It’s Wednesday, March the 4th, 1908. The imposing brick edifice we’re looking at across Collamer Avenue in Collinwood, Ohio, is the Lake View School. That’s the front of the building, the east face.
Although the school is just kindergarten through sixth grade, some of the students are teenagers; up to fifteen years old. Nine teachers, all unmarried ladies, are on hand. We’ll learn their names in a bit.
The population of Collinwood has been growing rapidly. Lake View School was built in 1901. In 1906 the school was expanded from four rooms to eight. This year the third-floor auditorium/gymnasium has been converted to a classroom.
Here is the floor plan for first floor (the second floor is similar). East, the front of the building, is to the top of the plan. What is a teachers’ room on the left (the north) on the first floor is the library on the second.
And here is the floor plan for the basement. I beg your indulgence; why I am showing you this will be clear in a moment.
This is Miss Pearl Lynn’s first grade. They’re in the southwest corner on the first floor (the lower right on the floor plan).
Today, around 350 students are in the nine rooms. Look! It’s nine thirty in the morning.
And in an hour nearly half of the students will be dead, because we’re at the scene of the worst school fire in American history. More people will die here today than at either the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire or the Hartford Circus Fire.
The school design was a common one for small towns. As I sit here this morning there are two schools, dating from the same period (indeed, one has 1908 on its cornerstone) within thirty miles of me built on the same plan. The exterior walls are load-bearing brick. The interior is wooden construction with four load-bearing walls. The floors are wooden tongue-and-groove, polished with oil. The stairs are made of yellow pine, and are open at every floor. There are no fire doors.
Check the photo of the school above. The first floor is about level with the head of the basement windows. From the first floor to the second takes a set of stairs in two flights, with a landing against the outer wall. The same from the second to the third. From the first floor down to the basement, on the east, is again a set of stairs with a landing mid-way, but this landing has the exit.
The eastern and western exits have this form: Down the stairs, directly ahead and filling the archway, are two wooden partitions. The bottoms of the partitions are wood to about two feet above the floor, then glass windows above. The first partition is about three feet from the bottom step. Someone going down the east stairs would have to turn 90° to the right, then walk three feet, before reaching the double doors. That person would then have to turn 90° to the left to go out.
After making this second turn, three feet farther on, a second partition, and a second set of double doors, create a sort of air-lock against winter cold. This second partition is set about three feet back from the brick archway, to give the doors room to swing.
The west exit is similar, except that a person going down would have to turn to the left, go forward, then turn right to get out. There are no stairs continuing down into the basement on the west. Rather, the three-foot-wide passageway ends blind under the stairs that lead from the first to the second floor. This area is being used as an auxiliary cloakroom.
The short hallway that leads from the octagonal common hallway in the center of the building to the stairs is a bit over eleven feet wide. The stairs themselves are 5’ 8” wide, with banisters. Each of the double doors is 2’ 7” wide.
While we are setting our scene, pray note in the photo of Miss Lynn’s room the distance from the floor to the bottoms of the classroom windows.
Only a bit more scene-setting, I promise.
In addition to the exits through the eastern and western ground-level arches, there is an unenclosed iron exterior fire-escape on the north wall. Access is from an attic room on the third floor, through the library on the second floor, and through the teachers’ room on the first floor. The fire escape ends well short of the ground; anyone taking that route faces a seven-to-eight foot jump at the end.
The building has not been inspected by the state Fire Marshal, but such an inspection is neither required, nor common, for schools. The building was constructed according to code, and had been inspected and insured as an excellent risk just the year before.
The students have regular fire drills, with the last being in January. In the period since the most recent fire drill, a new kindergarten class has arrived. They are in the classroom on the first floor, in the south-east corner, under the tutelage of Miss Ethel Rose. The kindergarteners have only been in school for three weeks.
Up on the third floor, in the classroom converted from the auditorium, Miss Laura Bodey has a double-size fifth-grade class. Miss Bodey has only been working in the building for five weeks, and has never had a fire drill, nor has she been instructed in what to do in case of fire.
No one has ever drilled using the fire escape.
Which brings us back to the fourth of March, 1908. About an hour after school started, Emma Neibert, age 13, one of Miss Bodey’s third-floor students, was on her way to the basement washroom when she noticed something odd. The treads of the basement stairs were smoking.
Emma could see the school custodian, Fred Hirter, working at the furnace that supplied steam heat to the school’s radiators. She called to him to say that the basement was on fire.
