Harris Motor Car Co Fire

Fire at Harris Motor Car Co c 1965The Harris Motor Company fire at the northeast corner of Broadway and Lorimier wasn’t all that exciting, but it did capture some interesting things in the background of a couple of shots.

I don’t know that I was ever in the building, but Fred Lynch and Sharon Sanders did a pretty good job of nailing down the history of the landmark building in Fred’s blog.

Idan-Ha Hotel sign

Fire at Harris Motor Car Co c 1965You can see the Idan-Ha Hotel sign off in the distance on the left. The N’Orleans sign shows up behind one for the State of Missouri Employment Service. The Idan-Ha burned in 1989, and the N’Orleans is sitting empty today.

Built in 1915

Fire at Harris Motor Car Co c 1965Fred’s blog said the building was constructed in 1915. In 1937, Harris Motor Car Co. razed the adjoining Dr. Adolph List house, built in 1888, to expand its operation. Another story noted that the List house was modeled after a German castle.

Turned into apartments in 2001

Fire at Harris Motor Car Co c 1965I couldn’t find a story about the fire, but there was an ad in the Dec. 3, 1965, Missourian saying to watch for the Grand Opening of Harris Motor Car Co. The 1968 City Directory listed Harris Motor Car Co. at Highway 61 North and Independence.

In 1968, Charmin, which was building its new plant near Neely’s Landing, leased space in the “former Harris Motor Car Building.” In 1971 the paper reported that the building had been converted into an apartment complex by Vernon Rhodes.

 

Fire Engine at Capaha Park

The negative sleeve says “airport fire truck 6/12/67.” The Missourian didn’t have any stories about it for a couple days on either side of that date, so I assume it was just something I spotted and snapped off nine frames before moving on. (Click on any photo to make it larger.)

Looks like they might be practicing drafting water from the Capaha Park Lagoon, a common practice for rural fire departments without access to fire hydrants. The firefighters drop 10-foot lengths of hard suction hose with a strainer on the end into a pond or other water source, then use the engine’s pump to either fill the engine’s water tank or distribute it through smaller diameter hoses to fight the fire.

Water supply is critical

If the water source isn’t close to the fire, then the water has to be shuttled from the pond to the fire using a series of trucks. For long distances, two or more pumpers could be spaced out over a long run of hose to boost the pressure. That takes a LOT of hose and a lot of manpower. That’s one reason why rural volunteer fire departments were called “chimney savers.” By the time they could get to a fire, establish a water supply and a resupply, too often a chimney would be the only thing left standing. That’s not to criticize the firefighters who were putting their lives on the line; it was just a fact of life.

Even hydrants fail

Murphy’s Law works in town, too. These two Gastonia, N.C., firefighters are looking down the street for the surge of water that’s going to charge their hose. It never came. There was a problem with the nearest hydrant. By the time a supply line was laid from the next nearest hydrant, the house was a loss. You can tell from their expressions how frustrated they were.

Fire-related stories

 

 

Happy Hollow Fires, Rats, Caves and Ghost Whistles

Happy Hollow was one of those places like Smelterville where everyone knew there were problems, but solutions always seemed to escape. When the Lorimier School Parent-Teachers Unit complained in 1952 about open sewage flowing through the hollow near the school, creating a health hazard for the children, one councilman mentioned the possibility of erecting a fence around it.

Mrs. Lloyd Brooks, chairman of the Lorimier committee, countered, “I don’t know of any city that has a hole like that in the middle of town – and then thinks enough of the hole to fence it in.”  (Click on the photos to make them larger.)

1966 Happy Hollow fire

The Missourian’s September 16,1966 photo caption said “Happy Hollow burst into a sudden inferno Thursday night, spewing fire and sparks and sending up a choking cloud of smoke to the southeast, limiting visibility and damaging residences. Two firefighters, Victor L. Pierce, left, and Capt. Charles Benton, drenched by water and perspiration, pour a stream of water into the billowing clouds of smoke.”

Fire could smolder through winter

The story continued, “Flames were brought under control Thursday night. However Fire Chief Carl Lewis said a fire of this nature is extremely hard to eliminate. He explained that smoldering is now beneath the surface of the dump and could continue for an extended period, possibly through the winter.”

Smoke nearly choked her

Mrs. F.M. White, who lives near the site of the fire at 512 rear William, said the smoke nearly choked her and her husband to death.

Firemen fought the flames through the night and were continuing the attempt to conquer the smoldering mass today. At one time, there were 11 firemen at the scene. Chief Lewis said the fire was the largest of this nature in more than 20 years.

Similar fire in 1934

The June 16, 1934, Missourian reported, “A fire which converted “Happy Hollow” and its rubbish heaps into a roaring furnace shortly after noon today was brought under control by firemen after a two-hour battle. No damage except to trees was done, as firemen worked in 100-degree temperatures to extinguish the blaze.

