Round-up: Great Fire, Brothers

Vanora Brothers

A round-up of all things Perquimans County…

Before reading about Vanora Brothers (see her profile piece below), a lot of people wanted to share their memories about that historic fire from January of 1978 in downtown Hertford.

And I’ve got to say it was interesting researching the fire from old editions of the Perquimans Weekly that can be found online at: https://www.digitalnc.org/newspapers/the-perquimans-weekly-hertford-n-c/

Here’s what people posted about the fire on the Perquimans Weekly’s Facebook page:

Kathy Glover Dail

Absolutely! I was on the school bus on the way to Elizabeth City, we saw the smoke before we got to school. Phone service was jammed, they didn’t know if they could take us home after school or not — roads were closed. My house was a block away from the fire. Momma Bernice Glover) heard the explosion, looked across the back yard, and flames were sky high, looked like right behind our garage, so she was too scared to get the car out. She grabbed her silver chest, ran next door and grabbed Miss Fanny Wright and guided her across the street to the One Stop.

From there she called Aunt Helen Murray to come pick them up to get away from the fire. Oil droplets splattered all over the back of our white house on Church Street, from the thick black smoke. Haste’s house was saved, but temperature inside his house was so hot it melted a stack of pewter Jefferson cups together into a solid mass.

Richard White Skinner

I remember this event very well! My Dad, Charles “Charlie” Skinner, was the Hertford Fire Chief!

I remember the fire siren ringing, the scanner broadcasting the fire call and all of the fireman on our street (Whedbee Drive) racing to the fire! We had three brave volunteer fireman on our street. (Billy White, Emmett Landing and my Dad, Charlie Skinner).

I also have memories about this major fire that includes:

  • Riding the school bus across the Hwy 17 bypass bridge to middle school and seeing the big, rolling black smoke over Hertford
  • Freezing temperature that day, with a high in the 20s
  • The garage burning at Erie Haste’s home
  • The Fellowship Hall at our Hertford Methodist Church was opened and set up to serve all of the firefighters a hot meal, give them a chance to rest and warm up.
  • Walter Cronkite reported on the Oil Company Fire in Hertford NC on the nightly CBS

Kim Perry

Remember that day like yesterday. My mom worked at Reed Oil company. We lived one block from it on east academy the whole house shook and the windows rattled. Mom let me skip school that day.

Pam Benton Brown

I was riding the bus on the way to school. Black smoke was pouring from across the river. We thought a school was on fire. Later in the week, the streets were full of fire trucks and firemen from all over the area. It was freezing! Everyone looked so exhausted.

Joan A Mansfield

We felt the jolt through the Foundation of the house. Pete was in the back (Reed’s side) of the warehouse and could not tell where the next explosion might be, he went out into the water and walked in the freezing water to Hollowell Oil Company.

In other news, maybe the headline should be “Meet Your Neighbor: Vanora Brothers” who recently celebrated her 75th birthday, Dec. 14. More than 40 family and friends from CA, NY, NJ Maryland SC Georgia and NC attended Vanora’s surprise birthday celebration on via Zoom.

“She was a teacher here and knows everyone,” said longtime friend Chris Lane. “Her continued support of this community and other communities in need, is her passion. We are so blessed to have her as a friend and role model for excellence. Everyone loves her.”

A quick bit about Brothers – Vanora was born and raised in Perquimans County; Class of 1964 from Perquimans County Union School in Winfall.

According to biographical notes published within the Daily Advance, Vanora has served as an advocate for the Guardian Ad Litem, board of directors and mentor for Perquimans Governor’s One-On-One, adult advisor for Wynne Oak 4-H club, writer of the Bethel Community news for the Perquimans Weekly, an active member of the Albemarle Electric Board as well as many other board of directors for groups big and small across the county.

Vanora is a member of New Bethel Missionary Baptist Church where she has served as a youth Sunday school teacher, deaconess, usher, pastor’s aide missionary and print as well as choir ministries. She is presently a member of the choir ministries.

Vanora is a retiree of the Perquimans County School System after 27 years of service as a paraprofessional. She was also an employee of Harvey Point Special Testing Activity before retiring from the workforce.

Vanora enjoys reading, sewing, organizing events, geneology and spending time with family and friends. Her true passion is researching and connecting family members. She has gone back to 1800s’ and found connections with Presidents of US.

Vanora has been married to her husband, Levi Brothers, for 54 years and they are the parents of Connie, Levi Jr., and Tonya; grandparents of Courtney, Elijah and Wayne; great grandparents of Jeremiah and Kameron, Tywayne, Tyale, Colby and god-mother of Michael, Darien and Kyla.

“Mom is A loving, caring God fearing woman. She loves the Lord and her family,” Connie Brothers said.

When reading Vanora’s extensive biography, one thing pops out at me – she served as the Bethel correspondent for the Perquimans Weekly. Come to think of it, we need correspondents who can connect this newspaper with Bethel, Winfall, New Hope and Snug Harbor. If you’re interested in sharing news items from time to time, my email address is mlayton@ncweeklies.com

Lastly, per Marjorie Rayburn, Alzheimer/Dementia Support Group for caregivers and family members meets at 1 p.m. at Hertford United Methodist Church, 200 Dobbs Street, Hertford. Masks are required and we will be socially distancing. All are welcome. For information call 252-333-7774 or 252-426-7167.

Miles Layton can be reached at mlayton@ncweeklies.com