Prior to December 1, 1958, fire drills were not normal procedure, and in fact, were not held at all. No one knew how important fire drills were, even though they knew the dangers of fire, and just how deadly it was. Mainly, they did not realize just how important fire drills were to the safe evacuation of people from a burning building. Prior to that day, when there was a fire, those who knew about the fire ran, and most didn’t think about raising the alarm to let others know. This was especially true in schools, where in reality, fire drills were exponentially more important, because the drill made an emergency seem like just another drill, and could be carried out, before the smell of smoke even arrived in the rooms of the school. Prior to December 1, 1958, the schools had an alarm, but all too often, setting it off was the last thing on the minds of the people in charge…mostly due to their own panic. Later it would be determined that with practice, an emergency situation could be handled, and the people evacuated quickly, if the procedure was simply a practiced maneuver that everyone knew and automatically executed.
So, what led up to the fire drill revelation? Basically, it was due to a fire at a grade school in Chicago that killed 90 students on this day in 1958. Our Lady of Angels School was operated by the Sisters of Charity in Chicago. In 1958, there were well over 1,200 students enrolled at the school, which occupied a large, old building. In those days, little was done in the way of fire prevention. The building did not have any sprinklers and no regular preparatory drills were conducted. Those two factors combined, led to disaster when a small fire broke out in a pile of trash in the basement, and quickly burned out of control.
It is thought that the fire began about 2:30 pm. Within minutes, several teachers on the first floor smelled it. These teachers led their classes outside, but because it was never practiced, no one thought to sound a general alarm. The school’s janitor discovered the fire at 2:42 pm, and shouted for the alarm to be rung…but by then, at least ten precious minutes had passed since the fire started. Time to evacuate was quickly running out. Unfortunately, the janitor was either not heard or the alarm system did not operate properly. The students in the classrooms on the second floor were completely unaware of the rapidly spreading flames beneath them. It took a few more minutes for the fire to reach the second floor. By this time, panic had overtaken the students and teachers. Some panic stricken students jumped out windows to escape. I can only imagine the horror the firefighters must have felt as the roll up to the scene to find students hanging from the second floor windows, as they ran to try to catch them as they fell. Although the firefighters who were arriving on the scene tried to catch them, some were injured. Firefighters also tried to get ladders up to the windows. One quick-thinking nun had her students crawl under the smoke and roll down the stairs, where they were rescued. Other classes remained in their rooms, praying for help. There was no protocol…no routine…and for 90 students and 3 nuns, no chance of survival. Several hours later, when the fire was finally extinguished, the authorities found the 90 students and 3 nuns in the ashes of the classrooms. Sadly, it is the horrific “lessons” that trigger the quickest move to change, and this fire was no different. These days, when students hear the alarm…which is automatic when smoke is detected, they line up, and leave the school in a calm and orderly manner. Fire drills save lives.
Our family liked my nephew, Eric Parmely’s wife, Ashley from the moment we first met her. Ashley is an outgoing girl with a great sense of humor, and a practical, common sense way of doing things. We all felt like she fit right into our family from day one. Now, over three years after joining our family, Ashley and Eric have two precious little girls to make their family complete. Reagan is almost two, and Hattie is just a little over one month. In some ways, Ashley reminds me of a younger version of myself. She is very capable of handling those two little ones all by herself, and having kids doesn’t slow her down one bit. When many of the family members got together to hike at Garden Creek Falls recently, Ashley showed up with Reagan in one arm, Hattie in a front baby pack, and the two family dogs on leashes, and believe me, she had the whole situation under complete control, and packing around two little ones by yourself is a big job.
