News From Terre Haute, Indiana

March 24, 2013

Looking back: 1963: ‘Most costly fire’ sweeps through T.H.

Dorothy Jerse
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Dorothy Jerse looks back at local history from 10, 25 and 50 years ago as reported in the Tribune and Tribune-Star.


• It was a women’s basketball weekend in Terre Haute. The NCAA Div. III semifinals were being played at Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and a first-round Women’s National Invitational Tournament was staged at Indiana State University’s Hulman Center. The ISU Lady Sycamores, going in with a 22-8 season, lost in overtime to Ball State.

• A pre-spring break “mock bomb disaster” at Woodrow Wilson Middle School went smoothly with 776 students evacuated in 11⁄2 minutes.

n High school coaches chose Wes Readinger, West Vigo High School junior, as Vigo County’s 2003 Most Valuable Wrestler. He was 35-3, the Western Indiana Conference champion and the high-point winner on the West Vigo team.

• Five of the 70 women competing in the ninth annual State Queens Tournament at Muncie were Terre Haute bowlers. They were Mandy Bedwell, Vickie Rich, Carolyn Wilkins, Alusta Kneeves and Virginia Anderson.

• Indiana State University named the tennis complex in honor of Duane Klueh, a noted basketball and tennis star as well as a winning coach in both sports for the university.


•Terre Haute played host to its fourth semistate boys basketball tournament at Hulman Center. Fans filled local hotels and restaurants.

• A representative for BASF Corp. was in Terre Haute to get to know the community. Terre Haute, Evansville and a site in Ohio were under consideration for a possible new BASF plant.

• About 20 Tribune-Star employees formed an informational picket line in front of the building at 721 Wabash Ave. Thirteen workers, members of the Newspaper Guild, had been laid off eight days before. Joseph M. Zlomek was the publisher.

• Staggs Hearing Aid Center moved from 509 Wabash Avenue to 126 S. Sixth Street, the former office of Dr. Thomas Ferguson.

• Alcan Rolled Products Co. announced a $60 million modernization project at its Terre Haute plant. The workforce would be reduced from a high of 1,028 to about 400 workers. Dan Taylor was the plant manager.

• Thirteen full-time and 37 part-time and temporary workers from a total workforce of 1,358 people were laid off at Union Hospital in an effort to reduce operating expenses. Frank Shelton was the administrator.


• Fire broke out at the Campus Bowl, located in the basement of the Deming Building at 9 N. Sixth Street, and spread to become “the most costly fire in Terre Haute history.” Whipped by strong winds, the blaze destroyed 10 businesses and five offices downtown from the corner of Sixth and Wabash to the alley north on Sixth Street and east on Wabash Avenue to the double fire wall at the Jame-Wolf store.

• The Garfield High School Purple Eagles “pulled one of the biggest upsets in the 53-year-old history of the state basketball tournament” by defeating Evansville Bosse 60-55 for the semi-state championship.

• The Maple Avenue Methodist Church consecrated the $96,000 remodeling of its education facilities. Roy LaFollette headed the building committee.

• Gov. Matthew Welsh signed a bill to raise the salaries of Indiana public school teachers. The new top minimum was $6,800 for teachers with 30 years or more experience and five years training. The salary schedule began at $3,500 for teachers with no experience and less than four years training.