Before you consider cheering, read first about the persistent journalists and other Star employees and the entire community who dug in and made sure the Star missed not a day of publication.
The damage was done, but faith in their community was not misplaced
When fire destroyed the plant of the Arizona Daily Star
Long ago a fire gutted the offices of the Arizona Daily Star. It wasn't the first, nor would it be the last.
But the community — that of Tucson and that of newspapers in general — came together to help. Even 84 years later, it is heartwarming to read of the generosity of others in helping move equipment, securing office space and offering printing press time.
Such generosity has been felt by the Star since, most notably in 1982, when a transformer explosion severely injured some employees, ultimately causing one death.
When push comes to shove, we can still count on others.
With the exception of the final article in the series, these article ran in the Arizona Daily Star Dec. 19, 1933, the day following the morning fire. The editorial at the end ran Dec. 20, 1933.
STAR CARRIES ON AFTER SERIOUS BLAZE
HELP OFFERED TO STAFF BY MANY FRIENDS
Explosion of Kerosene Drum Sprays Fire Over Basement
Machinery Ruined As Heat and Flames Lick Shop
The building at 33 West Congress street occupied by The Arizona Daily Star, the New York Jewelry Exchange, La Nopalera studio and Weaver-Zeh Candy company burned yesterday morning, the loss running well over $60,000.
The loss to the Star — the entire plant of which was made a charred shambles — was covered by insurance.
The fire, the largest and most disastrous in the downtown area in 20 years was reported a few seconds past 8 o’clock yesterday morning, two boxes being pulled and a report also being made by telephone.
Within a minute or so the hook and ladder and hose trucks of the Central station were at the scene of the blaze. As fast as they could be placed in position to fight the flames the Northside and Menlo park equipment and men were called by Chief Joe Roberts.
With one exception — the Kite block fire 20 years ago, when Chief Jack Boleyn died amidst the flames — it was Tucson’s worst downtown fire.
To all appearances it started in the basement of the building, spreading through the tinder-like interior and devastating the building. It was so hot that metal type-cabinets were melted in places and an eight-inch double girder supporting the roof was twisted out of position.
Johnson Heard Blast
Douglas Johnson, janitor, was working in the building just before 8 o’clock when he heard an explosion from the basement. The next thing which happened was the appearance of flames up the elevator shaft two floors above the basement. Johnson left the building. Boys in the street began yelling fire.
Almost simultaneously Patrolman E. O. Faustman, talking over his beat, noticed the flames bursting through the front windows of the building-in the next few seconds the fire was reported from box 16 at Church and Congress, which Mrs. Patsy Sutton of Patsy’s soft drink stand pulled three times. Faustman at almost the same time pulled the box at the corner of Congress and Stone three times and the headquarters station equipment and men answered the calls.
The flames in the meantime had spread throughout the basement, where charred beams were mute evidence of the terrific hear; up the elevator shaft and between partitions to the first floor, where closed doors impeded its progress horizontally; thence to the second floor where it spread into the composing room, the advertising room and eventually the editorial offices and where it warped walls, fused metal cabinets, ruined a portion of the files and in general destroyed everything with the exception of some minor pieces of equipment and the bound files of the paper. Rescuing of the bound files—which are unduplicable—was accomplished with only minor damage from soot and water.
Papers Offer Aid
As soon as the fire alarm spread assistance was offered The Star by other newspapers in the state, by individuals and firms upon which any newspaper must depend to keep operating. General Frank H. Hitchcock, publisher of the Tucson Daily Citizen, placed his entire plant at the disposal of The Star as soon as he heard of the fire. P. G. Beckett, publishing the Bisbee Review, offered the Review’s assistance in generous terms, as did H. R. Sisk on behalf of The Nogales Herald, and Charles Staffer of The Arizona Republic-Gazette.
The Star immediately moved to temporary offices in the Old Pueblo club building, occupying the rooms formerly occupied by the L. Rosenstern company. There last night the editorial, business and mechanical departments were housed until new permanent quarters can be provided.
Radio station KGAR, through Harry Herman, its announcer, made the announcement as soon as the fire was found and continued it throughout the morning that The Star would publish this morning as usual.
Assistance in moving equipment was rendered by the Tucson Transfer company and by many volunteers as the Star staff adjusted itself to the emergency. Mrs. Isabella Greenway, congressman from Arizona who recently returned from Washington, went immediately to the scene of the fire and extended to The Star publisher, William R. Mathews, her own offer of any assistance she might render.
