When Bob first started on the FD, there was no 9-1-1 dispatch. Each entity–fire, police, sheriff–had their own numbers, and the ambulances were run out of the funeral homes. Newton had two fire stations–#1 station was at 5th and Poplar when he began his career, and later a new station was built on West Broadway, but always remained station #1. Station #2 was at 3rd and Oak, and was the headquarter station. When a fire alarm came in–the senior officer at station #2 would take the alarm and dispatch the engines–this being determined by the type of fire and the location. The officer at station #1 was only to ‘listen’, not talk. Much like a party line! 🙂
Dale Perkins was a lieutenant when Bob was first hired. Bob has memories of his beautiful penmanship, his shiny shoes, and either a big chaw of Red Man tobacco, or a Muriel Magnum cigar in his mouth. And to this day, when hubby eats a bologna sandwich, Dale comes to mind!! He also remembers (remember, they lived together 24 hours at a time) Dale always slept with an electric blanket in the winter. Bob stayed up late to watch TV and would always unplug the blanket when he went to bed. The routine was as expected–and Dale had choice words every morning for his endeavor.
During those early years the sirens on the engines were not electronic, and were run by the officer riding shotgun, by pressing a button on the floor. You’d press, and it would wail, and if you kept you foot on it, it would eventually hit it’s highest peak and stay there. And that was Perk’s signature!! As a rookie, Bob rode tailboard, and he recalls that by the time they left the station at 3rd and Oak, and headed north on Main street, Perk would have the button smashed to the floorboard. Riding down Main, the buildings on each side would echo the scream of that siren, held at it’s highest pitch, and it would vibrate through his whole body. Even if hubby was off duty, if he’d hear a siren wind to it’s highest pitch, then stay there–he’d say “that’s Perk!!”
Dale retired a lot of years ago, but like many of the firemen he has a son who followed in his footsteps and is now is a Battalion Chief with the Newton Fire Department. Dale’s health is frail, but he holds a special place in the hearts of those who worked with him.
In the past, it has been custom dispatch to send a ‘last alarm’ notice at the graveside of a fallen fireman. I wish Dale could live forever, but we all know that’s not possible.
But I do hope, that instead of that last alarm–they will floorboard a siren and hold it there. There won’t be dry eyes, but all the older timers will say –“That’s Perk”!!
Roger, Carol and Scott–feel free to add to this either on face book or here on the blog. We’d love to hear your stories–from the tailboard.
Dale and his children. L-R: Roger, Dale, Carol and Scott
I’m a little late posting today–was on the road. But now have arrived at my destination and will try to catch up.
Remember how I said the firemen lived together 24 hours at a time? Well, they also played together…a LOT!! One of our favorite pasttimes now, when we are all together, is to listen to the funny firehouse stories. And they seem to be never ending.
Those who know my Bob, know that he is incredibly good natured, so it is no wonder that a lot of things were tried on him. This one involved his good friend, Tom Winters. Tom actually retired from the Colorado Springs,Colorado FD, but for a time he worked at Newton with Bob, and it’s been a friendship that will never grow old–even when they do.
So–Bob finds Tom holding a bucket against the ceiling with a broom handle.
“Winters? What the heck are you doing?”
“You gotta help me. I’ve got a wasp trapped in here. Come hold this bucket while I get something to kill it.”
Guess what? Bob fell for it. As soon as he took hold of broom handle, he knew he was in trouble. The bucket was full of water–and Winters was gone!!
I’m not real sure we ever heard the real ending to this story. Tom–can you fill us in?
Until next time–that’s all from the tailboard for today.
I’m not particularly proud of this story–but there are times when motherhood stoops to bribery.
Because of the hours hubby worked–24 hours on/24 hours off–there were a LOT of times he missed the kids’ activities. They rolled with it better than I did, at times, and often a visit to the firehouse was both a reward and a treat, and my way of coping.
It was the church Christmas program he missed this year. Our oldest son (the third child) was 4 and had the Welcome speech for the program. Perhaps not the wisest decision to have a child open the evening, but after all…church Christmas programs take two avenues–Cantata or kids. Right?
The problem with this scenario–oldest son did NOT want to say Welcome, Welcome, everyone. And because his daddy hated the thought of speaking in public, son #1 was not encouraged (or threatened).
Overhead lights went out, sanctuary was beautifully lit by Christmas decorations, microphone adjusted to four-year-old height—and son scooted closer to me, folded his arms across his chest, stuck out his chin and shook his head “no”. Teacher smiled and encouraged. I, on the other hand did what every proud, embarrassed mother would do (someone out there please tell me you would have followed my lead)…I whispered to him that if he didn’t say his part we couldn’t go see Daddy after the program.
Now, one of the real treats at the firehouse was strawberry pop in a bottle!! I was certain this threat would work. Our two daughters begged and pleaded (in whispers of course) because they didn’t want to miss a chance to go see their daddy OR the bottle of pop they would share.
But nope–I underestimated the strong will of this child. And eventually, the program went on, and no one was Welcomed!!
Closing prayer. Eyes closed. Amen. Open eyes–and there in front of the microphone, arms still folded across his chest was son #1 , who–in a VERY important manner–Welcome, Welcomed, Everyone. Then added this little epilogue as he nodded my direction.
“There–now can I go so Daddy?”
Mother’s pride OFTEN went before humiliation in this family!!