Fred (or Fritz, depending on the source) Hirter was a thin man with a droopy handlebar mustache. He had only been the custodian of the school for two years. Before the building was expanded, his wife had been custodian while Fred helped her with the heavy work. He was an expert with furnaces, though; he had run similar steam-heating plants in greenhouses in Germany for sixteen years before he came to America.
Mr. Hirter took instant stock of the situation, and ran up the stairs, past Emma, and over to Miss Ruby Irwin’s first-grade classroom in the north-east corner of the first floor. The fire bell was located there: The fire signal was three strokes on the gong. That bell was connected by a wire to a similar bell in the room above on the second floor, so ringing one would ring them both. (There was no way to ring the fire bell from the basement, and there was no fire bell on the third floor.)
Emma Neibert, left alone at the front entrance, went outside and tied back the outer right-hand door. Then she went across the street to inform the first adult she found that the school was burning.
Back in the school, Fred’s youngest daughter was a first-grader in Miss Irwin’s room. He told her, “Hurry, Ella, go home,” then went back to the front entrance and ensured that the doors were all unlocked. He opened the inner doors, tied one of them open, then ran to the rear doors at the west side of the school to ensure they were unlocked and open. Then he headed back to the main entrance on the east side which was his post during fire drills.
The room directly above Miss Irwin’s room, in the northeast corner of the second floor, belonged to Miss Anne Moran, the school’s principal. She taught sixth grade. When she heard the fire-bell ring, she instantly knew that something was seriously wrong. She hadn’t ordered a drill.
On the first floor, Miss Ethel Rose lined her kindergarten students up in the classroom. When she opened the door, she too knew that something was wrong. The hall was filling with smoke. She turned to her class and said, “Follow me. Run as fast as you can.” Then she led the way down the front stairs. Not just smoke but open flames were coming up the basement stairs now. Miss Rose went past the doors and stood with her back to the basement stairway to keep her students from going too far and going into the basement. She was badly burned on her back, but stayed in place until the last of her students had gone by. Normally, the class would have mustered on the lawn outside of their classroom windows. But today, the kids scattered, running home. The front entrance was full of smoke and flame. Miss Rose headed around the south side of the school on the outside to see if she could help at the rear entrance.
Miss Pearl Lynn, the first-grade teacher in the south-west first floor classroom, recalled that the fire bell rang at 9:30 or perhaps a little after. She had just started a new lesson. She, as did her students, supposed this was a drill. After they were in line, she opened the door to lead them down the west stairs. And she too instantly knew something was wrong. The wind was out of the east, and with the east doors open, heavy black smoke was being blown through the hall. She led her first-graders to the back stairway and down.
At the foot of those stairs, after making the left turn, she noticed two things. First, that the right-hand inner door was locked. Only the left-hand door was open. The three-foot-wide passageway to the open was now six feet long. And second, some of the smaller children ahead of her had fallen. She stopped to give them a chance to stand up. The pressure of other children coming behind her knocked her down. Then more fell on top of her. She went unconscious.
In Miss Ruby Irwin’s first-grade classroom, north-east corner, first floor, after Fred Hirter had run out, Ruby lined up her students. When she opened the door, smoke and sparks were coming up the stairs. She and her students were supposed to follow Miss Rose and the kindergarteners down and out the front, before the bigger kids from the second floor arrived. Now the situation was evolving. Some of the first-graders ran down the front stairs. Others ran for the back stairs. Others, and Miss Irwin, retreated back into the classroom where she commenced dropping them out the windows.
Fred Hirter had gone back to the front doors, only to find them blocked by flame. He headed for the back doors, and discovered the stairs impassible, blocked by students. He went into Miss Lynn’s classroom, opened a window, jumped to the ground outside, then headed for the back door. Ella had gotten away, perhaps, but he still had three more children in the school.
Miss Rose herself was already at the back door. Of the inner double doors, the one on the left as you looked from the outside was on a spring that closed it automatically, with a spring-catch at the top of the door that automatically locked when the door closed. Miss Rose tried to open that catch, but was unable to do so. Soon, however, she was joined by Fred Hirter. Together they got the catch open, and the door open.
