July 4th Fireworks in Kentucky were not what you would expect!

JULY 4TH FIREWORKS

By

Joyce Ray Wheeler

(b. January 4, 1926- d. November 1 2012)

A tragedy for our tiny Kentucky town occurred at midnight on July 4, 1941 when I was fifteen years old. The stillness of the night was broken by the loud voice of a man running down our one little gravel street shouting “Fire! Fire! Fire!”!

house-on-fire1

There were tiny places of business and homes all along this street. The fire began in a tiny “one chair” barber shop which shared a wall with our little post office which shared a wall with our “drug store.” The drug store was taller than the adjacent buildings, so at that point a shift in the wind sent the blaze across the street to burn the Wheeler General Merchandise Store and the Wheeler home next door.

There was no fire department nor running water. When it was realized that the Wheeler buildings could not be saved, the decision was made to dynamite the two buildings to save the rest of the town.

There was only one house between our house and the starting point of the fire so Mother and I began carrying out special things in case the fire came in that direction. I brought the family Bible out, and Mother and I carried and dragged my cedar “hope chest” down the steep stairs.

A few things were saved from the Wheeler home: A sofa, a refrigerator, and their daughter’s big brimmed Sunday straw hat. The Wheeler’s son was in Nashville attending Business College.

The Wheeler family asked us to keep their refrigerator until they found a place to live. We had only a wooden icebox into which we put big 40 lb. blocks of ice. Needless to say, after we experienced the wonders of a refrigerator, my dad soon purchased one.

I may have been the only one to witness one funny thing that happened which we could laugh about later. Our next door neighbor was a very dignified man who always wore a long-sleeved white shirt with a black bow tie. He had helped carry “stuff” from the Wheeler house, had gotten overheated and was sitting in a chair in our driveway fanning himself with the big straw hat with blue ribbon streamers which belonged to the Wheelers’ daughter. Suddenly as the wind changed, Mr. Roy put that hat squarely on his head – – ribbons and all. The Wheeler’s son had been called about the fire, and he rode a Greyhound bus home the next day

On Sunday he walked to the little white church. As he passed the Ray house, I came out to walk to church with him relating all the details about the fire and how frightened I had been. I thought he wanted to hold my hand. Perhaps this was an early step toward our 66 years of marriage which we celebrated in May.

My memories of July 4, 1941 are very clear.

 

 

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About Joyce Ray Wheeler

Joyce Ray Wheeler was born in Kentucky, but after marriage and two sons she and her husband, Dr. Ruric Wheeler she moved to Birmingham, Alabama in 1953. She was a former school teacher for a short while.  She was active in the Faculty Wives Club at Samford University and a member of Shades Mountain Baptist Church where she taught Sunday School classes for women for many years. She enjoyed travel, her grandchildren and writing her memories. Joyce passed away November 2, 2012. Her obituary and memorial can be seen at: http://obits.dignitymemorial.com/dignity-memorial/obituary.aspx?n=Joyce-Wheeler&lc=4394&pid=160800084&mid=5294496

About Joyce Ray Wheeler

Joyce Ray Wheeler was born in Kentucky, but after marriage and two sons she and her husband, Dr. Ruric Wheeler she moved to Birmingham, Alabama in 1953. She was a former school teacher for a short while.  She was active in the Faculty Wives Club at Samford University and a member of Shades Mountain Baptist Church where she taught Sunday School classes for women for many years. She enjoyed travel, her grandchildren and writing her memories. Joyce passed away November 2, 2012. Her obituary and memorial can be seen at: http://obits.dignitymemorial.com/dignity-memorial/obituary.aspx?n=Joyce-Wheeler&lc=4394&pid=160800084&mid=5294496

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