Hear this edition of Canby Then in all of its audio glory on Episode 16 of the Canby Now Podcast.
Welcome back to our history series, Canby Then, as we continue our look at some of the most devastating and colorful moments from the history of the Canby Fire District, which have helped shape our town over the past 100 years.
Can’t Burn a Good Mill Down
In 1913, the Stefani (Ste-fawn-i) lumber mill burned, an uninsured loss estimated at $10,000 — more than a quarter-million in today’s funds. Fortunately, the fire occurred when the mill was closed, and no one was hurt in the blaze.
By the time it had been discovered, it was already too late, but employees nevertheless organized a bucket brigade and succeeded in saving a “large quantity of lumber piled near the mill.”
Since the mill had been closed and empty hours before the fire broke out, arson was suspected, but “no evidence can be found implicating any one,” according to newspapers at the time.
“Before the ruins were cold, Ardinius Stefani, the proprietor, had made plans for the immediate reconstruction of the mill, a force of carpenters being now on the ground.” He said he would have an entirely new mill in operation in less than three weeks. To be fair, he did have the lumber.
Boys Will Be Boys…Or, You Know, Arsonists. Whatever.
Around Halloween of 1957, Canby High School teacher and wrestling coach Jack Hollister heard some strange sounds coming from his front porch, but it wasn’t trick or treaters. It was a burlap bag, soaked in oil and burning quite merrily.
Fortunately, the bag was empty, and Hollister was able to extinguish the blaze himself, without assistance from the fire district.
The incident was an escalation in a continuing series of pranks and trouble making between Canby and Molalla youths, which had been raging in the run-up to the annual football game between the two rival schools.
Sadly, newspapers record that Canby was the instigator in the feud, as the first incident reported was the burning of a giant “C” on the lawn of Molalla High School. Someone also had painted the word “Canby” on the sidewalk.
The Molallans retaliated by burning an “M” in front of Canby High, then taking a, quote, “noise making tour” around the city, most of it under the watchful eyes of on-duty police officers.
One of the cars was pulled over after reports came in that the boys were shooting guns.
However, a search of the vehicle by Officer Wayne Watson revealed no firearms, only five lengths of rubber hose into which a .410 gauge shotgun shell had been forced. … Yeah, I don’t understand it either.
The final injustice was the painting of the word “Molalla” across the entrances of the high schools in Oregon City and West Linn. After questioning “dozens of high school boys” from Canby and Molalla, local police developed two theories as to the perpetrators of this dastardly deed.
“One was the Molalla High School boys had done it,” a reporter later wrote. “The other was that Canby youths were the painters, inspired by a desire to give a black eye to their neighborly rivals.”
Police apparently became suspicious when they caught the perpetrators and they all said, “Oh, yeah. We’re from Molalla. Which is sooo dumb.”
Got 91 Problems…
In May 1965, the Canby Herald lamented the loss of “one of the remaining country stores in the Canby area,” as the Ninety-One Store burned to the ground. The structure, located on Monitor Road south of Barlow and east of Hubbard, had been a landmark in the Ninety-One community for over 30 years.
The fire destroyed not only the livelihood of owner Henry Kober and his family, but also their home. They had bought the store the previous August and were living above it.
“Long-time residents recalled the building was built by a man named Hampton,” the newspaper reported, “enlarged and improved by the Grahams, and later operated by the Alonzo Folts family and Harold Haleys.”
Burning Castles in the Sky
Nicknamed the “Old Castle,” the Canby Grade School building was built in 1911. In 1974, its top two floors caught fire. Superintendent Paul Ackerman attempted to put out the fire with an extinguisher, but soon realized he needed backup.
He called the Canby Fire District, who in turn asked for help from Oregon City, Clackamas County and Molalla.
They fought the blaze for hours but were unable to save the historic structure. A Feb. 18,1974, Canby Herald photo from the incident carries the memorable and poignant caption, “The Old Castle in agony.”
Not the Kind of ‘Hot Chicks’ We Were Looking For
In 1979, one of the largest chicken barns in the Northwest — 500 feet long by 60 feet wide — was destroyed in a blaze that broke out at Willamette Poultry Co. on South Mulino Road. The fire caused over $225,000 and killed some 45,000 week-old chicks.
The manager, Ed Hintz, said he noticed the fire when an alarm went off shortly before 5 p.m. and he saw smoke coming from one of the doors. He and his son called the fire department, but by the time they arrived, the structure was fully involved.
The fire was blamed on an electrical surge that blew a conduit at the center of the massive barn… though what caused the surge was a mystery. Firefighters from Canby, Molalla and Beavercreek fought to control the blaze, and protect the barns, until well after 10.
“They did a wonderful job, that department. They’re highly recommended,” Hintz said, giving each firefighter his thanks, and a free bucket of fried chicken, extra crispy.
We have many more colorful and thrilling stories to share with you from the history of the Canby Fire District, but it will have to wait till next time, on Canby Then.
Photo courtesy the Canby Fire District.
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