Author Topic: GLORY DAYS  (Read 184455 times)

Online JohnnyGage

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Re: GLORY DAYS
« Reply #330 on: February 18, 2020, 06:53:11 PM »
You nailed it John!...Boy, he could be a real pain in the arse at times...glad to say he was "one of a kind" in that regard.


(Likeness of 37 BC Don K)

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Re: GLORY DAYS
« Reply #330 on: February 18, 2020, 06:53:11 PM »

Online JohnnyGage

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Re: GLORY DAYS
« Reply #331 on: February 24, 2020, 02:52:57 PM »
NO FRILLS  P 3
“ANT FARM, MOLE HOLE and NO FRILLS”


PROFILE: Meet Tommy Hokey, Tommy is the spark of the firehouse. He is my age, been on the job maybe a year longer than I, and he is a helluva fireman, always wants the can and be in the middle of all the action. I love him.

Tommy is unique in two ways, first he has this self deprecating sense of humor that is cutting edge, he laughs hard and he has the knack to get you involved which is his intent, a seasoned instigator to start the fireworks. Tommy also sports a lazy eye. When Tommy comes into the firehouse the joint lights up and when he is on his game, which is often, the banter descends into cruel verbal gutter bashing and howls of laughter. You need not only to have thick skin, but a hard shell is a must. I have seen covering officers leave the room when our crew gets fired up with the down and dirty teasing where nothing is off limits, and I mean nothing. [ To this day, I have not heard such cutting quips and raw humor like I did back on Knickerbocker Av. ]

Of course Tommy would be a rich man if he got a dime every time he was called a “slow-eyed SOB”, or a “Lazy-eyed Motherfooker”. I even suggested Tommy should look into becoming a baseball umpire, he could stand in position behind second base and “keep an eye” on first and third base at the same time... Rescue 4 had “Popeye”, we had “Cockeye”...We would tell the covering officer tonight Tommy is the LCC and he has difficulty seeing the El pillars in front of him...It went on and on, each time trying to reach deeper gruesome new material... I saw guys stop Tommy mid sentence during a conversation “hey, who you talking too?...you looking at me?...I’m over here”...If we received an order from a boss in front of Tommy we would respond
Aye, Aye (eye,eye)...We had outrageous belly laughs when Tommy came to work, he gave as good as he got...and I have to give thanks that I could only work twenty four hours because my face and gut needed a break from laughing so hard at the end of the tour. Tommy was the spark.


Tommy and Lt. Marty H. on MUD

[ Tommy recently retired after forty years of service as one of the senior members on the FDNY as L 112 LCC, Godspeed Tom! ]

 ************


ANT FARM

L 112 and E 277 could expect one or two new transfers “into” the company every six months or so when a transfer came down from headquarters. The common way to transfer into any house is to first transfer into the engine company for a few years, and when it was “your turn” you would transfer to the truck if there was an opening. That was the general accepted procedure but did not always work that way. If you had “seniority points” and not on a “medical abuse” watch list then you had a good chance of “crossing the floor”. But there were other circumstances that would take preference, for instance a “proby” could be assigned to the open spot, ergo you just got shut out, or another firefighter who “knew someone” would make his pitch and come from left field.

Most of the time guys transferring know about the house, I really did not know anything about 112, but most usually do and make their desire known to the Captain and then transfer into the engine and await their turn. Most engine Captains did not mind you “passing through”, but E 88 Tough Timmy would have you for lunch if you mention you were passing through to go to the truck.

One transfer I recall came from a Queens firehouse in the Rockaways, Mike Weinstine. Almost from the moment he worked his first day tour he discovered he made a huge mistake. First this particular firehouse is was what it is, a tight confining structure of relentless beehive activity. There was always ongoing shenanigans in the firehouse with very little privacy. And since the place was so tight, the gut wrenching ball breaking was relentless, dark, mean and cruel, the best I have ever heard both...giving and receiving... But back to Mike, poor Mike would pace the firehouse like a caged tiger muttering to himself, he was losing color in his face and I swear he started losing weight that very first tour!... Poor Mike was not shy about letting us know he was very uncomfortable here in this intolerable “ANT FARM”.



I was with a couple of other Brothers near the housewatch when Mike released that blistering gem of verbiage! He did not realize what he just said was gold!... His remark hit us “like a pie in the face” and we rolled with hysteria; ‘ANT FARM’...he was right on the money!... We loved the description, it was accurate, pithy and succinct. We knew History was unfolding right before our very ears. I remember Brother Tommy Hokey saying that “so many legendary firemen have passed through these quarters, but Mikey Weinstine will be remembered forever with his “ANT FARM” comment”. Tommy was right.

