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Yes, I Remember It Well
Phil Jarvis
Date: 3/8/00
Time: 10:52:57 AM

I was eight years old when the Richardson fire occurred. I remember being awakened by my father early that April morning and told there was a big fire at Southwestern College. My parents, two sisters and I piled into the car and headed toward the college. We lived on the corner of 7th and Cherry at the time, about ten blocks away. I remember as we pulled out of the driveway seeing an orange glow in the sky to the north and east. We drove up College Street and parked in front of where the Welcome Center is now located. A small group of people had formed already and we got out and joined them. The intensity of the flames were quite impressive to this eight year old. I vividly remember when the dome came crashing down in a shower of sparks; there was an audible gasp from the crowd at that moment. Several people were crying about the terrible tragedy which had befallen our community. We stayed perhaps an hour and then went back home. The next day we returned to the scene and saw the empty shell of the building, still smoking from raging inferno of the night before.

Can Fire Refuel?
From: Jim (C. James) Matthews, '55
Date: 3/9/00
Time: 10:21:50 PM

Our family lived on the property where the Winfield High School now stands. We watched from our three-story house as Richardson Hall burned to the ground, with nothing but a hull remaining. It was a terrible sight, even from that distance. I was a graduating senior from Winfield High School with plans to attend Southwestern College in the fall. Would there be a place for us? There was a question and a hope that unforgettable night. A place would be found for the Class of 1955, and the other classes that would attend that fall. The Class of 1955 was unusual, however, due to the drama that surrounded it. We began with a fire which almost moved us to another college or university. We ended, in May 1955, with a tornado that destroyed Udall and the home of The Rev. Giles Stagner, one of our graduating seniors. In between was an earthquake that occurred during Convocation in the Stewart Field House. Chairs bounced on the floor for a few seconds. Our class was marked by turbulence, but interspersed throughout our four years were many good memories. I shall never forget the completion of our new library. A human chain was formed to move the entire library of books and other items from Stewart Field House to the new library. The fire may have "refueled" us, but it was not the fire that saved us and rebuilt Southwestern College. It was the indomitable spirit shown by the students, faculty and staff that formed the human chain. It was a human chain in that present moment, that was carrying us and Southwestern College from a rich (and sometimes turbulent) past to a glorious future. Thanks be to God for giving us such a spirit.

Irony:  "Where's the Fire?"
From: Eldon Snyder
Date: 4/5/00
Time: 7:57:06 PM

On the Saturday morning assembly before the fire the faculty put on a skit that included a reference to a fire. My father, Murrel Snyder (now at Cumbernauld), was one of the faculty. As I remember the skit, the faculty were dressed as firemen and the line I remember was, "Where's the fire, where's the fire?" Does anyone else remember this skit? In addition to my father, I think Dean Monypenny was in it. Any remembrance of this? Eldon Snyder

Last Assembly in Richardson Hall
From: Jerry Wallace
Date: 4/17/00
Time: 1:45:58 PM

Eldon Snyder makes reference above in Irony: "Where's the fire?" to the last assembly held in Richardson Hall in which his father, Murrel Snyder, participated. Here is a report on that assembly from THE COLLEGIAN, vol. 55, no. 7, dated Saturday, April 15, 1950:


The enire student body was transported mentally to a highway near Barstow, Ariz., this morning at the faculty assembly at ten o'clock in Richardson ahll auditorium.

Two faculty "bums" read authentic inscriptions from the railing alongside the highway. From there the transients traveled to an Indian village where the Social Science and Natural Science divisions collaborated to entertain the tourist student body.

A Greek drama by Miss Helen Graham supposedly presented at an open air theater in Los Angeles was next inflicted on the student body. This dramatic production replete with a moaning chorus showed the combined efforts of the Language and Literature and Fine Arts divisions.

The next scene proved that Kansas after all is not so far from "sunny" California as some people think. The assembly's fianl scene was the crowning of the Queen of Who Cares What. Things like that happen in California as well as at Southwestern.

Interspersed among the between the lines of the enire skit were sharp comments on local and non-local events with bits of philosophy.

For the welfare of the rest of the faculty it should be said that the geniuses behind the whole thing were Prof. Gladwin Chaffin and Prof Melvin G. Scarlett who were responsibl.e for the writing of the script. Mrs. Sue Jean Covacevich and Miss Laura Ford designed the screnery, and Professors Creston Klingman and Bill Cloud cooperated on the sound effects. Mr. Klingman, Mre. Chaffin, and Miss Graham were in charge of propertiesd. Prof. Arnold Lynch played background musci on the organ. The entire faculty, expect Prof. Orcenith S. Smith who is away on the choir tour, participated in the production.

Winfield Became Our Campus
From: Donald D. King,'51
Date: 1/23/2002
Time: 11:29:28 AM

I was living on College Street at the time of the fire and the fire trucks woke us up as they raced by our housethat Saturday night,but not knowing where they were going, we went back to sleep. From that Time until I graduated in May of 1951 the entire city became our campus. I attended classes in UMC, Winfield High, the WNMH Nurses School,and the"new" maintenance garage on the college campus. After fifty years I am still amazed, and greatful, for the administration's ability to organize a new campus in a heart beat.

For more information contact:
Kaydee Riggs-Johnson
Southwestern College Office of Communications
100 College Street, Winfield, KS 67156
(620) 229-6343

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