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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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History’s Corner – July 2019

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.

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History’s Corner – MAY 2019

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.

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History’s Corner – MAR 2019

The first part of this article published in the January/February 2019 issue of the newsletter would have been better suited as part two and this article part one. It seems that I got off on a tangent about the year of 1939 and didn’t do the city of Joplin justice by highlighting the total history of this very colorful and interesting department and city. 

Part of the fascination of the first article was the apparatus that we were featuring, the 1939 ladder truck. The modern version of ladder one shown above is equally as interesting to see in operation and more efficient than it’s 1939 counterpart. Also, slightly more expensive, the 1939 was $18,000.

Now that you are completely confused, lets start at the beginning and review not only the fire department history, but the of the city of Joplin itself.

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History’s Corner – JAN 2019

Joplin Fire Department, 1939 was a great year

By Bill Westhoff with assistance from Joplin Fire Chief James Furgerson, Battalion Chief Doug Nolan and Patrick Cox II – MU Journalism Major

Most readers of the “History’s Corner” section of the newsletter know from previous articles over the years that I am a huge fan of “vintage” fire apparatus. From the inception of motor fire apparatus in our country in the early 1900’s, literally hundreds of fire truck manufacturers have come and gone. Thousands of fire trucks have also come and gone in that period of time but lots of them have also survived to live on to support our fire service heritage. 

At one time in my life, our family actually owned as many as four “antique” fire apparatus. Fortunately for my continued effort to stay married for over thirty year’s we are down to one – the most important one – a 1939 Chevrolet/Central pumper built by Central Fire Truck Corporation of St. Louis. 

1939 Chevy/Central became part of our family in 1978 and has been featured in daughter’s and granddaughter’s weddings and tons of parades. It is all original with a 216 straight six engine, four speed manual transmission and has a Waterous 400 gallon per minute rotary gear mid-ship mounted fire pump.

This is the first 1939 rig featured in this article. It was delivered to the Montgomery City, Missouri Fire Department sometime in late fall 1939 by Jack Manning, a partner in Lang and Manning Company, a dealer for Central. According to Jack, they “shot water over the Court House,” and it was one of the first apparatus built by Central that was painted white.

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History’s Corner – November 2018

Missouri as a State and the creation of a Capitol City

August 10, 1821: Missouri was admitted to the union as the 24th state. From 1821 through 1826 legislators met in St. Louis hotels and in a temporary Capitol building in St. Charles. During 1821 an expedition began a search for a new Capitol city.

December 1, 1821: The Missouri legislature selected a site for new Capitol, located on the Missouri River in central Missouri, The new site was halfway between St. Louis and Kansas City by riverboat. During January 1822 the name Jefferson City was chosen by the legislature. The third United States President, Thomas Jefferson had a vision of westward expansion of the United States borders, Jefferson City was named in his honor.

November 1825: Jefferson City was incorporated and by 1826 there was a general store, a hotel and a tavern, thirty- one families lived in the new capitol city. A new capitol building was constructed on the end of Jefferson St. two hundred feet from the Missouri River. 

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