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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Sidney Leneer Pete Underdown, June 18, 2000. Interview I-0091. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

No employees were hurt in a fire at one of the Hickory Springs furniture plants

One of the Hickory Springs furniture plants burned down after the gas main exploded by accident. No one was hurt because few people worked in that part of the building except the men Pete Underdown trained to run the coiler machine.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Sidney Leneer Pete Underdown, June 18, 2000. Interview I-0091. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

KATHLEEN KEARNS:
I wanted to ask you about the fire in 1951 on Highland Avenue, what you remember of it.
PETE UNDERDOWN:
Well, the only thing I can tell you is second-hand information, because I found myself at Ft. [unclear] , Oklahoma at that point, when the fire happened. I thought that it was the next year. But the way I heard it, on account of our tempering oven, we had a big main come into the building, and they were down running the coilers, which you ran as much as you could. And they had the second shift on, and there was a guy named Abee who ran it who I talked with.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
Abee?
PETE UNDERDOWN:
A-B-E-E. He was running the coilers down there that night, and he went to work for me. He was Mr. Clyde Stein's-he was one of the original foremen in this thing-he was his son-in-law. And ever I fired this John, ever who it was, Mr. Stein took over the whole works down there as foreman of it. All I had to do was set up the machines, or teach somebody how to set them up. I wasn't closed-minded about it like the people who had made their living at it. It had become necessary because they were the only ones who knew what it was. I taught people that was going to do it how to do it. And this Abee was a pretty sharp guy. He was a well-digger before he came to work for us, a well-driller, I should say. And he was quite an able worker, but he was running the coilers that night, and I understand that something happened to the gas main and it exploded or something and that's what started the fire and burnt the building down before Hickory Fire Department could put it out. I think we had a four-inch gas main coming into the building, something like that, and it was right there that it split or something, where it was big. No one was injured. There wasn't enough people working really that there was much danger to it.
KATHLEEN KEARNS:
How many employees were there around that time? Not just who were working on that second shift, but how many people worked in the plant?
PETE UNDERDOWN:
There was about fifty-two or fifty-three all the time. Neil and Bob used to work in there. They worked for me, the two best assemblers I ever had in my life down there.