Reaching Clovis Junior High fire an adventure

By Don McAlavy: Curry historian

William A. Noffsker is to be remembered as a banker and a soldier in the 200th Coast Artillery during World War II, four years of which were in a Japanese prison camp. Returning home to Clovis, he resumed his former position with the Citizens Bank of Clovis and had a distinguished banking career, becoming the senior vice president.

Noffsker graduated from Eastern New Mexico Junior College in 1936. At some point, prior to World War II, Noffsker was a fireman with the Clovis Fire Department. Fire Chief R. V. Miller’s daughter, Beth Nelson, later told the story of Noffsker’s experience in going to a fire.

“When the call came in that Clovis Junior High was on fire on North Main, the Diamond T firetruck went out first. Then the call came in for a second firetruck, so Jay Marks and Noffsker took off in it with Jay driving and Noffsker riding on the back.

“By the time Jay was approaching the dip at Eighth and Main, he had attained a pretty good speed and Noffsker suddenly realized he was in for trouble. Everybody that ever lived in Clovis remembers the deep dip at Eighth and Main, just at the end of the brick payment. Most of us in a car swung to the right to avoid the dip, especially if you were going fast. Noffsker briefly considered abandoning the truck, then decided instead to hang on and ride it out.

“But when Jay hit the dip, the metal tools in the back of the firetruck flew up and hit Noffsker in the face and he flew off the back of the truck, high into the air. When he came back to earth, he landed a full half block up the street.

“Now the ironic part of this story is that Jay wasn’t aware he’d lost Noffsker, so he kept flying on up the street toward the fire. He reached 12th Street where an available fireplug was located, screeched to a halt just beyond the fireplug, waited the allotted five minutes for his rear man to make the tie-on of the hose to the plug, then blasted off again.

“Not until he arrived at the fire did he realize that he still had all his hose on the truck … none was attached to the plug … and his rear man had disappeared off the face of the Earth!

“Meanwhile Snap Cravey was coming along Main Street on his job for the Santa Fe Railroad and found Noffsker laying in the middle of the street. He took him to the hospital, where they found no broken bones, but he was skinned, scratched and bruised through fire boots, two pair of pants, a slicker and a helmet, and had nine broken fingernails! Noffsker laughed about it later.

“No, the Junior High school did not burn down!”

The Junior High School is now called Marshall Junior High School.

His sister, Imo A. Polston, told a history of William A. Noffsker in our Curry County history book, published in 1978. Here are a few facts from that history.

Noffsker was born in Iowa, a descendant of Pennsylvania Dutch folks. The family moved to Kansas and then Oklahoma. Noffsker had taken part in the Cherokee Strip “land run” and had located on land five miles south of the Kansas line near Medford where Imo and her brothers, Sam and Jay, attended school. In 1908 the family came to the Territory of New Mexico by train to Tucumcari and bought a relinquishment north of Forrest. Noffsker bought the Roosevelt town site in 1911 and became a rancher. It was at Roosevelt that Noffsker bought his first car, a Model T Ford.

In the same history book, Cleo Mullis, a sister of Noffsker, tells a history of her brothers and sisters. Their parents were William A. and Mary Pattison Noffsker. Cleo, the fourth child, graduated from House High School in 1942 and immediately joined Roden-Smith Drug Store in Clovis. A good story on Cleo was printed in this paper in 2005.

Don McAlavy is Curry County’s historian. He can be contacted at: