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Fire Chief C.S. "Curly" Woomer became a fire victim himself in 1937, when several properties he owned or was a business partner in burned, causing thousands in damages ond lost goods.

The first picture I am sharing appeared in the Jan. 28, 1937, Western World under the headline: "Fire Chief Becomes 'Fire-Shy.'" It tells what C.S. "Curly" Woomer, the fire chief during the Bandon Fire of 1936, had gone through when it came to fire. Curly is inset in the photo of a fire at the Breuer Building in 1961, and he's the man in the hat running toward the building. At left you can see the Robertson's building, which is now home of Edgewaters restaurant. The boarded up Coast Guard station is at right. In addition to serving as chief from 1929 until 1939, Curly also served as fire chief from 1948 to 1951 before Carl Lorenz took over (1952-59). Carl was followed by Bob Schultz (1960-68) and Walt Ashton (1969-74) before present chief Lanny Boston assumed the job...47 years ago.

Here's what the writer (my grandfather) had to say about Curly, who died in 1967:

"Fire Chief C.S. Woomer is wondering whether his official position as chief of the local fire department has any bearing on his luck as a fire victim. If he were convinced that it had, he would immediately turn in his resignation to Mayor Ed Capps.

"In the fire of Sept. 26, which Chief Woomer and his men fought to the last ditch, he lost his half interest in the fixtures and stock of the Arcade Gardens, together with furnishings of his bachelor apartments; he lost a half interest in 200,000 trout at the Bandon Trout Mere, ready for the market and which would have been sold at a profit of some $15,000; also the trout butcher shop, grinder house and equipment and 40 tons of fish food valued at $40 a ton which was stored in the Drane cold storage plant.

"On the same day at the Page & Woomer sheep ranch, opposite Riverton, he lost his half interest in a barn with 50 tons of hay and oats, the entire fall clip of wool, between two and three hundred acres of range, and a mile of fencing. The total loss on the ranch amounted to some $4,000.

"The only insurance realized on any of this loss, which he and his partner, J.C. Page, suffered, amounted to $750, which was carried on the barn. Page also lost the Arcade building, uninsured.

"Last Thursday, just as the barn at the ranch had been rebuilt, the tenant occupying the house was heating a can of tar on the stove. The tar exploded and the house burned down, entailing a further loss of $1,500.

"Chief Woomer says he has heard of hunting dogs becoming gun-shy. He can fully appreciate their feelings, because right now he feels thoroughly fire-shy."

I am not sure the exact date of the second photo, but it was a fairly common occurrence in the early '70s when vandalism and burglaries seemed to go hand in hand with arson fires.

Here, police Chief D. S. MacDonald (back to camera) and State Police Detective Tom Benz look for clues amid papers which had been strewn around the school district office as Superintendent Otis K. Murray looks on dejectedly.

In January of 1974, an arsonist (Gary Lee Duncan) set fire to the high school, which was completely destroyed. A little over a year later, in March of 1975, Mr. Murray died of a heart attack as he worked tirelessly to get the school rebuilt.

The third picture features Mr. Murray, left, during a meeting with Congressman John Dellenback not long after the high school fire, when the congressman stopped by to offer his assistance and encouragement.

In the paper, which contained Mr. Murray's obituary, I wrote a tribute to him in my As I See It column. I am reprinting excerpts from that tribute. "If ever a man stood tall in the eyes of an entire community it was Otis Murray, whose death last week came as a terrible emotional blow to a town which has already suffered much more than it deserves.

"He looked like any other new administrator when he came to Bandon four years ago ....but Otis Murray was no ordinary man ... he was a giant among men ... and his kindness, compassion and understanding touched the hearts of all who knew him.

"Few people can fully comprehend the terrible strain that he was under following the burning of our school, but there was never a job too tough for Mr. Murray. He gave all he had and a lot more to keep our school system together during the months that followed.

"Now it's our turn to work even harder to make sure that his hopes and dreams are carried on.

"Burned buildings can be rebuilt and blown-down walls restored, but nothing can ever return him to us ... may God give us the strength to go on without him."

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I just happened to notice an item in the same paper as the Curly Woomer story which said that the program, scheduled to be given in Bandon by the Port Orford Players, had been indefinitely postponed on account of the influenza epidemic which had closed the schools.

History just seems to repeat itself ....

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It is hard for me to weigh in on the "Freedom, Faith & Family Festival" held Saturday in the parking lot of Dan and Mary Wilson's Restoration Worship Center on North Avenue, across Highway 101 from the Ray's shopping center because I did not attend, although I did drive by several times and saw big crowds of adults and children.

Facebook estimates range from Dan Barnett's prediction of 1,200 to Joseph Bain's estimate of 1,500 people in attendance. It would seem that people came and went throughout the five-hour event.

The theme of the event, according to a post on the Bandon Chamber's Community Calendar, was centered around the idea of "restoring constitutional freedom."

This was essentially what some of those associated with the event, including Rodney Taylor, Rob Taylor, Pastor Wilson and Maria Stadelman Merriam, said when they attended a city council meeting in December. They urged the council to allow our businesses to open up.

Billed as speakers included Patriot Prayer leader Joey Gibson, State Senator Art Robinson, Rob Taylor and State Representative David Brock Smith of Port Orford.

To clarify several misunderstandings, which seem to be circulating on Facebook and God knows where else, neither the Bandon Chamber of Commerce nor the city of Bandon endorsed this event. The chamber's policy concerning the community calendar was that any group could post their Bandon event to the calendar. The event was held on private property and required no permit.

A number of police officers stood by in case counter protesters arrived, and organizers told the officers they were welcome to attend the event. There were a few people standing on the sidewalk on the other side of the highway, but to my knowledge there was no disturbance of any kind.

*     *     *

There has still been no word from the county elections department as to which one of us (Laurea Arnoldt, Barbara Snyder or me) has won the write-in vote for the seat on the board of the Southern Coos Hospital District. We will know for sure by June 7, which is apparently the last date to certify the ballots. From what I've learned about the last board meeting, the sooner one of us is seated, the better it will be.

Although I am sure the law has changed, years ago voters would know who the incumbent was in each race because the name would be preceded (or maybe it was followed) by an I on the ballot. That way, as seems to be the case so often in recent years, if you don't know anything about any of the candidates, you would at least know who the incumbent was and vote accordingly.

Not sure why the law changed, or when that occurred, but I know for sure that when I ran for city council in the late '70s, you knew who held the seat in each race.

It would definitely be helpful today as local sources of news fade away, and there are no voter pamphlets in district elections. It becomes a guessing game .... or, in some cases, like playing Russian roulette.

*     *     *

A friend of mine in the county health department called my attention to the percentage of people who are vaccinated in each of the county's Zip codes, which showed that Bandon led the pack with 54.3 of our residents vaccinated.

Second highest was North Bend at 48.3 percent, followed by Lakeside at 46.5 percent and Coos Bay at 43.4 percent. Others were Coquille, 42.5; Myrtle Point, 34.5; Broadbent 25.5, and Powers, 20.8 percent.

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The hospital and the foundation have announced a new activity challenge titled "For the Health of Bandon," which will take place June 14-28.

It is a virtual challenge during which participants can do any activity that gets them moving and exercising. All they have to do is log their miles walked or hiked, the hours they spend golfing, surfing, playing tennis, gardening or doing yoga - or whatever activity they like to do.

This is a fundraiser for the foundation and will support things like  scholarships for local people, the drive-through free flu shot clinic and other benefits. Registration is $10 and covers an event T-shirt, a medal and a certificate. People can register at Teams are encouraged.


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