Bellefonte, PA High School Fire, Feb 1939

High School On Fire Blaze Near Its Peak High School Ruins

900 STUDENTS FLEE FOR THEIR LIVES AS BELLEFONTE HIGH SCHOOL BURNS.

ROOF AND WALLS COLLAPSE AS STUDENTS WATCH.

BLAZE BELIEVED TO HAVE STARTED IN BOILER ROOM -- PUPILS FORCED TO LEAVE BUILDING WITHOUT COATS -- LOSS IS $150,000.

Bellefonte, Pa., Feb. 13. -- Nine hundred students fled coatless today as fire swept the four story brick high school building in the town's residential district.
Firemen from Bellefonte and State College, Pa., were unable to control the blaze which started in the boiler room and spread to the ventilating system, quickly filling classrooms with smoke. No one was injured.
GEORGE H. HAZEL, president of the school board, said the building was assessed at $150,000 and would be a total loss.
Origin of the fire was not determined immediately. It started shortly after high school and junior high students assembled for morning classes.
The students, trained in fire drills, responded to the fire bell and the building was emptied quickly.
All the equipment and most of the outer garments and lunches the students left in cloak rooms was destroyed.
Only the walls were standing an hour after the blaze started.
No other buildings were threatened. The school built in 1910, stands alone in a large lot.
The roof and walls of the brick structure, which was built in 1910, collapsed while hundreds of the students watched safely from a distance. No one was injured.
Supervising Principal, E. K. STOCK, who sounded the school fire alarm, reported the blaze apparently started from a short circuit in a ventilating fan. He fought the fire with an auxiliary hose for 15 minutes and was bringing it under dontrol when it swept up the air shafts.
The smoke billowed up the shafts, filling the classrooms. The pupils, kept in line by watchful teachers, marched calmly down the wooden stairways to safety.
Teachers stood at the entrances to prevent students from entering the building to get books and clothing left behind. Some of the shool's old records and a few pieces of equipment on the first floor were saved.
The community general fire alarm system failed to work, delaying the arrival of the town's two fire companies and volunteer firemen. One company was summoned by telephone company manager who walked to the firehouse after he had failed to reach the station by telephone.
The school board announced it would meet tonight to decide upon disposition of the classes. Some expressed the opinion that the vacant Bellefonte Academy building might be obtained.

The Clearfield Progress Pennsylvania 1939-02-13

Comments

My mom and 1939 Bellefonte H.S. Fire

My mother, Elvera Lockwitz should have graduated in 1939. The fire put an end to her graduation but brought her into contact with my dad. Her winter coat was burnt up in the fire. Dad being from Mill Hall, drove to Bellefonte with a new jacket for this girl he just met a few days before. My dad went to her house on Biship Street and my grandmother answered the door. "Elvera, that cute boy is here to see you!". The rest is history. Because attending school was a hard ship, she went to Altoona and enrolled in Altoona Beauty School. She came back to Bellefonte with her degree for salon work. She worked at Stovers Beauty shop in Bellefonte. School year for 1940 started, she went to school for half day and had half day off for "Work Release." Mom graduated with the 1940 Bellefonte Class. Mom and dad were married in June of 1941. Then December 7th happened. They were separated until after the war. Makes me a baby boomer.
I have the 1940 Bellefonte graduation list. Mom is still well, will turn 96 on March 8th 2017.