Oldest surviving LAFD member
Any of you guys remember Jack Rein? Jack can be seen sittin’ here on the runnin’ board of the 1927 Moreland engine that’s housed at Fire Station 87. To the right of Jack is his son Neal, a retired Simi Valley Police lieutenant. Jack just happens to be the oldest surviving member of the LAFD and he is celebrating his 100th birthday this month.
Jack retired in 1970, so there are probably many of you who don’t know or remember him. But hopefully this story brings back some fond memories of the “old days’ for many of you. For Jack, the party at the firehouse created some fond new memories.
“That I’m honored is an understatement,” he said. “Unfortunately, because of my limited vision, I cannot recognize all of my old friends. But this is truly a momentous occasion for me.”
In addition to a host of family members, there were – in fact – many old friends that turned out for the centennial celebration. Al Schultz, Ray Rutter, Tony Alves and Bill Finn all had stories to tell about Jack. Tom and Bill Stires stood in for their dad, Harry, who had been one of Jack’s best buddies and “C” shifting partners over the years.
When Steve Ruda asked Jack ‘what are the makings of a good firefighter?’ there was no hesitation in his reply. “When there was a job to be done, whether firefighting or around the station, you could depend on them to get the job done.” Maybe things haven’t changed so much in the last 50 or 60 years?
There are a number of THANK YOU’S in order, starting with the crew of Fire Station 87-C and Captains Wendell Smith and Jeff Ambarian, who hosted this event on January 24, 2014. Also “Thank You” to A/O Mike Henry, who cooked up a great lunch for all in attendance. Next was B/C Steve Ruda, who in his best “media voice,” spoke about Jack Rein’s long LAFD career. Last, but not least, is Steve Domanski. Steve recently retired but is still a LAFRA Trustee, who was responsible for organizin’ this birthday party for Jack Rein. Thanks again to all of you.
When Jack Rein was born in New York in 1914, the cost of a 1st class postage stamp was 2¢, the world’s first green/red traffic signal had just been installed in Cleveland, and the Boston Braves beat the Philadelphia Athletics in four games.
The Rein family moved to the Boyle Heights neighborhood of Los Angeles in 1918. Jack attended Lincoln High School and eventually enrolled at UCLA for a short time. Jack worked various jobs durin’ the depression until he joined the LAFD in 1940. His startin’ pay was $140 per month.
Jack and his wife Sally were married in 1937 and had two sons, Neal and Daniel.
When World War II came along, Jack enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1943, which naturally interrupted his fire department career. Jack served overseas in the China/Burma/India theater as a fireman. He was discharged from the Army in 1945.
Jack returned to the LAFD and worked until retirin’ in 1970. He only worked in field assignments, which included: E-20; E-6; E-11; E-35; T-20; E-64; E-67; E-34; E-18; E-26, E-94; E-71; T-92; and E-43.
Jack promoted to captain and was number one on the list in 1963. He beat out two future Fire Chiefs: John Gerard, who was #10 on the list, and Don Manning, who was #60. The most notable incidents he recalls were dodgin’ gun fire durin’ the 1965 Watts riots and fightin’ the Bel-Air brush fire in 1961.
Jack was also always “C” shiftin’ when the department was on a two platoon schedule. He was a skilled carpenter and wood worker, buildin’ houses in Baldwin Hills and remodelin’ the family home in Mar Vista, at least twice.
His favorite years on the job were those as an engineer on a 2-piece engine company. He really loved that assignment. Jack was not a fan of the change from the old “black” helmets to the new “yellow” style. He also remembers that back then no one ever wore gloves. He had a B/C yell at him once for wearin’ gloves. The chief said that gloves were for sissies. Can you imagine that happenin’ today?
“I enjoyed the work,” remembers Jack of his days on the LAFD. “I enjoyed the men. It was a wonderful, wonderful time.”
And a wonderful time was had by all who came out to honor the oldest member of the LAFD. It was an honor to celebrate his service to the Los Angeles community as a fireman for 30 years and his service to our country durin’ World War II. Happy 100th birthday Jack!
by Mark Khitkian, LAFD retired