What plans might be made in regard to the building or as to where The Star might be located in the future had not been made last night. C. W. Withers, Phoenix, underwriters’ representative, inspected the fire-razed building with Chief Joe Roberts of the fire department and E. D. Herrerras, building inspector.
Roof Saved Theatre
Herrerras said that the only thing which prevented the blaze from spreading to the Fox theatre was the 55 pound Johns Manville asbestos roofing which tops the great auditorium. Herrerras praised the Fox theatre construction and attributed to its ficre-proofness the fact that the entire downtown area was not endangered. Had the flames spread to the Fox the entire Tucson fire department might nit have been able to have controlled the flames, he said.
Lee W. King served coffee to firemen during the cold hour and a half while they were fighting the blaze, and at noon the editorial and advertising staffs had lunch together at the Old Pueblo club while the remainder of those who had helped during the morning lunched at the French cafe.
Fireman Fred King was injured to the extent of a cut hand, received when glass broke around him. This has been the worst year in the history of the department for injuries to firemen, according to Roberts.
Those who fought the blaze were Chief Roberts, First Assistant Chief Hilles, Assistant Chief McNeil, Captains Freeman and Chappell, Lieutenants Siebert, Nidever, Goudy, Urich and Freeman, and Firemen Knight, Benedict, French, King, Bouschet, Francis, Whitfield, Mikola, Tormey, Beck, Darwin, Clauberg, Mazon, Fuentes, Pender, Grant, Murray, Black, Conrad, Redmon, Shook and Schmidt.
In the basement of the building, from which point the flames began devouring the building, a charred rag pile and an exploded kerosene can told how it apparently happened. Combustion began evidently among the rags and the explosion of the kerosene in the big drum threw flames to every portion of the basement. The elevator shaft provided a natural flue for the flames to course upward.
In the composing room heavy machinery such as the metal pot, linotypes, type cases, turtles (steel tables upon which the pages are made up) and a 5 1/2 ton mat roller threatened to collapse the flooring under them. A watchman was placed over the building last night to keep out the curious. Herrerras said that further inspection would be necessary to determine what would have to be done in rebuilding, but that it was his opinion that every wall would have to be torn out with the exception of those which compose the Fox theatre. All other walls were weakened and many were bulged dangerously.
In La Nopalera studio, the Weaver-Zeh candy store and the New York Jewelry Exchange stocks were ruined and walls were soaked with water. No fire got there, however.
Organ Gets Smoke
The Fox theatre was undamaged except for smoke and damage to the great organ. The show went on on the Fox yesterday afternoon, Manager Roy Drachman being able to assure his patrons that they were safe within the theatre walls. Smoke was cleared out with the ventilating system and by six o’clock last night the final traces had been removed from the loge section and the entire theatre was operating just as though its neighbors never had experienced the fire.
Manager A. A. Sundin of the Mountain States Telephone company, Manager William C. Miller of Postal telegraph, and Manager Eugene Adams of Western Union extended immediate assistance in re-establishing communication for The Star and by the time The Star’s 5 o’clock shift went to work the business of getting out a paper was well under way.
The Tucson Gas, Electric Light and Power company cooperated fully. Electric lights and gas were cut off immediately the blaze was discovered. Chief Roberts and Building Inspector Herrerras found no evidence of support one rumor which was spread during the morning — that the fire began from gas lines around the metal pot. The cooperation of the utilities company was thorough and no doubt helped prevent disastrous spreading of the blaze, it was stated. Manager M. A. Pooler personally extended his company’s assistance.
The Star’s carrier boys declared a holiday from everything else and all chipped in their help in moving equipment out of the building. Without their aid, which was entirely voluntary, the moving probably would not have been accomplished before nightfall. As it was the bulk of The Star equipment which was salvaged had been moved to the Old Pueblo club rooms by noon.
The time of the blaze found the majority of the editorial staff in bed, it being too early for the night workers to be out.
Star Being Published From Offices of Tucson Citizen
This edition of The Arizona Daily Star was published through courtesy of the Tucson Citizen. Long before the fire which damaged the Star building had been brought under control, the entire mechanical facilities of the Citizen were offered to the Star, and the offer was immediately accepted.
In the meantime the entire news, office and mechanical staffs of the Star were at work; new quarters at Stone avenue and Jackson street had been provided and the process of moving in order that this edition might be published on time was begun. By 4 o’clock in the afternoon the task, while far from complete, had reached a stage where the editorial department could begin to function and this edition is the result.
