When the Gong Rings
A Fire History of Charleston, Illinois

16.                                                              Return to the Table of Contents




       The Jackson St. Firehouse was torn down in 1959.  The lot was turned into a parking lot for the new city municipal building.  In remembering the old station, there were jail cells in the back section.  Prisoners would be placed in the cells as needed.  There was a brass pole, and steps to the second floor "outside the west side."  The upstairs had a meeting room on the north end, and beds on the south end.  There was a kitchen up there, a bathroom with a shower.  The alarms would come in on the first floor, and the alarm phone would set off the old brass gong.  There was a "submarine" horn upstairs to wake the men when a call would come in.  There was a house siren that would be used in the days of this firehouse.  Volunteers were important to the tiny four-man crews. 

       The apparatus floor had a hose drying tower, and waterlines running across the ceiling to refill the booster tanks of the trucks.  Outside the firehouse was a bench, a fire hydrant that was used to load the trucks and farmer water trucks.  Firemen would sell the water to rural customers.  The old fire bell was used as a curfew warning bell, but the siren took over the role of announcing fires in the years I can remember.  I spent lots of time at the firehouse and enjoyed playing around the trucks.  My brother, Red, and cousin John and myself would get to ride on the '38 or '28 Boyer to the fair during late July.  We hitched the ride on the back of the truck.  That would not happen in the modern years.  There was a restaurant right next to the firehouse, and Snappy Service Hamburger stand right across the street on 6th Street. 

       The veranda (Porch in front) of the firehouse was torn down with the arrival of the quad firetruck.  It required a long turn.  Personally, I also was involved in Red Cross First Aid training by Ruby Hutchison in the 50's.  I got a first aid merit badge, and enjoyed wrapping with bandages, and other things I learned.  I also got the Fireman merit badge.  For a 5th grade demonstration, that I had to do, I borrowed a real grappling hook and showed how to drag a pond or even a river to find a body.  It had three hooks (rather large) and two ropes.  I did a good job, but didn't find a body.  I learned to roll hose at a fire scene, take messages to my dad who was the engineer on the '38 Boyer.  That was before walkie-talkies.  I still have the leather 1940's helmet, a 50's leather captain helmet, and my dad's chief helmet and all his badges. 

He left me with a mounted brass nozzle from one of the Boyer engines (suspect the '28 model, but not sure). 

       During the summers of '72 and '73 I was hired to fill in for vacationing firemen at Station One (10th and Madison).  While doing that I learned to polish the brass, clean the floor, go along on a fire (turnout gear and all), and the process of waiting for alarms.  I was finishing my bachelors at EIU the summer of '73, and worked on school work. 

One special item in Station One (the 1962 station) was the huge map of Charleston on the wall across from the alarm phone.  I helped draw the original using an overhead projector.  The map was still in use during the early 2000's.  I don't know if it is still up now. 

       Well, that's my memories as a young boy and older. 



"Old Firehouse"    Oil on Canvas by Howard Taylor, 1971, EIU Painting Studio



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