Retired Guys – The Shoot Out at Old 45’s

March 31, 2017

Fire Station 45 was located at 947 S. Norton Ave. It opened in 1924 as a Double Tank Chemical company but later became a single engine until it closed in 1987.

In 1962, a number of individuals, or “characters” came together for a shift that ultimately made fire department history. Some would argue it stained the Department, but from my perspective, it was probably one of the best “pranks” or “turds” ever conceived.

gv_apr-2017_ret-guys-mowery1The characters on duty that day were:
• Capt. Leo “Killer” Hinkel
• Eng. Jerva “Dark Holiday” Harris
• FF Jim Norman
• FF Bill “Quick Draw” Mowery
• FF Mel “Lovable” Marion
• FF Robert Dingwall (rookie) was not on duty, but was in the kitchen.
• AF Bill “Shakey” Fister

gv_apr-2017_ret-guys-mowery4Here’s some inside information you should know before we get too far along with this story. Bill Mowery was a loner and kept his hair fairly long. He was also a gun collector. It was suggested that Bill be the resuscitation dummy for an upcomin’ drill – where a small portion of his hair would be trimmed. Leo Hinkel and Mel Marion were the masterminds behind this idea. The plan also called for Bill to get highly agitated, jump up from the table and bring a gun back into the kitchen, loaded with blanks. Bill agreed, with only a select few knowin’ the grand plan.

gv_apr-2017_ret-guys-mowery2gv_apr-2017_ret-guys-mowery3So, on the mornin’ of the drill, “Quick Draw” Mowery was selected to be the victim of an electrocution, and volunteered to stretch out on the kitchen table. The intent of this drill was for the crew members to practice and hone their resuscitation skills. One of the “insiders” suggested that Bill be strapped to the table and his hair shortened. Naturally Mowery blurted out, “There ain’t enough guys in this engine house to hold me down!” Well, after a small chunk of Bill’s hair was cut, he jumped up from the table, about as angry as a hornet, and ran out of the kitchen.

Also unknown to most members was the device made by Mel Marion. Mel had formed a pouch of tin foil, filled it with ketchup and had it bandoliered across his chest, under his T-shirt.

When Mowery returned to the kitchen with his pistol and his eyes full of revenge, he took aim at Mel and pulled the trigger. At the sound of the blast, Mel immediately hit the foil pouch with his hand, turnin’ his white T-shirt instantly red, which those not in on the prank believed was blood. With Mel on the floor and his chest bloodied, all unsuspectin’ members knew he was dead.

With guys divin’ for cover or lookin’ for an escape route, most believed it was the end. Even Jim Norman, who had fought in the Korean War and had survived numerous brushes with death, truly thought that he was about to die inside a fire station.

Can you imagine this prank takin’ place on the Department today? Thankfully this “turd” took place in an era far removed from today’s world. The survivin’ perpetrators are Leo Hinkel, Jim Norman and Mel Marion.

This tale has been retold thousands of time over the years, and as with any legend, has taken on legs of its own. Although these beautifications make for a great story, accordin’ to Hinkel, no one lifted up the kitchen table as a shield and nobody jumped out of the window.

Capt. Leo Hinkel was assigned to FS 45 “C” from March 11, 1961 to October 31, 1962. I want to thank Leo for his time and the information that he provided for this story.

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