Fire streams from the third floor of Hill Hall in 1969. Although The Traveler offices were gutted, the staff of the paper continued publishing.
Fire Guts Traveler Office; Staff Continues Publication
On a November evening in 1969, the third floor of Hill Hall caught fire and the building was quickly filled with flames. The fire spread to the second floor, causing significant damage to offices of the journalism professors and classrooms. A Traveler staff member was by happenstance among the first people on the scene:
An eyewitness, Skipper Rutherford, Phi Delt from Batesville, reported that he was going to study last night after 6:30, when he saw a woman standing in front of the building pointing out smoke. Rutherford ran inside the building and upstairs, where he stopped short of the Traveler office as he watched it go up in flames.
“The doors of the office were shut,” related Rutherford, “and smoke was billowing from the doorway. I could see flames coming from inside one of the back rooms.”
Along with the regular students, of course, the reporters and editors of The Traveler watched from the sidelines, unable to do that which they were trained to do. Their typewriters, their cameras, the newspaper’s press were all in Hill Hall. Also in the crowd that night, though, was a newspaper publisher from Springdale. Charles Sanders of The Springdale News offered to print The Traveler if the students wanted to continue. They did.
After quickly setting up a temporary office in the lobby of Futrall Hall, a little more than a block away from Hill Hall, the writers began churning out the main story about the fire’s devastation and sidebar stories with comments from journalism professors, explanations of where to reach The Traveler staff temporarily, and a reaction story from The Traveler staff members themselves. Cindy Reese, a copy editor, described the pain of hearing other students cheer during the fire. Gerald Jordan, a columnist for The Traveler, was also quoted:
[I]t is a shame that all that history was lost in the flames. Even though it’s laughed at and joked about, the Traveler, as menial as it was, was the heart of this campus. I don’t think the students quite understood this but now that it’s gone, they will.
Northwest Arkansas Times, November 12, 1969.
The Arkansas Traveler, November 12, 1969