Author Topic: GLORY DAYS  (Read 184640 times)

Offline 8060rock

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« Reply #315 on: January 12, 2020, 10:41:15 PM »
JohnnyG that's a great tribute to your "Uncle Jack" - any man would be proud to have somebody look up to him the way you did with Jack. I'm sure he must have known what he meant to you and there can be no doubt that in return, he found you to be a very special young man, way back when. Thanks so much for sharing your stories of "Uncle Jack" and yourself, truly something special!

« Reply #315 on: January 12, 2020, 10:41:15 PM »

Offline 68jk09

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« Reply #316 on: January 13, 2020, 01:00:31 AM »
8060 ^^^^ Well Said.

Online nfd2004

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« Reply #317 on: January 13, 2020, 09:08:26 AM »
Dan, regarding the above Gory Days story, I'd like to jump in with a couple of somewhat related stories about mouth to mouth CPR and child birth.

 This goes way back to the very early days of CPR. My father, who was my Role Model, was a firefighter in Bridgeport, Ct. He used to smoke a lot of cigars and being a firefighter, I nicknamed him "Smoke". I think somewhere way back, I wrote about him on this site.

 Anyway, CPR is just coming out and Smoke finds out about a one day class being held in Norwalk, Ct and open to the public to attend. I'm still in my high school days and Smoke brings me along too.

 About a year or two after that short one day class, Smoke is working a night tour and gets a job in a reported vacant frame. He goes in and finds a guy in the second floor bathroom, unconscious and not breathing. He gets him out into the street. At that time, the only rig in the city that carried any oxygen was their Rescue called Squad 5. But on this narrow street, Squad 5 is parked too close to a parked car and they can't get the doors on the compartment open to get the oxygen unit out. So Smoke begins mouth to mouth breathing and after a few breaths, the guy starts to breathe on his own.

 That simple one day class that showed Smoke how to do this new thing, saved the guys life. There were no practice manikins to work on either.

 Smoke was awarded the Bridgeport Fire Depts Highest Medal for that rescue called: "The Gold Star". Interesting, about a year or two later, while waiting for a bus in downtown Bridgeport, a homeless guy tries to hit me up for a little donation. Instead we go across the street to a diner and I buy him a coffee. As we sit there talking, the fire trucks are going by on a run. He says to me: "those guys saved my life". Of course I ask him where was that. He tells me at a fire on Fulton St. I then asked him his name and he says: Eddie Martin. That was the guy that Smoke rescued and used mouth to mouth breathing on him.

  Dan, aka "Johnny Gage", please add my appreciation to the list of members who have enjoyed reading your stories.

  I watched your Uncle Jack dozens of times on this youtube video where he is seen on the right of the chief who is talking. He was your Role Model and as you describe, "he taught you a lot about the job". I'm sure he was certainly a respected member of the FDNY as well.

 As a young wanna be fireman, I had a Role Model too and that was my father. A Bridgeport Firefighter who I wrote about earlier in this thread.

 Uncle Jack and my father "Smoke" were some of the GREATEST. Each served their purpose in life well. Not only did they risk their lives fighting fires and saving people but they BOTH were Role Models as we watched and learned from them as we grew up.

 I also know that Dan and I are NOT alone when it comes to Role Models and members here. There are many others among us who learned from guys like Uncle Jack and Smoke. Each with their own individual stories.

 Here is that video in which Dan's Uncle Jack is seen. He is at the 30:00 minute mark of this story.

« Last Edit: January 13, 2020, 12:56:54 PM by nfd2004 »

Offline JohnnyGage

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« Reply #318 on: January 19, 2020, 09:48:28 PM »
L 38 and BRIAN;  Part 1

“GET OUT 38, TRUCK GOES!” with that announcement from the housewatchman the lights come on in the bunkroom and I can hear the apparatus bay door opening, I feel a little groggy as the lights and sound interrupts my beauty rest, it only takes a second or two to realize it’s time to go to work and get my ass in gear. I sleep with my pants and socks on, so I do not need to dress and I am now alert and fully functioning as I hit the pole for the slide down to the apparatus floor. Tonight I have the roof position and my partner sitting in front of me is Brian Hickey who has the outside vent position. Brian transferred into L 38 from Harlem E 36 a few months before I transferred across the floor from Tough Timmy’s E 88.

