One year ago today, Sempeck’s Elkhorn Lanes burned to the ground. The fire started in the diner sometime after closing; the exact cause of the fire was never determined. Fire fighters from three stations responded to the call, but horrendous weather conditions prevented them from saving the Elkhorn landmark. The firefighters battled single digit temps and howling winds throughout the night to keep the fire from spreading to near by businesses.
By the time the firemen left the scene the following day, there was nothing left but a twisted shell of a building encased in ice, like it was put in the freezer to be withdrawn, defrosted, and used at some future date. The ice on the parking lot was 6″ thick. The wind blew so strong that horizontal stubs of ice, 2-3″ in diameter stuck out 6″ from the west wall, and the top of Sempek’s Big Red school bus stuck out of an iceberg behind the building.
I took this picture the following day, approximately 24 hours after the fire was extinguished. The scene was still wide open, no barricades, no yellow crime-scene tape, and no boarded up windows or doors. I walked by the melted Pepsi machine and charred paper rack in the main entrance and took this shot. I didn’t stay long — I didn’t have a hard hat.
This photo, and several others, are on display in the lobby of the Elkhorn Library throughout January. My family and I have fond memories of Elkhorn Lanes, and I’m sure many other area residents do too.
Thought for the day: The photographer is like the cod, which produces a million eggs in order that one may reach maturity. George Bernard Shaw