So when exactly did our school newspaper, the Mainsheet, start? Back in 1937, when the school was still a small boarding school, the minute student body united to create the Foghorn, Chadwick’s first news publication. For this year’s 75th anniversary, we would like to commemorate major events in Chadwick’s history as seen through our the eyes of our “ancestors”: the student journalists of the Mainsheet.
In October of 1960, when Chadwick was still a boarding and day school, a violent fire surrounded the campus and burned parts of it. The following article appeared in the December 2, 1960 issue of the Mainsheet.
Replacement of the garages, trees, and shrubs destroyed last Oct. 1 by the canyon fire that did more than $50,000 estimated damage to the campus dominates rehabilitation plans disclosed this week by Commander Chadwick.
Volunteer planting of new trees and shrubs by students, alumni, and others as a memorial to the late Pierre Fatio, whose accidental death preceded the fire by only a few weeks, already is being organized.
Pierre’s beloved rose garden miraculously was untouched by the flames, which only slightly scorched in passing the roadside hedge of Chez Pierre.
The new and longer garage unit will be built along the northerly edge of the upper athletics field, and the main parking area adjoining Roessler Hall will be widened to the canyon rim where the old garages stood, Commander Chadwick said.
Property damage included, besides the garages, scorching of portions of the Ellis house and the senior girls’ dormitory plus water damage to the latter.
A jeep, a spray rig and other equipment of painting contractor Bud Tewell, and virtually all the possessions of teacher Tom Tyler except his MG and his boat were destroyed. Total loss was only partially covered by insurance, Commander Chadwick said.
The painting equipment had been stored in the grove which burned near the Ellis house, and Mr. Tyler’s effects, including his travel slides, college notes, and clothing, in the garages. He was in process of moving his living quarters.
Chief campus damage, however, was to trees and shrubs with which Chadwick began beautifying the campus more than two decades ago. This destruction, Commander Chadwick suggested, cannot be estimated in money.
A new gasoline service pump and scorched trees adjacent to Roessler Hall and Vanderlip Auditorium attest to the narrow margin by which Chadwick’s chief buildings escaped the leap-frogging flames. Failure of the gasoline pump to ignite when the neighboring garages were totally destroyed is regarded as miraculous.
Heroic efforts of Mr. Ellis and the few other faculty members and students on campus on this homecoming weekend [a weekend when boarding students went home] are credited with checking the spread of the flames until county firemen could join in the fight. Low water pressure almost negated their efforts, but an abrupt shift in the wind from westerly to northerly came to the firefighters’ aid.
The Chadwick plant, observers reported, then became an island in a sea of fire as flames enveloped the area, jumping Crenshaw canyon and ascending its southerly slope, where it destroyed one residence and damaged others.
The blaze, Mr. Ellis said, was first evident late Saturday afternoon as an apparently insignificant flicker in dead calm atop the canyon to the west. But, as though it had signaled for the afternoon breeze, the fire was soon roaring down and across the canyon before a strong wind, and within minutes, the garages were blazing. And, campus residents were fighting to save the school.
They were able to evacuate cars from the garages and furniture and personal effects from the senior girls’ dormitory and to partially wet down menaced buildings. Arrival of the professional fire-fighters, who chopped away burning parts of the dormitory roofs as they strove to build up water pressure with a pumper, tipped the scales in favor of this dorm, where Mr. Tellington had been working with a small hose line. School fire-fighting equipment had been kept in the garages.
Meanwhile, Mr. Ellis, having been assured safety of John Mueller’s vulnerable frame domicile and the stables and having assigned crews to strategic tasks, found his own house surrounded by the blazing trees and bushes. His freshman daughter Jean Ann’s presence of mind in closing all the windows is believed to have saved their house, as window glass cracked from the heat.
Mr. Wenrick, his wife and daughter removed to safety at the Hamners’, protected his house, just south of Chez Pierre, with a garden hose, as did P. G. Lee, playing another puny hose stream atop his roof as the fire roared past to cross the road into the Ellis grove.
Driving his burning jeep while he doused flames with a can of water, Mr. Hamner guided firemen to standpipes and strategic vantage points until chief danger was over.
As the flames leaped the entrance road above the gymnasium, firemen pumped water from the swimming pool and were able to keep the flames from the strip of evergreens below the main campus.
Mr. Cori, who with his wife lives in the house formerly occupied successively by the Bill Birds, the Ralph Mazzas, and Mrs. Spurr, also protected this property with a garden hose.
Other stalwarts in the emergency were seniors Jan Stillwell, Kay Stromberg and Sue Ellis, who evacuated furnishings and personal effects from the senior girls’ dormitory. Paul Mitchell, Duncan Lewis and Dennis Thompson, the only male students on the Hill, fought the fire ad evacuated cars at the garages where Tom Rucker ’59, is reported to have worked to near exhaustion. Several unidentified alumni home from college and day students living nearby also are reported to have raced to the scene and joined in the fight and/or in keeping sightseers off the premises, as did senior Gordon West and other students the following day.
Like others of the faculty and most of the student body, who were enjoying the weekend holiday, the Chadwicks were at Borrego Springs and only learned of the fire late Saturday night. They paid enthusiastic tribute at Monday morning assembly to Mr. Ellis and the others whom they credited with “saving the school.”