That’s Perk!!


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 Perkins family

Dale and his children. L-R: Roger, Dale, Carol and Scott


road 2 we like!










How a “smoke break” can bust stress

This week we’re sharing “stress busters.”

I learned about a great way to clear my mind from the smokers at the office where I used to work. When they were frustrated with a project, they’d often roll their chair away from the desk and announce, “I’m taking a smoke break.”

One day, the injustice got to me and I muttered, “Why should smokers get a break when I don’t?” I realized there was no reason why I couldn’t take a break, too. So I went outside and instead of breathing in smoke, I got some fresh air into my lungs and walked around the block. I timed it and discovered that it took me less time to walk around the block than for a smoker to finish a cigarette, so I didn’t feel guilty.

I also discovered that a brief time away from my desk – moving my arms and legs, getting fresh air and seeing the scenery – helped me focus once I got back to my computer to write. Each work day, I usually take one or two “smoke breaks.” A young woman in our office actually worked here six months before she realized I am not and never have been a smoker.

Although these little treks around the neighborhood probably need a new name, this is a good habit I’m going to keep.

Susie-3994-EditPS 72~ Susan

Help me, there’s a wasp in here!!

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.


road 2 we like!


I just discovered Amigurumi

Just recently I discovered “amigurumi”. My fellow yarners may be wondering what rock did I crawl out from beneath. Apparently, this trend has really caught on over the past five years and I just found out. Thank you, Pinterest.

There are many definitions of amigurumi online but basically it is a Japanese word used to describe the art of knitting or crocheting stuffed animals or inanimate objects. The word is derived from a combination of the Japanese words ami, meaning crocheted or knitted, and nuigurumi, meaning stuffed doll.

My son is really into the solar system so he asked me to crochet Saturn. While I couldn’t find such a pattern, I did discover a crochet pattern for amigurumi spheres and added rings. Here we have the sixth planet from the sun!


A cousin just had a baby shower on Sunday. The baby’s room will be decorated with a pond theme (frogs, ducks and turtles) so I thought I would try Felix the Frog. (See pattern here:


It’s been fun learning how to create amigurumi stuffed toys. I think I’m “hooked.

Cherie GagnonCherie


Am I the only one to just have learned about amigurumi?

Missouri author jelly jars

I’ve gotten started on a rather unusual collection.


These are jars of jelly purchased during visits to the homes of Missouri writers. On the left is plum jelly from the Laura Ingalls Wilder gift shop in Mansfield, Mo. That’s a nod to her book On the Banks of Plum Creek.

On the right is a jar of huckleberry preserves from Mark Twain’s home in Hannibal, Mo. This is in honor of Twain’s unforgettable Huckleberry Finn character. The preserves are absolutely delicious.

My mom loved to make jelly from the wild elderberries, plums and grapes that grew on our farm in Nodaway County. As I look at this collection, I dream just a bit to wonder if someday I’ll be a writer with my own line of jelly.


~ Susie

There..Now can I go see Daddy?

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?”

We did!!

Mother’s pride OFTEN went before  humiliation in this family!!

road 2 we like!

Tips for Public Speaking

This morning I was just adding the finishing touches on a speech that I have to deliver on Thursday. I don’t mind public speaking. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not looking for a stage and a podium wherever I go. I also get sweaty palms and a racing heart sometimes before I speak. But as a parent advocate for families with special needs, I’ve had to learn to put the fears behind so I can get a message across.

Recently, I read an article from a psychology website about the fear of public speaking. It rated this fear as the number one phobia, followed by the fear of death, spiders and darkness. Public speaking isn’t for everyone, however, in most professions you won’t be able to avoid at least speaking in front of a group at some point.

So here are some tips if you find yourself in an unavoidable situation of where you will be either public speaking or at least facing a large group:

  1. Keep in mind that people aren’t there to make fun of you. Most people are listening and aren’t sitting there wondering why you won’t lose weight, nor thinking how ugly your shirt is, nor focusing on that zit at the end of your nose. In fact, there will be a lot of people who are admiring your courage. Focus on your message instead of what people might be thinking about you.
  2. Remember, people are listening. Most people sitting in an audience are there because they have some reason to be. They want to know what you have to say.
  3. Know your audience. (Usually this is point number one, but I think it’s important to put fear aside first so you can prepare with a clear head.) Find out who will be in attendance so that you can tailor your message to them.
  4. Know your venue. I find that I will prepare a different message if I am sitting in a circle of 12 people than if I am on stage addressing 200 people. It affects the tone of your speech and your style of delivery.
  5. Arrive early. It’s always good to arrive early to test equipment and just get a feel for the room.
  6. Be prepared. Of course you will feel silly if you don’t know what you are going to say. But if you have rehearsed and made good notes, then you will feel more confident.
  7. Know how much time you are expected to speak. Don’t go over your limit, that is when people start looking at their watches. Be respectful of others’ time.
  8. Use definitive language. Good: “Good Morning. I am happy to be here because I want to tell you about….” Bad: “Sorry you had to get up so early to hear little ol’ me. I kinda want to share with you, if you don’t mind listening, about something sort of important to me….”
  9. Where comfortable clothes and shoes.
  10. Smile!

