The Flying Gable
There is one story of an event that happened when our family lived on the corner of Taylor and Cushing. Our Uncle Harley loved to build things, so one day when he was visiting us he noticed it was almost unbearably hot. In those days there was no air conditioning. Dad had a couple of fans placed here and there in the house, but they didn’t do much to cool the house. Uncle Harley stated to my dad, “Paul, I’ve got an idea how we can cool this house. I’ll see what I can do about making an attic fan for you.”
Over the next couple of weeks, we never heard much back from Uncle Harley, but then one day he showed up with a marvelous new fan for cooling our house. It was a huge electric motor with a fan blade attached. I have since forgotten what he said about where the motor came from, but the fan blade was from an old car. Uncle Harley had somehow married the motor and the fan blade together to make this huge fan. The problem was that the southern gable of the house had to be custom altered to accept the new fan, plus electricity had to be run to it so it could be plugged in. It took Dad and Uncle Harley a couple of weekends to do the required work and install the fan.
Uncle Harley had run the electricity down to a wall switch in the kitchen that Mom or Dad could flip to start the fan. On the day the fan was to be started for the first time, all the Meredith kids, plus some of our neighbors, gathered to watch. Uncle Harley and Dad were stationed in the attic to watch as Mom flipped the switch in the kitchen. The fan had just one speed. As soon as Mom flipped the switch, we all heard the whine of the big motor as it started to wind up. It gathered speed slowly as we saw all the curtains in the house start to be sucked away from the windows by the surge of air movement through the house and into the attic. A couple of the chairs even moved and tipped over. Suddenly we all heard the fan reach a crescendo of a very loud whine, and then came the very loud ripping and crashing of wood. I heard Dad and Uncle Harley scream, “Turn it off, Olive!” Mom hurriedly ran to the switch and turned it off, but it was way too late. The huge fan had torn away from the house, taking with it nearly half the gable end it was framed into. The fan flew across the street and finally lodged into two tall poplar trees in Lil and Red Fleming’s yard across the street, and then it fell with a thud into their yard. Their two tall trees had devastating holes ripped in them by the flight of the fan. One of the trees was about six feet shorter than it had been before.
Uncle Harley and Dad had screamed in a panic for Mom to shut the switch off because they both felt they were about to be sucked into the blade of the fan just prior to it ripping out the end of our house and flying clear across the street. They had hung on to the ceiling joists with all the strength they had. Had those two poplar trees not been in the flight path of the huge fan, there is no way of knowing how far it might have flown, or how much really hard damage it would have caused. It was probably a blessing the trees had stopped the fan, even though the trees would suffer and show damage for many years to come. If that fan had hit a house, God only knows what would have happened.
Dad and Uncle Harley scurried to find a large tarp to cover the end of the house because rain clouds were forming. One of our neighbors had just such a tarp and loaned it to Dad until repairs could be made to the house, a chore several of the neighbors helped Dad and Uncle Harley to do. The whole end of the house had to be rebuilt and even some of the roof. It had been an experiment that, had it worked, would have been wonderful for heat relief, but it failed miserably and caused major damage. The problem was the size of the electric motor; it was absolutely way too large for such an application. Had the fan had several lower speeds, it possibly could have worked, although one of the kids would have eventually experimented and flipped the switch to high.
Paul R. Meredith