Skip to main content

Warm Memory

February 2024
1min read

History’s muse, as John Steele Gordon noted in his excellent article on the Peshtigo fire (“The Business of America,” April/ May 2003), is fickle indeed. I must offer a slight correction, however, to his comment that “hardly anyone outside of Wisconsin even noticed.” As a youngster living in Los Angeles half a century ago, I was terrified by the Peshtigo fire. You see, my father—the late William Gordon (no relation to the article’s author, so far as I know)—was a writer and director for the Hollywood radio station KHJ. He scripted a program called Song of Liberty , and one episode, perhaps inspired by the frequent fires that roared through the manzanita on the foothills around Los Angeles, included the Peshtigo disaster as a major player. Other players, to the best of my recollection, were people who screamed a lot. I recall little else, save learning in the course of his holding me on his lap and trying to settle my fears that in the hands of a sound-effects operator, crinkling cellophane from a cigarette pack sounds exactly like a forest ablaze. I was also very gratified to learn that we had no plans whatever to move to Peshtigo.

I must thank John Gordon for triggering some memories—scary ones and warm ones—that had been a long time buried.

We hope you enjoy our work.

Please support this 72-year tradition of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it with a donation to American Heritage.