‘Sad House’ Tells Of Tots and Fire
Among the activities of the fire prevention program of the Philadelphia Fire Department is an essay contest in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades of all public, parochial and private schools in the city. In the 1972 contest conducted by the department’s fire prevention division, the winner was Gaye Wallace, a seventh-grade student at Cecilian Academy. She received a trophy and a $50 bond.
The theme for the contest was “Never leave children unattended.” Gaye’s winning essay, entitled “The Sad House,” follows:
All day long people have been walking by staring at me. Yesterday they passed by and never looked at me. That’s because yesterday I looked like all the other houses. Today my interior is all burned out and where my pretty curtains used to be, there are rags dripping with water.
It all started yesterday afternoon when Mrs. Hughes went to the store, thinking she would only be gone a minute. She left 5-year-old Jean and 6-year-old Bob alone with me. Not knowing any better, they started playing with matches that were carelessly left on the table.
Jean said, “What are these for?”
Bob replied, “Momma uses them to light the oven.”
Bob struck a match and said, “I’ll show you.”
“Look at the pretty light,” said Jean. “Now what do you do?”
By now the match had burned down toward the end of the stick and began to burn Bob’s finger. He threw the match onto the kitchen table, where it began to burn the cloth. Before I knew it, my whole kitchen was ablaze. The children were terrified and huddled in a corner of the dining room. The next thing I remember was the sound of fire engines and firemen breaking out my windows and doors. Then I saw Jean and Bob being carried out to an ambulance. It was then I noticed Mrs. Hughes with terror written all over her face getting in with them.
The fire is out now and here I stand all hollow, charred and dripping with water. Mr. and Mrs. Hughes came by this morning.
Even though they looked terrible, I heard Mr. Hughes say, “We were lucky this time, the children are going to be all right and we can rebuild the house.”
I was glad to hear that Bob and Jean were safe and longed for them to come back and live in me again. I only wish all grownups would learn that houses cannot be babysitters.