On this page we will look back at life in the city during the war years. Here we will provide the visitor with the stories making the news, what was happening in sports and entertainment, city politics, the social scene and the prominent people at the time. So, check back often for new editions. To share your family or neighborhood stories, please email PhillyWWIyears@gmail.com
TODAY IN PHILADELPHIA – THURSDAY, JANUARY 24, 1918
There will be cloudy, overcast skies over the city today with slightly warmer temperatures. Today’s high will reach 31° with the low tonight about 16°. The 123rd commencement exercises of Girard College will take place tonight at 7:30pm in the college chapel. Thirty young men will be graduating making this the largest graduating class since 1909.
In tragic news, three Philadelphia firemen lost their lives this morning fighting a massive blaze at the George Brooks Public School, 57th & Haverford Avenue. The dead firemen are Captain James D. Stewart of 3922 Poplar Street, Lieutenant Harry J. Wirth of 4000 Haverford Avenue and Hoseman James Pollock of 5039 Ogden Street (all shown below). A fourth fireman, Ladderman S. Roller, was so badly injured he is not expected to survive. The men were crushed when the heavy stone east wall of the building fell on them.
The fire was discovered at 10:30pm last night. It is believed to have begun in a first floor office. By the time the Bureau of Fire arrived on the scene the building was engulfed in flames. Most of the interior of the building was burned away by the time the east wall began to crack and then “groan”. The firemen tried to escape the collapse but their path was blocked by an iron fence. Ten other firemen were injured by falling debris and in fighting the blaze. Those men were taken to various hospitals in the area.
All the dead and injured firemen are from Truck Company No. 6 at Preston Street and Haverford Avenue. They fought bravely in the freezing cold to stop the fire from spreading to adjacent homes and buildings. Last night’s temperature only reached a high of 13°. Water from their hoses would freeze almost immediately creating sheets of ice around the building. The firemen also faced the difficulty resulting from the shortage of coal for the engines. After fighting the blaze for 3 hours the coal was exhausted. Thankfully, neighbors came to their aid bringing buckets of coal from their homes.
Police Lieutenant George Smiley of the 61st & Thompson Street station is of the belief that the fire was intentionally set. Some neighbors of the school think it was set by Germans who were angered by the elimination of the teaching of German and the removal of the Kaiser’s pictures from German language textbooks. Lieutenant Smiley has promised a full, thorough and quick investigation into the cause of the inferno.
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