Letter Describes Reaction to 1959 Ashland, Ore. Fire

Aug 3, 2016

A forest fire threatened the city of Ashland, Ore., and its historic Lithia Park on Aug. 8, 1959.  Steve Hess, son of Ashland’s Postmaster Parker Hess, was a 17-year-old junior at Ashland High.

The blaze started near Jackson Hot Springs and advanced to hills above town.  Hess said he and his best friend, Jim Susee, went to a play at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival that night.

“Neither . . . of us . . . owned a car so we walked . . . to the theater,” Hess said.  “We could see the fire . . . getting close to the park and . . . town.

“My most vivid memory . . . was when Bill Patton … (the theater’s general manager) … came out on the stage and announced that he would let people know in time if the fire came into Lithia Park so that they could get to their cars and move them.

“Every so often the fire would flare up and light up the stage and audience . . .At the end the players were given a big ovation and we left to walk home.  Quite an experience . . .”

Source:  Hess, Steve of Sun City West, Ariz. Letter to the author. 2 Feb. 2016.