There ARE Dumb Questions

1967-01-14 Dearmont Fire 4How many times have you been told “There are no dumb questions?” Take it from me, there ARE dumb questions. I asked one. More about that later.

The Missourian’s January 16, 1967, front page lead story was “Cake Fires Girls’ Dorm,” with three of my photos. Clothing and bedding were destroyed and smoke and fire damage were extensive when fire enveloped a room in Dearmont Quadrangle, women’s residence hall at State College, Saturday night (January 14).

Wally Sinwell looks at birthday cake

Dearmont Quadrangle fire 1-14/1967Wally Sinwell of St. Louis, right, who used hall extinguishers to contain the blaze, looks at birthday cake whose candles ignited paper, while firemen view the room.

B & C wings were evacuated

Dearmont Quadrangle fire 1-14/1967Girls living in B and C wings, in pajamas and pincurlers, were evacuated, but later returned to their rooms.

Contents damaged

1967-01-14 Dearmont Fire 5A fire which apparently started from a birthday cake Saturday night damaged a room on the fourth floor of Dearmont Quadrangle. Damage was extensive to the room and its contents. Firemen said mattresses on the bunk bed were destroyed, clothes in the two closets were badly burned and smoked, drapes on the windows were ruined and the ceiling will have to be redone.

Carroll Walker, dean of students, said the room was occupied by two freshmen, Miss Mary Lou Halliday, Shipman, Ill., and Miss Patricia J. Ham, St. Charles.

Preparing surprise birthday party

1967-01-14 Dearmont Fire 3Walker said the girls told him they were preparing to celebrate the birthday of Miss Halliday. Some of the girls had taken her down the hall in order to surprise her.

Miss Martha Susan Owen and Miss Iris Anne Hargrove, both of Paducah, Ky., and Miss Patricia Ann Singrun, St. Louis, were in the room decorating for the party. Mr. Walker said they told him they were putting toilet paper on the ceiling and some was on the floor when a piece of the paper fell from the ceiling across the lighted candles on the birthday cake. The paper burst into flames and the girls said they tried to put the blaze out, but couldn’t.

Here’s the dumb question

Dearmont Quadrangle fire 1-14/1967That was the official version.

Somewhere in a box in my shed is a tape recording I did of my interview with the girls where they confirmed that they had, indeed, dangled toilet paper all over the room. With luck, it’ll never be found and played.

“When we walked into the room with the birthday cake, a streamer dropped onto one of the candles and the whole room burst into flames,” one of them told me.

My question, which I tried as hard as I could to haul back into my mouth, was, “Was it supposed to?”

I think a withering glance was the only answer I got.

Student fought fire

Dearmont Quadrangle fire 1-14/1967Walter J. Sinnwell of St. Louis, a student who was in the parlor of the quadrangle when the fire broke out, collected building’s fire extinguishers and attempted to put out the blaze.

Miss Halliday said that at one point the fire was thought to have been put out by the extinguishers, but when they went out looking for more extinguishers, some one heard and explosion – “probably a can of hair spray or spray deodorant” – and the room was engulfed in more flames than before.

Cake remained intact

1967-01-14 Dearmont FireCapt. Paul Kesterson said a pumper, a ladder truck and nine men went to the scene. The Seagraves pumper and 140 feet of one-inch hose were in use for two minutes.

He said one of the girls was concerned because a radio her mother had given her Christmas was damaged. Through it all, he said, the birthday cake remained intact. It had some dirt and water on it, but was still in one piece on the hallway floor.

Photo gallery of women’s dorm

I have to admit that charging into a women’s dorm was a lot less exciting than I thought it would be. I never knew there were so many different forms of pincurlers. Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the sides of the photos or use your arrow keys to step though the images.

My First Snowball Riot

1967 Snowball "Riot"I transferred into Ohio University in Athens from Southeast Missouri State College my junior year. I was lucky to land a slot as staff photographer for The OU Post as soon as I hit campus.

I hadn’t been there long when we got what was a pretty hefty snow storm for that area. It was a lot like Cape in that respect: we got promised a lot of snow, but very little ever got delivered.

I pulled these out because it looks like Cape is going to get a big winter storm over the next few days.

Started out with snowball fights

1967 OU Snowball "Riot"The excitement started with impromptu snowball fights between students. It didn’t take long, however, before the Athens cops showed up with their bats and hats.  Most of them joined in the fun at first, batting down the snowballs with their riot batons and joking with students.

 The fun didn’t last long

1967 Snowball "Riot"Before long, though, they were vastly outnumbered and it became less fun.

It’s time to take back the streets

1967 Snowball "Riot"First, there was an organized attempt herd the more orderly students away from the area (even if they really wanted to go the other way).

Order turns to chaos

1967 OU Snowball "Riot"Eventually it became a student vs. police free-for-all.

Let’s make snowballs

1967 Snowball "Riot"Then somebody got the idea of rolling up some monster snowballs. Before long, there were several five or six-foot iceballs blocking the street. The authorities were not amused.

Call in the big guns

1967 OU Snowball "Riot" Somebody called in reinforcements in the form of snow plows and a motorgrader.

When an irresistible forces hits an immoveable object, unexpected consequences occur. Several parked cars suffered collateral damage

I think I like this school

1967 Snowball "Riot"My reaction was, “You know, I think I’m going to like this school. I never got to shoot anything like this at SEMO.” Little did I know what was going to be in store for me.

Photo gallery of the Snowball Riot

Click on any photo to make it larger, then click on the sides to move through the gallery.

O.U. Is Not Your Mother

OU women protest dorm hours 04-18-1969A friend and I are going to do a presentation to the Ohio University History Association Thursday evening on the birth of the student rights movement in the 1960s.

Ohio University was a little more progressive than SEMO (where wasn’t?), but my friend Carol Towarnicky had to take a bus from Toledo to Athens during summer break to appear before a hearing board that could have expelled her for breaking curfew too many times. Fortunately, the editor of  The OU Post, where she was a reporter, backed up her story that she was covering news events.

Quick video overview

Here is a quick overview of some of the material we will cover.

A Day in New Madrid

New Mardrid Mississippi River baptism 09-03-1967I shot a march and Mississippi River baptism in New Madrid in the summer of 1967. I spent a week in 2011 trying to identify the people in the photos, to no avail. The few adults that were named are all dead and nobody recognized the young folks.

Altenburg Lutheran Heritage Center intern Jennifer Schwent volunteered that she had worked in a small museum in New Madrid and had some contacts who might be able to help. We journeyed to the Higgerson Landing Gift Shop where site director Riley Bock gave me some leads, but we struck out on names. He WAS able to help identify exactly where on Main Street one of the photos was taken.

Main Street 1967

New Mardrid Mississippi River baptism 09-03-1967Here is the group marching down Main Street in 1967.

Main Street 2013

Main Street New Madrid 08-06-2013The Claire Hotel Coffee Shop has become The Corsage Shop these days. The white building in the old photo is now the Main Street Market.

Higgerson School

Jennifer Schwent at  Higgerson Landing Gift Shop and Museum New Madrid 08-06-2013_7953I’ve put this project on the back burner until I get some others finished. Here, by the way, is Jennifer in front of a neat timeline of the Higgerson School she helped put together. It lists key events in the history of the one-room school and has photos of the teachers who taught there.

I like her because she argued successfully that this blog should be accepted as a resource in historical preservation classes at SEMO.