The housewatchman on duty from E 88 hands L 38’s LCC Tommy “Sidecar” the ticket while announcing “Motor Vehicle Accident Cross Bronx Expressway Involving a tractor trailer”. The firehouse truck door is now open, Tommy fires up the rig and flips the lights on as we make a right turn against traffic on Belmont Avenue, peering easterly from the apparatus as we make a right turn onto 182nd Street I notice the light blue streaks of the morning just about to break from the horizon but it is still dark as we head down Third Avenue. The accident is reported on the Cross Bronx Expressway eastbound somewhere between Third Avenue and Sheridan Expressway. Usually this is L 27 first due area, but I guess they are tied up somewhere else for the moment, we’re the only truck going in.

On the other side of the rig riding behind the officer in the “Can position” is a new member who has recently transferred into L 38 from E 45, his name is Eddie McCan, he is tall, wears aviator glasses and has long disheveled reddish hair, you could say he resembles the actor Denis Leary with a droopy untrimmed mustache. Ed has a most distinguishing characteristic, and that is every other word is “Fouk or Foukin’ ”, there could be ten words in a sentence he uses, eight of them will be some form of “fouk”. So we call him Eddie “McFOUKIN’can” or simply McFouk.

When McFOUK transferred into L 38 I pulled out my small camera and had him point to his new 38 frontpiece on his helmet while he was wearing it and took a photo of it. When the photo was developed we all had a good chuckle, he had this $hit eating grin gleefully pointing to the new red insert with the bright white 38. Great minds think alike, so we thought it be a giggle to ship the photo off in an envelope to his old firehouse, E 45 and L 58, with a note on the back of the photo…”Finally a place I can call home, don’t call me, I’ll call you, Love Ed!”. A few days later he was detailed to L 58, he had no idea what he was walking into and was almost skinned alive...I found out the photo was posted in the middle of a bulletin board of E 45’s kitchen by itself for all to see!

(L 38, Billy McD (RIP), Brian Hickey (RIP 9/11) and Ed McFouk)

Riding in the Irons Position behind McFOUK is the senior man for the tour Bob Gaynor. Bob is the Union delegate of L 38 and he looks like a twin brother to Rush Limbaugh. Bob has the wittiest sense of humor, he is quick-witted and entertaining. Whenever Bob works he holds court in the kitchen, demands attention and amuses us with his very sarcastic schtick that would make Don Rickles act anemic. However, Bob’s weakness is his hair, he has hair plugs that are neatly inserted into his head in rows. He is very vain when it comes to his hair as he constantly makes sure every piece of hair is where it is supposed to be. I remember there was a school visit and Bob decided to show the excited youngsters around the fire truck and fire pole. When he bent over to show the kids his boots, a young boy noticed the cornrow plugs and announced to his classmates, “check him out, the dude got a Barbie-doll head!” ...the kids became fixated on Bob’s head, could care less and forgot all about the visit and safety message. Every kid now stared transfixed to Bob’s Barbie doll head. It didn’t take long as Bob cut the school visit short and ushered them through the firehouse door…”Goodbye, now” had to be the quickest fire prevention and school visit I ever witnessed.

(Ringmaster, Bob Gaynor (RIP))

Riding shotgun is Lieutenant John Hickman, he’s the new Boss who has transferred into L 38 from a Harlem truck company and he is a seasoned “War Years” vet who has replaced Uncle Jack after Jack got promoted to Captain. He is a dead ringer for the actor Charles Bronson but speaks like Clark Gable. He’s no nonsense, a little rough around the edges and a little gruff when he speaks, but a nice man, otherwise.

The truck is heading down Third Avenue and turns east onto the Cross Bronx Expressway entrance, Tommy “Sidecar” is an outstanding chauffeur and skillfully maneuvers the rig through the early morning intersections slowing down at red lights before he proceeds through the intersection. Tommy turns left onto the entrance ramp of the Expressway, not more than a half mile from the entrance we pull up to a tractor trailer on the shoulder of the expressway and a second one that is stopped slightly ahead of the first but in the passing lane with his four way flashers on. The Cross Bronx Expressway is a six lane expressway, three heading east, three heading west and one of the major shipping routes through NYC, it is heavily travelled road and often congested. Pulling up to the first rig that is on the shoulder Tommy stops the truck in the first lane, protecting us from the passing by traffic, a quick size up of the accident doesn’t seem too bad, we all cautiously hop out of the rig. There is only one lane opened now, traffic still moves through the two banged up rigs, slowly, they are both conventional type semi-trucks. The Police have not yet arrived on the scene. K