Mike evidently made some frantic phone calls and detailed the harsh living conditions and pleaded his way out. Mike clicked his ruby slippers three times and was never seen again and was long gone before the ink on the paper was dried back to his Rockaway firehouse. Ah Mikey, we hardly knew ye. And so, Mikey became an instant “legend” in the folklore of Knickerbocker Avenue, and it is true, long after he was gone, the “ANT FARM” is still associated with L 112 and E 277... Within days, a few of us designed a new company patch and painted black ants on the wall crawling over the exposed pipes in the kitchen for that special touch.

MOLE HOLE

Since the firehouse was so small, every nook and cranny in the joint was usually occupied. Some guys hung out in the small TV / living room that adjoines our dining room. Two couches were usually occupied by guys sitting on the ends. In the locker room on the third was a small couch that one or two guys might be using to study or simply read because that was generally the most quiet spot in the firehouse. The bunkroom had an old wooden desk crammed in for students to study.

Downstairs below the apparatus floor was a small room that contained the oil burner, next to that, through a door was another larger room in the rear, the width of the firehouse and about twenty feet deep. It contained a well worn dilapidated pool table, a few couches and three recliner chairs that were well broken in. Against the wall was a large handmade wooden shelf with a large television and VCR machine. The entire room was painted gloss black, even the ceiling and pipes that ran through along the ceiling. The room was affectionately called the “MOLE HOLE” and this was where most of us truck guys hung out between alarms. It was dark, but somewhat comfortable. We even had a pet! Along the pipes ran an albino mouse...we could spot him a mile away...and the poor creature was crippled, he had only three legs and hobbled across the black pipes. We left him alone, afterall it was his house...live and let live.

There was a small clock on the VCR, you had to squint to see the time. I usually slept down in the Mole Hole with a few other guys, I had my couch, and knowing that I “saw wood” when sleeping, I stayed down in the Hole. Every school day you would wake up to the school kids throwing a baseball against the two long walls of the firehouse that was in the middle of the school courtyard. Thump, thump, thump, on and on.


[ Notice NEW Company Banner now over the single Bay. Created by 277 ECC Mike Schuman after I told him we needed something up there because I keep driving by the firehouse "with no name".... Mike was the best ECC I have every worked with, he was a real professional and quintessential senior man. ]

NO FRILLS

During a day tour we were called to the apparatus floor by our favorite Lieutenant Tommy Keufner. Lt. TK had recently transferred across the floor to the truck and we were happy about that. TK is a very experienced and aggressive fire ground boss with a level head that fits perfectly with the shenanigans of L 112. TK possesses one of those rare abilities where he can be one of the boys and is still respected as a fine boss, a tough ball to juggle that not too many officers can pull off...but he does. I drove TK on occasion after I completed Ladder Chauffeur School, he would call Brooklyn CO; “Ladder One-one- twelve to Brooklyn, k” adding the extra digit instead of one- one- two. It was comical hearing the dispatcher respond to the non-existent unit and even repeat the numerical without realizing the miscue.

Today we have received a “rabbit tool” for forcible entry, and TK has us assembled to review the gadget. This is not a new tool as many companies have already had one and the job is in the process of replacing the rabbit tool, which comes in a duffle bag and is heavy, with a newer forcible entry tool called the hydra-ram. A one piece light-weight tool that is proven much more effective than the rabbit tool. During our session reviewing the “new tool” we discover that this tool has been “rebuilt” and not even new, a virtual hand me down.

Only a month or so ago select truck companies were receiving for the first time new “Hurst tools”. We were all excited when we were ordered to report to the “Rock” for an extrication course during a day tour. Perhaps we will be one of the companies to get this new device! But to our dismay we spent a hot afternoon in the sun learning how to extricate someone from a twisted vehicle using a large “hand jack” with chains and a hacksaw. Surprise... “No tool for you”.

To our south, the “Tin house Truck” not only received a new rig, but was also acquiring all the new toys while we were the recipients of the rebuilt leftovers. During the “rabbit tool” briefing the discussion turned another direction when it became obvious to us,  when, I swear Lt. TK and I said verbatim, “What are we, ‘NO FRILLS’ ”? ...alas the name stuck, a perfect fit.

Lt. TK and I had sewn across the back of our turnout coats in reflective lettering “NO FRILLS” displaying our proud new unit identity... Shortly thereafter we received our new Seagrave rearmount where one of the brothers  painted “NO FRILLS” on the outriggers for viewing when the outriggers were extended and TK had a professional paint the Pathmark logo “NO FRILLS” on the officer door below the window. “NO FRILLS” truck was born and everyone in the company was cool with our new tag.


