Fun, families, memorial in VFD weekend

Fallen firefighters honored with cross
Reporter Editor

Rockdale fireman Wilbur Williams’ mom, Katie, had to wake him three times to answer the fire alarm in the dark that warm fall morning so long ago.

It turned out to be his last. Williams and fellow Rockdale VFD volunteer J. W. Hooper died Sept. 2, 1935, in the era-ending Scarbrough & Hicks fire in downtown Rockdale, the only fatalities in the long and dedicated history of the department.

On Sunday, a cross was placed at the site of those sacrifices, today’s city library, as part of a weekend of activities for the Central Texas Firefighters and Fire Marshals Association, hosted by the Rockdale VFD.

Not all the events were so somber. Firefighters, and their families, gathered for a golf tourney and family night on Saturday and a set of pumper races in front of the fire station during the gorgeous fall weather Sunday afternoon.

MEMORIAL—Placing of the memorial cross followed the meeting of the Central Texas Firefighters and Fire Marshals in the Patterson Civic Center.

Memorial cross at fatality site. Memorial cross at fatality site. Herbie Vaughan, Rockdale VFD president, said in addition to the cross honoring Williams and Hooper, several other deceased volunteers were commemorated during the services.

Those included Mary Ellen Klein of Burlington, longtime treasurer for the association.

She died Aug. 13.

Also remembered were firefighters in Bryan and West who perished while fighting blazes during the past year.

Lt. Greg Pickard and Lt. Eric Wallace, both members of the Bryan Fire Department, died of injuries received while fighting a blaze at the Bryan Knights of Columbus Hall on Feb. 15.

Also commemorated were the 11 members of five fire departments who died in the April 17 explosion and fire in West.

They were:

Capt. Kenneth “Luckey” Harris of the Dallas FD; Jimmy Matus, Morris Bridges, Cody Dragoo, Joey Pustejovsky, Douglas Snokous and Robert Snokous of the West VFD; Cyrus Reed and Jerry Chapman of the Abbott VFD; Perry Calvin of the Merkel VFD; and Kevin Sanders of the Bruceville Eddy VFD.

WORST FIRE—The worst fire in the history of the Rockdale VFD had a quiet beginning.

Early in the morning of Sept. 2, 1935, Max Ferrari and Homer Turner, two American Legion members returning from a Dal- las convention just before 1 a.m., noticed a “red glow” in one of the four buildings comprising the Scarbrough & Hicks Company.

It was the start of a deadly blaze. By the time firefighters arrived there had been an explosion and the entire complex was in flames.

Virtually all of Rockdale turned out to watch the RVFD battle the blaze through the night.

Hooper and Williams were close to an awning when a brick wall began to collapse. But instead of falling inward, pulled by the awning’s weight, it tumbled onto the two firemen, inflicting fatal injuries.

All four buildings, containing groceries, men’s and women’s apparel and a storage area, were destroyed.

Scarbrough & Hicks, an institution downtown since the turn of the 20th century, never returned to Rockdale.

The business moved to Austin, was re- named simply “ Scarbrough’s” and f lourished for almost 60 years. For decades it was an anchor store at Highland Mall, Austin’s first indoor mall.

Long ago, Rockdale firefighters placed a monument on the grounds near the actual site of Williams and Hooper’s deaths.

“We never want to forget them,” Fire Chief Ward Roddam said.

EVENTS—Firefighters from a large area of Central Texas, and their families, attended a family night Saturday at the Rockdale Country Club following the golf tourney.

Several teams competed Sunday in pumper races.

Host Rockdale won the three-person pumper competition and was third in the six-person competition. See page 6A.

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