(LCC Tommy "Sidecar", always calm and cool, fantastic seafood cook, wore only boat deck shoes)

Lt. Hickman has Brian and me go to the disabled rig in the passing lane and check the conditions. Brian and I cautiously cross the one lane that is open, the driver is still buckled into his seat, he seems dazed and confused but otherwise does not seem injured, the damage to the front passenger side of his truck is substantial. It appears the driver must have fallen asleep, crossed over slightly onto the shoulder and hit the other truck driver side rear with a glancing blow and stopped in the third lane. There is not much for us to do. The next thing Brian and I calmly hear over the portable radio, “Got a 45 here”. Brian and I look at each other, first we thought maybe we were picking up a radio transmission from L 27, then we realized it was Lt. Hickman. It is still dark and the traffic continues to creep slowly between both disabled rigs, the NYPD Highway is still not on the scene, Brian and I walked over to the other rig to see if we can lend a hand... I’m shining my flashlight on the ground looking for the “45”, but I don’t see anything, then my light shines onto a pair of brown cowboy boots and blue jeans standing flashlight travels further upward, I notice a brown belt and a red plaid flannel shirt tucked neatly into the jeans, I assume it’s the driver of the rig and say “how you makin’ out partner?” only to realize that his head has been completely severed when I shined my flashlight up towards his face...there was no gore except for some blood on the front of his shirt, but I noticed his tongue sitting still on top of his neck, the truck driver was decapitated...Evidently he was on the side of the road repairing his rig under the lifted engine cover when his rig was rear ended by the other truck, the force knocked the truck engine cover down like a guillotine decapitating the driver and sending the rig forward pinning him in an upright position between the guardrail and the truck. The NYPD arrived,assumed control of the scene and relieved us. We never found his head.

On the ride back to Belmont Avenue Brian and I just shook or heads of the unfortunate “twist of fate”. It was a quiet ride back, all of us with our own thoughts.

Brian transferred into L 38 just before my transfer from E 88, we became buddies right away. Brian had this catching upbeat and energetic personality with a devilish crooked smile. We were assigned to the same groups and worked together often. Both he and I had a common side gig painting houses and would compare paint stories while we shared the slop sink in the rear of the apparatus floor cleaning our brushes. He and I decided to freshen up L 38’s bunk room with a fresh coat of paint and did it one day tour. Brian lived about forty minutes from my home, his children were the same age as mine, so every once in a while during our time off we would visit each others' home for a backyard barbecue and let the kids swim in the pools. In the firehouse Brian was an ardent studier for promotion, he was extremely focused on the upcoming Lieutenants exam. I was not studying at the time, but nevertheless Brian shared with me his study system; he had a bunch of spiral notebooks, each one was listed with a different category of study material. One notebook had “always/never”, and listed  anytime a fire department manual mentioned “always/never” he copied the sentence in this one book. Other notebooks had “daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, semi-annual, annual, etc”, another had every numerical reference, another with all “color codes”, his system was quite remarkable. Brian also had subscribed to various firefighting trade magazines and cut out the articles that were related to certain subjects, for instance in a notebook listed “Engine Operations” he would cut out topics such as “different hose lays, or stretches”  punch three holes into the page and catalog the article for future reference. Brian was on the ball and his enthusiasm was contagious, he was well liked and respected by all the guys in the firehouse.

We worked alongside each other for two years together and as I mentioned in another memoir, Brian enjoyed english muffins with peanut butter. Often when we worked and it was our turn to procure and cook the meal, we would buy a few packages of english muffins for breakfast, toast them up and have them with peanut butter before we headed home or during the night tour when we were running around.