The almost unbelievable accomplishment was made possible through the cooperation and the telephone company, the Tucson Transfer company, the Associated Press which rushed a telegraph printer expert from Douglas to set up the telegraph machines in their new location, the Russell Electric company, and a host of loyal employees.
The telephone number in the new location is unchanged, 2400. All departments of the paper are in the same location can can be reached at that number.
Fire Had Funny Side, Even While It Burned Heaviest
The fire did have its funny side, as most tragedies do. Mrs. Max Bloom, wide of the proprietor of the New York Jewelry Exchange, sought to enter the building while it was burning. Police and firemen thought otherwise and forbade it. Mrs. Bloom decided to enter anyway. Unable to stop her by any more pacific method, the foremen turned a stream of water on her. She surrendered.
Monte Mansfield offered the Star staff the use off his parking lot just across the street for the new temporary offices. Employes used to finding a parking place at the court house and not being familiar with the new location, jumped at the opportunity.
W. R. Mathews, publisher, drove past the building less than a minute before the fire was discovered. A half block behind him Miss Lois Whisler, riding in another car with her brother, noticed the awnings on the second floor of the building were afire. By the time Mathews and Miss Whisler had parked their cars and reached the building it was a mass of flames.
Elevators in the Consolidated Bank building stopped without warning. The building superintendent got bawled out. But it wasn’t his fault. The light company had turned off the power in order to disconnect its high current cables into the Star office. The stoppage was not for more than two or three minutes.
Among the things saved from the flames were two fire extinguishers.
Chuck Kinter, sports editor, will continue to get his exercise. He saved a set of chess men and a chess board.
Grover C. Linn, assistant shop foreman, informed the editorial staff that all the rubber type was burned up.
Editorial dignity was all shot to pieces for Talbot T. Smith, managing editor. One of the few pieces of editorial room equipment which turned up missing was a castor from his chair.
And somebody left a piano in the building which the paper took over. There was some talk of starting a night club but everybody was too busy.
Miss Evelyn Ventley, home demonstration agent, missed a bet when she failed to get some of her 4-H girls to the scene of operations to witness the demonstration of practical housekeeping staged by Mrs. William R. Mathews. Mrs. Bernice Cosulich, Miss Lois Whisler and Mrs. G. W. Deitz.
Fighting the Christmas rush, post office clerks worked through the day and at least one of them did not hear of the fire until 6 o’clock last night.
Fellow publishers were quick to offer their assistance in time of trouble. Frank Cordis volunteered the entire facilities of the Tucson Citizen and its was accepted. H. R, Sick, publisher of the Nogales Herald, telegraphed:
“Sorry for misfortune. If our plant can be of service to you, it is at your disposal.”
P. G. Beckett, secretary of the Phelps Dodge corporation, publisher of the Bisbee Daily Review, sent the following telegram:
“Very sorry to hear of your serious fire loss which is certainly tough luck. If the Bisbee Review can be of any assistance to you in any way whatsoever in this emergency I hope you will call on Moore (Folsom D. Moore) or myself as we will be more than happy to help in any way possible. Regards.”
Following a habit born of many rainstorms, the fire department sent a pumper to get the water out of the pit under the press in the basement, but its line wouldn’t reach, so the city sent a compressor to do the mopping-up job.
The admen refused to take it too seriously. Their dummies, supplied to the editorial department at suppertime, were dated “Thursday A. F.” and it was explained that “A. F.” meant “After the Fire.”
Deputy Sheriff Charles Velasco and Judge C. V. Budlong used the fire as the basis for a practical joke on Hank Squire, Tucson Citizen reporter. Hank was “arrested” and charged with starting the blaze.
The joke was predicated on a casual gathering the night before in the sheriff’s office at which both Velasco and Budlong were present. At that time in a general round of joshing, Hank took occasion to warn a member of the Star staff that he (Hank) was prepared to scoop the Star tomorrow, sure.
Budlong and Velasco reminded the reporter of the incident, telling him things looked pretty black for him. Hank could not remember exactly what he had said and it took him some time to convince himself that the accusation really was a joke.
You can’t get out newspapers without typewriters, and some 17 of those belonging to the Star were soaked out of commission. Herroway Brothers came to the rescue, working all night in reconditioning the 17, delivered one at a time as completed to the new offices.
Paper Must Come Out, Fires and Floods to the Contrary
The paper must come out.
As walls buckled, roofs came jarring down and a blackened and burned mass remained where once were the offices and plant of the Arizona Daily Star; while apparent chaos and confusion were mingled with wearying fireman, smoke, water, wreckage and pandemonium — ever present in the minds of the entire staff of the Arizona Daily Star, from its executive head to the smallest newsboy, was one all-important fact: The paper must come out.
