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Stephen F. Austin State University

There's a Fire at the Moon House (August 2012)

There's a Fire at the Moon House
By Deborah Burkett

(Note: As a member of the Cherokee County Historical Commission I sat down recently with Jim Carlyle. During this interview I came to realize that volunteerism runs deep inside him and has for a long time.)

During his sophomore year in high school Jim Carlyle worked as a volunteer with the fire department. He explained, "It was during World War II when all the young men were either in the military or working in defense plants. Some worked at ship yards in Beaumont or Orange...the only people left in Troup to fight fires were old men and kids. I was just 15..."

Over the years there have been four locations in Troup for the fire station. Jim recalled, "Don't know where the first truck was kept, it was a Model T Ford…The second truck was kept in a one stall station in the block where the old theater and Gulf States Telephone Company used to be on Duval Street. When there was a fire, the telephone switch board operator would step outside her office and holler across the alley at the station, 'There's a fire at the Moon house!!!'…Then we'd activate the fire siren which was atop the bank building... and because there was no air conditioning everyone in town could hear the siren… and everybody knew where the Moon house was...so off we'd go."

Jim remembered, "We had a lot of brush fires in the surrounding farm land and would fight them with pine tops and wet toe sacks. We carried 200 gallons of water in a tank; that's how we wet the toe sacks…"

He continued, "I remember one Sunday morning Chicken Alley, as it was called, was on fire…Mr. Lump Pool had a store there, he sold eggs and live chickens too…and in the same block was the O'Neal Blacksmith shop which was no longer in business but had been run by Billy Melton's great grandfather..."

The fourth and current fire station was built in 2011 by Joe Carlyle's son, Jim. There are multiple trucks now and firemen too, operating under the leadership of Fire Chief, Tim Mager and Captains Ronnie and Bobby La Motte, a father and son team who've been with the fire department since 1997. There's one woman in the bunch, a spunky lady named Arla Phelps.

In my quest to interview Arla, I happened to see her at the post office and she said, 'Hop in and we'll talk..." I climbed into the brush truck and managed to ask a few questions before a call came over the radio--'There's a fire at Neckover Trailer!' I jumped out, my heart racing as Arla and the brush truck sped away. My thoughts turned to something Jim Carlyle had said--'There's a fire at the Moon House!' Not much has changed, when the call comes in, volunteer firemen and women are still answering that call.

Just last summer during the fires that plagued our East Texas area, Jim Carlyle drove a brush truck. Our heartfelt thanks go out to Jim and all firefighters who protect us, our businesses and homes!