A Night to Remember- the Herman Coffee Fire
At 6:30 on the evening of December 29, 1958 I was watching TV in our home at 101 East Pine Street. When I look back at the TV listings in the Record American for that day I figure I must have been watching either Superman on Channel 11, or Popeye Theater on Channel 6 . I know I was waiting to watch Death Valley Days on Channel 3 at 7:00. In those days we had five channel choices: 3,6,8,10 and 11.
I was enjoying the freedom of the last few days of Christmas vacation. As a nine year old fourth grader at St. Canicus I wasn't looking forward to going back to school on January 5th.
Shortly after 6:30 the whistle blew above the Teen Canteen. At first I thought it was the 7:00 whistle, but after it blasted more than three times I knew it was a fire. I looked outside to see the Citizen's Fire Company across the street spring into action. I got my coat and raced out to see where they were heading. I didn't go far. One block away fire had broken out on South Main Street.
I remember going into Marty Heiler's gas station and helping him carry out some items he had in his store front. I can't imagine kids today being allowed anywhere near the fire scene.
This was the second huge fire I had witnessed since we had moved to Pine Street from North Main in 1955. The first large fire was right up the street from our house at the end of the 100 block.( See List of Fires in sidebar.)
Tragically a well known local businessman, Herman Coffee, lost his life on December 29, 1958 in a fire that left many homeless and caused one half million dollars in property damage and loss.
The pictures below were taken by Mahanoy City High School student Charlie Palulis on the night of the fire and the day after. Charlie lived a short distance from the fire in the zero hundred block of East Pine. Thanks to Charlie for allowing the Historical Society to use many of the photos he has taken in over fifty years as an photographer.
Click on the picture to enlarge and/or view the slide show.