I can’t believe it’s been fifty years The Boone County Fire Protection District Formed by voters on July 11, 1970
Someone told me once that, “time flies when you are havin’ fun.” I cannot think of anything that would be more fun than creating a fire department where there has never been one in the past. That is what happened in Columbia, Missouri, but it started several years before the date stated in the title of the article.
In the last newsletter, my article featured several apparatus that had more than one life and a couple that had more than one home. It should be apparent to even the casual reader of my history articles that fire apparatus, old and new, fascinate me. It goes without saying, the folks that operated the apparatus equally enamor me. One isn’t effective without the other.
Over the last month or two, it seems that we have all had some extra time on our hands. So, in a normal red-blooded American style, I have turned to Facebook for entertainment. I only have a page because my grandkids shamed me into having one but recently I have found fire truck sites that have saved my sanity.
One of these is the Towers Fire Apparatus Historical Society – Freeburg, IL. I found a few apparatus photos there and got hooked into a complete article about my involvement with Towers. Which goes back to when I was about ten years old.
As we indicated in part one of this article in the last newsletter, we will now feature the real experts in apparatus renovation. The Washington Volunteer Fire Company has a long and rich history which has been reinforced by years of work by a number of their members collecting and restoring much of their apparatus from the past.
I believe the passion for their restoration efforts stem from the “built in” German ancestry in the community and the fire department tradition of excellence over the last couple of centuries.
I asked my friend Chief Tim Frankenberg to give us a little rundown of each of these restoration efforts and his comments have included within this article. A special thank you goes out to him and all of the WFD folks who devoted their time and effort to providing the community with this apparatus history.
THE FIRST OF MANY APPARATUS RENOVATIONS The Washington Blaze Chasers led the investigation of what happened to the first WFD truck, the 1917 Model T. It was located in the mid 1980’s in a junk yard just blocks from the present headquarters. The truck was known to be sold to the Stumpe’s and they confirmed it was in their salvage yard. The truck was unique in that it was a Model T car with a Smith Form-A-Truck modification. The Smith Form-A-Truck added a frame extension and replaced the existing rear wheel with a large sprocket and a new axle was installed on the extended frame with a chain drive. The truck had very little left and was built from the ground up.
Looking back over the last fifty or so years that I have been fortunate enough to have been involved in the fire service, lots of changes have taken place. One of the major modifications has been the evolution of fire apparatus.
The first rig I remember riding on as a kid was a 1942 GMC/Central that is still in use today as a parade and PR piece in the O’Fallon Fire Protection District. It was purchased around the time my Dad was the fire chief there.
I viewed a Facebook photo recently that showed it in a fire apparatus parade at the 26th annual JEFFCO Apparatus Muster. The box on the running board with the angled top was built by my Dad. It held several army surplus type parka coats with hoods for winter use by volunteers who would normally run out of their places of business on Main Street without their coats when the town fire siren sounded.
O’Fallon is also the proud owners of a 1927 Chevy front mount pumper purchased around the time my Grandfather was the fire chief.
I really doubt that very many readers of the FFAM newsletter have to be reminded that Hannibal is one of our states oldest and most famous towns. From the time most of us were kids we read the Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn in school and learned those iconic stories were based on things that took place in this little village on the Mississippi River.
Moses D. Bates founded Hannibal in 1819. It soon became a principal docking port for steamboats, flatboats and steamers traveling the upper Mississippi. In 1845 Hannibal had achieved city status and the following year the Hannibal Fire Department came into existence.
Many well-known individuals have called Hannibal home, including William Lear, the designer of the Lear jet. Also counted among the famous sons are Congressman William Henry Hatch and Navy Admiral Robert E. Coontz.
A couple of months age I received a call from Fire Chief David Pratte of the Bonne Terre Fire Department. Actually I should say the Bonne Terre/Big River Fire Service since he told me that the two departments had merged. The Big River Fire Department is a rural tag supported department that protects a large area around Bonne Terre.
Chief Pratte was calling to see if I would be interested in being the keynote speaker and MC for the dedication of their new fire station. My first question to him was, “how did you find me?” and the second was, “how did you know I was still alive?”
I guess the answer to the last question is oblivious if your department is a member of the FFAM, since these history articles keep appearing in the newsletter. The answer to the first was easy because he was acquainted with someone who was aware we had moved to Branson.
He said that he had attended a number of classes I had conducted when I was with the University of Missouri and would be happy to have me there and I was honored and flattered to be invited.
The City of West Plains is the county seat of Howell County and it’s history dates back to the mid 1800’s when the city was platted and began to develop. It quickly developed into a trade center for a farming and livestock-raising area.
Because of its location near the Arkansas state-line, it was subjected to numerous raids during the Civil War from both Union and Confederate forces.
West Plains continues to be a city with many faces and is blessed with a number of manufacturers including flooring, pallets, furniture and electronic equipment, as well as footwear and truck bodies. Tourism is also important because of the city’s proximity to several lakes and the Mark Twain National Forest.
West Plains can also boast about their celebrities. Porter Wagoner, the star of the Grand Ole Opry and country music was born near West Plains on August 12, 1927.
I rely completely on my next-door neighbor to help me keep track of all the tools and equipment for firefighters that have passed into the history category. The reason for that is because every couple of weeks he appears at my front door or texts me a picture of something new that he has added to his collection of fire service memorabilia.
A couple of month’s ago he came over with huge box that UPS had delivered to his house. I don’t think he had even opened it until he got to my front porch. Inside was a dark blue wool almost full-length coat with a very high collar. When I inquired why he wanted an old Navy Peacoat, he was not impressed and preceded to tell me that it was antique British firefighting coat from the 1940’s and that it was a real find! That “real find” was added to the hundreds of items he has displayed on the entire ground floor of his home.
Chris Ely is my neighbor and an outstanding member of the Branson Fire Department. I’m fairly sure he likes me because we have many common interests in the fire service. It might also be because I mow his grass every time I mow mine. I’m also sure that his wife Brandi is a candidate for sainthood because she allows this collection fetish.