Author Topic: My younger Buff years  (Read 314734 times)

Offline nfd2004

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My younger Buff years
« on: April 26, 2009, 01:59:43 PM »
  It was my 21st Birthday and my buddy and I had been celebrating in Manhatten. Around 2-3 AM we made our way over to Eng 82/Lad 31s Qtrs. It was right around the time "Report from Eng 82" had come out. Of course we were a little "under the weather" but the apparatus doors were open and we walked in. We were surprised to see all the rigs in Qtrs because they were so busy at the time. We got invited in and next thing we know is we were sitting having a great 3 AM dinner meal of Pot Roast, Mashed Potatoes etc. Of course we didn"t know anybody there, but they treated us GREAT. As we got into the meal, the bells started to ring. House Watch yelled "Second Alarm ......". My buddy and I wanted to go. But the guys suggested we stay around. Anyway, Housewatch yelled "Engine on the Third, Truck on the Fourth". You guessed it. The fire went to a Fourth Alarm. I rode the Engine and my buddy rode the truck.
  Two intoxicated 21 year old males stumble into the firehouse and the guys ended up treating us like Kings. All they knew about us was that it was my birthday, we were from Connecticut, and wanted to become firemen. We ended up getting home in Bridgeport, Ct about noon time the next day. We were both exhausted, smelled of smoke, and had a Hang over. BUT what a Great 21st Birthday it was.
  Of course things like this could not be done today. But what a Great time to grow up and be a buff (War Years), or on the job.
  I have a few more stories I"d like to share about being a buff in the busy FDNY War Years. As time permits, if it"s okay, I"ll add them to this forum.

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My younger Buff years
« on: April 26, 2009, 01:59:43 PM »

Offline nfd2004

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Re: My younger Buff years
« Reply #1 on: May 01, 2009, 10:35:06 PM »
My father was a fireman in Bridgeport, Ct., so I guess it was kinda in the blood. I had met a guy who worked at Eng 210 on Carlton Ave. in Brooklyn. The guy told me that they shared quarters with Rescue 2 and he invited me down. He told me that the Lt. on the Rescue had a lot of medals and that I would enjoy meeting him. (As it turned out he was referring to Lt Richard Hamilton who was one of the most decorated firefighters at that time. He later wrote the book called: 20,000 Alarms).
  I got on the Train to Grand Central, then took a cab to the firehouse. I had Never seen a New York City Firehouse before, let alone go inside of one. As I approached the red apparatus doors, I could hear bells ringing inside. I knocked on the door and got invited in. I could smell smoke throughout the place. The guys were cleaning off the tools, and as far as I was concerned, "I had died and went to heaven". I was introduced to the guys including Lt Hamilton. Shortly after Lt Hamilton went upstairs while the other guys continue to clean the tools.
  The bells kept coming in, and I had No Idea of what was going on. Then I hear "Engine and Rescue - Get out". I went to step aside and one of the guys told me to climb into the back of the rig. I couldn't"t believe that I was riding Rescue 2 of Brooklyn, NY. It was "The Major Leagues of Fire Fighting". I was probadly about 17 years old and this was about 1967 - 1968. (Nobody knew it, but that was just about the beginning of the Busy War Years to come). Of course they gave me a GREAT Meal, and we made six (6) runs that day.
  Lt Hamilton told me to come down on a Saturday and spend the night at the firehouse. My father couldn't"t believe what I had told him. So the Saturday night came. It sure was worth waiting for. That night, they had 18 runs of which two were all hands and one was a second alarm. I remember being completely wiped out the next morning, and I didn"t even work. It was an experience that I will never forget. "I was Hooked". The next time they let me bring down my younger brother, and guess what ! He was hooked too.
  Lt Hamilton Never Bragged about the rescues he had made. I would ask him and he told me something like; "Its really no big deal", and he would just smile. It was the other guys that would tell me what he did, and that was only after he left the room. Of course, I was probadly too young to really appreciate the story of those rescues, especially having never fought a fire myself at that young age. But to me, all these guys were NewYork City Firefighters, and they were all hero's.
  I wonder what happened to those guys I met in the Firehouse those many years ago. I"ve heard talk that Lt Hamilton had retired shortly and moved to Ariz. The guy that first invited me down was named Tony Tudduini of Eng 210. I think somebody in his family ran a Mom/Pop Store in Fairfield, Ct. And I remember a guy on Rescue 2 named Jim. I think they called him Big Red. He was about 6"4".
  For me, that was over 40 years ago. I can still remember what it was like for me to be at that firehouse and riding that rig. If any of those guys are still around, I can"t Thank You enough for all you did for me. You talk about role models "These guys were the champions of it".
 

