Photo of the Week
April 22, 2018
This week we have another real treat that came out of the blue. A few weeks ago I received and email from Gary Webb who served in the Navy at Galeta Island, Canal Zone from 1968 thru 1970 and indicated that he had some old 35mm slides of the Curundu Clubhouse on fire. Gary was visiting friends in Curundu on that fateful night when the old clubhouse burned to the ground. Gary asked if I was interested and of course I was bouncing off the walls wanting to see these photos. Gary scanned them and sent me a CD with 15 photos. Gary explained that while visiting these friends they turned in for the night when the he saw a red orange glow on the apartment wall. They looked out the window and saw the clubhouse and bowling alley on fire. Gary happened to have his camera and grabbed it and ran out to take pictures. Gary added that an unusual thing happened during that fire. Every so often there would be a small explosion and a ball of pink or blue fire would appear in the midst of the flames. One of the fire fighters said it was bottles of booze exploding. I want to thank Gary for contacting me and sending me these most valuable photos as I am not sure how many photographers were around when the old place caught fire. I was living in Los Rios at the time and we could see the orange glow in the sky towards Curundu and thought Hollywood was on fire. The next day, we drove over to Curundu and found out it was the clubhouse. It was just a smoldering pile of rubbish at this time. One thing that caught our eye as the paint on the side of the theater across the street was bubbled and probably could have gone up in flames as well if the firefighters didn't act quick and get on with extinguishing the fire.
I have posted a similar photo of the clubhouse before on CZImages, but the one above is a new one that came from the Harry and Clara Sleighter photo collection that their daughter Susan sent me back in 2010. There are other Curundu photos from this album that I have posted in the past. Note the overhang on the front of the clubhouse and see it in the next photo below in the violent way it all came to an end that night.
I have been searching for more information on the web and with my contacts but have come up with no more information, especially a date. We figure the fire was in 1969.
I did find a story on the web that was written by a Military (Army) Police that was on duty and heard via his radio that there was a suspicious fire at the Curundu Clubhouse. "The story goes on stating that the military fireman found evidence of arson. An accelerant - gasoline - caused the fire to spread rapidly. In less than thirty minutes the building was burned to the ground. It was hot enough to scorch the theater across the street. Fortunately nobody was killed or injured in the blaze." The story runs on with this same MP coming across a civilian parked on the Amador Causeway that had a metal sign propped on his hood saying: "Parking for Curundu Clubhouse only". This was called in to the Canal Zone Police who arrived and made an arrest. MPs were not allowed to arrest civilians.
This was one VERY HOT FIRE!!! What a historical capture in time!! The other 14 photos are breathtaking as well. Thank you Gary!!
Below is a photo taken the next day by an
unknown photographer. Someone sent me this and the photo below it
a long time ago and didn't note the contributor name.
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