75th Anniversary Of Catch Me Eye Explosion

Today, March 7th, marks the 75th anniversary of the Catch Me Eye explosion.  The World War II disaster occurred on US 301 at US 70 in Selma on this date in 1942.

Around 1:30am a munitions truck headed to Fort Bragg with 30,000 pounds of explosives – including gunpowder, grenades and other explosives “to be delivered to the Army” – caught on fire after a car rear ended the truck. The entire complex was destroyed and a huge crater described as “20-30 feet deep and as long as a railroad car” was left in the highway. Debris was found as far as 2.5 miles from the crater.

Catch Me Eye was the name of a popular complex that included a tavern, cabin and service station at the intersection.  The accident between the truck and car happened about 100 yards north of the Catch Me Eye.  It brought traffic to a halt.

Despite firemen and police officers telling motorist to stay away, a car attempted to pass the wreckage when the truck exploded at exactly2:57am.  Six people were killed and 50 others injured. One man standing a half-mile away was seriously injured. The victims were treated at hospitals in Raleigh, Durham and Goldsboro.

The entire Catch Me Eye complex along with the 2-1/2 story Hotel Talton across the street was leveled. Luke Capp’s Filling Station was leveled with only two “gnarled gas pumps” the only sign the of the business.

Edward E. Howell of Goldsboro, a taxi driver, and Jessie Holloway of Goldsboro, a cafe worker, were occupants in the hotel. They were last seen “in a sheet of flames.”  Ms. Holloway’s sister was in her hotel room and escaped after being buried by falling timbers and bricks.

George Stroupe of Gastonia, commander of the New Holland CCC camp, and Cecil E. Propst of Lawndale, Game and Fish Warden at the camp, were both killed, while riding past the scene. Claude “Buck” Mitchell, a cafe worker, of Dunn was a bystander and was killed instantly.

The driver of the car that collided with the munitions truck, Minnie Lewis of Raleigh, later died from burns received in the blast.  The 6 victims estates would received $10,000 each from the federal government 17 years after the explosion.

The most seriously injured people were taken to hospitals in Johnston County, Goldsboro, Raleigh, and Durham.

Johnston county’s newly organized civilian defense unit immediately went into action. Doctors and nurses, many of them volunteers, went to the county hospital to help. Among those responding was Coroner E.N. Booker.

WATCH VIDEO HERE

Windows were shattered at the Edgerton Memorial Methodist Church in Selma. The Selma Cotton Mill lost 900 window panes. Some windows as far as 3 miles away in Smithfield were shattered. The blast was heard 40 miles away.  It took several days to convince everyone the explosion was not an air raid by the Germans.

A witness remembered seeing the explosion “of flame and smokes and sparks that swirled hundreds of feet into the air.”  For a moment, “everything was as bright as day” they recalled in 1942.

Prison labor crews were brought in and had the hole filled by 3:00pm the next day.

The NC Highway Patrol estimated more than 200,000 people visited the accident scene in the following days.

A federal investigation led by the Charleston, SC Ordnance Depot took place over the next several months.
Excerpt from Syracuse, NY Newspaper Article March 8, 1942:
MRS. MINNIE LEWIS of Raleigh, driver of the sedan which was in a wreck with the truck and BUCK MITCHELL, 46, of Dunn a cafe worker.

The wreck occurred at about 1:30 A.M. at the junction of two U.S. highways.

Riding with MRS. LEWIS were her husband, their two children and two marines. ALL but one of the children were injured.

Immediately after the impact, both vehicles started to burn. Fire departments from Smithfield and nearby towns battled the blaze for two hours. Crowds of spectators gathered. They were warned to keep back, but they didn’t keep back far enough.

STROUPE and PROPST were in a car which attempted to pass the blazing truck just when the explosion occurred. They were killed instantly.

MRS. LEWIS and MITCHELL died in the Johnston County Hospital. The woman’s death was caused by burns suffered in the wreck.

Immediately after the explosion, telephone calls were received here from nearby communities asking whether there had been an air raid, and which way the planes were headed. As ambulances with siren open, screamed through the streets, many persons thought “the Japs had come.”

Catch Me Eye Book Author To Speak Saturday In Selma
This weekend, the Selma Historical Museum will feature Linnwood Lewis of Washington, NC to discuss the Catch Me Eye explosion. Linnwood had relatives that survived the explosion. He later wrote a book about the incident.  He will share some stories of the Catch Me Eye event and some new information he has uncovered in his research.

