In 10 hours, the blaze caused $750,000 in damage – a fair amount of money today, but not that much when you adjust for changes in our economy over time. If an event similar to that 1960 fire happened today, the financial impact could be anywhere from $5 million to $20 million according to calculations from measuring
It appears, however, that money wasn’t at the top of anyone’s list when TCHS burned to the ground. Taking a look at the June 23, 1960 issue of The Cadiz Record, it’s easy to see what an emotional impact the fire had on the community.
First, we see photos of the devastation. In one picture, smoke rises to the sky as the structure burns. In another, readers see warped steel beams from the foundation of what was once the high school gymnasium. The third photo displays the front entrance to the old high school with a caption describing the view as “the appearance of some ancient Grecian ruin as it stood mutely framing the wreckage ...”
Three stories on the front page covered various angles of the disaster. One story describes the fire itself, noting it was first discovered at 10:45 p.m. June 19. Paul Perdue, then the principal of the school, lived across the street and “left the house on a dead run for the building” after his wife first noticed light from the fire. The blaze apparently began between the walls of two classrooms.
The story goes on to describe actions of the Cadiz Fire Department and assistance from departments in Hopkinsville and Princeton.
The building had been built in 1937 and, according to the story, “was dear to the heart of every Trigg County citizen.”
Books, desks, lockers and other supplies and material in the library were a complete loss. However, fire fighters were able to prevent the fire from spreading to a new cafeteria building that was under construction at the time behind the high school. Also saved were school records, of which copies were kept in the superintendent’s office, although the effort of recopying those records seemed quite daunting at the time.
Another story in that issue of the Record detailed initial plans to hold classes in quonset huts. Cost of rebuilding the school was initially expected to be around $600,000.
A third story urged county citizens to attend a mass meeting of Trigg Countians dedicated to preserving education programs for some 700 students who had just lost their headquarters.
Former Cadiz Record publisher Edith Bingham Lawrence also included a note from her and Record staff stating that they joined with the county in “mourning with you our loss.”
I’ve no doubt that many of our readers have vivid memories of this time in their lives, and I welcome and encourage them to share those memories with us. Feel free to send your stories to us at 58 Nunn Blvd., or P.O. Box 1670, or email them to firstname.lastname@example.org. In memory of the 50th anniversary of this event, I’m happy to include as many of these stories as I can in The Cadiz Record’s July editions.
Justin McGill is executive editor of The Cadiz Record and can be reached by email at email@example.com.