[ NO FRILLS across windshield and NO FRILLS Pathmark Supermarket logo under Officers window. Photo by T. Keller ]

Just before we received our new rig we had a beat up spare for a while, this evening right after roll call, TK with the rest of our crew seized upon an opportunity that was too good to pass by. Fireman Tommy Dunn had just bought a small red compact car and was eager to show us. We had Tommy pull the car in front of the firehouse, someone slapped the spare “112” magnetic sign* onto his car, someone else placed a small extension ladder across the roof, another made a white stripe along his car using dampened toilet tissue, six foot hooks protruded from the windows and then TK and I posed for a photo op with the ‘No Frills’ lettering on our turnout coats for effect. The photo became a classic and was even featured in our “100 Year Centennial” Journal.


Fr. Tommy Dunns new NO FRILLS "red machine". Lt. TK taking command on the left, Johnny Gage taking up the rear preparing for the next alarm. Note "NO FRILLS" on back of turnout coats!


[ Tommy Dunn; Vietnam Vet, outstanding Senior Man. RIP ]

[ * Companies were given unit identification magnetic signs from the shops to display on a “spare rig” when your regular rig was out of service. One of our members came back with “176’s”, and we slapped them on our spare rig for the day... until we got caught.]

Next: More 112 coming at ya....

Thanks for reading...Hope you enjoyed!     KMG-365
« Last Edit: February 24, 2020, 03:06:32 PM by JohnnyGage »

Offline Signal73

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Re: GLORY DAYS
« Reply #332 on: February 24, 2020, 07:05:12 PM »
Great Read Johnny thank you for sharing
Remember to take it coming in

Offline res8cue_99

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Re: GLORY DAYS
« Reply #333 on: February 28, 2020, 02:08:36 PM »
Thanks again John!! You bring back so many memories of buffing their. Great house and a great bunch of guys. was Benny there when you where? He would have been on the Engine and I think he became the senior man when Mike retired. Thanks again and keep those stories coming.

Online JohnnyGage

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Re: GLORY DAYS
« Reply #334 on: February 28, 2020, 02:35:58 PM »
Thanks again John!! You bring back so many memories of buffing their. Great house and a great bunch of guys. was Benny there when you where? He would have been on the Engine and I think he became the senior man when Mike retired. Thanks again and keep those stories coming.

Sure, Benny was there. I have a photo of him somewhere, I'll ship it to you.
« Last Edit: February 28, 2020, 06:34:06 PM by JohnnyGage »

Online JohnnyGage

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Re: GLORY DAYS
« Reply #335 on: March 01, 2020, 06:04:01 PM »
NO FRILLS   P 4
“DAYDREAM BELIEVER”

I am standing just a shade to the left of second base, second base is a patch of blacktop that fills a pot hole in the middle of Van Buren Street, my hometown of Brentwood, Long Island where we moved some years ago from Brooklyn. My younger brother Mike is playing first base and two other childhood chums are in short outfield and deep outfield. During the summer we play a daily game of baseball in the middle of the narrow street. It is the summer of 1969, I’m twelve and nothing is more important to me than baseball and the NY Mets.

My neighbor Billy Gilfin is up at bat, he will toss the beaten up hardball into the air and swing making a connection, this alleviates us from having a pitcher. Billy is not one of the power hitters of the neighborhood and I cleanly field his one hopper and throw over to my brother standing on the sewer, which is first base, snaring the ball with his over-sized glove nabbing Billy for the out.

In the background the community fire siren is alerting the town firemen of a fire. We hear the siren often and usually don’t pay any attention to it, especially during the spring when brush fires pop up all over town and the siren blows frequently.

I throw my arms up as the next batter gets ready to swing at the ball announcing “CAR, CAR, CAR!”, the game comes to an abrupt halt. We step to the side as an old rambler station wagon whizzes by with a revolving blue light on top of the roof, another car follows closely behind, a sharp looking green camaro with a flashing blue light on the dashboard. As quick as they come through our playing field they are gone from sight. Play Ball!

The game resumes, however we can hear fire truck sirens approaching, looking down the avenue from the street we notice bright headlights and a revolving red light heading our way rather quickly, the siren continues to wail. It is not often the fire trucks come our way, they usually head toward the center of town. The fire truck pulls up to us kids, the fireman riding shotgun of the open rig (‘46 Mack) asks us “where house number 414 Van Buren Street” is, we point to the house and the rig accelerates with a belch of black smoke from the exhaust making the left turn onto Van Buren Street. The game is going to be delayed as the engine stops in the middle of our outfield. From a distance we can hear more sirens coming. A second rig turns down the street from another direction (‘66 American LaFrance) followed by the Hook and Ladder truck (‘59 American LaFrance)


1946 Mack Engine


1966 Ameican LaFrance


1959 American LaFrance 85'. [In less than ten years, this would be the very first fire truck I drove when I was a member of the Volunteer Fire Department]

The firemen go about their business with a bevy of activity. After the excitement settles, one of the firemen stops and explains to us there was no fire, but an electrical short in the wall somewhere. I remember feeling impressed with the bravery of these firemen looking to help without hesitation.

