It was the biggest news in my then five-year-old life; the big, hulking old Gladstone Hotel, the architectural lynchpin of the north end of Jamestown’s downtown (the part north of the tracks), an old hotel dating from the 1880’s that had hosted presidents and foreign royalty, had caught fire.
I knew it had to be big; as I walked with Dad out to our ’60 Mercury, bits of charred newspaper and stationery fell from the sky. Our house was probably ten blocks from the blaze.
We drove down toward the tracks, parked somewhere near an abnormally-crowded First Avenue, and walked in front of Gun and Reel Sports, and stood with a crowd of gawkers and watched the old hotel blazing away, all three floors being fully consumed, flames licking out the windows and smoke billowing out the roof. Several other buildings, small businesses around the old hotel, were also on fire. I remember (or at least I think I remember) seeing Bob Richardson, who ten years later would hire me for my first radio job, broadcasting live from the street.
And I also remember waving toward the top floor of Jamestown Hospital, dimly visible over the trees and through the smoke, thinking that my new little brother, Jim, might just see me saying “hi” for the first time. Dad had told me sometime before we left to see the fire that I had a new baby brother (Mom had left for the hospital the previous day, which didn’t faze me, since Grandma was staying over, and whenever Grandma came over there were cookies and lefse and other goodies!).
In that slower-paced time, it took him a couple of days to come home – I remember waiting on the front steps for him, on a gorgeous, balmy, late-March day, a scene my dad managed to capture on film that is happily preserved on DVD today.
The funny part? While my parents’ wish – like that of every parent – that I grow up to have a kid just like me may or may not have come true, Karma (or “what goes around comes around”) has certainly given me a cosmic re-run; Bun and Zam are about the same age gap and distribution as my little sister Barb and little brother Jim – and they have the precise same relationship. They – brother and sister or daughter and son – can be ripping each others’ hair out one minute and giggling with maniacal delight the next. And then the cycle repeats. And repeats.
And slowly, I go mad. Again.
Not that I mind it all that much worse now than I did then.
Anyway – happy birthday, Jim!