With the approaching of Dad’s 77th
birthday, some of the amusing stories about him from Fire Men
come to mind.
His first actual fire call changed
him for life, but not in the dramatic way some might think.
In the middle of the night, he woke up to the
siren wailing in the distance, down over the hill.
He quickly got out of bed and dressed, racing
to the car.
He sped toward the station,
less than a mile from the house, impressed with his reaction time and rapid
response to the emergency call.
When he got
to the station, he found he was a bit behind the curve. Numerous cars were already there, and all of
the fire apparatus—two pumpers and a squad truck—were already gone. Luckily, the call was only right down the
street; he could see the flashing lights at the nearby bank. Driving the short distance, he saw the
apparatus positioned around the building and ground ladders raised to the
roof. The fire was minor in nature, but
he quickly figured out he needed to pick up the pace if he ever hoped to make
it onto one of the fire trucks.
Dad became an efficiency expert’s dream.
Clothes were carefully laid out on the bureau each night before
bedtime. Keys, glasses, and cigarettes
were strategically positioned. The most
radical idea was yet to come: an automatic garage door opener. Those were unheard of in our neighborhood,
but Dad took it to the next level. Most
garage door openers, even today, have the button that activates them in the
garage next to the car. That wasn’t
enough for Dad. He put an additional
button in the closet in the bedroom which allowed him to hit the button while
getting dressed. The garage door would
already be open when he reached the garage, saving a good five seconds. A NASCAR pit crew would be impressed with his
speed out of the house. When I was about 11 years old, we moved to a new house
in a nearby neighborhood. One of the
first things wired in was the activation button for the garage door opener in
the closet of the master bedroom.
In the mid-1960s, a massive
technological advancement happened—Plectrons became available.
Plectrons were tone-activated radio receivers
manufactured by the Plectron Corporation.
As far as firemen were concerned, they were the greatest thing since
Now they knew exactly
where and what type of fire they were going to.
The name Plectron for a tone-alerted receiver became the fire service
equivalent of Xerox for copiers.
original models weren’t even solid state, instead they used tubes.
The warmth from the tubes made them
attractive to animals.
My cat loved to
sleep on top of the Plectron because of the heat it emitted. The cat loved it
until the high pitched squealing tone alert went off at full volume.
Then he would jump simultaneously up from the
radio and off of the top of the refrigerator upon which it sat.
It was a sight to behold.
all this, as a young boy, the importance of speed out the door was ingrained in
me. When relatives visited, I knew to
advise them of safety measures I had developed out of necessity. If the tones went off, I would yell “quick,
Grandma, get in a chair! He’ll trample
you.” This came from the experience of
being treated as a track hurdle while playing with toys on the floor when a
fire call happened to come in.
To say that Dad could be a little
bit anal about equipment organization would be putting it mildly.
I think it was the ex-Marine in him coming
varied in vintage from 1957 to 1975 back when he was a chief in the 1970s and
80s. What didn’t vary is where things
were located. You could open any
compartment on any of the four engines (three first line and one reserve) and
each piece of hardware, nozzle, appliance, wye, gate valve, etc., would be
found in exactly the same spot on every piece.
Hose was a
pet peeve of his. We had a spare load of
hose for each engine stored in doughnut rolls on hose racks in the rear of the
building. I would catch him regularly
rearranging the hose on the racks so the end butt of each roll was in perfect
If he saw
you put a roll of hose on the racks and not line up the butt with the adjacent
ones, you would hear about it instantly.
This was not one of his saner practices.
terrible with names. Guys in the
department upwards of five years were “hey you.” If he did know your name in less time, it was
not necessarily a good thing as there was likely a bad reason why he remembered
it. At least when I joined, he had no
excuse not to know my name.