Book Cover

Thursday, December 4, 2008

A Reader in Kansas Writes:

Dear Mr.Goodwin,
Very seldom has it been possible for me to say thank you to a book's author, or tell them what a good job they did in relating their material. Thanks for an excellent and readable documentation of the Winecoff fire. You made that night a vivid picture in my mind, as if I had been there. In my view, that is the mark of a good author. I only wish that the public in general would be more aware of their own responsibility in promoting fire safety at home and away from home. Perhaps yours readers might be made more aware of that need after reading this book.
Good work, sir, and stay safe,
John B. Broski
Overland Park, Ks.

Dear John,
Thanks for your kind compliments about our book. I couldn't have done it without the able guidance of my co-author Sam Heys. We too hope our book advances fire safety awareness among the public.
All best,
Allen Goodwin

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Hero's Great Grandaughters Visit Fire Scene

Mr. Goodwin,

I hope you are doing well. I wrote to you some time ago regarding Albert Fain Sr. who was a firefighter during the Winecoff Hotel fire. I finally got to take my girls down there this past weekend and we were able to go into the "Ellis Hotel". We were told all kinds of stories on the street outside the hotel. I was very surprised how much my girls (Kylie and Kelsey) remembered about the events that took place. (they read the book too!) We had a few of their teenage friends with us (Colby and Kenya) and they too were taken back in history.

I just wanted to say thanks to you for writing this book and for adding this special token to our family history. I know their Great Grandfather would be proud to know that we are not letting his work go forgotten. After hearing many stories and reading your book, I also realize how fortunate we are that he didn't perish that night.

I also found your website and look forward to future updates. I wish we could bring your book into the school systems. I really think something so close to home would be more meaningful to them than any other books they could be required to read.

I hope you have a blessed day.

Darla M. Fain

Thanks Darla,

Thanks for writing to me again. That's great that your girls value their connection to hotel where Captain Fain was tested and found worthy. The impact of the Winecoff fire just keeps rippling on and on. Amazing.

Stay safe, Allen

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Dorothy Moen Remembered

Dear Authors,

I have read your book. Dorothy Moen (room 730, survivor) was my father's sister. Although scars were evident on Aunt Dorothy, I did not know the story until well into my adult life. It was just not talked about.
Though I hear it was painful for Dorothy to talk about it, I am glad the story was extracted from her and preserved for us to hear. I admired her but gained a new level of understanding after reading the book. I want to pass it on as a piece of family history to my own daughters, who have taken an interest in journalism, making movies and writing.
I am looking forward to viewing the updates on your website.

Vicki Moen Samas, Mansfield, Texas

Dear Ms. Samas,

How kind of you to write to us. We knew and admired Dorothy Moen and remain in close contact with her daughter, Janet. Dorothy's determination to overcome her severe injuries and make a full life for herself was an inspiration to all who knew her.
It was her idea to first reunite the fire's survivors in 1993 and Janet made it happen.
A year later the Atlanta Fire Department became involved. They blocked Peachtree Street for a plaque dedication ceremony and extended their tallest ladder apparatus up against the Hotel. That was a dramatic show of their readiness to meet the challenge again but also a reminder that no ladder can reach above the tenth floor. Dorothy was as prim as ever that day and was singled out for an interview on one of the TV news channels.
Dorothy was a treasure and no one has been more helpful to us over the years than Janet.
Be safe,
Allen Goodwin

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Readers Stay at The Ellis Hotel

Hi Allen,
You may recall my telling you a month or so ago, after receiving your book in the mail, that I and my wife had plans to stay at the Ellis while in Atlanta. We are there now, in Room 507. Though I would have liked to have seen the hotel before it was refurbished, I must say that they have done a nice job with it. Our room is quite nice (and I note there's a sprinkler in it).
The hotel does advertise that the rooms have "windows that open," and they do, but only a small bit. However, I'm still able to look out over Peachtree Street, and contemplate how it must have felt to be faced with having to climb out onto a ladder or sheet rope, or much worse, to have no way of escape available at all.
The back alley is smaller than one might picture it, and it is easy to see how one might think it possible to reach the Mortgage Guarantee Building by jumping directly across the alley. The original windows of that building, described in your book as wired glass, still appear to remain in place. It's really a humbling feeling to actually be where it all happened.
I really enjoyed your book and being made aware of the extent of the disaster. I know that whoever set the fire must have been pleased that relatively nobody was interested in finding out who did it. What a sad situation. But at least, fire codes and regulations were made more stringent after the fire.
Alan Spangler

Hi Alan,
Great to hear from you - made better coming live from the Ellis Hotel! The rooms have been renumbered since the renovation, so the best way to figure who was in your room is to count windows. If you are on the Peachtree side, count the windows from the Peachtree/Ellis St. corner. If you are on the alley side count them from the Alley/Ellis St corner. That won't be as easy but it can be done. If you are on the Ellis St. side, again count them from the Peachtree/Ellis St corner. I'll be able to tell which room you are in and who stayed there the night of the fire. Some rooms were also reconfigured, so you might be in two of the old rooms at once. We'll figure it out!
Be safe, Allen

