Book Cover

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fire's Impact on Bainbridge Remembered

Mr. Goodwin,

Thank you so much! I have read your book several times and am very excited to give it as a Christmas gift this year.

Eight of the people killed in the fire were from my high school’s (Bainbridge High School) Y-Club - seven students and one teacher - who were in the town for the annual Tri-Y Youth Conference, the same conference I attended every year in junior high and high school. My Y-Club chapter was named after the teacher, Mary Davis. Bainbridge, Georgia is a very small town, and everyone in one way or another has a connection to one of the eight. In high school, I found your most fascinating book on my parents' bookshelf and have read it many times over the years.

My future father-in-law is an architect who works here in downtown Atlanta and loves Atlanta history. When I mentioned the fire recently, he didn't know many details about it, so your book is going to be a wonderful, enjoyable gift for him.

Thanks again for the quick response, I truly appreciate it. Happy Holidays!

Maggie Rentz
Atlanta, Georgia

Thanks so much for your e-mail. The Winecoff fire's impact on Bainbridge is legendary and worthy of further study. Look for more Bainbridge related stories on winecoff.org in the months ahead.
Be safe,

Thursday, December 2, 2010

A Blue Ridge Reverend Writes

St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Blue Ridge, Georgia

Dear Mr. Goodwin,

I recently ordered your book from Amazon and must tell you that I couldn't put it down. The signed copy arrived in the post on Saturday and by five o'clock the book was read. What prompted me to order it was being in Atlanta at a theological conference the week before and standing looking up at the Winecoff (Ellis) at night.

I first learned the story of the Winecoff fire in the '90s when an elderly woman in McCaysville (not far from Ducktown, the home of one of the victims) gave me a copy of the Atlanta Constitution featuring the now-famous picture of the woman falling.

I am writing to say you and your co-author did a masterful job in telling a story that needed to be told.

The Rev.) Victor H. Morgan
St. Luke's Church, Blue Ridge, Georgia

Dear Reverend Morgan,

Thanks so much for your kind words about our book! When you keep your ear to the ground it doesn't take long to find living links to the Winecoff fire. Remember, we are always on the lookout for photos of the fire's victims and survivors to further humanize the story.

Thanks for writing,

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Reader Writes

Hi Mr. Goodwin,

My name is Chester Wallace and I just got done reading The Winecoff Fire and I must say this is one of the most interesting reads! I want to thank you for writing this very intriguing book and sparking my interest in this terrible tragedy.

Chet Wallace

Dear Chet,

I couldn't have done it alone! Without Sam Heys the book would still be a hundred pounds of research materials in cardboard boxes!

Be safe,

Saturday, October 16, 2010

An Eyewitness To The Fire Scene Writes

Dear Mr Goodwin:

I just wanted to let you know how interesting I found your book.

I was 12 years old and living in Cartersville, Georgia when the Winecoff burned. My father had just died and on that fateful day, his brother and wife came to take my mother and me Christmas shopping in Atlanta.

About half way there my mother opened the newspaper she had brought along and read about the fire. The adults debated about continuing but decided to do so. Our first stop was always Davison-Paxon's. We saw the Winecoff only hours after the fire had been extinguished.

I am 76 now but that sight has never left my mind. Over the years I have come in contact with people who had some connection to the fire. In my own church there is a lady who survived the fire and a man who was supposed to go to the Youth Assembly but could not due to illness. The boy who replaced him perished in the fire. I have not discussed the fire with them out of respect for their privacy.

Thanks so much.

Carol Lowery

Dear Carol,
Thanks for sharing your story.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

A Lasting Impression

I ordered your Winecoff Fire book this past Tuesday night through Amazon.
I was born and grew up in Atlanta. I was only six when the fire occurred. That Saturday / Sunday afternoon (?), after the fire, Dad had to drop off some reports at his work place on Luckie Street. I rode down with him and, after dropping his reports, we went by the fire scene before heading home.

I can picture Dad and I stepping over rows of fire hoses as they lay running down hill to drain and dry out as we tried to get closer to the burn site. The building was still smoking and the firemen were gathering up their equipment. I remember it being eerily quiet while we were there.

As a six year old, I was more interested at the time in jumping the hoses than learning of the seriousness of what had happened earlier. It was many years later before I really became aware of what had happened that morning.

I bought a copy of your book some years ago and read it several times. Later I told former classmates about your book and; after they read it, some wrote back about members of their own families being on fire trucks who answered the call. I was just an observer that weekend; but I have found out over the years how this tragedy effected families throughout Georgia.

The recent death article of Clarence Luther Leathers, Sr. (96), who was a responding fireman that morning, spurred memories of the stories of the fire. I must have lost my earlier copy of your book during one of my moves; so I'm replacing it now.

The fire touched many lives in different ways. So many innocent lives lost.