Later that summer day it got me thinking about the other few times I observed the local fire department action as a youngster.

When I was five, a house one block over from Van Buren Street (Franklin Street) caught fire during the early spring afternoon. I remember watching the police cars and rigs racing by on Franklin Street, but the house was too far down the street for me to see what was happening. After dinner I begged my Mom to take me over to Franklin Street to see what the commotion was all about. It was a few hours after the fire and all the fire apparatus had left the scene. We drove slowly inspecting each ranch house for a sign of fire. Nothing seemed out of order, until we spotted the blackened and grotesquely burnt top floor of a high ranch appear. Charred bed frames, dressers, clothing and furniture littered the lawn. The sight of the house was upsetting and the scene really shook me.  A few years later my family had just returned from our Sunday trip to Canarsie Brooklyn to visit family. We arrived home in the dark. Pulling into our driveway we could smell smoke in the air and there was a definite smell of smoke in the house, my dad searched every nook and cranny for anything burning before he allowed us in our home as a precaution. My Mom made a phone call to the local firehouse, at the time there was no 9-1-1 system back then, a fireman picked up the phone. Mom told him about the smell of smoke in the house and gave him our address. He told my Mom the house directly behind ours (Franklin Street, again) had a very bad fire in it during the afternoon while we were not home. My dad and I grabbed our flashlights and walked to the backyard to investigate, there we saw the shell remains of a house, although the house was vacant at the time, the sight was deeply disturbing as well. For a few years we had to look at this creepy sad house until it was completely repaired.

The exciting events of that afternoon's house fire turned out to be an epiphany for me, I recalled my conversation with Uncle Jack at my grandmother's funeral last year in Brooklyn after I had found out Jack was a fireman just as E 257 and L 170 came screaming down Rockaway Avenue past the funeral home. My beloved baseball playing and desire to be the next Jerry Grote would take a back seat to my new interest. I felt the urge to pursue this newfound passion...

“BEEEE BOOOP”
GET OUT!... EVERYBODY GOES!...TRUCK IS FIRST DUE…

I’m startled from my daydreaming...

It’s our first run into the night tour of this balmy summer evening. Both companies are 'first due' for a phone alarm that's reporting a smoke condition from a vacant building at the corner of Gates and Myrtle Avenues.  E 277 makes the left from quarters and quick right onto Gates toward Myrtle Av, we follow closely behind. Fireman John Gaymon is tonights LCC and handles the big red machine like a true professional. E 218 with thier dog "Wolfie" and "Tonka Truck" pull up right behind.


E 277

There is an old vacant small white gas station, the pumps have been removed and a large rolled down gate covers the garage door, the large office window has been bricked up . However there is a small window about twelve feet high over the office with a large fresh wet scarlet blood smear that starts at the bottom of the  busted out window and streaks about two feet down staining the white paint. It is clearly fresh blood, but there are no casualties when we arrive. The window is emanating a lazy light gray smoke.

The boss is Lieutenant Ed Kilduff, I have the irons and Tommy Hokey has the can for tonight's tour. A civilian approaches and warns us that there were known druggies and “attack dogs” on premise.

Lt. Kilduff has us front and center of the rolled down door, I’m to his left with my halligan adz section at the ready to push and redirect any attack dog assault  if he comes toward and threatens us, Tommy is to the boss’s right with the can pointed directly in front ready to squeeze off the pressurized water into the dog’s face if need be. The rolled down gate is not locked, Lt. Kilduff reaches for the handle on the ground, asks if we are ready, Tommy and I both affirm, Tommy and I brace and lean forward toward the rolled down gate almost touching it with our shoulders to anticipate any sudden surprise from the other side. LT. Kilduff lifts the gate in one swoop.

Directly in front of us lies a smoldering human roast laying in a supine pugilistic position, the clothes have been burnt off and we cannot tell if it's a man or woman. It is a “Holy $hit, moment” for us three as we are briefly stunned and recoil at the gruesome sight... Behind the roast is the old wooden garage door to the former gas station that has a door built into it and it is open. We are relieved that there is no attack dog on premise, still we cautiously make our way to the small window that was emanating the smoke. Above the little “office” is a small loft with the window where we discover a lightly smoldering mattress and signs of a struggle. Tommy takes care of the mattress with the can and we both pull the mattress to the outside.


Roofman JohnnyGage taking a blow somewhere in E 271s area,  behind is Tommy Hokey. [ All photos of JohnnyGage were taken by two buffs from New Hampshire that stayed with us for a week in the firehouse on numerous occasions.]