“The blaze started about 12:15 o’clock of undetermined origin and smoke and fumes filled the Happy Hollow ravine, which is located east of Frederick Street between Merriwether and William streets. Scores of automobile bodies, tons of paper, old clothes, boxes, barrels and other junk went up in the blaze. The fire department’s big pumper forced water from a hose line attached to a hydrant at William and Frederick streets, and the stench from the smoldering rubbish drove a curious crowd to cover.

“Firemen were aided by volunteers who helped turn the rubbish heaps so that water could penetrate them. The main part of the blaze was confined to a pile of rubbish about 25 feet deep. The place has long been used as a city dumping ground.”

Happy Hollow Cave

The area was full of attractive nuisances. The January 18, 1952, Missourian talked about the Happy Hollow Cave: City Engineer John Walther said today the city would be interested in razing and closing Happy Hollow Cave in exchange for the sandstone blocks of which the cavern is constructed.

The Missouri Pacific Railroad probably owns the cave, which is located in Happy Hollow, south of the railroad’s freight yards on Independence Street. Lorimier School is near the yards. The Lorimier School Parent-Teacher-Unit says the cave attracts children and is an unsuitable place for them to play.

The cave was built nearly 100 years ago as a cooling cellar for the old Hanney Brewery, but was abandoned decades ago. Since then it has become a hangout for vagrants, drunkards and other characters well-known to the police.”

Cavern not easy to raze

May 2, 1952: “A dragline crew today was destroying Happy Hollow Cave, the man-made cavern police called a hangout for vagrants and thieves, and parents called a menace to children.

The first, or east compartment of the cavern was dug up and filled Thursday and today the crew was working on the second compartment, which reaches under the Cape Coal Co. yard. Some difficulty is being encountered. The highest point of the arched ceiling is some 30 feet below the surface of the ground… And the sandstone block ceiling of the cave does not yield easily to the steel teeth of the bucket. Neither do the brick-lined wall of the connecting passageways.

The plan is to remove all the dirt from the top of the vaults, pull out all of the curved ceiling, then fill in the hole, leaving the vertical walls standing.

Rats! Guess who got THIS assignment

When the job called for writing about the sewage treatment plant, getting up on a cold morning for a quarry rescue or going to the dump to count rats, I was the guy. On one of those Friday night bull sessions over at Arlene Southern’s house, we were griping about our jobs, like workers always do. When the discussion came around to me, I said, “They ought to hire some high school kid to write the obits and briefs and that kind of junk to free us up for the important stories.” When I looked around the table, everybody was grinning at me. That’s when I realized that’s exactly what jBlue had done – I WAS that kid.

The Missourian was pretty strict about not inserting yourself into a story, but I was given some latitude in this unbylined piece on September 26, 1966. The Google copy was pretty blurry, so I couldn’t grab it all.

“Superior brand of chiggers”

A Missourian reporter spending a couple of hours with a camera at Happy Hollow Saturday afternoon found that the no-dumping signs placed at the former city dump have had very little effect.

He also found that the Happy Hollow is evidently the happy home of uncounted hundreds of rats. The rat in the photo wasn’t alone. By actual count, it had at least five others in the same pile of trash. Farm statistics of rat populations, quoted by the Missouri Extension Office at Jackson, show that for every rat sighted there are 50 others nearby.

The reporter’s notes added, ‘In addition to rats, garbage and mud  – which comes from either sewer or seep water – Happy Hollow also breeds a superior brand of chiggers.'”

Happy Hollow is cleaned up

After decades of discussion, most of Happy Hollow has been filled in and cleaned up, at least the area from William Street to River Campus. This view is looking north from William on November 9, 2010.

South Fountain extension

This is South Fountain looking north toward William Street.

Aerial view of the area

This is the aerial I ran yesterday with the Houck Railroad bridges story.

Speaking of which, I posed the question, “I wonder if ghost whistles of Louis Houck’s engines can still be heard in the neighborhood at night. I’m sure reader Keith Robinson will tell us much more about the railroad.”

Keith outdid himself with this one.

Ghost whistles in the night

The area of Happy Hollow might well hear ghost whistles in the night.

Just south of the Morgan Oak viaduct, was the location of the untimely death of my great-great grandfather, Jesse Robinson in 1901 when my great grandfather, Goley Robinson was working for Houck’s Southern Missouri & Arkansas Railroad. The SM&A was the progenitor of all the tracks in downtown Cape and to the south.

According to the Coroner’s Inquest Report, Jesse was apparently run over by an SM&A train backing down the tracks when a double-bit crosscut saw that he was carrying over his shoulder caught the back end of one of the cars. He was 56 years old and my great grandfather was 19. As result, the Robinson family ended up in a house on the Louis Houck estate until the family could get on their feet.

Goley and his younger brother, Ivan, were locomotive firemen on a number of Houck’s railroads until they finally became part of the Frisco and Missouri Pacific. My great grandfather stated that he would sound a wavering whistle every time he passed over the spot where his father died.

 

 

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