The event will begin at 10:30am Saturday March 11th in the Selma Historic Museum located at 104 West Anderson Street.

“Mr. Lewis is a wonderful storyteller and he has spent years researching the book, he will bring some newly discovered information about this event in Selma history,” according to Eric Jackson Education Chairman for the museum. The event is free and open to the public,

For more information contact Eric Jackson at 919-333-4899 or by email ericselma15@gmail.com

US Government Pays For Catch Me Eye Damages
In 1959, more than 17 years after the Catch Me Eye explosion, the US House and Senate voted to pay for personal injuries and property damage resulting from the 1942 blast, including those who lived miles away who had windows shattered or other property damaged.

Here is a list of the persons or businesses who received payment and the amount:

Herman Benson, Selma, North Carolina, $150.30;
Estate of Lloyd Guirkin (Gurkin), deceased, Selma, North Carolina, $17,500;
Mr. and Mrs. J. P. Temple, Selma, North Carolina, $1,280.06
Talton, Selma, North Carolina, $200.32;
Mrs. Mollie Creech, Selma, North Carolina, $342.80;
Dora O’Neal, Selma, North Carolina, $11.37;
Mrs. Frances Ebbs Hobbs and Mrs. E. G. Hobbs, Selma, North Carolina, $231.25;
W.O. Fields, Selma, North Carolina, $20;
C.P. Harper, Selma, North Carolina, $135.25;
Mrs. Mary S. Blake, Selma, North Carolina, $159.33;
Henry B. Hughes, Selma, North Carolina, $218.92;
C.B. Fulghum, Selma, North Carolina, $66;
Mary Boylan, Selma, North Carolina, $116.43;

Mrs. Evelyn Morgan, Selma, North Carolina, $117.35;
Trustees of Wake Forest College, Wake Forest, North Carolina, $140.02;
T.R. Fulghum, Selma, North Carolina, $38.34;
Jim Smith, Selma, North Carolina, $65.34;
Mrs. Lena Proctor, Selma, North Carolina, $60.30;
Selma Drug Company, Selma, North Carolina, $317.60;
Paul W. McMillan, Selma, North Carolina, $35;
Joseph A. Gurley, Selma, North Carolina, $22.91;
Mrs. John A. Cox, and Harold Fulghum, Selma, North Carolina, $81.05;
Edwin P. Raines, Selma, North Carolina, $50;
Eliza C. Mials, Selma, North Carolina, $68.20;
E.D. Parker, Selma, North Carolina, $89.86;
J.T. Coates, Junior, Smithfield, North Carolina, $125.08;
W.L. Hunt, Rocky Mount, North Carolina, $296.46;
G.N. Siler, Selma, North Carolina, $30.13;
Saint Johns African Methodist Episcopal Church, Selma, North Carolina, $81.06;
Mrs. Ida O. Sron, Pine Level, North Carolina, $18.98;
Vernon Ricks, Selma, North Carolina, $61.20;
Mrs. Lula Eason, Selma, North Carolina, $29;
C.E. Denning, Selma, North Carolina, $45;
Wachovia Bank and Trust Company, executor of estate of G. F. Brietz, Raleigh, North Carolina, $85.61;
H.E. Pearce, Selma, North Carolina, $431.11;
Town of Selma, Selma, North Carolina, $688.20;
W.G. Ward, Greenville, North Carolina, $193.15;
Floyd C. Price and Son, Selma, North Carolina, $177;
W.A. Herring, Pine Level, North Carolina, $115;
Saint Gabriels Protestant Episcopal Church, Selma, North Carolina, $24;
H.E. Earp, Selma, North Carolina, $12.20;
Willie Durden, Selma, North Carolina, $29.04;
Closie J. Hinton, Smithfield, North Carolina, $15;
J.C. Avery, agent for Ransom Richardson Estate, Selma, North Carolina, $60.67;
Staff Sergeant Charles B. Register, Junior, Headquarters Battery 113 Field Artillery Battalion, Fort Jackson, SC, $8.50;
J.H. Griffin, Selma, North Carolina, $34.42;
Anne S. Noble, Selma, North Carolina, $24.90;
Laura J. A. King, Selma, North Carolina, $71.96;
Rosa B. Lassiter, Selma, North Carolina, $20.50;
Anna Gilmore, 428 I Street Northwest, Washington, District of Columbia, $38.05;
J.W. Blackman, guardian, Selma, North Carolina, $43.35;
Hugh B. Anderson, Washington, North Carolina, $279.40;
D.R. I, Dunn, North Carolina, $173.64;
Mrs. Ellen F. Patrick, Selma, North Carolina, $50;
Mrs. W. B. Driver, Selma, North Carolina, $28.10;
W.H. Stanley, administrator of estate of Mrs. R. L. Holloman, Smithfield, North Carolina, $1,274.50;
Estate of C. M. Stallings, deceased, Smithfield, North Carolina, $1,000;
Luther Capps, Pine Level, North Carolina, $1,255.12;
Robert Lee Holloman, Junior, Smithfield, North Carolina, $331.04;
Hazel Stewart, Smithfield, North Carolina, $246;
Estelle Hill, Smithfield, North Carolina, $125;