Hi Allen,
I am indeed on the Peachtree side in what is now Rm. 507. It's the 3rd window over from the Peachtree/Ellis corner. Hopefully if I stay here again, I will get a 14th floor room and get a feel for what it would be like to have to get out on that ledge. It feels odd to sit here getting on the internet in my room, when people here in 1946 didn't even have a TV. That's progress, I guess. Alan

Holy cow, Alan!
You're in (old) room 508! The Foster family of Columbus, Ga. escaped from room 508 during the fire. Two recent posts will tell you more:
http://winecoff.org/hotel/2008/04/margaret-warren-foster-newly-acquired.html and
The Winecoff Hotel did advertise, "A Radio in Every Room".

Wow, that's awesome. We really enjoyed our stay here at the Ellis; it's in such easy walking distance to the arena, good restaurants, and other downtown attractions, plus there's all the history. Thanks for figuring out the room number for me. It's been great learning about the Winecoff fire, then visiting the site. I'll try to stay abreast of continuing developments via the websites. Thanks again for all your help!
Alan Spangler

Friday, April 4, 2008

Hotel Stay Sparks Interest

I had the pleasure of staying at the Ellis Hotel (Winecoff) recently. I had no idea upon my arrival of the history surrounding the Ellis, however, after viewing the historic marker outside I became intrigued by the story.
I was reading your book last evening. I should have gone to bed, but I had to finish it... Great book, I loved the train of consciousness style in the "during the fire" chapters. It conveyed a feeling of anxiousness and confusion that was very appropriate.
Of all the pictures in the book, the one that hit home most was the one on page 27 of Irene Justice in room 624. Having seen for myself the window sill in room 1122, I could envision myself in that situation. I looked at that alley and pondered if it was crossable and if those windows on the other side were breakable. The book was truly captivating...Thanks for a wonderful read, Philip

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

A Reader In Florida Writes

I work in the fire protection industry. I am deeply saddened by the tragedy of this fire and the unnecessary lives lost and shattered by this fire. I read the book cover to cover in one mind opening read. While reading this book I felt like I could see the progression of the fire and what happened.
I have the deepest respect for the work that you and your co-author have done here with the writing of this book and trying to bring to light the truth of what happened.
It is so tragic - the loss of life - when the cost of fire safety is compromised for the all mighty dollar. To this day, it's the most important thing that can be designed into a building, but one of the things that people squawk about when trying to cut costs. Life Safety, is what this is all about.
After reading your book and doing a little more research this is the fire that made the push for more stringent codes and and standards. It's a shame that it took the loss of life in the Winecoff fire to bring about the fire and life safety changes that we take for granted today.
I never really gave any thought about counting doors from my room to the nearest exit in case of fire. I probably, like many others, just take it for granted there are fire protection systems in place to protect me. I will take note of where I am and where to go a little more carefully.
I want to give my deepest sympathies and condolences to all of the people who perished in the fire and the families members left to pick up the pieces.
I will think evermore carefully about the work that I do and the impact it has on other people's lives.

God Bless,
Stephen McDonnell
Cape Coral, Florida

Dear Stephen,
You're doing God's work. I think it's great!
Thank you,
Allen Goodwin

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

A Reader's Question

I would like to know if all of the 119 fire victims in 1946 were positively identified?

Yes. However, the remains of two of the Youth Assembly delegates from Gainesville, Francis Thompson and Gwen McCoy, could not be distinguished. They are buried side by side and share a tombstone. They were, in life, the best of friends.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

A Reader in Massachusetts Writes

Hi Allen,
I purchased the book from you about a week ago, I received it yesterday, and I read it in one sitting. I just couldn't put it down! You - and Mr. Heys - did an excellent job writing it.
I felt like I was right there in that building and that I even knew some of the people. It often hurt to read the details and I swear I could feel the horror and pain that everyone was going through. But I mostly found it all very interesting and fascinating and it opened my eyes even more about how to stay safe in hotels, etc.
It's hard to believe that there were no fire escapes or sprinklers in the Winecoff. Thank goodness buildings now must have all kinds of safety features that were never in place many years ago.
No, I did not have any family or friend connection to the fire. I just have a healthy interest and I have read quite a few books including those about the Cocoanut Grove Nightclub fire which happened a few years before the Winecoff, right here in Massachusetts. I guess it just amazes me how quickly and out of control flames and smoke can get and the awful destruction it can cause. I am drawn to books and movies about fire and I am very curious about it as I know quite a few others are, too.
Oh, one more thing. I must tell you that I didn't realize you were the co-author until I received my book! I looked at the name on the cover and I said to myself, wait a minute I think I actually swapped a couple of emails with this man a few days ago. Then I dug up your initial email and read that A LOT more carefully. That's very nice of you to sign the book. Thank you.
Well, again, kudos to you for putting such an interesting and well-written book together. I think it is extremely important to document history so that certain events including one like this will never be forgotten.
Carol in Tewksbury, MA

