Little Down Neckers Part 5 (circa 1909)

by Charles McGrath

My Father was a Newark Policeman for over 30 years. But I truly believe that he missed his calling.

I think in his heart of hearts he would have wanted to become a fireman. Not unlike his older brother Michael.

He always seemed to be attracted to the excitement associated with a fire. As a young boy he took me to many fires to observe the fire fighting action. His one big whetstone was that he was afraid of heights. I remember him telling me about a fire that he went to while in uniform. It was a tenement fire and his curiosity got him. He made the big mistake of joining the firemen on the roof. The fire got out of control and the word was given to remove all personnel from the roof. That was a problem. Climbing up a ladder was a lot easier than getting onto to one from a burning roof. He was scared to death and the firemen had to baby him onto the ladder.

Very embarrassing!

I remember him telling me many times about watching the fire house drill as a young boy. Every evening Down Neck at a certain time the firemen would go through a fire drill. This was circa 1908. He would sit on the curb and at a designated hour the fire house bell would ring. The whole fire house would come alive. The horses would be taken from their stalls and stand at a designated place near the pumper. The harnesses would be dropped down from the ceiling onto the horses back. Within minutes they were harnessed and would come galloping out of the fire house. The sounds of horse shoes beating against the cobble stone street and the bells ringing had to be impressive. It must have been very exciting to a young boy because it made an impression that lasted a lifetime.

The attached is something like the thrill he witnessed every evening:

1896 Fire Department leaving headquarters for an early morning fire.
(QuickTime Movie 2 megabytes) Library of Congress Movie
1896 Fire Department leaving headquarters for an early morning fire.
(MPEG Movie, 7 megabytes) Library of Congress Movie


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