catching fire during a service
When I opened that "book" of memories of Paragould, the remembrances came flashing back with unusual clarity. This is not surpris-ing, however, because they were deeply
etched in my mind when a child.It was curious, though, to find how many of my memories involved fires.
I was 4 years old when my parents moved to Paragould in 1910. They bought a two-story white house at 608 W. Main St. We lived there until it burned down in 1915.
Then a contractor and builder, William Thomas Watts, built us a new home on that same lot. I was allowed to watch some of the inside work which interested me very much as a child-- especially the fireplace and the book-cases. I didn't know then that many years later, I would become his daughter-in-law.
I remember that the West Side Elementary School on Court Street burned down early one morning in the winter of 1918. I attended school there in the seventh grade. When our school burned, we thought we would have an
unscheduled vacation. However, the churches and other elementary schools each took a class. Since the school I was assigned to was all the way across town, I was positive my
mother would never let me go that far. Again -- no such luck! She bought me a pair of high-topped boots and sent me on my way. We children missed only a few days of school be-
cause of the fire.
I remember also that the First Methodist Church, located at that time on the corner of Third and Emerson Streets, caught fire one Sunday during the morning worship service. Our pastor, James Evans, calmly announced
to the congregation that there were photog-raphers waiting out in the cold weather to take our pictures and to go quickly as possible. We were on the second floor, which had stairs at each end of the hall. For some reason, none
of us seemed to think it strange that photog-raphers couldn't or didn't take pictures inside the church. We just obeyed our pastor's calm suggestion and everyone was safe. Later, a new church was built at Fourth and Main
There is a large sign that still hangs in a special place for all to see -- new-comers and visitors as well as the permanent residents. The sign reads, "You'll like Paragould." The sign always interested me, even as a child.
First, I believed that what it said was true. And second, it taught me at an early age one of the rules for the use of the apostrophe and its application.
Mary Louise Wood Watts
San Diego, Calif.
My sister shouting 'storm' at
the outdoor movie theater
Transcribed by: PR Massey
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