Fire and Aftermath on South 38th

In the realm of stories partially told this glass plate negative image from 1914 showing a crowd of people milling around Pallies Hall at 768 1/2 South Thirty-eighth Street, near Yakima Avenue in Tacoma. The emulsion damage at the edges of the photo echos the burned out condition of the building and the morning after bewilderment of the curious onlookers. The young couple holding hands and walking away from the charred storefront have the matched footwork of dancers that might have seen the fire leap into the rafters of the upstairs ballroom academy the night before and the old fashion, bonneted ladies commiserating in front of a lost Notions shop suggest they are wondering where their next bolt of gingham is coming from. Is that W.H. Mills himself standing in front of his cobblers shop staring off into an unknown future where there are no guarantees? Are the school boys in their caps chewing on the smoky but free sweets from the smoldering grocery? And what is it about a corner store that brings neighbors together, even in loss and aftermath? Its the day after the fire a century ago, memory as ghost.

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