Sunday, October 19, 2008
Where's the Fire? Or...What's Going On?
The photo above of the Baldwyn Volunteer Fire Department in action is dated 1952. The fire is in the area above the old McGee's grocery and cafe. We have been discussing the possible cause and Jimmy Baxter described an event that might possibly be this particular fire. More on that later, if he can confirm it.
During our early years in Baldwyn, when a fire was reported or another happening of importance was needing to be announced, the person in charge "blew the fire whistle" as we used to say. That got a lot of response from the citizens. The siren was mounted about halfway up the first water tower behind city hall and could be heard for at least a mile or two. Sometimes a person in a car had to speed downtown or to a house that they knew had a telephone to report an emergency or fire.
When the siren started howling, most of the neighborhood dogs did, also. We would all stop what we were doing, run outside and scan the horizon for smoke and when spotted, make a "bee-line" for it. Some of us on bicycles would get to the fire before the truck did. Once, we saw a huge fire start at Gentry's slaughter house on North Fifth street, just up the road from the Gentry home. They were rendering "cracklins" and the pot boiled over, setting the dry grass on fire. Several of us youngsters helped get it under control before the truck got there.
If we didn't see any smoke when the siren blew, that usually meant one of two things; a false alarm or something else was up, which required a trip downtown to see what was happening. Robert Thomas and I recalled recently about one late Summer day (actually August 15, 1945) when the siren started blowing incessantly. Someone found out what it was - the Japanese had surrendered and World War 2 was over. The townspeople had predetermined that when that happened, the whole town was to meet at the First Baptist Church. That was one trip to see what was happening that everyone in town was glad to do. Business and everything came to a stop while we met at the church and gave thanks for the ending of that long, costly conflict. Now all our men could come home.
(Update: Two identical reports from readers seem to think that the fire was in a photography studio, started from chemicals used in a developer. Damage was minimal, except for water. This is the same thought that Jimmy Baxter has, who first told me the story.)
Photo from the Marie Evans Collection
Posted by Carl Houston at 4:57 AM