If you have ever seen a WWII movie with American fighter planes in it you will normally see stamped on the side of the plane near the cockpit either Japanese or Nazi insignias, depending on whether the plane was in the Pacific or European theater, indicating the number of enemy planes the pilot has shot down. More insignia were a badge of honor for the pilot and five earned him the title of Ace. Major Richard Bong had forty flags on his P-38.
Fast forward to 1974, TF26 rolling south on Western approaching Santa Barbara, now Martin Luther King, with Autofireman Bob Degenfelder driving the truck. As they approached the intersection an RTD bus suddenly appeared in the intersection. And that is how Truck 26 earned the honor of having an RTD bus painted on the driver’s door.
Some chief, who had no sense of either humor or history saw the bus at an inspection and ordered it removed.
After annual inspection in 1978, Deputy Chief Bill Collins and Assistant Chief Dudley Sorensen were standing in front of FS105 congratulating the crew on the good job they did on the inspection. Eventually the conversation turned to physical fitness and how important it was for firemen to stay fit and keep their weight under control. They talked about being put in the “Fat Man’s Club.” You would become a member of this club if you failed the weight portion of your annual physical. When you became a member of this not so exclusive group you were placed on a weight control program and there were periodic weigh ins to make sure you were losing poundage. I don’t recall any chiefs becoming “made men” as Don Vito Maggipinto would have said. Thank you, Tony Di Domenico. Both Chief Collins and Chief Sorensen were portly gentlemen. At one point in the conversation, Chief Sorensen put his hands in his pockets, threw his shoulders back and inflated his chest to the point of exceeding the burst strength of the thread which held the buttons on his shirt. Twelve pairs of eyes watched this button pirouette and tumble through the air and land on the apron. Chief Sorensen turned to Chief Collins and said, “Chief, I think we need to go now.” I saw and heard the entire episode.
At another Annual Inspection, Rick Cook, who is a very nice guy, unless you mention him and the boxer, Butter Bean in the same sentence, was standing for inspection.
Deputy Chief Don Anthony, not known for his sense of humor, was conducting the inspection at FS84 and all was going very smoothly; that is until he looked at Rick’s driver’s license.
“You weigh how much?” the Chief asked Rick.
Rick answered, very politely, “It takes a big man to do this job, Chief.”
Wrong answer. It’s not nice to mess with the Bureau Commander but Rick lived to tell about it.
A TRADITION IS BORN
Somewhere, in a galaxy long, long ago and far, far away, someone decided to celebrate getting his annual physical out of the way by stopping at the See’s candy factory and buying enough chocolate to increase the blood sugar level of the entire population of L.A.
After that it became a mandatory stop, at least it did at 93’s, after each physical. Whether you passed or not was irrelevant. What counted was how much candy was coming back to the station. At $4 a box you could overload the plug buggy, almost to the point of breaking the springs.
If you failed the weigh in portion of the physical you were placed in, what was euphemistically called, “The Fat Man’s Club.” Obviously, it wasn’t the official name but that’s what it was known as throughout the Department.
The thing that chapped most guys hide was that the nurse who weighed you in would have easily exceeded the limit if she were to have come close to the scale.
One morning, FS73 received a call from S&M letting them know that they were getting new beds delivered in a few hours. The caller asked them to disassemble the old beds and stack the frames and the mattresses in the parking lot. The whole crew got busy and within an hour all of the mattresses and frames were stacked in the parking lot waiting for the new beds.
They finally figured out they had been had at about 1900. It was a mad scramble to get the beds and reassemble them before it got dark.
THE ANIMAL HOUSE
Gorilla Hayes, Mongo Gilmore, and Food Giant Meyers were part of a very exclusive group. They were, at various times in their careers, assigned to Old FS2 and Old FS17. These stations were known, at different times, as The Animal House, The Santa Fe Zoo, and The Eastside Sensitivity Training Center. These houses were so exclusive that you had to be sent there by someone…like a judge. What do you suppose these hulking giants, these animals, these macho dudes would do after lunch? They would watch the soap operas and they could name all of the characters in each soap.
THE AIR RAID SIREN
In the 1970’s-1980’s, when you drove into the parking lot at FS105 there was a small area of grass on the right side off the driveway. On the lawn area was a pole about two feet in diameter and twenty-five feet tall with a large siren mounted on the top of the pole.
This siren was a holdover from late 1950’s-1960’s. It was an air raid siren in case the Russians ever attacked us. Once a month, if I remember correctly it was the last Friday of the month, the siren would be tested. It only lasted about 30 seconds but it felt like eternity. It was loud and it vibrated the windows. Good riddance.