Downtown Laurel businesses go up in flames in 1996

Compiled By Kathleen Gilluly
Thursday, April 8, 2021
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This night scene was taken after most of the fire had been extinguished but the buildings were too unsafe for firefighters to enter. The backhoe was used to tear down the buildings and allow firefighters access to the interior. In addition to the Movie Haus, several other businesses were destroyed in the blaze. Outlook archive photo by Stacey Osborne

25 years ago

April 10, 1996

Wearing a red floral cap and a worried look on his face, Mike Oliver leaned forward on a bench outside Laurel City Hall and stared at the orange flames and black smoke filling the downtown sky Saturday afternoon. Cringing slightly, he shook his head in disbelief. Do you know how it started, he was asked. “Unfortunately,” he replied, “I do.” A few hours earlier, Oliver and his family had been working on a new espresso and ice cream shop they had hoped to open soon at 15 First Ave. As he used a blowtorch to loosen some pipe fittings, a piece of insulation fell from the wall and caught fire. Although he quickly extinguished it, the flames continued inside the wall, said Oliver. Feeding on the insulation, the fire spread to the ceiling. It eventually engulfed the espresso shop and Oliver’s photo lab, which shares the building, and the bus depot, movie theater and blade sharpening business at 13 First Ave. “One little spark … and poof!” lamented Oliver. The third major fire in Laurel three weeks left behind a pile of bricks, metal and other rubble—and a hole in Laurel’s downtown business district.

Births were announced for Makayla Marie Schessler, Bryanna Lynn Weis and Leela Kaye Mohr.

A recreational park with a Western theme will soon hitch its reins to a post near the junction of the Yellowstone and Clark’s Fork rivers south of Laurel. Owner Bill Fiegel of west Billings recently began construction on Thiel Road of “Clark’s Camp,” which will include a horseshoe-shaped Western town, a park, RV campground, gift shop, horseback and stagecoach rides and jet boat tours on the Yellowstone.


50 years ago

April 14, 1971

Earth Week will be observed in Laurel April 17-24, Gay Easton and Marvin Carter, Earth Week chairmen announced. The city of Laurel will cooperate by officially declaring the week, “Laurel Clean-up Week” and special city trucks will cover the alleys throughout the week to pick up excess garbage.

A program on drug abuse was presented by Laurel Police Chief Harold Gaston when he was guest speaker at the meeting of the Laurel American Legion Auxiliary. Mrs. Nancy Vaught, child welfare committee chairman, who had arranged the program introduced Mr. Gaston. Gaston told of an effort being made by some people to legalize marijuana; and also told of the need for a dog, which would be trained to “sniff out” pot.

The Park City Volunteer Fire Dept., was called out most every day last week to fight fires caused mostly from grass and weed burning fires that got out of hand due to sudden high winds and extreme dryness. One day they were called twice. Saturday the property of Mr. and Mrs. Edson Hedges and Mrs. Marcella Zinne was endangered, however due to the promptness of the fire department and many folks helping, it was controlled before doing any damage. About the same time Saturday, a tree blew down at the locker plant, damaging the camper on Leo Stepper’s pickup.

The Krug brothers farm operation is a “family affair,” and its five member partnership boasts a unique example of compatibility. The fibre which is woven into the four-brother-and one-sister group traces its origin to the “old world” tradition of family loyalty, honor and respect. John, the oldest of the five, is considered the “leader,” but he is quick to say “we all work together.” The others are Henry, Adam (better known as Joe), Willie and Esther Krug. Together they farm about 5,500 acres in the valley, with home base in close proximity to the original family home about three miles south of Laurel. The Krug brothers operation expanded in 1948 to include a gravel pit and top soil supply to the surrounding area. Gravel and fill dirt from the Krug farm is delivered to wide areas in Yellowstone and adjacent counties. Actual farming now consists mostly of beets and grains, with the beet acreage rented to other farmers. All of the crops raised are used in their own cattle feeding operation, the elder Krug said. About 500 head of cattle are run on range and about 300 are fattened each year, he says. Seating for a “family dinner” would require places for about 120 persons, to accommodate the Krug brothers and sisters and their children—but not likely that all of them would be assembled at one time, they regretfully add.


75 years ago

April 10, 1946

Jerald Rood of Billings has opened Jerry’s Bakery at 403 East Main street where he recently installed baking equipment. The operator is producing a large variety of baked goods. Rood was recently discharged from the navy in which he served five years. Before going into the service he had worked two years as a baker and continued his trade while in the navy. He is being assisted in the business here by his wife, a former resident of New York.

Ex-service women of the community were honored guests Tuesday at a meeting of past presidents of the Laurel American Legion Auxiliary at the home of Mrs. B.E. Nutting. The president, Mrs. Minnie Nerle Fenton, presided. Ex-service women present were Grace Warfield, Lois Warfield Mehling, Jean Garnet Price and Jerry White of World War II. Maude Harris, nurse in World War I, represented that war. A patriotic program was presented by members of the past presidents’ body. Names of all ex-service women of the community were read. The 39 ex-service women represented Wacs, Waves, coast guard, marines and nurses.


100 years ago

April 13, 1921

Splendid showings of oil have been encountered at the Harrison well now being drilled near Antelope Point, and a flow estimated to be possible of 20 barrels per day in productions has been passed through and cased off while the drill bit explores further in quest of a greater flow. The depth reached Sunday was 2,500 feet. The formation is that of the Colorado shale. The quality of oil encountered is similar to that in the well drilled on the Schauer ranch a mile west of Laurel.

“Wind Mills of Holland,” is the title of the play to be staged Friday, April 22, at the high school gymnasium building by high school students. The play has been in preparation for several weeks and George Coy has been acting as production manager. The proceeds of the play will go toward the purchase of addition equipment for the gymnasium. The equipment fund is now about $500 and the play is expected to add to it materially. Some of the new pieces of equipment have already been ordered.

Noted passing through the shops were 14 cars stripped to the floor or wheels to be rebuilt, over a half dozen ready for painting and 16 or more already painted and ready to be put into service. The painting is done by a blower, the force coming from the air compressor engine which furnishes all the power used about the shops.

A full train of bananas routed for coast points passed through the Laurel terminal Saturday.

A son was born Sunday to Mr. and Mrs. George Ruud. The weight at birth was nine pounds. Mr. Ruud states that a name has not yet been selected, but he intends to see that the boy becomes a baseball player.



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