Ashley really has a way with children and animals that is just precious to watch. The family dogs, Ayva and Dixie are so well behaved that the leashes are really not necessary. I love watching such well behaved dogs. They are able to have the freedom to roam a little, but when they are called, they immediately return to their master. They don’t jump on people and don’t stay right in your face, but rather they spend time enjoying the outing and their favorite little girl, my grand niece, Reagan. I’m sure that Eric had something to do with the training of the family dogs too, but Ashley has been around animals all her life. Her family has horses, including miniature horses. Ashley loves them, and I’m sure that living next door to her parents allows her to be a big help to them too.
Ashley has taken that same gentle way with her daughters. Watching Reagan play, you can tell that she and her mom do things together, like yoga, reading, and raising little sister, Hattie. Ashley recognizes Reagan’s desire to help with all the things that need to be done for Hattie, and she patiently allows Reagan to be a big part of it. I love the closeness that Ashley and her girls share, and the closeness she is building between Reagan and Hattie. Reagan wants to be a part of it all, and that is important, so Ashley’s patience with that process is so great.
Eric and Ashley’s lives have become much more busy with the arrival of Hattie, and the construction they are doing in the basement of their home to accommodate the needs of two little girls. I know that their lives are only going to get busier as the girls move into their school years and all the activities that come with that, but for now, they can just relax and enjoy the fun and laughter that comes with being the parents of two little girls. Today is Ashley’s birthday. You are such a great mom. Happy birthday Ashley!! Have a great day!! We love you!!
Safely tucked away, in a closet in the basement of my home, sits a red box. It is a homemade hope chest, built by my dad, when I was a little girl. Dad built two of them, one for my sister, Cheryl and one for me. This was long before hope chests became popular again, or maybe they always were, and I just didn’t know it then. I loved that little hope chest. I suppose some people would have thought it plain, but it held a very special meaning to me. My daddy had made it for me, and told me that it was to keep my treasures in. The original paddle lock was lost long ago, and replaced with a new one. I have lost the key to that one, so now a bobby pin has to suffice. It really wouldn’t matter if it was unlocked, I suppose, because to most people it’s contents have no real value. It holds no gold, silver, or diamonds…just the treasures from my past.
When I opened it last night…the first time in a long time, I saw my girlhood treasures, like souvenirs from trips taken as a child, my first wrist watch, and cameo soaps I got from…who knows where. I saw my high school diploma, and my husband Bob’s, both in pristine condition. There were treasures from my children’s lives, like perfect attendance awards from church and preschool, pictures of our family at that time, cards sent to me on special occasions, and baby cigars from a number of different births…I don’t suppose anyone would want to smoke those now. There was a baby blanket I had been given, and high school pictures of my sisters and sisters-in-law. There are three model cars…remnants of Bob’s past, and a multitude of key chains from his years of collecting them. If you looked at these items, I suppose most people would think many of them to be worthless, but to me, they are treasures…they are my past.
I realize that I am a sentimental person, and that I save things with sentimental value. I have accepted this about myself. I know that many people don’t like to save things. They don’t like the clutter, and I do admit that it can create clutter. But, I don’t really want my world to be so free of my past, that it seems sterile. This isn’t an operating room, after all, it’s my life, and my memories. I like most of my past, not to mention, my family’s past, and I want to be able to see and remember it. That is simply who I am. I can think of so many fun times in my past…camping trips with my parents and sisters, hiking with Bob, vacations with our kids, just to mention a few. In my opinion, I have lead a very nice life, and I want to always remember that. As I looked through the contents of my hope chest, my mind drifted back to a time when my family was young. The years have gone by so fast. It made me feel a little bit sad.
The contents of my hope chest have changed over the years, as my hopes and dreams have changed. As a little girl, I had the trinkets of a little girl in there, and as I grew, the things in my hope chest grew to take in my new self. Once I was married, the hope chest became a memory chest, instead of a hope chest. which was designed to collect the things a girl would need for her wedding and marriage. I think I like the latest job my hope chest has, because memories come from a life filled with good things. And maybe that is a fitting end for a hope chest, because it does start out as the hopes and dreams of a girl, and ends up with the memories of a life well lived.