Remembering the 1970 Amarillo High School Fire

VIDEO: Remembering the 1970 Amarillo High School fire

AMARILLO, Texas (KFDA) - As the decades come and go, tragic events are often marked by anniversaries.

That’s when memories, both good and bad, can be revived in those who were impacted by those events.

When the custodian at First Baptist Church arrived to turn up a boiler, he also called the fire department to come put out the fire.

This Sunday, March 1, is the 50th anniversary of the historic Amarillo High School fire in 1970. It’s a special day of remembrance for Benny Ramsey, who was a junior at Amarillo High when it burned down.

“My mother opened my bedroom door that Sunday morning, and she had the radio on, and I heard the newsman talking about fire. Most of my classes were in the main building,” said Benny Ramsey, junior at Amarillo High in 1970. “And, of course, it opened to Polk Street.”

There’s a plaque, between 12th Street and 13th Street on Polk where that original Amarillo High School stood, that is a memorial to that building and the fire.

Even though the building was pretty much a loss, many things were not including a lot of artwork and some memories that live to this day.

In the early stages of the fire, students, teachers and others willing to help manage to get into part of the school and carry out important items like some textbooks, and many of the paintings and artwork that hung on the walls.

Much of the artwork and many of the paintings that were saved from the fire in 1970 are on display in Amarillo High's current location today.

I asked Benny what he would say the fire did to the student body. Did it act as a force for unity and togetherness?

“Yes, I would say that it did. They rallied together, said ‘hey,’ we’re not going to let this divide us, we’re going to pull through this,” said Ramsey

Students at that time now remember more than just the fire.

“Not the tragedy of losing the building, but the memories that we had together. At that time, I didn’t think I received the golden anniversary,” said Ramsey

Time moves on 50 years after what could have been a tragedy, losing everything in the school. But former students remembering the day, the art that was restored, and the unity it brought to Amarillo High School, that’s good news.

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