One night it was just Brian and me sitting in the kitchen, Brian confided to me that he was going to transfer to R 4, there was a spot for him. It was funny because there were some significant changes happening at L 38 that I was not happy about, kept it to myself and thought about moving on too. The first was that Uncle Jack was gone and the novelty of working with him was gone too, but that was to be expected. However, some other unfavorable changes were happening that I was not crazy about. 38 received a disgruntled firefighter from another company because of a Chiefs order, and that changed the atmosphere of the firehouse when he worked, especially as he was placed into my groups where I would work with him. In addition our runs and workers were beginning to slack off due to three untimely circumstances; the first was due to a baseball bat attack on rival gangs in the neighborhood, the NYPD put up a “temporary” command trailer in the middle of the Belmont community and had a Police Officer on almost every corner posted, that went on for many months, Immediately after the NYPD closed up shop, the FDNY arson group “Red Caps” took over the temporary command trailer and saturated the area. And then there was an internal conflict with L 56,  the powers to be had them removed from their quarters with E 42 and relocated to E 48 absorbing most of 38’s good working first and second due boxes. In a short time, L 38 had a huge change in landscape. When Brian told me he was packing, it was the last straw and I thought it might be a good time for me to reconsider my yearning for Brooklyn, but leaving 38 would not be easy.

(Bob Gaynor and Tommy "Sidecar" newspaper clipping from Daily News circa 1986. Bob and Tom rescued two children from a apartment fire on East Tremont Avenue, one died enroute to hospital.)

Next; L 38 and more Brian.

Thanks for reading!  Hope you enjoyed.    KMG-365
« Last Edit: January 19, 2020, 10:22:52 PM by JohnnyGage »

Offline manhattan

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« Reply #319 on: January 20, 2020, 12:12:53 AM »
JohnnyGage -

I've been off The Site for a bit and have  greatly missed your postings.

Well done!

Thank you.

Offline 68jk09

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« Reply #320 on: January 20, 2020, 02:43:49 AM »
Brian Hickey after transferring to R*4 was on one night tour  sent on a detail to fill an open FF spot in SQ*41....i was the LT working ....he brought a copy of the movie he & his Brother had produced about FDNY Brotherhood  .....we watched it during dinner & in between Runs... i enjoyed getting to sit around & talk with Brian....down the road aways (time wise) i was assigned to 329 but was on a UFO detail to LAD*126 as a LT ....Brian was a covering LT there at the same time.....later when i was the CPT of ENG*275 Brian was an assigned LT in 126 so we worked together often....when i Transferred to 126 as the CPT Brian was very happy that i was there...he was always enthusiastic....   the Truck Office was lets say reminiscent of an other era & i said to Brian "i would like to somewhat modernize it" ....he was 100% into that....he & i made plan to move the desks & lockers etc into a more functional work space...Brian being a painter said he would also handle day i came in to work & he had already single handedly repainted the Truck Office as well as the Officers locker area (all while working one 24 & at that time we were running like crazy so all he did in between Runs that 24 was paint) day he said to me (that he prior to my being assigned there) while there was no interim CPT he had submitted paperwork for the Truck to be considered for the "Company Of The Month Award"....this was a sort of short lived mid '90s thing involving Modell's giving a FH some excercise equipment & a check for $1,000.00 .... i thought it was a promo by Modell's & also i would not want to get involved with stuff from HQ especially with the then FC being a presenter however Brian had already started the ball rolling before i was Assigned there & aside from that he was such a good FF & LT & generally all around great guy  & so enthusiastic i could do nothing but say "that's cool"....i was not sure if we would get it or not but we did... now the pomp & circumstance (w/HQ ) that i did not want was in full swing...there was a Ceremony at The Rock & all of us were requested to attend in Class A Uniforms & The Job scheduled the working Groups to The Rock for training that afternoon so "almost" every single Member was there....they had the hoopla with the then FC & Modells & myself on stage for the presentation & photo i said i would not have initiated it but seeing Brian & many young FFs beaming it was all good plus we had new Gym equipment & the $1,000.00 .....not every body in the FH were real gym user's so i said lets use the Thou $ to buy a drill press & some new tools to update the FH work bench that Members could use for themselves & we did.... now backtracking a bit when i previously said "almost" every  Member was at The Rock.... missing was our Senior Man ?..... after the Rock Ceremony we relocated to a watering hole just out of the So Jam area on Atlantic Ave in Richmond Hill....we are all still wondering where the Senior Man was ? ....(cell phones weren't really that big yet back then)  ......about an hour after we were there the door opens & in walks The Senior Man....he is in a Hospital gown (ass crack in the back) with an IV in his arm pushing the wheeled pole w/an IV bag on it & his head wrapped in a BX party hat (turban)....he says to me "Cap sorry i am late can you pay the Car Service i think my wallet is still in Jamaica Hospital".....long story short ...he was on his way much earlier in the day to the FH in his car to get his Uniform & had an incident with a Car Service guy as they were passing each other on a narrow St...the Car Service guy called a "gypsy cab 10-13" & he got batted by the responding drivers....he did not even wait for the X-ray results he was just determined to catch up with us....getting back to Brian at his 9-11 Funeral (he was the CPT of R*4 then but that day was working to fill an opening in R*3) his Dad Ray Hickey  (a true FD supporter  who wrote numerous letters to "The Chief" the Civil Service Newspaper advocating for us)  gave the Eulogy at the Funeral Mass & it was profound.....he said "i had 2 Sons & they both died died from cancer & lingered suffering but got to say goodbye during that period to his Friends & other Son died at the WTC in seconds & did not get to say anything.....BUT he did not suffer....then Ray the Dad put out both hands palms up like weighing something & said which is could hear a pin drop quiet in the Church ....a profound moment....some of my R*2 BROTHERS  who come to an impromptu lunch once in awhile in Bayside used to bring Ray to join of Brians Sons was a FF in LAD*126 & is now & FF in R*4.......Brian Hickey ..Gone But Not Forgotten. .....not that i feel i could predict the future but i would bet that today Brian would have been at least a RESCUE*BN Chief & maybe higher in the SOC Chain....on a side non FDNY related issue Brain at one time was pushing very hard on long Island for legislation to make all Long Island FDs actual paid never went anywhere  & certainly  not because he did not try.

