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I have been a bit frustrated today looking for information on a Christmas Day fire that happened in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania in 1957. I am admittedly the worst when it comes to searching on the web. For some reason all I get are ads for one things or another. I found the Sunday Independent for December 29, 1957 but I didn’t find any mention of the fire. The Times Leader doesn’t seem to have archives to search. Maybe they do and I’m just not seeing them, as usual. I will have to do this from memory, which means this will be a lot shorter that it would have been and I’ll need help if my facts are fuzzy.
I remember that December, walking to school up Grove Street from Moyallen. We would cut through the open lot on Stanton Street which would become the doctor’s office, to Harkins Lane and into the school yard. I was in second grade and my teacher was Miss Reilly. She was a nice lady. I don’t remember if she was Irish or Scottish, but she used to call us her lads and lasses. She would put the little stars and stickers of the season on our papers.
Buddy Holly and the Crickets and Sam Cooke were on the Ed Sullivan Show and the news was talking about President Eisenhower having a stroke that impaired his speech. Also, and this I remember; it’s one of the few things I didn’t have to look up, America’s first attempt to launch a satellite failed in December of 1957 when the Vanguard rocket blew up on the launching pad.
I remember school getting out for the holidays and counting the days until Christmas. When Christmas came my brothers and I ran down to open our presents. We had torn into things when we heard sirens. My brother Tony was a huge fan of the fire department. He kept that fascination and became a firefighter. He had a full career as a firefighter and many people were lucky that he was around. It might have all started that Christmas in 1957 but you would have ask him about that.
We got dressed and we were out of the house in minutes. We didn’t have to go far. Smoke was rising from a house a block over on Prospect Street. We got over there and the firefighters were still working the fire. We thought it was really cool under they started bringing people out. There were little kids that didn’t make out of that fire. I believe it was the Degman family. I can use some help confirming or correcting that. Seeing the stretchers coming out changed everything. I’ll never forget that scene. Christmas became less bright. We did go home and play with our toys but the holiday spirit was left over on Prospect Street.
I think of how much those kids missed. They missed all of the experiences of growing up, high school, football games, and just goofing around. They missed everything that has happened since 1957. Sometimes we just have to stop and count our blessings.