Offline nfd2004

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Re: My younger Buff years
« Reply #2 on: May 04, 2009, 11:16:55 PM »
After my Rescue 2 stay, I was ready to get right into this stuff. I only wanted to be a fireman, and Bridgeport, Ct was the only dept. I knew prior to my visit. Crystal controlled scanners had just come out. A friend of mine had told me that he could pick up NYC on his scanner at home in Bridgeport. In fact Manhatten and the Bronx were on the same frequency at the time. (154.25 mhz). Then shortly after "Portable Crystal Controlled" scanners started hitting the market. This meant that I could now drive down to NYC and take my portable scanner with me. I remember it had four channels in it. I could now chase the calls in NY like I had been doing in my hometown.
  I decided to pick Manhatten because it had numbered streets that were pretty easy to get around. Besides those companies were really starting to get busy then. It was around 1968/1969 at the beginning of the War Years. I would park near Eng 58/Lad 26 and chase them around. Other companies in the area were busy too. (Eng's 35, 36, 37, 59, 91, Lads 14, 30, and 40). Around 3 PM the pull boxes would really start coming in because thats when the kids got out of school. You"d see companies crossing the same intersections, going to different calls. It was the policy then to give 3 and 2 for each box. In the summer it would get worse. Mostly false alarms, but sometimes they"d set a rubbish fire or abandoned car on fire to "make it legal". Sometimes a company would go to the same box five or six times a night. The rigs would go out for a run and get three or four more before they got back to the firehouse. Of course there were the jobs too. Harlem had Taxpayers and multiple family dwellings. The neighborhood was getting worse. Good people were moving out and there were more vacant apartments. The street people would move into these apts with no electricity. Candles would be used. The vacant apts also became dumping grounds for anybody who had rubbish to get rid of.
  Landlords couldn"t pay their bills because of the vacancy rate. They would either pay somebody to set a fire or set it themselves. Then collect on the insurance. If tenants got burned out from a fire, they went to the top of the list for new public housing. Sometimes the occupants would set the fire themselves to get into the newer public housing. The work load was starting to pick up for the FDNY. I remember Squad 1 was in Harlem with Eng 59/ Lad 30. Engine 36 was still in business on 125th St. And a new type of fire apparatus was just starting to come out called a "Tower Ladder". It was a great time to be around for a young 18 year old who wanted to be a fireman.

Offline nfd2004

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Re: My younger Buff years
« Reply #3 on: May 06, 2009, 10:55:37 PM »
  One day while in my local library, I noticed something on a magazine about "The Busiest Firehouse in the World". I think at the time it was called "True Magazine". It said that a book would be coming out called "Report from Engine Co 82" and that it was written by a New York City Firefighter named Dennis Smith. It said that this company was in The Bronx, NY on Intervale Ave. and did over 10,000 calls the year before. I really had no idea of where this Bronx Firehouse was, so I got myself a street map and drove down there. I had become familiar with those Harlem Companies and that area, but this place was new to me. When I got there I saw that I wasn"t the only one. About twenty cars were all parked across the street from the firehouse. Each car had three to four buffs in it. Guys from The City, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Long Island. Everybody had a scanner. The area looked much worse than what I had seen in Harlem.
  There was a small grocery store across the street from the firehouse called "Angie"s Market". Angie sure didn"t mind the buffs hanging out in front of her store because Angie made a fortune supplying the buffs with their goodies. Hard to believe, but there were no McDonald's, Wendy"s, Dunkin Donuts around then. Not for miles. Maybe not even in the Bronx. If there were, we sure didn"t know about them. In fact, Angie's Market was probadly the only store left in the area making a profit.
  At that time the FDNY had a Signal 10-30 that was used very often. It meant a "working fire" and using 2 Eng's and 2 Lads. These were Big fires in themselves. Sometimes a vacant five brick fully involved with No exposures. Today this would be a second or third alarm. By this time, the FDNY had gotten a few more tower ladders in and they were very pleased at the way they were able to knock down fire going from floor to floor with the tower ladder stream.It was get the fire knocked down and get back in service as soon as possible.
   A priority system for response to fires was put into place. I don"t know if this was official or just something that had to be done because they were just so busy. Occupied building fires got the highest priority. Vacant Building fires were next, then car and rubbish fires. I would see car fires that nobody showed up for and they just burned themselves out. I can remember hearing Ladder companies going in first due for an occupied building fire from 50 blocks away. There just wasn"t enough companies to cover the tremendous workload. And that was with having Squad 2, all the extra second sections, relocated companies into the South Bronx, and the Tactical Control Engine and Ladder Truck. I believe the Bronx had TCU 512 (an Engine Co) and TCU 712 (a Ladder Co.). The TCUs were extra companies manned between the hours of 3 PM to 1 AM, the busiest time for fires in the area. Brooklyn had TCUs 532 and 732 also.
  It was nonstop. You couldn"t scan two boros at a time. If you wanted to listen to two separate boros, you"d need two separate scanners. You could turn on the scanner any hour of the day and it was like listening to an AM/FM radio station. As the dispatchers would be talking you would hear the constant pull boxes tapping in and the sound of other dispatchers taking calls over the phones. How those dispatchers handled it is a Miracle in Itself. They sure did earn their pay. And that was before computers, MDTs etc. They sure did a great job, especially with what they had to work with and the overwhelming amount of work. And those guys on the job that went from fire to fire. As I look back at it some 40 years ago, it seems like an impossible mission. It almost seems like it really didn"t happen. But somehow, those guys did it night after night, day after day. I was about to get an education that no school or college ever dreamed about teaching. I would see the Greatest Firefighters in the World in Action. For me, it was "Being at the Right Place, at the Right Time".

Offline johnd248

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Re: My younger Buff years
« Reply #4 on: May 06, 2009, 11:34:25 PM »
My early buffing days began riding my bike in my neighborhood of Flatbush in Brooklyn in the 50s.  I would drive to E 281/ L 147 and would run errands to the store for them.  Upon return, they would invite me into the back room and buy me a soda.  It was a thrill watching them respond and a bigger thrill watching Ladder 147 back their tiller rig into their quarters.  Their quarters was built at a strange angle and required skill to get the truck back in.  It was quite a laugh seeing a relocated company attempt it when they were not used to it.

Engine 248 was first due at my home so I would help them pick up hose after a fire and then get a ride back to the firehouse.  In 1963, I worked in a bank half a block from E 248/ Bn 41.  I would bend the rules and cash several checks on pay day knowing the crew on duty could not get to the bank; every payday I was invited to the firehouse for lunch.  As we got to know each other better, I was formally asked by the Captain to sign on as an Auxiliary.  I did and rode with the Engine and the Battalion from 1964 to 1973.  It was a much different time then than it is now.  I got to do things many others just dream about.  I remember riding the back step on a run on Flatbush Avenue.  We all had one arm hooked through the metal subway style hanger and the other arm around the back of the guy next to you.  The lad on the left side of the rear step swung around the rig to see where we were going, saw a serious volume of smoke, swung back and said: "Boys, it's time to pull up our boots."  We were first due at a two alarm taxpayer fire.


One night we were watching TV in the back room; the back room was where the horses had been kept in the horse-drawn days.  A news flashed announced that Martin Luther King had been shot.  After a while, one fireman said :"Let's go put on our boots."  No sooner did we do just that, the bells started ringing and we were out the door to a fire; that night it was one after another.

The firefighting that I experienced in my time there laid the groundwork for over thirty years of firefighting to follow.  Nothing has ever come close to that time.

Offline nfd2004

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Re: My younger Buff years
« Reply #5 on: May 07, 2009, 10:37:17 AM »
Thanks John for your story. I"m sure there are a lot more out there, and I for one, would sure like to hear them. This was the Busiest time in the history of the fire service, and the FDNY was the Busiest in the World. As is stated from the documentry "The Bronx is Burning", "New York has more fires than Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia and Los Angeles, PUT TOGETHER". I"m sure that I am not the only guy that has a few stories to tell. In fact, I usually only got down there about once a week. There are people out there that weren"t born during those busy years that need to hear what it was like then. I hope others will join in and tell their stories of those busy years.

Offline johnd248

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Re: My younger Buff years
« Reply #6 on: May 07, 2009, 12:51:13 PM »
A couple of stories and memories with no names mentioned to protect the innocent:

We pulled up first due to a four story brick with fire out two windows on the fourth floor.  I hooked up to the hydrant and then ran back to pull more hose from the rig to the front door of the building.  I kept dropping hose at the door ( regulations said I couldn't enter buildings).  The lieutenant on duty saw what I was doing and said they needed help getting the line up the stairwell to the top floor; in I went, soon arriving on the fire floor.  When we were taking up, the lieutenant took me aside and acknowledged what I had been doing.  He said I had been around long enough and that I should go wherever the company went.  The next time I worked with the Captain he verified the same, and so it went.

With the 41 Battalion in quarters, I soon spent time in the office typing fire reports, to assist the aide.  I also rode with the Battalion and was known as the aide to the aide.  Due to my yellow helmet, I was also referred to as the Lemon-Aide.  I got to know the guys in the, then, six other houses in the battalion.  One chief didn't like wearing his walkie talkie and, anytime I was working, I became his radio man.  He told me to stay on his coat tails and I would radio the preliminary down to the aide in the street.  I came out of a house where we had used all hands to see the Deputy of (then) the 12th Division on the front lawn.  I thought I would get in trouble for being inside.  The BC walked up to talk to the Deputy, the Deputy took one look at me, and said: "How ya doin'?"  No problem.

Another aide didn't like staying outside so he gave his walkie talkie.  I had to get the address, size up, exposures, etc. and they would radio down what they were going to use.  I would then give the preliminary on the car radio.  Once, at an all hands, I ran around to  get the size up, help chase kinks, and get the report from the BC and aide.  I was out of breath when I gave the preliminary and the dispatcher, quite possibly Warren Fuchs, said: "Brooklyn to Battalion 41, when you catch your breath, I could use the exposures."

Offline guitarman314

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Re: My younger Buff years
« Reply #7 on: May 08, 2009, 10:09:35 AM »
   I'm now 58 and practically grew up at the Ladder 17 (E60 moved in there in 1948), Engine 60, Batt. 14 firehouse. At that time there were a couple of other young buffs there including Bobby "The Beef" Engel and we were mentored by an old buff, Jimmy Ginty who tought us FDNY history dating all the way back to the turn of the century. The company mascot was a female Dalmation named "Cookie" who actually knew the bells and would run out into the street barking whenever a 2100 or 2200 box came in. The chief responded on all 2100 & 2200 boxes and the engine & truck to most ;). Because the response area wasn't too large, I was able to actually run on foot to many 1st due boxes. When I was as young as 8 (1957), my mom would let me stay in front of the firehouse while she shopped nearby and the members would welcome me letting me hang out at the watch desk. Before the late 60's the area was already fairly busy but there wasn't much crime or arson but around late 1965 all hell broke out to the east side of the response area. I'll never forget certain box numbers: 2103-Cypress & 139, 2147, 2148 & 2149-on 138th from St. Anns to Willis, 2155-Brook & 139, 2156-Cypress & 138, 2162-St. Anns & 140, 2163-Willis & 140, 2171-Brook & 141, 2172-Crimmins & 141, 2173-Cypress & 141, 2180-Beekman & Oak Ter., 2187-Crimmins & St. Mary St., 2194-St. Anns & 144, 2195-Willis & 144, 2201-Brook & 145, 2205-St. Anns & 146, 2206-Willis & 146, 2209-Brook & 147, 2227-Brook & 149, 2228-St. Anns & 149, 2229-Cauldwell & 149, 2230-Bergen & 148, 2264-Westchester & Trinity, 2265-Westchester & Eagle. Whenever any of these came in they were almost certain to be workers.             

Offline vbcapt

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Re: My younger Buff years
« Reply #8 on: May 08, 2009, 12:54:06 PM »
Gentlemen: thanks for the stories !! Keep them coming !! My only memories of that time period (1970) was watching the news on WPIX(11) & WWOR(9) as a wee little tike. Nothing but fire,fire,fire on the news.
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Offline guitarman314

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Re: My younger Buff years
« Reply #9 on: May 08, 2009, 01:30:25 PM »
   I remember how the department had apparatus from many different manufacturers just before the "War Years". At a big job you could see pumpers and hosewagons from Ahrens-Fox, American LaFrance, International Harvester, Mack, Walter and Ward LaFrance. Aerials from Ahrens-Fox, American LaFrance, FWD, Mack/Maxim, Pirsch, Seagrave & Walter were also common. Back then many slower and outlying companies were relegated to reassigned (used) apparatus, some even 20+ years old and still in frontline service. Ladder companies in those "slower/quieter" areas were still running with wooden sticks into the late 1960's. Meanwhile, ladder companies in Midtown Manhattan, Harlem, the South Bronx, Bed-Stuy, Brownsville, and E. New York received the newest rigs. North and East Bronx companies like E38, E43, E62, E63, E79, E81, E90, L32, L37, L39, L41 & L46 that are very active today were fairly quiet back then.

Offline anesti

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Re: My younger Buff years
« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2009, 03:10:07 PM »
does anyone remember fire activity in the grand concourse north of fordham,and the fordham area during the 60's and 70's as a kid growing up on fordham and the grand concourse (i was born in 1981) it always seemed the burning stopped at the low 180's,and on the 4 train after the 183rd st stop all the way down to about 167th st the horizon was full of burned out buildings it was also visible from sedwick ave going onto the Washington heights bridge. i know the hotspots were jerome ave and burnside ave and i think it might have been the 177th st area. the only rigs of that time i remember were the old red rescue 3 with the Train horns which would send shivers down your spine, the phone booth ladder that 56 had for a while and the 1990 seagrave 110' aerial that ladder 38 ran, and the chevy that was division 4 (currently division 7) at one point.
« Last Edit: May 08, 2009, 03:15:09 PM by anesti »

Offline 116ff60

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Re: My younger Buff years
« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2009, 04:42:13 PM »
You must be up thier in age if you remember walter fire apparatus.
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Offline nfd2004

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Re: My younger Buff years
« Reply #12 on: May 08, 2009, 06:35:23 PM »
  As the War Years started, the busy area was considered everything below the Cross Bronx Expressway. Then things started to pick up as far north as East Tremont Ave. With more and more apartments, more buildings, and more blocks being burned out, Fordham Rd became the border. This put companies like Eng 88/Lad 38 right up there for runs and workers. By this time there really wasn"t much left in 82s/31s area. Most of the neighborhood was burned out shells or huge piles of rubbish, even stacked with abandoned burned out vehicles. It was a common sight to see an engine company parked down a street flowing a solid stream of water from the stang gun, knocking down a huge rubbish fire where buildings once stood. By this time the new ERS Boxes (Emergency Reporting System) were starting to hit the streets. Each Box had two buttons on it (Red botton for Fire, Blue Botton for Police). It also had a built in speaker so the caller could talk directly to the dispatcher. If the fire button was activated with no caller response, the FDNY would send out an Engine to check it out. You guessed it. A new game was found to entertain the young juveniles. They would push the button and laugh when the FD showed up. Sometimes these companies would have to answer 20-30 of these a night. The companies got the reputation as "ERS EXPRESS". This as the fires continued to burn.
   The busy area at the time also included everything East of Webster Ave. But the fear then was that it eventually would spread west and those companies would see the same kind of fire duty. Companies like 92/44 and 75/33 really weren"t that busy at that time. But now we all know that those planners were exactly right. Those companies picked up in work and to this day are always in the top ten, along with E42, 48, Lad 56. In fact, during the busy War Years, myself and a friend of mine went to a pizza place on 183rd St and Jerome Ave., directly across from the old 75/33s qtrs. We sat there for about four hours and they NEVER turned a wheel. While their coworkers to the South East didn"t stop. Now some 30 years later, the pizza place is not there. The old Firehouse has become a home to one of FDNYs EMS Stations (19-I think), and 75/33 has a new firehouse about two blocks away. And oh yes, I"ve never seen Eng 75, Lad 33 sit in their quarters four hours without going out the door again.
   I recently purchased a movie called "Wolfin". The movie itself in my opinion really wasn"t that great. But it was filmed in the area where the hub of the War Years were. It really shows in parts of that movie what the area looked like. So I decided to buy it. The South Bronx area had been compared to Berlin after the Bombings.

