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June Aderman Survives the Effingham Hospital Fire

July 19, 2013

Mrs. June Aderman, wife of Arnold Aderman went into labor on the night of the tragic fire that burned St. Anthony Hospital in Effingham, IL. The Titusville Herald included this front page story, written by June, telling of her harrowing experience:

Titusville Herald Title

Woman Tells of Escape, Baby’s Birth

Mrs. June Aderman, 24, wife of Arnold Aderman, Effingham filling station worker, escaped from the maternity ward delivery room early today in the fire that destroyed St. Anthony’s hospital. Here is her story of her escape and the birth of her son later, as given to The Associated Press.


EFFINGHAM, Ill., April 5 [1949]–(AP)–

I think our family was the only lucky one in the fire.

About 8:30 last night I was taken to the hospital. I was put in the labor room with another girl.

About 11:30 a nurse took me to the delivery room.

In about 30 minutes I began to smell smoke. The nurse said she thought rubber gloves were being burned.

She went to investigate. But she came back and said nothing seemed wrong. But a minute later she went back into the hall.

It was filled with flames then.

The nurse slammed some double doors. Then she and another girl who was in the hall helped me to a window. We broke through.

Someone said the other girl in the labor room had jumped from the second floor. But later I heard she broke her back and lost her baby.

The three of us climbed out onto a roof. All we could see was straight walls down.

People seemed to be jumping from other parts of the building.

Some of them were sprawled on the ground.

Just then my husband and two other men ran up to the building with a ladder.

By then I was in labor on the roof. But the nurse, the other girl and I were able to climb down the ladder.

My husband rushed me home. We live about three blocks away. A short time later the baby was born.

My husband has named him Charles Lee, but everybody already is calling him “Lucky.”

My older boy, Tommy–he’s in the second grade–likes the name “Toughy” better.

But I guess time will tell whether he will be called Charley or Lucky.

June’s experience was also mentioned in the Miami (FL) Daily News:

Miami daily news 2

From the Miami Daily News, April 6, 1949.

From the Miami Daily News, April 6, 1949.

Arnold Aderman* told the story a little bit differently in his interview with the United Press, as written on the front page of the Harrisburg (IL) Daily Register, April 5, 1949:

Baby Arrives After Mother’s Escape from Fire

(Editor’s Note: Arnold Aderman, a truck driver, watched his wife escape early today from the delivery room of St. Anthony’s hospital as flames enveloped the building. She was uninjured and gave birth to a son an hour after she was removed to her home. In the follow dispatch, Aderman tells of her escape.)

As Told to the United Press

EFFINGHAM, Ill, April 5–(U.P.)–My wife was in labor in the delivery room at St. Anthony’s hospital when it caught fire. She kicked the screen out of the window and climbed down a ladder against a roof off the second floor. I watched her come down.

Then we took her home. At 1:30 a.m. today, she had a boy. He’s our third child. We have Tom, 7, and Janet, 5. My wife’s a blue-eyed blonde. She’s 25.

She told me we ought to name the new baby “Lucky.” She’s the bravest thing I ever saw.

I was home asleep about midnight when I heard the hospital was on fire. I ran the three blocks to the hospital. I knew she was in there.

Baby Born at Home

When I arrived someone was pushing at the screen on the delivery room window, just above a roof. It was June. Flames and smoke were shooting all around. The firemen put the ladder up there. June knocked the screen out and crawled onto the roof. Then she started down the ladder.

I didn’t dare try to go up after her. I was afraid for her. I didn’t know what was going to happen. But she got down. I was there waiting for her. I took her to someone’s house across the street. Then we took her home. The boy was born about an hour after we got her.

Doc Westine–(Dr. J.C. Westine)–came over to see her. He was there when the baby was born. My father-in-law said it’s a miracle that everything tuned out okay. He said we’ve had the best luck in the world. He and my wife are right. We ought to name the kid “Lucky.”

*I believe Arnold Aderman, June’s husband, was the son of Adolph Aderman, who was the son of Gustav Aderman.

From → Aderman/Bates

  1. Jim permalink

    Very interesting story. Although it does make me wonder what became of Charley/Lucky and how “Smokey” Robinson got his name

    • Thank you for the comment, James. I have not tracked down Charles/Lucky but hope he is still living. Thanks!

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