Offline JohnnyGage

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« Reply #321 on: January 26, 2020, 08:34:57 PM »
L 38 and BRIAN; Part 2

During the summer of 1987 the FDNY announced through Department Orders what was called a “Career Path Program”. The idea was to give members a chance to work in the First Division and experience Hi-Rise firefighting and other unique type emergencies that were symptomatic to  large complex skyscrapers.  I was curious about that aspect and thought I would broaden my skills, so I volunteered for a ninety day detail to Ladder 10.

Ladder 10 and Engine 10 is also known as “The Ten House”, a little spin from Brooklyn's “Tin House”, the firehouse is located on Liberty Street directly across from the World Trade Center # 2. When my detail started, WTC #2 was  just fifteen years new at the time. I enjoyed the ninety day detail and worked with some very fine aspiring young firefighters and experienced officers, namely the Captain who welcomed me to his company, he was a congenial gentleman and respected fire officer named James “Jim” Corrigan.

Ladder 10 returning to quarters. WTC #2 15 years young, notice "World Financial Center" under construction.

Ladder 10 Captain Jim Corrigan...Jim retired 1994, became Safety Director for WTC #7 (RIP 9/11)

When my detailed started, I noticed the firehouse roster was loaded with very young firefighters, most with only a few years on the job and not first grade yet, there was only a handful of others that had more than ten years. The guys with more time were "lifted" from their companies if they were on the Lieutenants promotion list and basically "just passing through". It was a tool the department used to fill manpower shortage. Although I had only five years on at the time, the Captain was relieved to have an “older” experienced Bronx fireman for the summer months.

After my detail, I returned to L 38 with a valuable education and memorable venture learning about Class E alarms,  Hi-rise procedures, HVAC systems, elevators, manhole, water and subway emergencies. We even took a trip by bus to Philly to watch a Mets game. The officers and members of “TEN HOUSE” were very accommodating, knowledgeable and gracious. I enjoyed my detail and the opportunity to have worked downtown Manhattan sharing experiences with the First Division Brothers, I’m glad I did it.`


August 23, 1988   

It’s a warm summer afternoon, I am detailed to Engine 88 from L 38 for the day tour and we are operating at a smoldering mailbox fire on Third Avenue near 187th Street, Captain Tough Timmy is the Boss. He doesn’t bother getting out of the cab, I grab the handle of the smoldering mail box and pull it down as Fireman Jimmy Harold uses the dry chemical extinguisher, he gives three good blasts of the powder into the mailbox. From the front seat, monitoring the radio the Captain tells us a Box just came in not far away and to wrap things up quickly, we may be going...the fire in the mailbox has been extinguished, we wrap up and make a quick stop at the Post Office that is nearby and advise the Postmaster of the fire.