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Twist of Fate

Dear Mr. Goodwin,
I received the book today. Thank you very much for the prompt shipping and for signing the book. While looking after my grandfather, Robert Baird, after his hip replacement surgery last week he related to me how he was in Atlanta on business the day of the fire. He debated that evening about staying the night in Atlanta or driving back home through the night. He was near the Winecoff and would have stayed there if not for deciding to come home.
Thanks again,
Mark Baird Knoxville, TN.

Dear Mark,
Thanks for the delivery notification. How fortunate indeed your grandfather was! I hope he's doing OK.
I thought at first you might be related to Dr. Renfroe Baird who escaped from room 804. My co-author, Sam Heys, interviewed him. His story is told beginning on page 35 of our book.
Best wishes,

Monday, January 7, 2008

Daughters Attend Remembrance Ceremony

Friday night, December 7, 2007 on the sixty-first anniversary of the Winecoff Hotel fire, in which our daddy, William Edgar (Bill) Bryson, was killed, my sister Sue Anne and I went to a reunion of survivors and victims of the disaster.

We walked from the parking garage to the entrance of the Winecoff (now the Ellis Hotel). Christmas lights were glistening all along the street, and there was even a picturesque white horse and carriage taking people for rides. As I stood there in front of the building, the horse and carriage gradually seemed to be moving in slow motion, and the sky above the hotel itself appeared threateningly dark. Looking up where it towered over me, I felt an ominous heaviness and was transported back to that night in 1946. We went inside, and even though the furnishings and carpet were new, I felt that I was truly in the old hotel.

I went into the reception room and saw numerous white helium balloons with long strings dangling from them suspended in the air. While Mr. Tom O’Leary (the manager of the Ellis Hotel) was welcoming us and talking about the renovations that had been done, all of a sudden I got a powerful and unmistakable whiff of smoke and burned walls. I looked around me, but no one else seemed to have noticed anything. At the same time, the corner where Mr. O’Leary was standing behind the podium seemed to me to grow gray and darker and I found myself almost straining to hear his words. Now, I am convinced that Daddy’s spirit was in that reception room with us and that I was experiencing actual sights and sounds from the December 7, 1946 fire. Also, a man standing in front of me had a strong odor of pipe tobacco on his coat, and I was reminded of Daddy again. Even though I was only two years old when he was killed, I remember several times as an older child taking some pipes Mama had saved out of the dresser and smelling them.

After Mr. O’Leary’s remarks, Dr. Truett Gannon , who was inspired to become a minister by the fire experience, spoke. He explained that he was not related by blood to anyone killed in the fire. In 1946, he was only 16 years old and staying in a nearby hotel that night. When the Williams family from his hometown of Cordele, Georgia, heard about the fire, they called and asked Gannon to locate three family members who had been staying in the Winecoff and then try to find Mr. Williams, who would be driving to Atlanta. Gannon found his friend Ed Kiker Williams at St. Joseph’s Infirmary downtown but learned from him that his mother (Boisclair Williams) and sister (Clair Williams) had perished in the hotel. The young Gannon then went to look for Mr. Williams. When he located Mr. Williams’ car on Courtland Street and Mr. Williams asked him about his loved ones, Gannon froze. He told the man how to get to St. Joseph’s to see his son, but he couldn’t find the words to tell him the fate of his wife and daughter.

This inability to know what to say to Mr. Williams weighed heavily on the young Gannon, and, as a result, he determined later that day to become a minister of God and learn how to help families cope with death. He said that when he came to realize his own destiny and purpose in life, a great burden was lifted from him and he wanted to help and lift our burdens in return. Dr. Gannon’s retirement from the faculty of Mercer University’s McAfee School of Theology had become effective at noon on December 7, the day of the reunion, and he thanked all of the victims’ families for the inspiration he received as a result of the tragedy to fulfill a calling that became the great passion of his life and ministry – helping families cope with death.

After Dr. Gannon’s moving talk, Janet Cox, who helped organize the event, asked that each family take one of the white helium balloons outside to the memorial marker beside the hotel; she asked that we speak the name of our loved one(s) and then release the balloon into the night sky. One by one, each family gathered in front of the marker said the name of their loved one(s) who died and released their balloons. I was surprised how much emotion I felt, but saying Daddy’s name and letting go of the balloon did provide a feeling of release.

I am so glad we went. We got to talk to several people about their families and loved ones and to share pictures and stories with them. I feel a stronger connection to our daddy now; I know now that it was no accident that Susie came to live here in Atlanta where he died. I also know that he is with me in Cullowhee – the town of his birth.

Sherry Bryson Fox