Heading back to the rig the civilian who told us about the druggies remained at the scene, approaches to provide us a little “inside scoop” as to what “may have happened” here. There were two people inside apparently “freebasing” in the makeshift loft section of the garage by the window. One person became engulfed in fire while the second bailed out the small window, while doing so he caught either his hand or ring finger on the small shards of metal that used to secure the window, thus causing the blood stain along the wall when he tried to slide out and down. The person engulfed in fire tried to run toward the garage pull down gate to exit but never made it, burning alive between the wooden garage door and the rolled down gate.


Garage as it appears today. Note small window now with steel bars.

Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed.    KMG-365
« Last Edit: March 30, 2020, 02:26:19 PM by JohnnyGage »

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Re: GLORY DAYS
« Reply #337 on: March 06, 2020, 09:41:43 PM »
NO FRILLS;  P 5
A ‘NUTHOUSE’...for real

The Nut House, no not that ‘NUT HOUSE’ over on Hancock Street, but another ‘NUT HOUSE’ that I was detailed to for thirty days.

L 112 recently received a batch of new members from another transfer order and therefore the company was heavy with manpower which resulted in double groups and details, in addition we also had to accomodate a couple of probies from outlining engine companies to familiarize them with truck company operations. Because of that our roster swelled up and in order to relieve the abundant manpower each one of us had to take a thirty day detail to work at the undermanned E 206 and the Foam Unit on Grand Street, the northern end of our Battalion. This would temporarily balance out the lopsided manpower.

The first week of September 1989 was my turn to go. Since I have been assigned to L 112 I have never been detailed to this firehouse, but the directions are easy enough and I was excited for a new brief adventure and to meet new friends. I gathered my turnout gear and a couple of work duty uniforms, grabbed my toiletries and headed out for my detail.

I pulled up to the two-story firehouse, compiled my belongings and met one of the guys from E 206 at the front door. As was my custom, I arrived early for my first tour, a night tour. However, already something seemed amiss. The guys who were working were surprised to see me, as they were not used to someone coming in to be relieved early. The fireman I relieved was happy about the relief and did not hesitate scurrying out of there.



The Brothers in L 112 gave me a little heads up about the firehouse. A couple of the L 112 brothers were assigned to the company from proby school before transferring into L 112. The one notable fact that I remember them telling me is that the firehouse is very quiet, not many runs since it is situated in an industrial area. You could expect peaceful nights with maybe an abandoned car fire here or there, but if you go out on anything else it was an “all nighter”, especially with the foam unit which usually meant a Hazmat situation or factory fire that would be an all night operation.

My second inkling of something amiss here was just before the tour started,  I was called into the Captain's office. I was eager to meet the new boss and hustled down the hallway to his office, I figured maybe he wanted to welcome me, go over a few things, who knows? The Captain has a stern look on his face, he did not introduce himself but proceeded to read me the ‘riot act’ because I unknowingly 'parked' in his spot outside the firehouse. “His” reserved spot.





Now, as I recall there was plenty of parking available everywhere since this was an industrial area and parking certainly was not an issue. But, as I rudely found out, the Captain had a favorite spot directly on the side of the firehouse. And he let me know about it.

Even though my arse is being chewed at this very moment, I realize I know this Captain from somewhere! Yes, now I know, he is from my hometown Brentwood. I remember meeting him while I was a volunteer fireman in town and he was a volunteer with the local ambulance company in town.

So with that golden nugget of info, after the Captain finished doing his war dance, I thought I would throw out an olive branch and mention crossing paths. He almost smiled, and agreed that we did live in the same neighborhood, in fact we only lived a few streets apart...but he soured again and reminded me with one more blast that that still does not give me privilege to park in his spot. I thought he was very petty.

I never did work with that Captain again, thankfully. After a few tours I began to observe some peculiar activity in the firehouse. For instance; take the refrigerator. The refrigerator had a diagram of which shelf and section the ‘milk’ would be stored, other open containers, opened butter, etc. In the top freezer to the left were neat stacks of butter, and to the right neat stacks of margarine, with a defined space in between. Now, if you took out a stick of butter it had to be recorded on a clipboard that had it’s ‘own’ spot on top of the refrigerator.  Also on top of a small soda machine was an empty ‘soda can’ with the bottom peeled off, like what you might do to a can of peas, only inverted. There under the hollow soda can, like a pearl under a clam shell, was the soda machine key. And you better not touch it, only certain members had the honor to employ that key. The place seemed compulsively organized and clinical, certainly not what I was used to on Knickerbocker Av., or any other firehouse I worked in for that matter.

The ‘meal’ was never discussed to get a consensus of what everyone felt like eating, and we never went out to procure the meal. Someone would bring the meal in. Many times in a firehouse the meal is the biggest decision to make and it is especially important to get a general opinion of what everyone wants to eat.  But this was their policy, and since we did not go out to fetch the meal items we ate relatively early. Most firehouses eat their dinner meal between 9 and 10 PM, here we ate and finished cleaning up after the meal by 8 PM.

