Looking back: Gas explosion in 1976 rocked Brewton, others

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Forty years ago, in 1976, the headline in the Atmore Advance was about Brewton and it’s disaster. It could have been a lot worse and many were counting their blessings after an explosion destroyed or damaged the downtown area.

It all happened early in the morning around 5:30. What was later determined to be a gas explosion would have been devastating had it happened at another time of the day. Sgt. Glen Cook had just come through the area on his rounds checking the stores and was less than a block from the explosion. He said it was like a bomb going off.

White’s Auto Store and Salter Floor Covering businesses were totally destroyed while all windows within a four-block area were blown out.

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The Atmore Advance’s headline was that Brewton looked like a battlefield.

If you do not know, I live in Brewton and I remember this one well. My husband was up and getting ready for work. I was still in the bed, but the explosion sent me running and wondering what had just happened. My husband was shaving and he said the water in the sink just sloshed around. I remember later on driving down to see the area. It was then that I thought, “go home. Who knows? There might just be another one to come.” That’s just the curiosity that we have that makes us do that. Thank goodness, everything was finally cleaned up, even though the damage was estimated to be over a $1 million dollars.

In Atmore, the city had just been proclaimed a bicentennial city.

Mayor Oris Davis accepted the plaque.

This was the beginning of the preparations for our nation’s bicentennial coming up in 1976. If you were not around then, you missed a big treat. Everything that could be decorated with an American flag was put on the market. You could buy anything with a bicentennial design on it. If you remember the way they plastered Prince William and Kate Middleton’s faces on everything, you can imagine how it was. By the time 1976 was over, I, who love history, was sick and tired of the whole thing. Now get ready for the next celebration. The State of Alabama is gearing up for its bicentennial between now and 2019. The state and the counties in the state are

preparing all sorts of ways to celebrate our becoming a state in 1819.

This last story just goes to show how dumb some people can be. It seems that a young man applied for a position with the Atmore Police Department as a radio dispatcher. He was not hired but Chief O’Neal Black kept his application on file. When he received a call from Covington County about an armed robbery, he suddenly remembered where he had seen that face and one of the aliases used by the robber.

He notified the man to come in and, I guess, thinking he was about to be hired, he walked right into the police station. Instead of a job he was given a nice pair of handcuffs and a place to sleep.