Grannie’s Memories – Firestarter…Seriously. That’s Not a Metaphor.

I'm so proud to have been able to call her my Grannie.

I’m so proud to have been able to call her my Grannie.

As promised, today’s post starts my “Grannie’s Memories” series. She wrote them down circa 1967* and these stories are what is inspiring my Work In Progress. She was born in 1923 and grew up in her father’s restaurant in Marietta, Ohio.

She doesn’t always tell how old she was in some of these stories. I imagine for this one, she was probably around 7 or 8 years old. One thing you need to know: her “rounds” is her going around to all the other businesses on her street to “help” them open for the day. 🙂

This is a map of where she’s talking about in this story and what it looks like today. I circled the area “in question.” 😉

Grannie's fire


The Set-Up

One summer day, I was all alone and no one to play with. I walked out the back door of our restaurant. The street in back of us was called Post Street. The big building there was called the St. Charles Hotel.  Miss Chrissie McCurdy – I think she was relation to our dentist – ran the hotel. I loved going into the lobby and looking at all the old-time things there.

Over at the desk along the wall was a container that had kitchen matches in it. I wasn’t allowed to play with matches, but that container fascinated me. I had watched an old gentleman go over and take one match out, strike it, and light his pipe. Miss Chrissie was always somewhere around, sometimes behind the desk or out in the dining room. I treasure now the pictures I have of me at that were taken with Miss Chrissie. Such a gentle lady.

Across the street from the St. Charles Hotel was the bank of the Ohio River. About a block down was the mouth of the Muskingum River where it joined the Ohio. On that point was a big building we called the Government Works. In the summertime, a man from there would mow the grass on the bank. A few days later, after the grass had dried, he would burn it off. I also remember in March or April, we would pick violets by the handfuls on that bank. We never had to go to the store and buy beautiful violets because they grew wild.

The Action

One particular summer day, after making all my “rounds,” I walked down to the St. Charles Hotel. No one was in the lobby. It was dinnertime, and they were all in the dining room or the kitchen. I walked on over to the river bank. The grass had been cut a couple of weeks before and it was still lying on the ground.

That morning, I had tried to come up with something I could do to help someone that day. Now, I was looking at the answer! I would burn the grass for that man and he wouldn’t have to do it!

I ran back over to the hotel lobby and no one was there. So I borrowed a couple of matches from the container on the wall and went back over to the river bank. I found a flat stone and struck one of the matches, but the wind blew it out! I struck the other match with my back to the wind like I saw a man do on the street one day to light his pipe.

In just a few minutes, the whole river bank burned out of control.

I don’t know who called the fire department. It could have been someone looking out a window of the hotel. I never saw so many people and fire engines in my life! I don’t remember if I ran home or if someone took me, but Dad met me at the door and that’s the first and only time he ever spanked me.

Thinking about it now, the whole block of Front Street could have gone up in smoke.  I’ll never know if Dad had to pay any damages or not. What I didn’t realize was only the dry grass on top burnt. Under that was wet. It had rained a few days after the man had cut it and that’s why he hadn’t burnt it yet.

I can think back then and know the Lord saved a great disaster by making it rain.


*I’ve done some minor editing for the purposes of this blog, mostly sentence and paragraph structure and some word choice. I probably should have taken out more exclamation points, but it makes me think of how animated she use to get telling the story. 🙂 But I added the headings.

I’d Love To Hear From You!

Have your grandparents ever admitted to causing such chaos? Have you? Have you ever “helped” too much?

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Filed under Grannie's Memories, Writing

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