Members wandered off after the meal, I usually sat in the second floor kitchen alone except for the brother who had housewatch that was performed from a couch on the second floor above the housewatch. A large window looked out over Grand Street and you could see a Chief's vehicle approaching from there, with a quick slide down the pole to the apparatus floor and you were in the housewatch. Other members used to climb into the rack around 10 pm and the firehouse seemed desolate.

All was not lost; I met and worked with proby firefighter Bobby Nat there. Bobby was a young heads up guy, very polite, soft spoken and easy going. I looked forward to working with him during my detail. Eventually a few months later Bobby came to L 112 to do his familiarization where we worked together again. He loved the antics and vitality of our firehouse and was regretting going back to Grand Street, I remember telling him he needed to transfer and “get out of there”, he did and later he found a home at L 108.
I remember one night tour the lieutenant, who didn’t eat with the guys and hardly came out of his office came out one time to turn the television volume down on the television without saying a word to any of the other members there watching the tube. It was bizarre.

And finally I did get my chance to experience one of those ‘long night’ tours there, yes an ‘all nighter’ for sure with the foam unit. Ugh.

My first week there, E 206 and the Foam Unit was dispatched to Manhattan for a broken steam pipe that spewed asbestos all over 51st Street and 8th Avenue just after eating dinner (that was one time I was glad we ate early!). We arrived on scene in Manhattan, and by the time the scene was cordoned off and traffic rerouted, the asbestos release contaminated 8th Avenue for almost six blocks.



We stood by on the corner of 51st Street and 8th Avenue as Hazardous Materials crews and officers systematically secured the area. Then in tyvek suits had to block every grate, manhole or other opening of the Avenue and cross street for at least six blocks. Foam the area down like a runway, then create a drain runoff catch basin to recover the water from the final stage of ‘washing’ down the Avenue with a handline.

The job was very arduous and tedious. And I kind of felt sorry for those HM guys. We stood by with E 206 and the foam unit from early evening to sunrise. Sitting on a rig for at least nine hours on a deserted Manhattan corner. Some of us not working the day tour returned back to the firehouse just before the tour started by an old converted Chiefs Chevy suburban to exchange members who were working that day tour.  An all nighter, sitting inside an unheated, vibrating firetruck for nine hours, but still thankful I was not one of those HM guys, they work hard!

Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoyed.       KMG-365
« Last Edit: March 07, 2020, 01:58:20 PM by JohnnyGage »

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Re: GLORY DAYS
« Reply #339 on: March 15, 2020, 07:44:42 AM »

Online JohnnyGage

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Re: GLORY DAYS
« Reply #340 on: March 15, 2020, 09:03:05 PM »
ST. PATRICK'S DAY

St. Patrick’s Day Parade was always a special gathering and festive day in the FDNY.  My firehouse and I guess most firehouses, as well, would have a hearty breakfast before we turned out for the parade knowing it was going to be a long day, indeed. Guys in the kitchen would prepare large batches of scrambled eggs, pancakes, sausage and bacon.

Everyone looked forward to the parade, the parade was a great opportunity to catch up with brothers who have since been promoted, moved onto another firehouse, or guys you just haven't seen for awhile, it was an annual occasion to reconnect with brothers from the past. You could never make plans to meet someone, especially since we did not have cell phones back then, and you never knew who you would run into and just hang with for a couple of hours or so jabbering.

At L 112 we walked up Knickerbocker Avenue to the Myrtle Avenue Elevated subway station to catch the M Line into Manhattan. On the platform with us would be a large group of guys from Tonka Truck L 124 who walked down from Himrod Street. I always admired them, they were a tight solid group of brothers. With each stop more and more blue uniforms lining the station platform boarded the subway. In just a few stops, the train was completely jammed with FDNY members and many out of town firefighters, too. I recall marching with firefighters from Manchester NH and old buddies from the DCFD as guests. Firefighters came from all over to march with us, and we welcomed them.

Once our subway arrived at Grand Central Station a sea of blue waltzed over to where the FDNY assembled on E 44 Street. How convenient that there were a few Irish bars on the street and our group would pile into one and hang out at the bar until the parade kicked off. We had well over an hour to kill before the FDNY colors would step off as we watched from the bars television then hustling outside just in time for the call to “Line up”.

The FDNY Band was always spectacular, sharp and sensational led our swarm. In the line up behind the band was the FDNY Chief’s and dignitaries up front, followed by the Union Board representatives from the different unions and then us.

