Herman Spivey sat in a West End alley
Thursday afternoon, hands on his silver hair, and watched his life's work go up
"You just saw my whole life burn
up right there," the 78-year-old Spivey said. "I don't even have any insurance."
two-alarm fire that billowed smoke high into the air destroyed Spivey Hobby,
Toys and Gifts. The store was at 13th Street and Tuscaloosa Avenue and had drawn
generations of customers who had come to Spivey to find model airplanes, toy
soldiers and science projects. Six
engines, two ladder trucks and two rescue trucks were called to scene.
"It's the death of a landmark,"
said Capt. C.W. Mardis, spokesman for the Birmingham Fire Department. "I used to
come to this store as a kid."
Spivey, his wife, an employee
and five others were inside when the fire started in the back of the store at
A customer smelled smoke. The
customer and Spivey took an extinguisher to the back to investigate. When they
arrived they found a small fire, and Spivey said they tried to put it out. "I
could have put it out, but I couldn't put it out because I couldn't walk," said
Spivey, who uses a scooter to get around.
the entire structure was engulfed in flames. The fire also destroyed Spivey's
blue van, which was parked in front of the store.
Spivey said the fire was
probably electrical, but Mardis said the department had not pinpointed the
Spivey said the insurance
company, which he could not name, had stopped insuring the building May 20. He
said the company told him the building, built about 1932 and remodeled by Spivey
in 1947 and 1989, was too old.
"It wasn't too old," Spivey
said. "They just didn't want the exposure."
Residents of West End sat and
watched the 1303 Tuscaloosa Ave. store burn.
"It's very sad to see a building
like this go because we have no other way to buy the toy models," West End
resident Shalandia Nelson said. "I have bought toy airplanes out of here for my
kids. When I was a little girl my mom bought stuff for me out of there. Where
else can you go now and buy a lot of this stuff?"
Mr. Spivey passed away 11/06.