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Jan 23

Pestiferous household rodent frightened by young lady with lamp

The San Luis Obispo Daily Telegram, Jan. 10, 1909.

The Daily Telegram’s early years in San Luis Obispo were mediocre.
Founded on principles of temperance, managed by committee, the paper knew how to scold alcohol consumers. The newspaper seemed befuddled when real news came to town. The writing was florid and repetitive, leading you to believe the paper was stretching to fill space and not tightly edited.
The headline made me stop and read the story but why was the excitement of the day buried on page eight?
The writer had apparently bought a dictionary and clearly wanted to get full value.
San Luis Obispo had a gas company as early as 1876 and combined operations with the electric company by 1903, but oil lamps were still in common usage in the early 20th Century.
From the Daily Tribune January 10, 1909 edition, page 8:

A RAT,
A GIRL,
A FIRE

Frightened girl drops lamp
causing commotion

A entire neighborhood shared in the
exciting events set in motion
by a rodent

At the bewitching hour of midnight, a rat, a common, ordinary, every-day rat, a pestiferous rodent of the household tribe, threw an entire neighborhood, residents on Islay street between Beach and High street, into a fever of alarm.
The agile rat, said to be a big one, rushed across the parlor of the home of Mrs. Marie Reis, the widow of Antone C. Reis, 464 Islay street, at the same time that Miss Marie Reis, a young lady in her ‘teens, was crossing the room with an oil lamp in her hands. The sight of the rat had the same effect upon Miss Reis as it would on any other young lady in San Luis Obispo. She was scared, and dropped the oil lamp on the floor and dashed out of the room screaming for help. The rat ran out of the room even quicker than Miss Reis, but the lamp exploded and ignited the furniture, and the flames spread rapidly.
Mrs. Reis and her three sons were also alarmed, and returning to the parlor discovered the fire. Miss Reis opened the front door and [s]creamed: “Fire! Fire!” The screams awakened the neighbors, and J. Renetzky, attired in his robe du nuit, rushed out of his cozy home across the sea of mud to the young lady’s rescue. He was followed by several ladies attired in kimonos and with waving hair. A fire alarm was then turned in over the telephone and the neighbors returned to their homes to don a few more substantial garmets to present a better appearance upon the arrival of the firemen.
Manuel Herrera was the first fireman to arrive at the burning threshold and espying the yellow sign, “Diphtheria—Keep Out!” on the door, he tore it down and entered the house. A stream of water was soon turned on the house and it was soaked from the shingles to the foundations before the fire was extinguished.
In the meantime the neighbors became alarmed for the safety of the inhabitants in the quarantined home and stated that the widow and her four children were in the house when the fire started, and after giving the alarm the frightened children closed themselves in. It was feared for a time that they might be overcome by smoke, but investigation discovered the unhappy family huddled in a little shed in the north end of the garden.
The case is the most pathetic one. Mrs Reis and her family had been quarantined in the ruined house since Dec. 15, Marie and one of the boys having had attacks of the dread diphtheria, so it is claimed. Fortunately they are all convalescing and none of them presented the appearance of invalids when seen in the little shed this morning.
Mrs. J. Renetzky, Mrs M.T. Atterbarry and other neighbors kindly proffered the loan of bedding, blankets, etc., but Mrs. Reis, unable to speak English, declined all help through her daughter, Miss Marie.

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