By half past one o’clock yesterday new garters in the Old Pueblo club building were occupied and the news, advertising and office staffs, were going “business as usual” albeit with somewhat besotted tools of their respective trades.
But to go back, this orderly removal of the seemingly wrecked and ruined building, contents and organization, had its beginnings in the very earliest reports of the fire. There were three alarms from 8:01 to 8:30 a. m. and, before the third, the Star was being moved.
There was no dearth off helpers; all or nearly all of the Star newsboys, shock troops in times of extras and loyal to the paper 24 hours of the day, turned up mysteriously from the four corners of the city. Most, hearing of the disaster, “cut” classes and fled school for their beloved Star. A visiting newspaper man stood on the curb, across the street and wondered out loud, “My God, I wonder if they’ll save the morgue” (newspaper parlance for the files, mats, cuts, art work and obituary records and data which are only compiled by untiring drudgery over the years).
And the morgue was saved, somewhat besmudged its true, and saved for the most part by newsboys working under their boss, Gilbert Acosta, who is also their hero.
Up in the wrecked and smoking editorial room two inanimate objects, also embed with newspaper tradition carried on. On the wall the old clock, at 9:25 with the whole place a shambles, was still on the job striking off the minutes. In the center of the floor, with all the aplomb of a dowager, the office stove (recipient of many a muttered curse in previous seasons) soaked away, a small fire in its middle, seemingly above such mundane tribulations as devastating fires all around.
In the composing room, where the greatest hear of flame and damage of fire were concentrated, linotype operators waded through smoking embers to gaze upon their ruined machines. Down stairs, precious office records were hastily removed to the new emergency location.
The Happy Day editor heaved a sigh when she learned that her mail and the Happy Day library were intact. Asking about the annual Christmas party and “would it be” she was answered “of course.” For the paper must go on.
Another reporter, charged with the daily feature, “ten years ago” wailed over the loss, through fire, of 10 days “copy” laid up for the next ten days, following much research from the files.
And, greatest breath of relief of all, the files were saved. For the files of a newspaper are the one irreplaceable property. Only smoked and smudged on the outside, the sacred files were all rescued.
Attracting as it did a large body of the populace, the fire received a visit from Mrs. Isabella Greenway, Arizona’s congresswoman, who also paid her respects to the still very new and extremely mussed up emergency office quarters in the Old Pueblo club.
Offers of aid came from all quarters and many, in all sincerity and fearing that the fire spelled the death of the Star, even offered jobs mingled with condolences, to members of the staff. And relief lighted many faces that had asked the question “Will we get the Star tomorrow,” and head the answer, “Why, of course.”
For despite all appearances to the contrary, there was no Phoenix-bird rising from the flames. Flames had destroyed the physical property, true, but the Star was still very mjuch alive. It was a bother and a nuisance. Every function was delayed for several hours, and everybody’s hands got quite dirty, to say nothing of everybody’s clothing.
But there was not the slightest inkling in anybody’s mind. Would the Star come out in the morning? Why, of course.
The paper must come out.
A Newspaper's Biggest Asset
The fire that destroyed The Star's plant gives a vivid illustration of the fact that the real value in a newspaper lies not so much in its mechanical plant, but in its organization composed of men and women. While the fire was still burning the entire organization of the paper with scarcely an order began to function. The temporary quarters in the Old Pueblo club building were secured, trucks from the transfer company were ordered, and then all employes began rescuing from the smoke and water filled business and editorial offices records, files, chairs, desks and typewriters. In this work Star carrier boys did remarkable work. From ten in the morning to six in the evening everybody worked and functioned like a smooth running machine. As a result by Monday evening the new offices were established and the business and editorial offices functioning in a normal manner. Monday night the editorial department went about their work on blistered water soaked desks as though nothing had happened, although they were worn out by the day's exciting events and strenuous work.
Words cannot express the pride the editor and publisher takes in possessing such a loyal, intelligent organization, or the appreciation that is due such loyal, efficient work. The test of any organization is its ability to meet a real emergency. No group of employes anywhere could have functioned better and smoother than did those of The Star in conquering Monday's disaster.
All of this shows that the most valuable part of a newspaper is its organization of men and women, thoroughly competent in their profession, and inspired with devoted loyalty to their paper. Needless to say, the editor and publisher is intensely proud of all of them from the smallest carrier boys on up to the various department heads who worked together like a smooth running machine.