The Retired Guys

December 31, 2017

Jumpin’ into the “Life Net” durin’ the Drill Tower was not my strong point. While I stood on the 3rd floor platform, lookin’ down at the guys holdin’ the life net, the Drill Master told me to “jump.” I did not. After repeatin’ the order, I still didn’t jump. Finally, I was told that if I didn’t jump I would be immediately terminated. So I jumped, but I screamed all the way down. I’d still like to know who came up with this “circus act” requirement in order to graduate from the tower.

Fred was born in Los Angeles in 1936 and was raised in Santa Monica. He spent his entire childhood growin’ up in “Old Muscle Beach” next to the Santa Monica Pier in the early 40’s and 50’s. Durin’ the summer months, hundreds of acrobats, muscle men and weight lifters gathered at this popular spot, includin’ Jack LaLanne and Vic Tanney.

Fred really enjoyed the atmosphere and was especially drawn to anyone involved with acrobatics. When Fred was seven years old he started doin’ hand stands on the top of walls and roofs or anywhere on a dare. He loved it. When Fred turned 17, he joined up with the Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey Circus, but only with a promise to his mother that he would finish high school first.

Fred had a partner in the circus. Their act consisted of two to four horizontal bars in a row, set up either in the air with a net, or on the ground without a net. They were billed as “The Darin’ Double Bar Duo.” Fred also dove from the top of the center ring post into a net, a height of about 75 feet.

When Fred turned 23 he decided it was time for a change and joined the LAFD. He came on April 30, 1959 and retired February 28, 1991. His rookie rotation was FS 87, FS 88 (old 88’s) and FS 39. He eventually ended up at FS 27.

Fred always believed in hard work and hard play. He said, “If everyone works hard together and plays hard together, a nucleus is formed for a strong team which eventually grows into an invincible team.”

Because of his background, Fred was called upon to become the third in the Department’s line of “Hook and Ladder Jumpers.” In doin’ so, Fred revived a tradition that had not been attempted since the 1930’s. Fred would perform his jumps (dives) from buildings or the aerial ladder whenever or wherever the Department deemed it necessary. One of the favorite spots was the Los Angeles Coliseum on July 4th or Labor Day.

Sadly, this tradition came to a close when the Chief Engineer considered the practice too dangerous. This ended an era in the history of the LAFD. As far as is known, no other Department ever had “Hook and Ladder Jumpers.”

Durin’ Fred’s 32-year career with the Department, he received two Medals of Valor.

Fred, it was a real pleasure meetin’ you and listenin’ to you about your Fire Department career. You’re a true dinosaur. I mean that with much respect to you. You and others performed your jobs in a truly professional manner and brought great pride and respect to the LAFD.

Thank you for your service.

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