Not too far away a dimly lit underground club on Jerome Avenue called “El Hoyo” or “The Hole”  which is about a mile north of Yankee Stadium is turning into a choking inferno where over a hundred party revelers are whooping it up. An accidental fire near the front entrance has erupted in the below grade area of the taxpayer which incorporates this “illegal social club”, exits to escape are almost non-existent. The FDNY is on scene as the horror unfolds, heroic life saving attempts by the first due companies are made, but later we find out the daytime fire kills six victims and injures over forty.

Engine 88 did not respond to the fire, we monitored the deadly job back at the firehouse waiting for the bell. But it never came for us.

Because of the “El Hoyo” tragedy, a few weeks later the FDNY initiated a surveillance program to monitor other “Illegal Social Clubs” operating throughout the City and to prevent them from opening. At 0100 hrs  L 38 is detailed to keep a watchful eye on the illegal social club that is popular in our administrative district, the social club is called “Happy Land” on Southern Boulevard just north of East Tremont Avenue. Tonight I have the “can” position and opposite me is Brian Hickey who has the “irons”, ...“grandpa” Leo is the boss. We sit and while away the hours keeping a close eye on the shuttered front door of “Happy Land” from 0100 hrs to 0300 hrs making sure the illegal occupancy does not open. There has been zero activity at the social club tonight, we hoped for a run to break the monotony, but all was quiet, the three hours went by very slowly. We could never imagine the horror that would take place here in a couple of years.

Later that morning with Brian back in the firehouse kitchen we are toasting up english muffins when he lets me in on his secret, and that he will be going to transfer to R 4 where a spot awaits him. I’m startled for the moment, his remark has started me thinking, too, and I began to revisit my idea about working in Brooklyn which I gave some thought about during my time in E 88, a transfer to Brooklyn would also put me on the radar to get to R 2...yet I was unsure what truck companies I should select for transfer.

I remember from Dennis Smiths; “Report from Engine 82” Dennis wrote that when he wanted to transfer he opened up the WNYF magazine to the annual list of “Runs and Workers”, it was there he decided and ultimately selected the top engine company of that year to transfer into. I decided to do the same, except for a ladder company. On the transfer request I had the option to select four truck companies, so I got my hands on the latest “Fire Bell” Club newsletter with a list of Runs and Workers for the past year and started to fill in the top companies for “workers”. My first option was L 103, the second L 120, the third L 176 and the last L 123. I really did not know much about the firehouses so I decided to reach out and speak with an old buddy that was assigned to L 112 for his thoughts. He said they were all great selections, but wondered why did I not select L 112? I didn’t have a reason...and he suggested I eliminate one company and add 112, he also mentioned that at this time, Bushwick had an arsonist running rampant and plenty of fire duty. I used liquid white to cover 176 and added 112, and submitted the transfer.

I knew it would be hard to leave L 38, there were some remarkable characters that I really enjoyed working with at 38 and learned a lot simply by observing the senior War Year Vet mentors in their unique way, noticing their good habits and rituals made an influence and profound impact on me and I’ll bet on the other young guns as well.

There was Duke, a very humble and quiet gent who never slept during the twenty-four hours. He would stay up all night scouring the kitchen, quietly moving the stainless tables and washing the walls or cleaning the stove. There was Joe who we called “The Big Sissy”. Everytime we had a visit from a chief The Big Sissy would ask if “Chiefy needs a hug, today”, with a firm bark like command “NO” the Sissy would attempt to hug and kiss him. The Chiefs name was Short, and he was short in height and short on humor. But the Sissy, who was pretty tall and stocky would grab him and try to kiss his bald head, the chief would have to wrangle himself free and snap “GET AWAY FROM ME YOU BIG SISSY!”...While the Chief would speak with the company officer during his visit, the Sissy would get out a bucket, soap, hose and proceed to wash the Chiefs vehicle, he too, was always cleaning something. The Sissy painted his helmet every year for inspection with at least two coats of paint, he had the heaviest helmet I ever came across. Another vet was the literal definition of “Cranky”, Jimmy O’Lowery, a tall and lanky grouch, resembling Donald Sutherland with white wavy hair, a  bachelor with over twenty years in L 38 he used to crank up the crotchety act with us youngsters. Always ornery until one time three of us hoodlums going home after a day tour decided to make a pit stop at the bar he frequented in the East Bronx called “Rota’s” an old hot spot many years ago that saw its heyday, we piled into the near empty joint and gave him the business. He loved us from then on, he became a new man, he could not maintain the crankiness without laughing along with us.