Estate of Ralph R. Talton, deceased, Smithfield, North Carolina, $25,446.35;
T.C. Jordan, Smithfield, North Carolina, $101;
J.A. Mitchiner, Edenton, North Carolina, $214.98;
Robertta Bunn, Selma, North Carolina, $34.46;
Mrs. Zelma Driver, Selma, North Carolina, $65.32;
White Dairy Products, Raleigh, North Carolina, $150;
T.M. Benoy, Selma, North Carolina, $39.63;
Otis L. Duncan, Smithfield, North Carolina, $94.97;
Elevia Ricks, Selma, North Carolina, $10.25;
Albert M. Noble, Smithfield, North Carolina, $16.94;
Carolina Power and Light Company, Raleigh, North Carolina, $578.52
C.E. Kornegay, Selma, North Carolina, $220.10;
Doctor W. B. Johnson, Selma, North Carolina, $62.69;
Margaret Etheredge, Selma, North Carolina, $61.30;
Fannie Richardson, Faison, North Carolina, $24,26;
Mrs. Alma Lee Critcher, Selma, North Carolina, $13.71.;
African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Selma, North Carolina, $69.63;
G.W. and Maggie J. Bryant, Princeton, North Carolina, $57.93;
Clara Lockhart, Selma, North Carolina, $53.96;
R.W. Etheredge, Spring Hill, North Carolina, $72.72;
W.H. Field, Selma, North Carolina, $37.35;
Louis Abdalla, Selma, North Carolina, $557.15;
Susan Smith, Selma, North Carolina, $23.44;
H.L. White, Selma, North Carolina, $161.10;

Johnston County Superintendent of Public Instruction, “for damage to Selma Public School for white race”, $245.48
H.H. Olive, Route 2, Smithfield, North Carolina, $49.72;
Johnston County Superintendent of Public Instruction, Smithfield, North Carolina, “for damage to Selma Public School for Negro race”, $552.57;
Stanford Creech, Selma, North Carolina, $169.13;
A.J. Powell, Selma, North Carolina, $40.75;
Alvin A. Brown, Selma, North Carolina, $499.73;
Person and Vick, Selma, North Carolina, $45.15;
J.B. Person, Selma, North Carolina, $493.40;
Mrs. Edith L. Raines, Selma, North Carolina, $102.65;
A.H. Bone, Selma, North Carolina, $1,091.10;
Sophia Hinton, Selma, North Carolina, $100.74;
W.G. Best, Selma, North Carolina, $58.70;
Mrs. J. W. Barham, Selma, North Carolina, $118.55;
Selma Baptist Church, Selma, North Carolina, $600;
P.H. Starling, Selma, North Carolina, $88.40;
E.N. Booker, Selma, North Carolina, $102.18;
Selma Clothing and Shoe Company, Selma, North Carolina, $69.17;
W.B. Edwards, Selma, North Carolina, $146.81;
Cullen Creech, Selma, North Carolina, $51.45;
Leonard Creech, Selma, North Carolina, $81.38;
Mrs. Piety E. Creech, Selma, North Carolina, $100.05;
Southern Cotton Oil Company, Selma, North Carolina, $189.84;
W.G. Ricks, Selma, North Carolina, $603.20;
H.A. Whitler, Selma, North Carolina, $166.65;
R.E. Suber, Selma, North Carolina, $109.16;
Mrs. W. P. Sellers, Selma, North Carolina, $3,244.52;
Miss Blanche Mitchener, Selma, North Carolina, $56.87;
Mrs. H. H. Pilkinton, Selma, North Carolina, $103.68;
Mrs. N. G. Blackman, Selma, North Carolina, $158;
J.F. Brown, Selma, North Carolina, $277.77;
W.H. Watson, Selma, North Carolina, $15;

