Poultry Fire, July 24, 1947


The images of this blog post were scattered over two negative boxes that were simply labeled “Poultry Fire, Jul 1947”, while the second box reads “Poultry Fire, July 24, 1947.” The 24 was added at a later time.

There are 8 or 9 images of this fire in the Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library, photographed by V. Covert Martin. And I’m sure there will be more images from other photographers around in other collections.

Let’s first take a look how the building looked like in 1925, photographed by V. Covert Martin.

Sperry Flour Mill, approximately 1925, V. Covert Martin, retrieved through Calisphere.

The building was well situated and connected directly to the waterfront with a railroad line along West Weber Avenue. The office building, far left in the image, was designed by Charles Beasley and is still standing.

Next image is equally from V. Covert Martin, showing the fire in full force while giving us a great Stockton Downtown background where many buildings are easily recognized.

Holt-Atherton Special Collections, University of the Pacific Library

By 1947, the Sperry Flour Mill building was occupied by the “Poultry Producers of Central California”.

When I looked at the above image, I imagined Joel Dardis jumping on his bike, drive to the scene and work his camera along some of the same path as V. Covert Martin.

All the following 16 images are taken by Joel. For those not familiar with sheet film photography in 1947, taking 16 images requires 8 film holders loaded with two sheets of film. This is not something you typically do while in the field. You have them sitting ready for use, or you drag a film loading bag with you. The latter can be done, but not all that practical if you ask me, it’s time consuming and risky.

Stockton Fire Department, Poultry Fire, July 24, 1947 – Joel Pahl Dardis
Stockton Fire Department, Poultry Fire, July 24, 1947 – Joel Pahl Dardis
Stockton Fire Department, Poultry Fire, July 24, 1947 – Joel Pahl Dardis
Stockton Fire Department, Poultry Fire, July 24, 1947 – Joel Pahl Dardis
Stockton Fire Department, Poultry Fire, July 24, 1947 – Joel Pahl Dardis

Joel is getting all fancy in the above image. Strong composition and both the firefighter at the top of the ladder and the firetruck are standing out. The taped down negative tells me that this was either copied or printed.

Stockton Fire Department, Poultry Fire, July 24, 1947 – Joel Pahl Dardis

Another compositional shot from Joel. He’s trying to apply what he learned in COP regarding image composition.

Stockton Fire Department, Poultry Fire, July 24, 1947 – Joel Pahl Dardis

Good close up shot of the mangled mess at street level and the lined up rail cars in the back.

Stockton Fire Department, Poultry Fire, July 24, 1947 – Joel Pahl Dardis
Stockton Fire Department, Poultry Fire, July 24, 1947 – Joel Pahl Dardis

This group of four men convey the intensity and their focus on what’s happening in front of them

Stockton Fire Department, Poultry Fire, July 24, 1947 – Joel Pahl Dardis

Even the Goodyear blimp is making an appearance, Joel made sure to capture this also.

Stockton Fire Department, Poultry Fire, July 24, 1947 – Joel Pahl Dardis

Changing the angle and showing three hose streams against the profiles from the men in front makes again for a powerful image.

Stockton Fire Department, Poultry Fire, July 24, 1947 – Joel Pahl Dardis

Another view on the mangled mess and the men’s efforts to quell the fire.

The next few images show an angle of the fire fighting efforts I’ve not seen in other collections. Two of these images were either copied to other negatives or printed on paper, observe the black tape marks.

Stockton Fire Department, Poultry Fire, July 24, 1947 – Joel Pahl Dardis
Stockton Fire Department, Poultry Fire, July 24, 1947 – Joel Pahl Dardis
Stockton Fire Department, Poultry Fire, July 24, 1947 – Joel Pahl Dardis
Boat fire hoses, Stockton Fire Department, Poultry Fire, July 24, 1947 – Joel Pahl Dardis

It’s not clear fo me if the above fire hoses were used in the fire fighting effort along the waterfront, Joel found it important to take the shot. He must have had his reasons.

Next blog post we’ll take a look at the other gems that were mixed in box 21 and box 22.

Cheers !


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