They were joined by Patrolman Wahl, a local police officer, and Mr. Dorn, a member of the school board. Wahl and Dorn spotted Miss Lynn lying on the floor inside the doors, and managed to haul her out. She lost her clothing somewhere in this evolution, but she was in the fresh air. Then Wahl, Dorn, and Hirter began hauling out children. Other bystanders joined them. But the students were coming down the stairs, tripping, and joining the tangled mass faster than the three men could clear them away. The left-hand door swung in again, and the catch locked. The pressure from inside bound it so that it could not be opened. Now the escape width from the western exit was just 2’ 7” and still more students were coming down those stairs.
Up on the third floor, Miss Laura Bodey, who had never had a fire drill in this building, had to make some fast decisions of her own. Smoke and hot gases were coming up the east stairway. When she looked over the banister down the west stairway, she saw that it too was impassible due to the crush of the students from the second floor.
Laura turned to her students and said, “Courage, children. Everyone in line. You will be safe. The fire escape. Girls first.”
She led the way and stood outside on the fire escape, lifting the students out, then followed them to the ground.
Collinwood had a twenty-man fire department. When the fire started, however, the horse team was about a mile away from the station, grading a road. By the time the firefighters arrived at the scene, greatly delayed by this circumstance, they found a crowd of parents outside the building. The Fire Chief was out of town, which added to the confusion. Then several more bad things became apparent: Their gasoline-fired pump was too weak to put water above the first floor. Some say the hoses were leaky. Their ladders were too short to reach the second floor. Axes would have been handy to take those partitions at the exits entirely out. And they didn’t have any axes at all.
When Police Chief C. G. McIlrath got the news by telephone, he commandeered a civilian vehicle and made his way to the fireground. There he found that he had to guard the firefighters from the crowd. The scene was turning ugly. Bystanders were fighting firefighters, fighting police, and fighting each other. Chief McIlrath enlisted some members of the crowd, who the newspapers described as “cooler heads,” to help him provide security and maintain order.
In those days the railroads provided disaster relief. They stockpiled supplies for rail accidents. When word of the fire reached the Lake Shore shops, where many of the parents were employed, the managers closed shop and sent stretchers, blankets, and other emergency gear. The Lake Shore’s surgeon, Dr. W. H. Williams, responded to the scene in person, to organize the use of the resources and provide what aid he could. He did his best, but effective methods of treating burns were still three decades in the future, the Incident Command System sixty years away, and emergency medicine, as a specialty, would not exist until seventy years had passed.
Inside the school, Miss Mary Gollmar made it down from the second floor to the first, but was stopped there by the flames at the front and the crush at the back. Students were leaping over the banister from the second floor stairs onto the mass at the foot of the stairs leading to the west door and attempting to swim across to the doors, only to have others land on top of them.
Misses Gollmar and Irwin went into Miss Fiske’s room in the north-west corner, and started throwing children out the window. When the room was clear, they tried to call others, but no one was listening. They jumped from the windows themselves.
On the second floor, Miss Moran and Miss Lulu Rowley lost control of their classes. “If I could have turned my line back,” Miss Moran said later, “they would have had a chance on the third floor, but they kept coming down, and we could not stop them. Men from the outside were trying to pull the children out, but they were crushed so tightly together that no human strength could clear a passageway. Dozens of them died within a foot of absolute safety.”
Misses Moran and Rowley went to the fire escape in the library to clear an exit from the second floor. When they were unable to open the window, Miss Moran threw a chair through it. Miss Mary Gollmar, whose fourth grade class was in the north-west corner of the second floor, unable to get her students to the rear stairs, instead directed them to the library and out the fire escape. She remained inside.
The Collinwood telegraph operator sent, “Send help. The Collinwood school is burning.” The Cleveland Fire Department responded from Engine 30 at East 105th St and St. Clair, 3.6 miles by road from the scene, with a 1904 steam pumper, a ladder wagon, and a hose cart.
A film from 1903, Life of an American Fireman. The equipment shown would have been very similar to what was available five years later at Collinwood.
One who did make it to the third floor and the fire escape there was Hugh McIlrath, 14, Police Chief McIlrath’s eldest son. Witnesses saw him leading a group of smaller children down the outside. But at the first floor level the little ones appeared unwilling to make the final jump. They re-entered the building. Hugh went in after them.
Elsewhere on the second and third floors, other students appeared at the windows. Three teenaged girls on the third floor anticipated the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire by holding hands and jumping together. All three died.