Rota's on East Tremont Ave, hot spot during 60's, now closed.

Another unique character who deserves his own paragraph was nutty Vinny Albanese, not only was Vinny a stellar firefighter and superb LCC who served in Ladder 38 for 38 years, he was a longtime Army National Guardsman who flew helicopters and rose to the rank of brigadier general…

Bonafide "Nut"

Vinny had a ravenous passion for shenanigans and forever plotting the next gag. Vinny maintained a “Kamikaze” outfit complete with “rising sun” bandana, thick round eyeglass-goggles and funny protruding gag teeth. When a covering officer was covering in 38 for the first time, Vinny broke out this outfit and wore it on the first run to the shock of the officer, the stunt was priceless. And, should anyone be celebrating a birthday and there was a birthday cake to be found somewhere in the firehouse, there was a good chance the birthday-boy would wind up wearing it. Seniorman Bob Gaynor had the perfect nickname for him, he called Vinny “Major Child Brain”, I still get a chuckle thinking about the nickname used when Vinny was a Major in the National Guard at the time... I have to admit, probably one of the greatest clever nicknames I ever heard!

On one occasion we were discussing dinner and nothing seemed appealing. However, I recently ordered “Duck a L’Orange” at a restaurant and suggested we replace the duck with chicken, walla “Chick L’Orange”. Vinny loved the idea, but of course needed to go one step further, so each accouterment on the dish would have to be another color by adding food coloring. The members sat down to the finished product; Orange chicken, green rice and blue cornbread. It was the most bizarre meal I ever had in a firehouse, but tasted pretty good, though.The troops used to call him “Senior CITIZENman” before he retired..

(In this photo we are evacuating from second floor as fire is heading our way and blocking our path at a vacant, we are ordered to evacuate, however Vinny "gooses" Lt. Mayne as he tries to come down ladder, even though close call, we have to laugh. Young JohhnyGage in center...note whistle I used to clip to top D-ring of turnout coat.)

God Bless Vinny, 38 years in 38 truck...tons of laughter. Vinny died from effects of 9/11 shortly after he retired.


In 1992 while Brian was assigned to R 4 where he and his Brother Ray created “Brothers in Battle”, a 45 minute documentary about FDNY firefighting. I did not know Brian was making this video, but when he was editing the video he requested a photo of me, I was not sure why at the time so I sent him a snapshot photo of me (with L 112).  Brian graciously added my photo to the final version where I make a brief “still shot cameo” appearance just when the music starts, “He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother”. I was honored to be a small part of his and Ray’s creation.

Best FDNY video, Brian and his Brother Ray captured the FDNY "Glory Days".

Snapshot I submitted to Brian at his request. I am deeply honored to be a small part of this historic video.

Brian’s study paid off, he was promoted from R 4 and became a Lieutenant in Ladder 126, a very active Queens truck company. A few years later, Brian was promoted to Captain and bounced around the city for a short time when Chief Ray Downey offered Brian the Captains spot at Rescue 4 which was available.

Brian was working when a fateful five-alarm fire that occurred on “Fathers Day” in a hardware store in the Astoria section of Queens, NY, on June 17, 2001, that  killed three FDNY members – Lieutenant John Downing, Firefighter Brian Fahey and Firefighter Harry Ford – and injured numerous others, the fire became infamously known as “The Father’s Day” fire..Brian was injured at that fire suffering a broken leg after the building exploded…

As time healed Brian's fractured leg, I invited Brian and his wife Donna to come into the City and join me and my wife Jean for a nice dinner at the end of August to reminisce and talk about the good times ahead. We had a wonderful “Al fresco” dinner at a pleasant restaurant at the foot of the World Trade Center Marriott Hotel and South Tower which was called “Tall Ships Bar and Grill”, a restaurant Jean and I knew very well and frequented since we lived only two blocks away. We dined together enjoying the comfortable night air surrounded by the big city bright lights that were beaming brightly. Brian mentioned that he was eager to return back to the firehouse now that his recovery is almost complete from that hardware store job, once again he tempted me to join him at R 4, where I told him “I’m honored, and thanks…” but I was “too old”...

