I Wuz Just Thinking: The flames that kept us together

Close-up of a burning wood chair.

We heard the fire truck siren and saw the fire engine heading in the same direction we were traveling. Our house was on fire.

This morning I was watching a re-run of a television movie on The Waltons when John Boy was in the process of writing a novel.

As the movie progressed, the family home caught fire, contents were all destroyed, and the family had to be placed in a neighbor’s home. There was hardship and sadness for all.

This brought my mind back to about 1948 or so when I was quite young.  My two sisters, brother, and I went to the Saturday morning kiddie show at the local Texan Theatre where we watched the weekly serial, cartoons, and the Cowboy thriller featuring perhaps Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, the Lone Ranger, Cisco Kid, and many others.

After the movie, Mother and Daddy picked us up to go home.  We heard the fire truck siren and saw the fire engine heading the same direction we were traveling down Longview street.

We were shocked.

Betty Mahurin Baker

The fire truck pulled to the front of our house.

Our home was on fire.

Daddy jumped out of the car and began helping the firefighters, Mother quickly followed and started grabbing the wash she had just hung from the clothesline.

My siblings stood by the car and watched as I stayed out of the way,  jumping up and down in the front seat and crying hysterically.  I remember that night. The scenes still flash in front of my mind. I didn’t know what was happening, but I knew it wasn’t good. The house was in flames and so was my life.

After the blaze died away and the smoke was swept away by the wind, we discovered that everything in our home had been burned to some degree, but our house was still standing.  It was certainly not safe for the family of six to stay.

Sadly, the family was divided and placed with family and neighbors.  I’m thinking that my brother went with our Aunt Lee, my daddy’s younger sister, Martha, and Julia went to stay with the neighbors and their friend, Allie Mae. And I, being the baby of the family, remained with Mother and Daddy.

Quilts were hung, and pallets were made as the three of us tried to protect what few belongings we had left.  It was sad to think that people would come and steal anything they could find.

I remember our having a little drum-like metal bank that was filled with silver dollars. Daddy’s brother, Alvin Mahurin, had given them to us kids for Christmas, birthdays, or whenever he came over to visit.  Mother was saving the coins to buy something special for the family.  We kept his little bank protected and didn’t lose any of the silver dollars.

Not having the financial means to purchase new furniture, Daddy painted all the old pieces in a dark brown.  New wallpaper covered all the walls to make sure they looked cleaner and nicer.  On damp days, we could still smell the charred wood in the furniture and walls.

After a few weeks, even though it seemed like forever at the time, our family was reunited. We were told there had been an electrical cord break to the refrigerator that triggered the fire. Perhaps it had been bitten by a mouse. We never knew for sure.

Emptiness is still the feeling I get when I reflect back to this time of the family home fire.

We lost so much.

But we gained so much.

Family took care of us.

And friends became family.

 I wuz just thinking.

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