Downtown, at Fire Department headquarters at Academy St. and West 4th, Cleveland, a newspaper called and offered a car. Firefighter John O’Brien accepted their aid. He’d heard that students were trapped inside, and needed a rescue net to get out. When the car arrived, it was a closed-cab model and the net wouldn’t fit. O’Brien loaded the net on top of the car, then climbed up himself to sit on it. “Give ‘er hell,” he said. “It’s worth smashing the whole outfit to save one kid’s life.” It was over eight miles to the fire scene. It took him just under 19 minutes to get there. By the time he arrived….
At the back door, the situation had gone from life-threatening to non-survivable. Henry Sigler, a local resident, was trying to pull students out of the vestibule. “I might as well have been pulling on an iron ring set in concrete,” he said. “Another man helped me, but the two of us could do nothing. One could never believe bodies could be packed so closely together if he hadn’t seen it.”
But inside, two of the teachers were still working the rescue. On the first floor, Miss Grace M. Fiske, age 26, a young lady with a Gibson-girl bouffant and a humorous mouth, was on the move. She had the mixed first-and-third grade class in the north-west corner. Now she was finding children in the central area, carrying them to the nearest window, dropping them out, then going back for more.
On the second floor, Miss Katherine Weiler, daughter of a German Methodist minister, was in the west stair lobby. At 27 she had a high forehead and a thin, sharp nose topped with pince-nez glasses hung from a ribbon. She was very tall, standing 5’ 11”. She taught second grade and arithmetic, and was known for her strictness. Her room was in the south-west corner of the second floor. Now she was pulling children out of the crush at the stairs and pushing them toward the library, saying “Quiet, dear children, quiet. Go to the fire escape!”
The last time she was seen alive, her clothing was on fire, but she was still pulling children from the crush.
As the flames approached the windows on the first floor, Miss Fiske at last jumped out herself. She had two children wrapped in her skirts. She was taken by ambulance to the Glenville hospital.
The Cleveland Fire Department response was near, pushing their draft horses as fast as they would go. For the last mile they would have seen the pillar of smoke ahead to guide them.
Suddenly a shout of joy went up. The Cleveland fire fighters had been sighted, in the van the ladder wagon, with ladders that would reach those above. The driver was on his feet, lashing his horses into a mad gallop.
A hundred frantic men and women rushed forward to meet it. They did not wait for the apparatus to stop. The ladders were dragged off and eager hands carried them forward, but —
Again, in the hour of victory, the fire conquered. It had not been burning more than half an hour. There were still many precious lives that might be saved — they were in the windows above there, little ones, six years old, seven, eight, with arms outstretched. Ten minutes before there had been a chance.
Now, as the rescuers were in the act of rearing up the ladders, there came an ominous roar, a burst of flame, a shower of sparks, and the floors of the building collapsed.
The rescue operation was over.
With the wooden interior collapsed into the basement, and with the more powerful apparatus from Cleveland on scene, aided by firefighters from the rail yard, the fire was quickly knocked down.
Miss Fiske died in the hospital about noon.
By 1:30 pm the fire was out. Of the 350 in the building that morning, only eighty were uninjured, the majority of them from Miss Rose’s and Miss Bodey’s classes. All but three of Miss Lynn’s students were dead.
The bodies of the children were taken by ambulance, three at a time, to a temporary morgue set up in Lake Shore railroad’s General Storekeeper’s warehouse. By nightfall 165 had been recovered. The bodies were laid out in rows of ten, each one covered by a woolen blanket and a tag noting the sex of the body. Each row was guarded by a railroad employee and a police officer. Relatives were let in, in groups of ten, to try to identify their children. Outside, men from undertakers’ establishments shoved their arms through the railroad yard’s fence, trying to push business cards on the families waiting their turn to be called.
As each body was identified, the woolen blanket was replaced with a cotton sheet, labeled with the name and address of the victim. Miss Weiler’s body was identified because her bones were so much larger than those around her.
Twenty doctors and nurses stood by upstairs to aid the viewers who were overcome by the scene.
A hundred young women from the Cleveland YWCA arrived to tend the injured and help families make funeral arrangements.
And companies that made picture postcards arrived to make souvenirs. Many if not most of the pictures we have of this event are from those postcards.
First, the interior of Lake View School, on the day of the fire; the wreckage is still smoldering. Notice how small the interior is. The school’s footprint was only 66 by 84 feet. Second, the burial of nineteen children who were never identified. Third, the Cleveland Fire Department on a practice run. The footage of the Cleveland Fire Department was shot by a Biograph cameraman named Billy Bitzer. Bitzer went on to fame as D. W. Griffith’s cinematographer.
