1938 Cabin Fire

Cabin Fire Summer of 1938
written by John Groom
One day that summer while Uncle Allan was there, Dad and I were out in the old boat trolling around at the end of the lake when, all of a sudden, we heard this big boom! The air shook with the vibration of this big enormous noise. It looked just like the pictures you see of the atomic bomb. There was a huge puff of smoke, then another puff, then a straight column of smoke. The cabin was on fire! We started back as fast as our little 5 hp engine would go. As we went, we yelled at everybody along the way and pointed toward the fire. People started running to help with the fire because there was no fire department. We got up there, finally. The cabin was on fire. It was on its last leg. The trees were on fire around it. The fire was in the pine needles. There were about 99 trees that were killed.
We didn't know who was in the cabin and who wasn't in the cabin because when we left everybody was there. We finally figured it all out. Kathryn and Molly Lou had gone into town in one car and another car, the Desoto, was left next to the cabin. Frances had been in the cabin polishing her two-toned suede shoes. She was on the opposite side of the cabin from the door and the stove.
Uncle Allan had wanted to get a fire going quickly so he could shave. So he went out and got some kerosene or gasolene, opened up the door to the stove, and threw some in there. There were hot coals in the stove which exploded! It caught the whole kitchen on fire. The kitchen was separate from the rest of the cabin. It was joined on, but just with a door. Frances got trapped on the other side of the door and couldn't get out. Uncle Allan ran around the cabin. He broke the little French windows where Frances was. By that time she was on fire, so he broke all the windows and hauled her out, then he tried to get things out of the cabin. One of the things that burned was my mother’s diamond ring. People like Dick Herne, my brother-in-law, kept looking every year for it in the ashes.
Old Hans Albright, “The Dutchman” who was Dad's friend, and his son had pushed the Desoto away from the cabin so it saved that car. Mrs. Albright had a bucket full of water and was swabbing all the pine needles up. Everybody made a bucket brigade from the lake to the cabin passing water in buckets trying to put out the fire. They took Frances down to Hans Albrights cabin and put her on a bed. There was another doctor at the lake. He had his grip with him and gave Frances morpheme to kill the pain. When I saw Frances, she was black from the top of her head to her toes. She should of died. She was crying and suffering so.
The car that Kathryn and Molly Lou took into town was a Nash. It had a back seat which folded down, so they made a bed and took Frances to the hospital in Pocatello because there was no medical facilities at West Yellowstone in 1938. Frances was about 16 years old at this time. She spent the next year in the hospital recuperating from her burns. To be able to use her hands again and get their strength back and flexibility, she had to squeeze soft rubber balls all the time. She was left with scars across her shoulder and all the way down her left arm.
For Christmas I had gotten a green, metal, wagon called a Lincoln Zepher. We took it up to the cabin that spring and used it to carry the engine for the water pump and to haul wood. When the old cabin burned down, it burned all the paint off of it and the rubber was burned off the tires, but it was ok. They still use it at the cabin today.
After the old cabin burned down we finally got permission to build another cabin. This time they put the lot back farther from the lake. It was finished in the summer of 1940. That's the present cabin up there at Hebgen lake. It has been passed down in the family. I spent many summers up at Hebgan Lake and had many wonderful times.