Hundreds of us filled up several blocks along Fifth Avenue.  I can’t tell you how many times there was a small  group of guys who attempted to instill order of march upon us, you know, ten-hut, dress right dress, forward march, yer left, hup two three four. But that all fell apart before we left the half block on E 44 Street and made the right turn onto Fifth Avenue. Everyone was already having a grand time yakking it up, waving to the crowd to pay any attention to formality. I recall a brother describing our ‘marching style’, it was not a ‘march’ but more like a “sashay’, his description was spot on. 

The only time we would attempt to straighten up and march smartly was just before we reached St. Patrick’s Cathedral where the residing Cardinal was blessing us from the steps as we passed. After that guys would start to peel off and fall out of line at the various cross streets, having ‘marched’ enough. I can honestly tell you, I never made the whole trip from start to end at 88th Street.

Each firehouse had their “Irish Joint” or watering hole somewhere usually on the east side that they occupied, If you waited too long, the joint would begin to fill up and you could find yourself on the outside, looking in.

The other option was to proceed to the 69th Infantry Regiment Armory, “The Fighting Irish” over on Lexington Avenue that afforded the FD plenty of space to celebrate with free beer and hot dogs.

For the first few years that I was with E 88 and L 38 our company headed to “Rathbones” located on Second Avenue just at the termination point of the parade. When I left for L 112  we used to head for the Armory. The first couple of years the Armory was nice and convenient and you could move around freely and catch up with old friends, but as more years came so did the crowds of outsiders. It was tough to get a beer and a hot dog due to long lines, plus the place became stifling hot from all the body heat. However, there were more than enough porta-potties for relief, a huge improvement over the bars where you had to join the conga line to get to the boy’s room when nature called.

After the first few years of drinking beer, running to the bathroom, more beer, more bathroom I decided I needed to reconsider my modus operandi. I switched to carrying a flask of Canadian Club. Yep, I could just swig it now and then, pace myself and enjoy the day without running back and forth to the john or fighting my way up to the bar to get a beer. It worked for me.

One memorable St. Patrick’s Day me and a buddy from L 38 spent the afternoon coincidently  with cops. We had enough marching and decided to peel off from the parade on a side street somewhere in the 70’s and make a bee line to Rathbones. When we got to Second Avenue and headed north we felt the need to stop in the next gin joint along the way and grab a quick cold one. I can’t recall the name of the place,  but as we were walking past, the door was open with Irish music blasting out so we detoured and made a pit stop.

Two feet into the bar we notice the place was packed with NYC Transit and Suffolk County Cops whooping it up. We’re not inside thirty seconds when a PO at the door made an announcement that there are a couple of firemen “joining us”. A path was cleared and we were immediately escorted to the front of the bar, ice cold drafts placed in front of us. Friendly rivalry banter ensued, each time another PO bought us a ‘round’ of suds. Before you knew it we had a handful of overturned shot glasses placed in front of us on the bar ( in the old days if someone ‘bought’ you a drink and you still had one in front of you, the overturned shot glass reminded the bartender that you were owed a drink ) and a stack of corned beef sandwiches on rye. One of the Suffolk County Police Chiefs wanted to try on my beret, he wore it the whole time we were there and he was having a ball wearing it.
It was a fun time with the cops but time to bail out, after a couple of hours, we shook hands with all of them and headed back out to our firehouse joint, the now overly packed Rathbones. Later, I found a business card from the Suffolk County Police Chief inside my beret!

                                                                     ************

The last parade I attended as an active duty fireman was in 2002, the FDNY was still in the middle of the WTC recovery process and funerals, guys were feeling grim, dark, ugly and exhausted. I felt that way too, but this would be the one occasion to take a break, let off steam and get back to what normal felt like, even just for the day. My son joined me to march, he had signed up with the NY National Guard prior to 9/11 and his unit was activated to secure the WTC site. (Later his unit would be deployed to Iraq where he was decorated with the Combat Infantryman Badge for the Battle of Samarra in Iraq) . It was an honor for me to March alongside him. I remember the day marching was cold, dark and snowing, it was a relief when we hit the first bar to warm up and belt back a few cocktails together with longtime buddies BC Ed and Marty who  joined us on this memorable day.



My last St. Patricks parade was in 2007. My birthday is two days after and my wish was to attend one more St. Patricks Parade. With that, my loving wife reserved a room at the Peninsula Hotel located at 55th Street and Fifth Avenue the day before.  BC Ed joined my wife and I for breakfast in the hotel restaurant that overlooked Fifth avenue, the marching route. Ed and I ate hearty, gave a kiss on the cheek to my wife and proceeded to the line up of the parade. It began to dawn on me as I looked around, I don’t know anybody here anymore, young faces laughing  and enjoying the day surrounded me, it was not my parade, or time anymore. I marched with Ed, it was ok, but different now, I definitely sensed that time has passed me by with all the new young faces enjoying their moment. I relished the melancholy moment and bailed out at 55th Street to meet my wife. I was not upset or sad, I realized that time marched on and was grateful knowing that the vitality of the NYC Fire Department continued to evolve, I was humbled,  just being a small part of the past. 

