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History’s Corner – November 2020

I am sure that we can all agree that these are strange and difficult times. I have been around for over eighty years, and I cannot remember a year of my life with more trying situations. I have found that reflecting on the past and some of the most fun times and the most epic people I have encountered make the day more meaningful.

In doing this exercise, most of the individuals that come to mind are fire service folks, and their memories make me smile. One of the most interesting couples I have met in the past was from my home county of St. Charles, actually Wentzville. To see Jack and Kay Asher at an FFAM convention was a true Mutt and Jeff experience. Seeing them walk into a room, hand-in-hand would make you smile. For decades, they kept records of almost any activity the FFAM did. Even after Jack passed in 2010, Kay continued the quest for information and kept the historian’s role alive until her death. I think that is true dedication to a cause.

One of my many articles that appeared in this newsletter reflected some of that dedication. In the May and June 2012 issue, I wrote an article about the origin of the FFAM, and Jack contributed to it. The following are some excerpts from that same article, with some of Jack’s style of writing included. Continue Reading →

History’s Corner – September 2020

Well, it seems that because of the circumstances we are making history in 2020. It was April 16-17, 1955, when the Firefighters Association of Missouri held it’s first-ever “Fire Convention” in Columbia.

There were some forward-thinking members of the fire service in Missouri in the mid-1950s who thought that their interests were not being addressed at the state level. These folks were just like the present members of your local fire department. Most were volunteers who worked as car dealers, farmers, welders, concrete finishers, and many other trades. Some were local ministers, bankers, and leaders of their respective communities. They all had one thing in common. They wanted a voice in politics in Jefferson City and they wanted recognition for their efforts as members of their local fire department. They also wanted a way that thoughts and ideas that would improve the emergency services in the state could be shared with one another for the greater improvement of the service.

Demonstration from First Convention April, 1955
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History’s Corner – March 2020

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.

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History’s Corner – May 2020

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.

The Boone County Fire Protection District (BCFPD) purchased this unit from Towers Fire Apparatus Company in Freeburg, IL. It spent most of its life as Engine 501 or as some folk’s called it, maybe once, “rescue engine 501.” Station five is north of Columbia and serves the Prathersville area.
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History’s Corner – March 2020

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.

Restored Washington FD 1917 Model T Ford.

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.

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History’s Corner – January 2020

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. 

O’Fallon Fire Protection District 1942 GMC/Central

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. 

O’Fallon FPD 1927 Chevrolet Pumper
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History’s Corner – November 2019

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.

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History’s Corner – September 2019

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. 

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