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   Fires of the Fifties
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Aftermath of 1950 Fire. Fire has been the number one enemy of Herrick. It seems there has always been a bucket brigade in the old town. Early in the thirties it is stated that not one of the original buildings was left standing.

In the fifties the town of Herrick was besieged with fire. These fires left apparent gaps in our business section, as the buildings were not rebuilt.

A fire on September 12, 1952 destroyed three buildings. The businesses were Hart's Café, owned by Elaine Beck and Barbara Frailey, a vacant pool room, Herrick Post Office and above that the Masonic Temple. The fire was discovered about 2:45 a.m. by two men from Tower Hill. The awoke Leland Burrus who drove up and down the main street blowing his car horn in an attempt to awaken the town residents. Mr. and Mrs. Edward Austin, who were the telephone operators, called for help from the fire departments at Shelbyville, Illinois State Farm and Pana.

Mr. and Mrs. Earl Wilson, who lived in a building just North of the fire, moved all their personal belongings as a precautionary measure. The fire did not reach the barbershop located in the front of the building or the Wilson living quarters in the rear of the building.

During the height of the fire the fast Nickel Plate freight train, No. 41 arrived. John Jones, telegraph operator, halted the train. Sam Chumey, engineer, expected to pull on through since he had the hottest train on the track. He was informed that Herrick was having its hottest experience in history and help was needed. The engine and the tender were disconnected from the rest of the train and the tender containing approximately 18,000 gallons of water was pulled up to the position on the railroad crossing. The State Farm fire department suctioned water from the tender to fight the fire, which was burning fiercely at the Post Office at this time. The assistance helped greatly in bringing the fire under control. Six wells were pumped dry and water was brought in from other area wells, also in cattle tanks in back of pick-up trucks. The Shelby and Vandalia fire departments left the scene about 5 a.m. and Pana left about 6 a.m.

A temporary Post Office was set up in the south part of Torrence and Kesler Store. Mail was received and dispatched from there.

On May 13, 1956 fire again hit Herrick continuing where the fire of 1952 had stopped. This fire started in a second hand store owned and operated by Jim McCoy. The McCoy building was burned to the ground leaving walls standing and partially destroyed a restaurant next door run by Glapha Pope. A dress shop owned by Edith Adams and the Herrick Post Office did not burn but suffered smoke damage. This fire was discovered by the 1956 seniors returning from their class trip. Fire departments from Pana, Shelbyville, Cowden and Vandalia State Farm were called to help control the fire. Water was brought from Cowden and Pana, as the local wells were pumped dry.

On June 4, 1957, fire was sighted by Mrs. Dolly Ginger. Her two sons, Charles and James sounded the alarm, one notified Glapha Pope and the other the telephone office, when the alarm was forwarded to the Cowden Post Office. The blaze is believed to have started at the back of the Wagon Wheel, a restaurant run by Glapha Pope. The flames spread to the adjoining building to the south in which Gene Funk, operator of Funk Grain Elevator had stored machinery, tools and fertilizer. In the same building was a 1947 Mercury which Harold Schinzler of Pana owned. He was operating a garage service from this building. Volunteers did pull a truck and hydraulic scoop from the building before it collapsed. Funk lost 52 tons of bag fertilizer, seed corn, seed beans, several electric motors and engines.

Erman (Tat) Sarver was painfully injured as he was struck by flying debris and pinned to the sidewalk when a portion of the building gave way. He was taken to Ramsey for treatment. Glapha Pope suffered extensive damage in her restaurant, only the jukebox was saved from the burning building.

Fire departments from both Cowden and Vandalia along with a bucket brigade battled the fire. Water was pumped from four nearby wells, two were pumped dry. Ned Alexander, a service station operator from Ramsey, supplemented the water supply with 800 gallons he brought on a tank truck. The fire was brought under control about 5 a.m. Now only three businesses, the Post Office, the Chat or Chew restaurant and the new bank, stand on the business block.

Fire hit Herrick for the forth time in five years, Nov. 11, 1957. This time blaze apparently started in the Turner Implement Company, south of the Nickel Plate Railroad tracks. It completely destroyed the warehouse, the Turner Implement and Auto, and the office of Funk's Grain Elevator. The Herrick fire truck failed to run so the Cowden Fire Department was called. The blaze was seen by the Roy Evans family and they sounded the alarm. Also a Purity Banking Company driver, Earl Davis, saw the glow while driving to Herrick. He alerted Herrick Fire Chief and Mayor Don Snow.

M. L. Turner, father of Carl Turner, built the buildings housing the Turner business. Turner lost a large amount of farm machinery and a truckload of grease.

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