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Phil in the Blank A column by Phil Custodio


Lots of history



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June 20, 2012 - This year's Clarkston history tour walks seemed to go well for the local second graders.

Each May, students spend a day in downtown Clarkston, touring buildings, listening to bakers, bankers, and other business folks, and learning about the local history.

I take part in it, schedule permitting. I had to skip the Tuesday tours because that's when I'm in Oxford putting the paper together. Monday's not so good, either.

But for the other days of the week, I had a little presentation on the history of the 5 S. Main Street building (used to be known as the Walters Building) and The Clarkston News (founded in 1929).

I show them a couple examples from the newspaper archives. One of them, from Aug. 18, 1939, featured the front-page story "Fire destroys Clarkston landmark."

The Clarkston News building didn't always have an open wall on its north side, inviting controversial mural projects. It used to be covered by neighboring buildings, one of which was the original Rudy's market.

That summer day in 1939, those buildings caught fire and burned to the ground. The kids liked that story – it made quite an impression on their young minds.

Several drawings in their thank-you notes depict the blaze with huge swathes of orange, red, and other bright colors, very imaginative because the original photos were of course in black and white.

"I'm sorry it burned down," wrote Francis, a second grader from Andersonville Elementary.

"Half of the building (burned) – it was sad," wrote classmate Justin.

"I loved that the general store was burnt," Tony said.

I read from the story that authorities were investigating the blaze. I didn't bother to look for follow-up stories, though. I probably should have.

"I learned there was a fire and the police are still trying to figure out what caused the fire," Madison wrote.

Yes, at least some of the students believe investigators are still trying to solve the horribly destructive fire of 1939.

I'll see if I can find that information for next year's presentations.

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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