Whitney, TX High School Gymnasium Fire, Sept 1949

Costly Fire

$60,000 Gym At Whitney Total Loss

By Thomas Turner
Central Texas Bureau of The News

Whitney, Texas, Sept. 14.-The booming little town of Whitney Wednesday was still a little stunned by the loss of one of its proudest possessions-it’s brand new $60,000 gymnasium.

The frame gym, containing several badly needed classrooms, burned about midnight in a spectacular blaze visible for miles.

The little village that calls itself the “best town by a dam site,” because of the nearby Whitney Dam, Wednesday was bouncing back with the vigor that has brought it national fame.

It’s the town where the scrap put up by a gang of old-timers to keep their benches on a drugstore corner had the nation’s attention for weeks.

The gym fire was discovered by Marvin Briggs, president of the school board, and Hill County auditor who had just returned from the county seat, Hillsboro.

“The whole building was ablaze, although it seemed to be burning worse in the rear portion,” said Briggs.

Whitney’s volunteer firefighters, joined by Hillsboro aid, saved the nearby buildings. No cause had been found.

One of Whitney’s proudest civic feats was the building of the gym just this summer. It was built of lumber obtained free from army camps. But Whitney had to vote a bond issue to build and furnish the gym.

It was to have been the answer to the town’s schoolroom shortage. Briggs said that approximately 200 students affected by the fire would go to classes in the VFW Hall, Baptist Church, and National Guard Armory.

The Whitney football team lost every item of its equipment, with a game coming Friday night. The town of Abbott called to offer the loan of enough suits to put the Whitney team on the field.

The school district carried $30,000 insurance on the gymnasium, which will cover the actual loss. The big problem for Whitney will be in obtaining more government surplus buildings to replace the loss.

Whitney’s citizens stood sad-eyed around the ruins of their gym Wednesday. They talked about starting another new gym soon as possible.

Said ex-GI Fred Basham, the youthful mayor who was caught in the middle of the big fuss over the benches, “We’re not going to let a fire, no matter how big, slow down Whitney.”

The old fellow who nodded approval to Basham’s words and clapped him on the back was one of the ringleaders of the group of bench old-timers which was cursing the young city council a few weeks back.

On things like losing its spick new gymnasium, Whitney was together.

Dallas Morning News, Dallas, TX 15 Sept 1949