Bill Stewart
Gatlinburg, TN 37738

Mr. Stewart,

Thanks for sharing your story with me. You are, I think, the youngest eyewitness to the fire scene - with a living memory of it - that we've heard from.

Survivor Richard Hamil (room 1524) was nine years old. We've spoken with him many times. The two other child survivors that we know, Bob Cox (age 3, room 1002) and Connie Foster (age 1, room 508) were too young to have any memories of the fire today. We've spoken with many who were teens at the time.

Be safe,

Monday, June 14, 2010

Clarence Leathers Remembered

Dear Mr. Goodwin,

I recently purchased your book as a memento to read with my father. My father was Clarence Leathers and until recently, he was the oldest retiree from the City of Atlanta Fire Department. However, he passed away June 12, 2010 before I could give him the book. I know you interviewed Rick Roberts who also was a fireman at the Winecoff. There had been an article in the retiree newsletter asking if anyone else remembered working the Winecoff and that Rick Roberts would like to talk to them.

Well, my dad had a nice chat with him. Rick had thought that, at 93, he was the oldest retiree, but my dad had turned 96 in April. Last month, I was able to record less than a minute about what he did at the Winecoff and he stated that he carried hoses up to the other fireman and then they also tried to extinguish the fire. I wish that he could have spoken to you.

When I was growing up, I remember my mother, (who died in 1973) stating that this particular fire was traumatic to many of the firemen. She stated that so many people jumped from the burning hotel and that my dad would wake up sometimes to the sound (in his mind) of bones popping and to the smell of charred flesh. He never talked about the fire with me though other than when he mentioned being at it with the other firemen.

I am finishing your book now. My dad's obit should be in the Atlanta paper tomorrow. He will be buried at Westview Cemetery on Wednesday, June 16 and visitation will be at the Whitley-Garner at Rosehaven, Douglasville, GA on Tuesday between 6-9. I don't know how many firemen are still alive and will be able to attend the services. But I appreciate your writing the book so that I could get an idea of the fire that I only saw paper clippings about.
Thank you,
Vera Leathers Ankrum

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

A Reader in Florida Writes

I received the book I purchased from you about the Winecoff Hotel fire. It arrived in great shape, and I appreciate your signing it. I was glad to find it on eBay. I read a few pages last night, and I’m already hooked! Compiling the stories of so many people from a time gone by is not an easy feat, but you have done a fine job in structuring the tale.
My interest in the hotel’s history, incidentally, was sparked by a recent stay at the Ellis. Although I am an Atlanta native, I had no knowledge of the Winecoff fire. In fact, I managed to stay oblivious to the events of 1946 throughout my stay at the Ellis. It was not until I was later describing our hotel to my father and stepmother, who live in Ballground, Georgia, that I learned of the fire. They both made the connection to the Winecoff and did a pretty good job of recounting the history. For them to each have such good and independent memories of the fire is a testament to the significance of the event.
Thank you, again, for the excellent eBay service and for your detailed preservation of an important moment in Atlanta history. I look forward finishing the book!

Thanks, Ed.
The Winecoff fire story is unknown to many Atlantans. That's no accident. Big fires are bad for business. By 1947 Atlanta's business and political leaders felt that the sooner the whole thing was forgotten, the better. The mayor even ordered the Winecoff's large sign, still affixed to the side of the building, taken down, condemning it as a grim reminder of the fire. Plus, almost everyone who had any direct involvement with the sudden tragedy had reason to want to forget it. Everyone wanted to put it behind them. Still, they were all affected for the rest of their lives. It simply couldn't be forgotten but couldn't be discussed either! I expect your folks remember vividly where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news of the fire. Almost everyone we interviewed during our years of research recalled exactly where they were that day. Like the Kennedy assassination and the World Trade Center attacks, this was Atlanta's Titanic.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Reader Visits Fire Scene

Mr Goodwin,

I read your book some time ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. Yesterday, I rode the elevator up to the top of the Ellis. Walking through the halls of the hotel--the same floor design as the Winecoff was eerie. I'm glad to finally see a successful hotel in its building. Every time I go to Atlanta I drive by the Winecoff.

Charles Newberry
Gray, GA

Mr. Newberry,

Thanks for your e-mail. Like you, I'm so pleased that the building is again being put to good use. I'm glad you got to look around inside the building.

I know that eerie feeling the halls can give but I think that's because we know so much about the day of the fire and not so much about the happier days there from 1914-1945.

We know from our interviews with long time Winecoff Hotel employee Nell McDuffie that there were many days of joy and grace within those walls. It was, after all, a first class hotel for most of those years hosting wedding events, honeymoons, business and charity luncheons, family reunions and all the things that give fulfillment to our lives.

It's sad that one act of cruelty can define a site for sixty-odd years and push aside in our minds everything else that happened there. But, by-in-large, that's what's happened.

Thankfully, more good days are underway and more pleasant memories are now being made at the Ellis Hotel.

Be safe,