50 Years, 50 Stories

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Published April 22 1974 in The Ledger Independent

“They” said it was unsafe and it was. Fire destroyed the 58-year-old Washington Elementary School early Sunday. Five fire departments fought the flames in the pre-dawn hours while neighbors carried out financial and school records, school books and even desks. A canteen at the Archie and Louise Rubenacker home supplied coffee, sandwiches and doughnuts.

The fire erupted again late yesterday afternoon but a spokesman at Washington said a decision was made to let the blaze burn itself out. Members of the Washington VFD were at the scene.

“I hate to see the old building go. I’m afraid it spells the demise of our neighborhood schools,” said Mayor Robert B. Brothers of Washington.

There will be no classes today for the 345 elementary pupils, the 80 in kindergarten and the 13 in SEA classes, said Supt. Charles Straub. He was at the scene at 5 a.m. within 20 minutes after Fireman Jackie Merrill of the Washington Fire Department had sent the alarm.

The Mason County Board of Education met in called session at 2 p.m. to determine where to house pupils until summer vacation starts June 5. The expected plan is at the Fieldhouse since cafeterias from the High School and Middle School could handle the lunch situation the best.

Supt. Straub said the board carried $292,000 property insurance and $11, 800 on contests with Continental Insurance Company of New York represented by Clarke Insurance Agency. “The trouble is coverage only pays off at 90 per cent and the most we can expect is $272,000.” He said the cost of the Middle School, located on 20 acres of ground was approximately $900,000. The razed Washington School, built in 1916, was located on 3 acres.

The fire broke out in the southeast corner of the gym near the the boiler and electrical outlets, under the stage, said Fire Chief James Maher.

Flames spiraled skyward through the two-story structure, alerting the countryside which had been awakened by the sirens of speeding fire engines to the scene. Answering the call were the Maysville and Maysville Auxiliary Fire Departments, Lewisburg, May’s Lick, Aberdeen and the Mason County Rescue Squad. Sheriff Charles Brodt said Ripley agreed to a stand alert for Aberdeen while its volunteers were at the scene.

Also there were the Aberdeen Life Squad and a Brell ambulance.

Massie Motor Company (Brooke) responded to a plea to help move out of danger the auxiliary mobile classrooms. Richey Sales Co., said Robert Suit, the manager, then moved its back hoe to pull to safety the units for SEA, and reading lab trailer was insured for $4400 and the other for $2200. The third grade room pre-fab unit was attached to the building and suffered substantial damage. All materials and furnishings out of the third grade room were saved as were those of two other classrooms and the library.

Budig Trucking Co. volunteered trucks on which the salvaged furniture was stored. Verville Construction Company moved its crane to the site at 1:20 p.m. Its purpose was to shove in the west wall for fear it would collapse and injure spectators. Washington firemen were at the site until mid-afternoon still playing water on flaming, charred wood.

“When we got there, smoke was billowing out of the gym and when we opened the door to use the hose it exploded,” said one Washington fireman.

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