Merry Little Children Warned Santa Jovially;
Few Seconds Later Trampled to Death
“Look out Santa,” cried little children jovially when the Christmas tree caught fire, according to the story of Mrs. W. G. Roland. “You will catch on fire,” they chuckled.
“I tried to beat the fire out with a paper sack,” she said. “The sheeting in front of the tree then caught fire. My boy, Dow, who was playing Santa, was enveloped in flames in a flash. I grabbed my youngest boy, Eugene, and got out on the porch. I fainted. They trampled me until I came to.”
“The ceiling was on fire before the tree was pulled over,” said Clyde Hudson. “I realized the danger at once. I tore a corner of a screen loose and pulled Jay Reville, 11 years old, out while thee flames licked about him. I ran to the front door. The crowd was in a jam. I kept pulling them out until the flames drove me back.”
“I tried to help pull a boy out from under the
pile at the door. The smoke was black and hung close to the ground. We were
unable to pull the boy out. I saw only one foot sticking out of the crowd. It
was all hands and heads.”
. . . .
“Some tried to beat the fire in the tree out with a chair,” said Andrew Jackson, a farmer. “I was near the door. I ran outside and tried to tear the heavy screening off the windows. The screen was bolted from the inside and would not budge.”
“I saw my sister, Vesta, with her sweetheart,
Aubrey Coffey, at a window. Things happened so fast that I cannot recall all
the details. Two gasoline lamps exploded, spreading the fire. Flames quickly
enveloped the building. It was only a short time until all struggling stopped.
We could plainly see burning bodies.”
“A boy ----- mother the --- with his coat,” said W. L. Hanry, a youth who escaped with face and body burns. “The first flash after the tree fell singed my hair. I fell under the crowd at the door and was trampled. There were cries of ‘don’t crowd,’ and ‘men let the women and children out first’.
“My face and hands were being bruised so I continued
to try to escape. I was badly burned before I got out. I tried to help others,
but the flames drove me back.”
Gladys Clement, a victim of the fire was to have become the bride of Claude Bolding on Christmas morning. Preparations for her funeral were underway Friday, while Bolding lay in a Hobart hospital, severely burned.
The couple attended the Christmas party at the schoolhouse
together, but were separated in the mad rush for the single door when the
flames spread through the building.
FAMILY OF FOUR PERISHES IN CHRISTMAS TREE BLAZE
Upper left, T. C. Coffey; right, Mrs. Beula Coffey and her son Orley, as a baby. Orley is now 6 years old. He is reported missing. Below, left, Aubrey Coffey, 25 years old; right, Etta Coffey, 4 years old.
Four members of the Coffey family perished as they stood at the center of the Babbs Switch schoolhouse while the building burned Christmas Eve. The bodies were found huddled together. They had locked arms and met death together. Latest reports, Orley Coffey, baby of the family, missing.
(Does anyone know if Orley Coffey was ever found? Was he really missing or just identified later? If you have any information, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org – Ethel Taylor)
FORT WORTH TEACHER LOSES LIFE IN FLAMES
Left to right; Jaunita Clements Stevenson, 26 years old, Baby Mary Jaunita Stevenson and Mary Louise Clements, 21 years old, victims of the Babbs Switch fire. Both women were school teachers Mary Louise Clements had been teaching in Fort Worth and was home to spend the holidays.
Gladys Clements, 22 year old school teacher who perished in the Babbs Switch fire, was to have become the bride of Claude Bolding on Christmas morning. She attended the Christmas party with her fiance and together thry tried to escape the burning building, but were separated in the rush for the door. Bolding was severly burned. He is in a Hobart hospital.
ENID JOINS IN FIRE RELIEF WORK PLEDGES
Enid, Dec. 26 -- The six banks of Enid,
the chamber of commerce, three civic clubs, the city of Enid and all drug stores
wired the fire bereft Babbs Switch settlement today offering any assistance
which may be needed financially or in medical care.
MAYOR OPENS FUNDS FOR HOBART VICTIMS
Mayor Cargill (Oklahoma City?) gave $25.00 toward a fund for Babb Switch Christmas fire victims.
The mayor has asked that others who wish to contribute send the money to John Tipton, his secretary. The money will be forwarded to Hobart as a New Year’s gift, to be used to defray hospital bills for the unfortunate, or in any other way it may be needed.
Telegrams of condolence were sent by the mayor Monday on behalf of the city commission.
HOBART DOES NOT NEED OUTSIDE AID
Hobart is not in need of outside help to handle the crisis, D. I. Johnson, chairman of the Oklahoma City Red Cross, said Friday.
“We have been in communication with Hobart a number of times since the Christmas Eve fire,” he said, “and the Red Cross chapter there assures us that Hobart has the situation well in hand. That is a substantial community and has a well-organized Red Cross chapter.”
“Oklahoma City stands ready to help, if it is needed, but so far the need has not arisen.”
FIRE CONDITIONS IN SCHOOLS BAD
Building Laws Advocated By Association Chief
Uniform laws governing construction of school buildings was advocated in a statement Friday by James A. Adkinson, secretary of the Oklahoma Fire Prevention Association.
The association has been making a systematic inspection of school buildings in various counties throughout the state.
“We’ve found conditions in dozens of rural schools, and many city schools, that are worse than conditions that caused the Hobart tragedy,” Atkinson declared.
Double exits for all school buildings doors that open outward, and equipped with panic bars; window screens than can be opened; and prohibition of candles in school functions – these are some of the remedies that Atkinson suggests.
Many schools are weighing lives against dollars in construction of unsafe buildings,” the secretary declared.
“Thorough inspection of at least one town each month is being made in Oklahoma, as well as systematic inspection of all school plants,” Atkinson said.
“Pawhuska will be inspected in January,” he said.
Recommendations made by inspectors are put into effect in the majority of cases, Atkinson asserts, although the league has no enforcement powers.
The Coffey Family, pioneers and fire victims.
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Web. page 9-12-2006