Hot August Eve

2015-08

HOT B y A m y K i l g o r e Ma n g u s august eve In 90 minutes, five Wrightsville Beach structures were destroyed by fire one hot August evening in 1948. Originating from an oil stove, the fire broke out around 3:30 pm, Tuesday, August 10, 1948. The flames fanned by a stiff southeast wind destroyed properties owned by J.J. Pae at 538 and 540 South Lumina Avenue and his Judy Apartments at 540 Waynick Boulevard. Luther T. Rogers’ 30-room Atlantic Inn at 542 South Lumina Avenue was also destroyed. Among the 15 occupants who escaped injury was J. Walter Cartier, the city of Wilmington’s administrative assistant, and father of Elaine Cartier Creasy. “I was only 12 years old at the time,” says Elaine Creasy’s brother-in-law, Al Creasy, “but I was at the fire.” While Creasy says he remembers nothing of the Atlantic Inn burning, he does recall seeing residents pushing mattresses out of third-story windows of nearby homes. A cottage owned by B.H. Thomason and family was damaged beyond repair at 536 Waynick Boulevard, and the residence of S. B. McGowan at 546 South Lumina Avenue was also damaged by smoke. The August 11, 1948, Wilmington Morning Star reported only one injury: a gash on the finger of Chief of Police W.R. Wiggs. This undated photograph, showing trolley tracks in the foreground, would have been taken before 1939 when trolley service to the beach ended. The Atlantic Cottage, later known as the Atlantic Inn, was destroyed by fire in August 1948. 84 WBM august 2015 Wiggs estimated the collat-eral damage to the real estate totaled $65,000, and doubled that figure to account for the loss of furnishings and personal possessions. For nearly two hours, fire-fighters from Wrightsville’s all-volunteer force and the Wilmington Fire Department battled the blaze. Al Creasy and his family lived about one mile north of the fire. Creasy’s older brother, Bill, who was eight years older, was dating his future wife Elaine Cartier at the time. She graduated from New Hanover High School in 1948. Her parents managed the Atlantic Inn at the time of the fire. All of her graduation gifts were in the inn and destroyed by the fire, Al Creasy remembers. North of the fire line, Jayne Keels’ grandfather, B.H. Thomason, owned a summer home. Her father, Bonner Thomason Jr., collected a series of images from the fire and often recounted the story of the fire to his children. “The story Daddy told us was the fire broke out and the fire department was having a fire department convention in Fayetteville, so there weren’t many firemen at the beach,” Keels says. The family’s oral history includes an embellishment missing from the Morning Star account: that her grandfather’s home helped stop the fire from spreading down the beach because of its asbestos shingled roof.


2015-08
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