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February 8, 2018

Ledger file photo

LARSON'S & GREEN'S CASH STORE in 1954. The grocery portion was on the right, dry goods in the middle and hardware to the left. The old Sanders County Ledger building can be seen to the left of the picture.

Picture called Larsons & Greens if you have room for it

50 YEARS AGO • FEBRUARY 15, 1968


Fire completely destroyed Thompson Falls' oldest and largest retail establishment, Larsons & Greens, Inc. early Wednesday morning.

The fire was first noted when a transformer on an electric power pole at the rear of the building exploded and flashes of light awoke Matt Marich and Duke Sallee who reside nearby. The alarm was turned into the sheriff's office at 1:35 a.m.

Leveled by the flames were the grocery, dry goods, appliance and hardware departments of the firm.

Nothing was saved. All of the records of the firm may have gone up in flames. By mid-day the safe had not been reached, however.

Kelly Green said when he opened the front door, he was blown back by the pressure of the heat.

Firemen answered the call with both fire trucks, but at first the source of the fire could not be determined in the heavy smoke. A few minutes later the first flames appeared in the rear of the building and within moments the entire structure was aflame.

Firemen under the direction of Chief Charles Applegate poured water into the conflagration from hoses connected to fire hydrants as far as two blocks away. But their efforts to extinguish the blaze were futile. All available equipment was used.

Working from the roof of the Post Office (now Little Bitterroot Thrift Store) and adjacent Ledger building they kept those two buildings cool with water. An east wind also aided the firemen in saving those two structures.

At the height of the blaze a piece of roofing was carried as far as the Fred Moore home, seven blocks away.

With the aid of volunteers, most of the movable equipment and supplies in both the Ledger and Post Office were removed. Wilbur and Harold Vaught with the aid of volunteers also evacuated the Motors Garage building located across the street to the west of Larsons & Greens (now the Baptist Church parking lot).

Harold Vaught said the roof on the garage was filled with embers and sparks.

Other merchants along Main Street watered down the roofs on their buildings with garden hoses as a precaution. Smoke from the inferno was blown west along Main Street and was drifting into store buildings two and three blocks away. Chief Applegate ordered the Black Bear Hotel to alert its occupants.

Mrs. Mike Miller opened Norm's Café and made coffee which she and other volunteers served free to the firemen and other workers. The Jayceens also set up a coffee bar for the firemen at Motors Garage.

Soon after the blaze spread throughout Larsons and Greens, exploding ammunition from the sporting goods section could be heard. A few minutes later, the front wall fell to the sidewalk in front of the building. Fortunately, no one was injured.

The Plains Fire Dept. brought its rural fire truck to Thompson Falls, but the neighborly act was in vain, too. Nothing could stop the flames.

Explosions were heard at intervals for more than four hours after the blaze started as the flames ate at cans of paint, refrigeration units and other items.

Gerald Green said the loss was only partially covered by insurance.

Firemen fought the blaze in 20-degree weather.

Retired fire chief E.H. Davis said the corner building housing the grocery department was erected around the turn of the century. The section housing the hardware and dry goods was erected later.

The firm at one time was known as the Thompson Falls Mercantile Co. and was owned by the Anaconda Co. Henry Larson purchased it in 1933 while operating a general store at Noxon. He moved his family to Thompson Falls in 1935 and he and his sons, Gerald, Kelly and for several years George, had operated the firm since.

Deputy Sheriff Marcus Marich, who was manning the desk at the sheriff's office when the alarm was sounded made numerous calls to alert owners of adjacent businesses. Difficulty was reported in sounding the fire siren at first.

No estimate of the loss was available, but observers put it at above a quarter million dollars.

Larson's & Green's was located on the corner of Broad St. & Main. As mentioned above it had grocery, hardware, clothing and dry goods departments. In a back corner there was a small cubicle with iron bars where pay checks could be cashed. The store owners knew when area pay days were for loggers and mill workers and would have enough cash on hand to cash their pay checks. I'm sure a lot of the money from the pay checks were spent at the store. It was a big blow to Thompson Falls' Main Street. All that remains of the building is the brick wall and some charred wood on the west side of Little Bitterroot Thrift Store.


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