From the Cleveland Public Library description of the film:
The camera first peers into the smoldering building from the rear (west) entrance, where most of the children perished. In the basement can be seen the wreckage of the heating system and other debris. A man comes into view and can be seen walking around the debris. The camera then makes a second sweep over the disaster scene. Straight ahead, looking east, one can see a building across Collamer (East 152nd) Street through the front entrance. The next scene shows the view from the front door looking west to the rear door. Men can be seen standing in the smoky haze, peering into the wreckage. The iron beam that supported the front stairs is in the foreground. The fire started below this beam and it can be seen to be badly charred.
The Collinwood School Fire film was shot as the fire smoldered by twenty-three-year-old William Hubern Bullock, a moving picture operator at the American Amusement Company (716 Superior Avenue, N.E., Cleveland), who had rushed to the scene of the fire on a streetcar with his motion picture equipment. A week later he was showing the film in the American Theatre until Cleveland Police Chief Fred Kohler, responding to public indignation, “invited” him to cease and desist. The film was discovered in the archives of the Motion Picture, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound division of the Library of Congress in 2008. It is believed that recently discovered footage represents only a portion of what was originally filmed.
Something else happened while the fire was still smoldering: Finger-pointing began. Rumors spread. That the doors opened inward. That the doors were locked.
Then an uglier word arose: Incendarianism. Arson. That night Fred Hirter locked the doors of his house. The rumors were printed as truth in the next morning’s New York Times.
Hugh McIlrath, the teenager who was last seen re-entering the building to get smaller children, was still missing. At 6:00 pm, Chief McIlrath left the fire scene and went over to the Lake Shore warehouse. He came out a little later, and said, “It’s Hughie.” Then he went back on duty at the scene of the fire. He remained on duty far into the night.
Around 8:00 pm the identified bodies were being carried by ambulance to their homes. The houses where a child lay were marked by a white ribbon on the door. Some houses had one white ribbon. Some had two. Fred Hirter’s door knob had three white ribbons.
At midnight only fifty-six bodies were still unidentified. They were moved to other temporary morgues, this time at the town hall and the fire station. And children continued to die in hospitals and homes. Burn injuries and crush injuries are progressive. The last victim died three days later on the morning of March the 7th.
By the end, the toll was 172 children and two teachers for a total of 174. One account mentions that a rescuer also died, but I have been unable to discover that person’s name, or the circumstances of his or her death.
Mr. Burke, the county coroner, convened his inquest in the town library at midnight on the night of the 4th. He had the power to call witnesses and compel testimony, and he wanted to get that testimony while memories were still fresh. Prosecuting Attorney McMahon and Assistant Prosecutor Carey sat in, in an unofficial capacity.
By morning, only 21 bodies were unidentified. Families that had lost a child but were unable to recognize the corpse were allowed to just pick one. When that was done, 19 remained unclaimed. At the same time, the surviving teachers were going door-to-door, taking a final roll-call. All the records had been lost. The final casualty list owes its existence to them.
The Ohio General Assembly voted $25,000 to cover the cost of burials. The Collinwood Board of Trade supplied an additional $3,000.
The finger-pointing continued. The City Council was blamed for tabling a motion to upgrade the fire department. The School Board was blamed for the overcrowding in the school, and for poorly planned and executed fire drills. The architects had recommended three fire escapes; to control cost the school board had only installed one. The town in general was blamed for voting down annexation and bond issues. The outcome of the inquiry, though, was that no person or agency was to be held accountable under existing laws and regulations, and that the cause of death was the students’ own panic.
A parent assaulted Fred Hirter. Chief McIlrath assigned Fred a police guard. A crowd gathered outside of Fred’s house. The police guard was doubled. The crowd became a mob of over five hundred. Chief McIlrath called for half-a-dozen officers from Cleveland to assist.
The funerals commenced on Friday morning. There weren’t enough hearses in the Cleveland area to support them all. Streetcars draped in white were pressed into service.
And even as the funeral processions rolled in Collinwood, a school fire rolled in New York City. Which ended without casualties. Wide corridors and fire doors were credited with the happy outcome. But before New Yorkers could congratulate themselves too much, the Fire Chiefs of the city wrote a letter saying words to the effect of, “You were lucky this time. We have a hundred Collinwoods waiting to happen.”
The nineteen unknowns were buried on Saturday. Grace Fiske was buried beside them.
