If you never knew or worked around Ray “Boomtown” Mayo you truly missed out on one of life’s great experiences. One of my first memories of meetin’ Ray was when he worked a SOD day at FS33. At the time I didn’t know much about him but shortly after our paths crossed it was very apparent that he was a breed apart.
Several years passed and Ray, who by then had promoted to Engineer, was assigned to FS14 “C”. I had the good fortune of workin’ at FS14 “B” so Ray and I worked together on SOD days. After a spot opened up for an Engineer on the “B” shift Ray slipped on a pair of cowboy boots and walked into the corral.
So, there I was, workin’ side by side with “Boomtown.” We went to many fires together and were assigned to untold strike teams together. Bein’ on a strike team with Ray was an experience I’ll never forget. Whenever we got dispatched to a strike team, whether it was one in the mornin’ or one in the afternoon, Ray had one rule that he followed…stock the engine with food. While the rest of the crew scrambled around to insure their “Brush Bags” had extra uniforms, towels, soap and socks, Ray ran to the kitchen and started makin’ peanut butter sandwiches and takin’ leftovers out of the refrigerator for added snacks. It was an act you had to see to believe. I later realized that these “supplies” were onboard to insure we had enough nutrients to sustain us until we got to the brush fire.
Once we got to the fire and assigned to a certain area or street, the residents, bein’ thrilled to see us, poured out of their homes with armloads of food……sandwiches, soda, pies, cakes and sometimes complete home cooked meals. Seein’ the engine gettin’ filled up with more food had Ray grinnin’ from ear to ear. He was in his happy spot and fairly certain he wouldn’t starve.
But Ray was always fightin’ the “Battle of the Bulge.” Boomtown was the poster child for what was then referred to as the “Fat Man’s Club,” which meant he had monthly weigh-in sessions with TFC Bill Finn to show he had lost a minimum of two pounds per month. It was a battle for Ray to lose weight. He tried very hard and would even go out on the handball court and play a few games to hopefully sweat off a few pounds before the weigh in.
On one occasion Capt. Finn walked into the bathroom ready for Ray’s monthly weigh-in and found him standin’ on the scale, completely naked. Ray had taken off his underwear hopin’ that less cotton around his waist might be enough to meet his weigh-in goal.
Unfortunately, Ray ended up havin’ to meet with then Bureau Commander of Fire Suppression & Rescue Deputy Chief Don Anthony, who would decide how many days off Ray would get for this infraction. Once seated in front of Chief Anthony he was grilled about his failure to lose the required weight. Chief Anthony then wanted a reason why he wasn’t losin’ the weight.
Ray simply told Chief Anthony “Chief I have no excuse, I’m just weak.” Well that got Chief Anthony to sit back in his chair and exclaimed, “Ray, you’re the only one I’ve had up here that hasn’t blamed someone else for their weight loss failure. Now go back to your station.”
Ray also needed help with his vehicle, which at the time was an older Chevy Suburban. Needless to say it was a pile of ****! Not only was it mechanically unfit to drive but the interior was straight out of a horror film. Sandwich and candy wrappers, full and empty soda cans, insects and dead rodents scattered everywhere. Plus, you couldn’t see out of the rear or side windows because they were covered with thousands of window stickers. All three shifts at 14s decided to clean up Ray’s Suburban. One shift scraped off all the stickers and cleaned the exterior while another buried the dead rodents and power washed the interior. Lastly all mechanical malfunctions such as brakes, ignition and transmission issues were fixed. At last, Boomtown had a new Suburban.
Besides lovin’ to coach and play football Ray also enjoyed surfin’ and hangin’ out at the beach. His passion for the ocean ultimately developed into the “Mayo Classic,” which was an annual surfin’ and eatin’ bash usually held at “Old Man’s Beach” in Orange County. This get together eventually became a charity event that helped support the Widow, Orphans & Disabled Firefighter’s Fund.
Ray was definitely one of the “good guys” on the Fire Department. A true character that doesn’t come around often enough on our job. His infectious smile and outgoin’ personality will certainly be missed.
Boomtown may have had many faults and hiccups durin’ his time on the job but when the alarm sounded and Engine 14 turned onto Central Ave. you could always depend on him to get the job done. He was an outstandin’ individual and Engineer. You did your job well Ray.
Thanks for all the memories and the good times we shared together Ray. I’m sure all of us that knew and worked with you will never forget you. I think we’re all better off for havin’ known you.
I’d like to also thank Ray’s wife, Lorraine Mayo. She was very gracious and provided me with the pictures you see here.