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August 31, 1996

Recently, The Journal ran a story on the anniversary of the July 28, 1955 fire that totally destroyed the Long-Bell Lumber Co. yard in Perry. That brought back a lot of memories to those who witnessed the conflagration, those who assisted in fighting it, and to some who didn't even live here at the time. Gordon Cargill is one of the latter.

"At the time, I was a new employee of the Long-Bell Lumber yard in Cushing," Gordon remembers. "My boss called me at home late that night and told me to be ready to take an adding machine to Perry early the next morning, because of the fire. When I got here, of course, there was nothing left to see but smoldering rubble. I had to wonder why they needed an adding machine."

Not too long after that, Gordon and his wife, Tommie, moved to Perry when they were hired by Harry Donaldson and Glenn Yahn and they became loyal, long-time employees of the Donaldson-Yahn Lumber Co. Both are now retired, but Gordon's memory of the fire and subsequent events are still vivid in his mind's eye.

Tom Blades was manager of the Long-Bell yard, Raymond Snyder was assistant manager and Orlin Johnson was a salesman. The yard was established here in 1893, the year of the Cherokee Strip land opening. Although Long-Bell executives immediately announced plans to rebuild and continue doing business here after the fire, they soon reconsidered. The corner they occupied at Sixth and Elm streets had been virtually unoccupied since the night of the fire and LongBell abandoned the Perry market. The three local employees all found other jobs and stayed here. Mr. Blades went into the insurance business and years later moved his family to Chickasha.

Long-Bell was a good citizen of this community through all the years the company maintained a yard here. At the time of the fire, Perry had three good lumber yards -- Long-Bell, with Mr. Blades as manager; A. C. Houston, managed for years by the late Jim Heck; and Donaldson-Yahn, operated by Mr. Donaldson and Mr. Yahn. Changes in our business district have affected the two surviving yards. The name Donaldson-Yahn continues, but Mr. Donaldson is deceased and Mr. Yahn has retired. The business is now owned by Dwain Kennedy. A. C. Houston Lumber (which once was Houston-McCune, then Perry Lumber Co.) is now know simply as the Lumber Yard. The new owners there are Jim Lemon and Mark and Susan Carlson.

We're fortunate to have both of them; some communities larger than Perry have only one yard, or none, as corporate strategies change and small towns lose some of their longtime merchants as a result. The Long-Bell fire of 1955 was disastrous in its loss of material, but fortunately no personal injuries resulted to firefighters or others, and Perry came out of it with two lumber yards intact. Could have been much worse. That's the bright side of this story.