The featured antique newsletter for this article is volume nine, number three, which was published in May of 1966. You may ask why I selected this issue to highlight the 1960’s but the answer is clear if you check the lower left hand corner of the copy, my picture is there!
The 1960’s were wild times for our country. In 1964 Congress gave President Johnson authorization to use ‘conventional’ military force in South East Asia and by 1966, we had 500,000 troops in Vietnam. In March of 1966, two months before this newsletter was published, 200,000 people participated in a worldwide demonstration against the war.
This was also the time in our history when race riots continued to increase across our nation. In many major cities, the National Guard was called out to bring back law and order.
On the bright side of things, mini-skirts were in fashion and the first episode of Star Trek was broadcast on television. If you wanted to give a great Christmas gift, a Parker Pen set cost $11.95 or you could give your wife a dishwasher for $119.95. The average income in 1966 was $6,900 and a home, $14,200 If you wanted a new ride, just drop 2,650 bucks on any car dealer’s desk!
FIRE SERVICE OF MISSOURI IN 1966
Chief Joe Jackson from Carrolton was in his first go round as the President of the Fire Fighters Association of Missouri. The big news in this issue of the newsletter, as you can tell by the bold headlines was the 12th annual convention in Excelsior Springs in April. Assistant Chief Paul Ford coordinated the convention activities and was one of the board members of the FFAM at the time.
I was in my third year of work at the University of Missouri and was having the time of my life traveling the state and teaching fire training classes in every crossroads. I was also the Chief of the newly formed Boone County Fire Department in Columbia. The Boone County Fire Protection District was not formed until July 11 of 1970 when the good folks of Boone County voted to pay taxes for their fire protection. I was 27 in 1966, which I think was close to my waist size as well as my age. Both have increased substantially over the years. I was likely the youngest (and most unexperienced) fire chief in the state and I am sure the only one with a masters degree.
My best memory of the 12th convention was playing music with the Washington Fire Company ‘Happy Hose Loaders’ band as we came down the exterior fire escape from the Sheraton-Elms Hotel on the way to the midnight parade. I will not disclose the name of the leader of this pack in this article, but he served for many years as the Chief of the Washington Fire Department and remains very active in the FFAM He is also in the photo of this group on the extreme right. That’s me at the right of the microphone.
THE FIRE MARSHAL
In 1966, there was no fire marshal’s office in Missouri. The need for one however, is clear in this copy of the newsletter. A number of fatal fires were reported around the state, including a Carthage Hotel fire where four people lost their lives. At this point in time, the FFAM and other fire organizations are working to expand efforts to form the office.
In Missouri in 1966, a number of tax supported fire districts exist in St. Louis and Jackson Counties but very few if any in out state. The statute that governed the formation of fire districts at the time made it difficult to form districts any place outside first class counties. The legislative committee of the FFAM was the driving force to get the legislation modified and we can now see the results of their actions across Missouri.
STATE FAIR FIRE DEPARTMENT
Applications and requests for equipment were included in this 1966 newsletter for the fair operation. Chief Bob Morrison of Lee’s Summit was the chair of the State Fair Committee and Jim White from Pattonville and R.G. Clark from Trenton were committee members. The commissioner title had not surfaced at this time.
I was in the early stages of what would be several years serving as the Fire Chief at the Fair, along with Joe Jackson as the race track Chief and my dear friend Phil Sayer, doing any thing and every thing that needed to be done. Chief Bill Steiner from O’Fallon, one of my many mentors in this business, ran the Public Education section of the Fair in a large tent where the present fire station is located. The Fair Board was considering a fire station building in 1966 but the “real” fire station was the little single bay brick building down the street from the present location.
University of Missouri Fire and Rescue Training Institute
In 1966 the Fire and Rescue Training Institute at the University of Missouri was known as Firemanship Training and was a function of the Extension Division of the University. The entire staff consisted of W. Bush Walden, Director – Bill Westhoff, field instructor and Goldie Havens, office secretary. The big deal was the Summer Fire School and doing circuit classes. In my article in the 1966 newsletter I reported on an arson class that had just been completed in Lee’s Summit April 4 thru 7 with ninety-two students in attendance.
Bush and I had just returned from the Fire Department Instructors Conference in Memphis, Tennessee and our new Fire Training Building was near completion on Ashland Gravel Road on the campus of the University of Missouri in Columbia. Life was good! And it still is!