We walked over to Rosie O’Grady’s on Seventh Avenue where we had a large table reserved. The place was hopping with partiers, we were seated in a nice spot, family members joined us as did Dennis Smith who my wife and I invited. We had a marvelous time, our table was filled with plates of corned beef and cabbage, Dennis covered his dish of scrambled eggs in ketchup. I had my final nip of Canadian Club, neat, except this time 'not' from a flask... A wonderful lasting memory.

They were grand times, many times over. I’m done marching now, but eternally grateful for so many fabulous memories, some, maybe a tad blurry….




Hey now! Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed!      KMG-365
« Last Edit: March 15, 2020, 09:10:06 PM by JohnnyGage »

Offline manhattan

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Re: GLORY DAYS
« Reply #341 on: March 15, 2020, 09:22:22 PM »
"Hey now! Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed! "

Come on,  JohnnyGage.  How could anyone not enjoy your memories and be thankful that you're on The Site.  Wonderful!

Offline kidfrmqns

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Re: GLORY DAYS
« Reply #342 on: March 21, 2020, 10:12:52 AM »
Dan "JohnnyG" your stories really are great. I was able to get on here today for the first time in about 1.5 weeks and was so happy to see new Glory Days stories. You really should put them all together and write a book, it would be a best seller among firemen.

Online JohnnyGage

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Re: GLORY DAYS
« Reply #343 on: March 22, 2020, 09:53:37 AM »
Thank you Manhattan and Kid from the largest Boro for your kind words. I am happy to share my remembrances and very humble to be a small contributor, a "drop in the bucket" of this magnificent website. There are so many great, exciting and exclusive recollections by profound contributors on here, many can be found  in "My younger buff years" for example and other historical threads that reference FDNY fire history. I'm amazed at the regular contributing members who have researched historical data and shared is unbelievable, this is truly a unique and amazing website that the Bendick family has put together. The interesting material and posts collected on this site would make a 'Best Seller' for sure! And I'm thankful to be here.

Best, JohnnyGage
« Last Edit: March 22, 2020, 09:58:49 AM by JohnnyGage »

Online JohnnyGage

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Re: GLORY DAYS
« Reply #344 on: March 23, 2020, 03:38:14 PM »
MERCI BEAUCOUP…..

Hello Troops, my how time flies by! It was only a short twelve months ago that I wrote to the Grand Poobah Willy asking if I could start a thread sharing my memories and recollections of a different time in the FDNY right after the War Years Era, and he liked the idea and gave me a thumbs up.

March 24th will be the first Anniversary of “GLORY DAYS” and I can’t tell you how much fun it has been typing and posting over seventy stories from my early recollections.

When I started, I bought a small notebook and started to casually jot down memories, that evolved by opening door after door of stashed memories I thought I forgot. I figured I’d have about a few months worth of decent memoirs. But one story led to another and I went from a small notebook to a spiral notebook with different category headings. ‘Riding with L 31’, ‘Gory Days’, ‘Tough Timmy’, etc. Every time a tidbit I recalled I grabbed the notebook and dutifully recorded the thought before it vanished. The notebook filled quickly and I find myself still adding more remembrances.

Writing these stories has been cathartic in ways I never imagined. I find myself immersed in the past as I’m tapping away the keys on my laptop. I am transported back to that time and almost reliving the memory moment by moment, sometimes rediscovering little nuances that I never thought about but become very clear. I don’t dwell in the past, but it is a nice brief vacation especially with what is going on now that Willy wrote so insightfully about the other day.

My hope and my intention was that some of my recollections would appeal to others and share their stories. I am grateful to those who have contributed and enhanced this thread with their own fabulous and exciting experiences.

I am also thankful to those who have ‘Private Messaged’ me with their thoughts and feedback, encouragement and well wishes. Your messages are very welcomed as they motivate and inspire me to write more.

I am very grateful and indebted to the creators of NYCFIRENET the Bendick’s and Mr. Willy the Grand Poobah for allowing me to share my memoirs on this forum.

I have also slowly started to revise my original posts as I felt the writing was a little rusty and choppy. I read and re-read my article several times before I post, constantly making changes and attempting to project a clear image. I wish I had the ability to just write and post, I don’t.

There are still more flashbacks and anecdotes in the works for the weeks ahead. Currently I am  just half way through ‘No Frills’ stories and I still have ‘untouched’ in my notebook interesting topics about studying, LCC school, Greenwich Village L 5, from the pile to the pit WTC days and more. I think the best is yet to come, thanks for allowing me to share.

Best; JohnnyGage        KMG-365