Estate of L. George, deceased, Selma, North Carolina, $91.94;
Vick Brothers, Selma, North Carolina, $97.29;
Frances Green, Selma, North Carolina, $53.73;
C.C. Hathaway, Selma, North Carolina, $6.85;
Mrs. Maggie A. Wall, Selma, North Carolina, $54.01;
Mrs. Dora M. Mozingo, Selma, North Carolina, $42.50;
W.G. Godwin, Selma, North Carolina, $224.37;
First Baptist Church “colored” Selma, North Carolina, $1,197.65;
J.T. Hughes, Selma, North Carolina, $164.75;
Ideal Oil Company, Smithfield, North Carolina, $28.15;
Andrew Worrells, Selma, North Carolina, $262.27;
A.W. Mitchiner, Selma, North Carolina, $60;
Wall Supply Company, Selma, North Carolina, $25;
Mrs. R. L. Ray, Selma, North Carolina, $94.16;
Floyd C. Price, Junior, Selma, North Carolina, $53;
Dunn Furniture Company of Selma, Incorporated, Selma, North Carolina, $274.11;
Jimmie Sanders, Selma, North Carolina, $186.55;
G.C. Hinton, Selma, North Carolina, $86.59;
Hattie Leach, Selma, North Carolina, $125.99;
J.N. Wiggs, Selma, North Carolina, $223.67;
M.N. Lewis, Selma, North Carolina, $151.94;
Leoman Wellons, Selma, North Carolina, $9.27;
C.S. Hicks, Selma, North Carolina, $94.45;
Mrs. Edgar Rose, Selma, North Carolina, $275.06;
Selma Masonic Lodge 320, Ancient Free and Accepted Masons, Selma, North Carolina, $196.03;
Selma Methodist Church, Selma, North Carolina, $2,484.80;
Henry Talton, Rocky Mount, North Carolina, $4,746.45;
Johnston County Hospital, Smithfield, North Carolina, $19.78;
J.G. McCormick, Goldsboro, North Carolina, $301.10;
G.A. McLeMore, Smithfield, North Carolina, $13;
Etta B. Morrison, Selma, North Carolina, $88.60;
J.F. Coley, Selma, North Carolina, $20;
Joseph Abdalla, Selma, North Carolina, $198.41;
J.E. Peedin, Selma, North Carolina, $371;
Mrs. J. F. Dail, Selma, North Carolina, $233;
Albert Eason, Selma, North Carolina, $68.50;
Carolina Service and Parts Company, Selma, North Carolina, $226.65;
A.G. Boone Company, Charlotte, North Carolina, $726.50.

Payment To Estates Of Deaths Attributed To Explosion:
Estate of Mrs. R. L. Holloman, deceased, Smithfield, North Carolina, $10,000;
Estate of Claude H. Mitchell, deceased, Dunn, North Carolina, $10,000;
Estate of Cecil Propst, deceased, Belwood, North Carolina, $10,000;
Estate of Jesse (Jessie Mae) Holloway, Goldsboro, North Carolina, $10,000;
Estate of Willie (Monroe) Howell, Goldsboro, North Carolina, $10,000; and
Estate of George Stroupe, Gastonia, North Carolina, $10,000.

Damages For Personal Injuries:

Dalma Buffaloe, 420 School Street, Goldsboro, North Carolina, $165;
W.L. Hunt, Rocky Mount, North Carolina, $5.50;
Hugh B. Anderson, Smithfield, North Carolina, $126.65;
H.B. Anderson, Smithfield, North Carolina, $500;
John Hardy Maynor, Dunn, North Carolina, $66.80;
John Hardy Maynor, Dunn, North Carolina, $400;
Raymond O. Avery, Clinton, North Carolina, $7,500;
F.H. Lee, Smithfield, North Carolina, $4,000;
Mrs. A. H. Bone, Selma, North Carolina, $2,000;
Mrs. Jimmy Sanders, Selma, North Carolina, $1,000;
Mrs. Kathleen Guirkin, Selma, North Carolina, $1,500;
Bruce Hopewell, Goldsboro, North Carolina, $1,500; and
Thelma Holloway, Ayden, North Carolina, $1,560.
Article contains information from www.legeros.com

1 COMMENT

  1. How interesting that rubber neckers are in the midst of the smoldering ruins. These days, they wouldn’t be allowed within a mile of the mess.

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