HOLLIDAYSBURG - Mitch Fagans of Catfish has fond memories of Dave Musselman's Barber Shop at 119 Allegheny St. in Hollidaysburg Borough, one of the structures destroyed by fire Thursday.
"I loved it," he said as he described what it was like getting his hair cut there. It reminded him of the old days, the "general store" where people sat around the stove and talked about everything.
The barber shop was like that, only there was no stove. But there were magazines, and there was a lot of talk "about everything," he said.
He called the fire "devastating" and just for a second he lost control, "Oh, I just can't believe it," he said, glaring steadfastly at the rubble and charred remains of the three destroyed buildings, the aftermath of the fire that left 10 people homeless, but, as Fagans and a friend said - thank goodness - was nobody injured.
"This is a place everybody goes to to get a haircut," he said, and his hope is that the half block of destroyed buildings will be reconstructed.
"I hope they don't make it a parking lot," he said.
Fagans was among a throng of visitors to the site of the fire Saturday. It had the feeling of a wake, with a steady stream of people and cars throughout the afternoon.
A grandmother, surrounded by her little ones, snapped a picture of the Dave Musselman Barbershop sign, still covered in ice from the hoses that extinguished the blaze.
A couple from State College, taking a day trip around central Pennsylvania, visited the site and took pictures.
"These were nice buildings. They were quaint for their period," said Alma Smith, emphasizing the history of the destroyed structures. She was once the property manager of the buildings, and she said, "I knew them well. The apartments were really nice. It is just a tragic loss for the town."
A 13-year-old boy, Jacob, stood by his bicycle across the street. He pointed. He lived at 115 Allegheny St. and was inside his home when fire broke out. He heard an explosion. Police Chief Jeffrey Ketner evacuated him and his family from their home. Was he scared? He answered, "No."
A woman named Jackie, who didn't want to give her last name, pointed at 115 Allegheny and said she lived there for a year when she first became a mother. She laughed; that was 39 years ago. It was nice then, she said.
She knew Dave Musselman and two of the other tenants. She said, "That's sad, very sad," pointing across the street.
A woman was busy sifting through the rubble of where the fire started. She, too, didn't want to give her name but she collected pictures, a photo album and a yearbook for a friend, one of the tenants. She was also looking for a cat, but nobody could remember seeing it.
One business, Buster's Six Pack Shoppe, at 111 Allegheny St. on the fire side of the block, was open. Its owner, Buster Brunner, who has been there for 42 years, said when he realized there was a fire just up the street he went next door to notify his tenants in the adjoining building. He also said of Chief Ketner, "He did a wonderful job getting people out."
He hopes that the destroyed buildings are replaced, maybe with offices and apartments.
But, then he added, there is something that Hollidaysburg used to do that he thinks should come back.
In the past when there was a fire, a whistle would go off and he would check, for his own safety, the location of the fire.
He said the whistle needs to be brought back to alert people to trouble. He rued the thought that the Thursday afternoon fire could have happened at night when people were asleep.