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History: Terrorism in 1969 Verona?
The News Leader
Dale M. Brumfield, Special to The News Leader
The social and political turmoil of America in the late 1960s saw the rise of domestic terrorist bombings by groups such as the Weather Underground, the New World Liberation Front and the Symbionese Liberation Army, who were famous for kidnapping heiress Patricia Hearst. But two specific incidents that destroyed three businesses within days may have made county residents and the Verona Fire Chief wonder if domestic terrorism had also come to Verona.
Just after 3:00 a.m. on January 23, 1969 an explosion and fire destroyed Moore’s Archery and Sports Center and Glenna’s Beauty Salon just east of Route 11 on Route 612 across the railroad tracks. A nearby neighbor, R. L. Ritchie, reported he heard a blast and saw flames burst from the building just before calling the Verona Fire Department. Although the blaze was fed from thousands of rounds of ammunition inside the store, it was under control by 4:45 a.m.
Oddly enough, two nights earlier, on January 21, the downtown Staunton J. C. Penney store at 113 W. Beverley Street was destroyed in a fire that apparently started in some boxes stacked out front. This lead to “an explosion of undetermined origin” in the ceiling that destroyed and damaged four nearby structures.
Then, on February 13, and also just after 3:00 a.m., Verona resident Hicks Kilby was almost knocked out of his bed when an explosion blew the roof off the nearby Jolly Roger Haggle Shop, just across the road from the previous fire, on the west side of Route 11. Despite the rapid response of the Verona Fire Department, the resulting fire completely destroyed the old building, which was at one time served as Verona’s post office.
“I’m ruined,” Murvin Deffenbaugh, owner of the Jolly Roger, repeated to a Staunton News Leader reporter as he paced back and forth past the destroyed building throughout the night as firemen pumped water on the dying embers. Although the building and most of the contents were insured, he estimated $50,000 worth of rare coins had melted in the conflagration.
But what caused two similar fires so close? Verona Fire Chief Dallas Harshbarger told the News Leader that he believed arson was the cause of both the Jolly Roger and the Moore’s fires, but with something extra.