Offline anesti

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Re: My younger Buff years
« Reply #13 on: May 08, 2009, 07:00:50 PM »
great info nfd2004, does anyone remember  a job in the bronx had to be no more than mid 80's??? Where the emigrants tower is still today next to it on the left was a telephone building possible nynex or bell Atlantic now its a hip clinic but back in the 80's there was a fire in that building must have had been a multiple i doubt the super pumper tender was in service but i do recall a maxi water unit whether it was satellite 3 or maxi water 1 i couldnt tell but one piece of equipment i might have seen or maybe it was just a figment of my imagination was a box truck that had hose pouring out of the back,but then again it might just been the msu unit. but anyway anyone recall this fire??? might be a long shot i have searched and asked a few people to no avail..

Offline anesti

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Re: My younger Buff years
« Reply #14 on: May 08, 2009, 07:04:24 PM »
  As the War Years started, the busy area was considered everything below the Cross Bronx Expressway. Then things started to pick up as far north as East Tremont Ave. With more and more apartments, more buildings, and more blocks being burned out, Fordham Rd became the border. This put companies like Eng 88/Lad 38 right up there for runs and workers. By this time there really wasn"t much left in 82s/31s area. Most of the neighborhood was burned out shells or huge piles of rubbish, even stacked with abandoned burned out vehicles. It was a common sight to see an engine company parked down a street flowing a solid stream of water from the stang gun, knocking down a huge rubbish fire where buildings once stood. By this time the new ERS Boxes (Emergency Reporting System) were starting to hit the streets. Each Box had two buttons on it (Red botton for Fire, Blue Botton for Police). It also had a built in speaker so the caller could talk directly to the dispatcher. If the fire button was activated with no caller response, the FDNY would send out an Engine to check it out. You guessed it. A new game was found to entertain the young juveniles. They would push the button and laugh when the FD showed up. Sometimes these companies would have to answer 20-30 of these a night. The companies got the reputation as "ERS EXPRESS". This as the fires continued to burn.
   The busy area at the time also included everything East of Webster Ave. But the fear then was that it eventually would spread west and those companies would see the same kind of fire duty. Companies like 92/44 and 75/33 really weren"t that busy at that time. But now we all know that those planners were exactly right. Those companies picked up in work and to this day are always in the top ten, along with E42, 48, Lad 56. In fact, during the busy War Years, myself and a friend of mine went to a pizza place on 183rd St and Jerome Ave., directly across from the old 75/33s qtrs. We sat there for about four hours and they NEVER turned a wheel. While their coworkers to the South East didn"t stop. Now some 30 years later, the pizza place is not there. The old Firehouse has become a home to one of FDNYs EMS Stations (19-I think), and 75/33 has a new firehouse about two blocks away. And oh yes, I"ve never seen Eng 75, Lad 33 sit in their quarters four hours without going out the door again.
   I recently purchased a movie called "Wolfin". The movie itself in my opinion really wasn"t that great. But it was filmed in the area where the hub of the War Years were. It really shows in parts of that movie what the area looked like. So I decided to buy it. The South Bronx area had been compared to Berlin after the Bombings.

go

go to charlotte st now its all condo's lol