She had not died in vain. Change was coming. Schools were brought under the purview of the Ohio State Inspector of Workshops and Factories, and the inspector was given ten additional deputy inspectors to help carry out his duties. All future school construction was to be approved by the Chief Fire Inspector.
As a result of the Collinwood disaster, the authorities of Buffalo have taken up the matter of arrangements for safety in the various public schools in case of fire. It has been found that in several schools doors open inward. Steps will be taken to make conditions safer in several of the city schools..
One of the indirect results of the terrible Collinwood school fire has been the rousing of public school authorities, thruout the country, to take measures for the greater protection of children from similar danger. The schools of Chicago were closed for two weeks for the alteration of doorways or the repair of fire-escapes. Similar measures are being taken by nearly all other cities in the country
—The School Journal, volume 75, page 690, April 1908
When the Fire Marshal produced his report on the fire, he did not state what the cause was, but speculated that it was caused by a badly insulated furnace pipe passing too close to a wooden joist, drying it, and eventually kindling it.
Within a year laws were passed that mandated frequent, adequate fire drills, fire-safety instruction for children, and thirty minutes per month of classroom time to be devoted to teaching fire rules to be developed by the Fire Marshal.
Throughout the country, reaction to the Collinwood fire led to condemnation of unsafe buildings, relocation of furnaces to safer locations, alteration of exit designs and fire-escape designs, and the installation of panic bars on the exit doors of public buildings.
The last casualty of the fire was the town of Collinwood. Two years later it became part of Cleveland.
The school’s shell was demolished; a garden was built on the site. A new school, Collinwood Memorial, was built next door, designed to be as fireproof as possible. It remained in operation until the 1970s before being abandoned, and demolished in 2004. Reportedly, Memorial School was haunted, with a light that could be seen moving through the second floor before disappearing. Those who entered the building at night claimed that they felt cold spots, and could hear the distant screams of children.
A new school, also called “Memorial,” was built on the site of the old Memorial school.
Google maps showing the location today. (Corner of Lucknow Ave and E152nd St, Cleveland.) Look to the north-east of Memorial School to find the site of the Lake View School. The raised garden in the memorial park marks the rear exit where most of the children died. The original memorial garden had a pool where the rear exit had been. Over the years it fell into neglect. Many years later, before the new park with the raised garden was built, a woman, disgusted with the trash that had accumulated, spent the day cleaning the site. As she was preparing to leave at the end of the day, she felt the hands of numerous invisible children tugging at her clothes.
Residents of the area still report the ghosts of children in old-fashioned clothing appearing in their homes.
Many more photos of the Lake View School and the events surrounding the fire.
The memorial at Lake View Cemetery
“Suffer the Children,” a Powerpoint presentation
The Cleveland Leader, 5 March 1908
The primary document I relied on for this narrative is
Complete Story of the Collinwood School Disaster
And How Such Horrors Can Be Prevented
By Marshall Everett
The Well Known Author and Descriptive Writer
Full and Authentic Story Told By Survivors and Eyewitnesses
Embracing a Flash-light Sketch of the Holocaust,
Detailed Narratives by participants in the Horror,
Heroic Work of Rescuers, Reports of the
Building Experts as to the responsibility for the
Wholesale Slaughter of Children
Memorable Fires of the Past, Etc., Etc. Dangers
in other School Buildings all over the United States.
Profusely Illustrated with Photographs of the scenes of death,
before, during and after the Fire.
Cleveland, Ohio, The N. G. Hamilton publishing co., copyright 1908
The book contains many anecdotes both pathetic and grotesque. Those who are seeking the grotesque or pathetic may find them there. It is also self-contradictory and poorly organized; names of the participants are spelled in various ways, (for example, the author is unable to remember if it was Ruby Irwin or Ruby Irvine who taught the first-graders and cannot decide if the second-grade teacher was Miss Catherine Weiler or Miss Katherine Weiler); Miss Pearl Lynn is sometimes called Rose Lynn (apparently conflated with Miss Ethel Rose), and Miss Mary Gollmar is sometimes called Katherine Gollmar (apparently conflated with Miss Katherine Weiler)). But it also contains huge masses of direct quotation. If two people were at the same location, Everett quotes them both, verbatim, extensively. It is also clear that, while the coroner’s report has gone missing over the years (the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) is looking for a copy, if anyone knows where to find it), it is obvious that Everett had a copy and worked from it in certain sections of his book.
Ash Wednesday by James D. Macdonald is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License.
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