NEWSPAPER REPORTS praised seventeen-year-old Jerome Lynch’s cool-headed behavior during a theater fire that placed 300 children at risk in Woburn, Massachusetts, on April 13, 1930. Five minutes before the rising of the curtain, the teenage usher noticed a flickering at the back of the screen, checked it out, then returned to the auditorium to calmly announce that a fire had started.
Lynch asked the crowd, mostly children, to exit quietly, and they did — at first. Then flames shot up the curtains and around the de- parting children, leading to screams, running, and near chaos. Again, Lynch stayed cool. First, he calmed down the first-floor kids, who made it out with no major mishaps, although 15 would be treated for slight cuts and burns. Then, going outside, he heard screams from the second floor of the Strand Theater and climbed a telephone pole to the roof of the building, breaking windows in order to re-enter the rapidly burning structure. Finding six girls in a bathroom, including one who’ d passed out, he guided and carried them all out to the roof of the theater, where firefighters were waiting.