NICHOLASVILLE, Ky. — Seniors here still talk about what happened on this date 56 years ago, the day a bank blew up as burglars tried to get into the vault.
While the heist was unsuccessful, its sheer boldness seems like something spun by Hollywood screenwriters, not an actual event that happened in a small Central Kentucky town (estimated population 3,800 in 1955) in the days of Dwight Eisenhower and Edward R. Murrow.
"You couldn't imagine something like that happening," said Ruth Overstreet of Nicholasville, a telephone operator working the late-shift switchboard at the time.
At 1:39 a.m. Monday, Jan. 17, 1955, a blast rocked the Farmers Bank building on Main Street, about a block north of the county courthouse. Some $72,000 in paper currency and silver was in the bank vault at the time, said Robert D. Jeter, the bank's executive vice president, according to news reports.
A waitress at a Main Street restaurant who heard a "muffled thud" ran in time to see the plate glass windows of Martin's Department Store, next to the bank, shatter and fall on the sidewalk. She notified police.
When daylight broke, the destruction was apparent. The force of the blast shoved the back walls of the bank 2 to 4 feet outward, allowing parts of the ceiling and roof to cave in. A beam in the wall next to the department store was pushed 4 to 5 feet to one side, buckling the floor and knocking a 6-by-8-foot hole in the opposite wall.
"Investigators said they believed a cabinet from the vault was blown through the roof and fell back into the building," The Lexington Herald reported.
Bill Muir, 81, who sits on the board of directors of Farmers Bank today, remembers driving through town and seeing people picking up change that had blown from the bank and onto the streets.
"There were a lot of people picking up nickels and quarters," Muir said.
All but $1,000 of the $72,000 in the vault was recovered.
Read more of this story at Kentucky.com