Now, go break a leg! (A figure of speech, don’t really break anything!)

Cherie Gagnon – Cherie




What are some of your public speaking tips?

Book Review: The Insanity of God

Nik Ripken isn’t his real name. The missionary wrote this book under a pseudonym to protect his identity and that of believers around the world who face death and torture by naming the name of Christ.

After reading The Insanity of God my view of the world and of what it means to follow the Lord has been forever altered.

Ripken and his wife served in relief efforts in Somalia in the horrific years of warfare and government overthrow. Ripken said he had learned that hell was the absence of God. And when he stepped into Somalia, where the name of Christ was not uttered and evil given full reign, he felt like he had entered hell.

The first half of the book describes the couple’s mission in Africa. The harshness and cruelty of this land and a personal tragedy raised many troubling questions for Ripken. The title of the book draws from this experience as he grapples with issues that don’t seem to make sense. He and his wife began to investigate how Christians live out their faith in difficult, seemingly impossible situations. Through the second half of the book, they travel the globe and share the stories of faithful Christians.

These accounts both inspired and shamed me. Often, I have the idea that God’s desire is to “bless” me and I get whiny when it doesn’t come through. Many other believers, though, know much better what Jesus meant when he warned that the world would hate them.

Ripken said he’d been hoping to find a program or procedure to reach Muslims and non-believers. But in the furthest, most dangerous corners of the world, he found a Person: Jesus Christ. And He is at work.

All we have to do is watch the news to see this reality as Christians in the Middle East suffer persecution and death. As their faithfulness is a model for us, may we be faithful to pray for them. And to pray for their persecutors, for the saving name of Jesus to be proclaimed to those who are held captive to sin.

On a personal level, I have come to appreciate afresh the privilege of holding a Bible in my hand and of joining with brothers and sisters in Christ to worship and also put some of my “troubles” into perspective.

I highly recommend The Insanity of God but don’t say I didn’t warn you about how it might rattle your world.
Susie-3994-EditPS 72
~ Susan

Seeing the story

There’s only one time during the day that I question why I went back to work. 6 AM. The rest of the day, I’m pretty convinced I’ve been given the best job. This week that feeling only grew stronger.

Every morning I get to help in a couple of the elementary classes. One of the teachers knows how much I enjoy writing so this week she gave me the job of teaching the students how to write a fiction story. She gave me one photo-shopped picture of a zebra riding a motorcycle being chased by a lion and a stack of blank story maps.

You can guess the story each of the five groups thought of–it didn’t end with a happily ever after for the zebra! As we talked about knowing our main characters, using the supporting characters like a chef uses spices, and developed a problem that grows until the end of the story, the student’s began to get excited. By the end of today, we had five groups with five completely different stories. AND, I was able to save that zebra from certain destruction!

As I sat and wrote down the ideas popping up around the table, it became obvious that some of the best story ideas came from the students who struggle academically. To see their excitement and watch as they planned and pieced their story together was such a blessing.

I’d ask the groups, “Do you see it? Is the story playing through your head?”

Some of them shook their heads no, but others gave me a dimpled smile and nodded.

They could see the movie! I can’t wait to see what stories we actually write next week.

What fun to be involved with the process.

How generous of their teacher to let me have a chance to share something I love with her students!

Happy Friday!


Sleep,such a precious thing

I have loved Julane’s story of firehouse days. I think there must be many women out there who relate and take comfort in knowing they are not alone. Following suite, I believe I shall write, for a while at least, about my experiences as a wife left alone. I spent ten years as the wife of what we used to jokingly call a Transportation Relocation Engineer. I was the wife of a truck driver.
My hubby was a photographer. Trained in the Air Force he transferred his skills to “life on the outside” and we began our life with a studio in our living room and then eventually to its own location. Most of our life it was right outside our back door so that he was literally home all day.
I became the assistant and office help, We worked together. Then ate together. Played together and then slept together. When the truck driving career started it was a huge change. Like Julane, at first I didn’t sleep either.
Solitaire on the computer reminds me of those early days. I would go to bed at night and in the quiet hear all the strange noises that I had for years ignored. Traffic on the street outside, wind in the trees,
“What was that? ?
” Is someone here? ”
“Are we ok?”
” Should I get up? ”
“Or hide?”
” or call for help?”
Sleep would elude me and so eventually I would get up, traipse down the hall to the family room and play solitaire on the computer until my mind and eyes relaxed so I could finally sleep.
Sleepless nights continued for a while and finally improved. Still, there are times when being alone in my bed is not fun. When an unusual sound wakens and startles. I still get up occasionally and lull my mind back to sleep with a mindless computer game, however I have learned over the years to allow my Heavenly Father to hold me tight at those times. Snuggled safely in his arms, I let the words of memorized scripture fill my brain and heart until sleep comes again.