Brian returned to work just before September 11th for his first tour back and was scheduled to be off and home in his new house he recently bought, when he received a call that there was an overtime spot in Rescue 3 the nightour of September 10th.  Brian jumped at the opportunity and was last heard climbing the South Tower on that fateful morning... not more than fifty yards from where we had our memorable night time dinner laughing and enjoying the surrounding big city lights and excited about the future.

Photo of Brian in sweater, me behind him on the left. We are celebrating Medal Day where Lt. Grandpa Leo has received a Department Medal for his rescue of a child. With him is Pat Conway...Pat has a vey projective gusto theatrical voice, we used to say his voice could scare of coyotes. It is Pat's voice you hear narrating "Brothers in Battle".

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed!
Next; Remembering L 38 and onto Brooklyn!               KMG-365
« Last Edit: January 27, 2020, 09:30:30 AM by JohnnyGage »

Offline JohnnyGage

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« Reply #322 on: February 02, 2020, 04:47:20 PM »

I just dumped a pitcher of cool running Bronx tap water down the coffee machine to make a fresh pot of Joe in L 38’s kitchen, it is toward the end of an uneventful twenty four hour tour and the night tour guys will be coming in shortly. In the meantime, the firehouse is quiet and I thumb through the newspaper. I think of myself as a “coffee connoisseur”, I make sure the pot has been freshly rinsed (without soap), fill the pot with cool clear water and allow the coffee to drip until the pot is full, the important trick is to give the freshly brewed coffee a quick stir with a spoon because coffee brews “in layers” and a quick swish of a spoon will balance out the brew.

The department phone rings, over the intercom the fireman on housewatch casually announces “Gage department phone”. I put my coffee down then get up from my seat to grab the phone receiver in the kitchen, “38, Fireman Gage”, on the other end is a woman from the Brooklyn Transfer Desk and she has a question for me.

Yes, so after deep thought, I decided to transfer to Brooklyn and the transfer order will be coming out in a few days, but I have not heard anything and can only anticipate if the request was either approved or denied. Sometimes you only find out when the order comes out from headquarters and is delivered to your firehouse “through the bag”, the mail delivery system of the FDNY. Knowing that Brian and a few other guys I was chummy with are moving on to other companies or being promoted I thought that I should revisit my desire to work in Brooklyn. However, where to go was a dilemma... decisions, decisions. Then after speaking with a friend from L 112 Bob MacLaughlin who encouraged me to transfer to Brooklyn originally and as an incentive he added info about a neighborhood arsonist and the extra work 112 was catching... I was sold, I then decided to make a correction on my transfer request. In the interim I’ve listed L 103 as my first preference, and L 120 as my second followed by L 112 in the third spot of four selections... And, that is the reason for the phone call.

“Hello Fireman Gage” the woman says, she has a very polite soft spoken voice and introduces herself  (forgot the name, maybe Teresa?) from the Brooklyn transfer desk, she says she has my transfer paper in front of her and mentions that even though I have listed L 103 as my first preference “would I consider L 120 instead?”. At first I was excited just knowing that my transfer will be approved, but I never thought I would have a shot at 120.

(I recall during the EMS  “Gory Days” my partner and I used to park the ambulance on Pitkin Avenue near Watkins Street toward the end of our midnight shift to grab a cup of coffee and egg sandwich at one of the local greasy spoons. Many times I watched as the tower ladder raced by and thinking about the War Years “Runs and Workers” where it was either L 31 that would top the list, or L 120).

Yeah, so if the opportunity was grabbing a spot in L 120, that certainly was fine with me. I was happy to explore the “Brooklyn Fire Department” style…Within a half hour from that phone call from the nice lady in Brooklyn, the department phone rings and once again over the intercom from the housewatch; “ Gage, department phone”, now I’m thinking oh, oh...something is up with the transfer and it will be denied, my bubble is about to burst.

With a pinch of trepidation I answer the phone, “38, Fireman Gage, Hello”, I hear another woman's voice, it’s just as pleasant as the first woman's voice but not the same woman I spoke to a short time ago. “Hello Johnny, this is Maryann from the Bronx transfer desk”. (It was Maryann who helped me to get from 88 to 38 two years ago). After pleasantries, I began to tell her that if I had the option, I wanted to change my preferred choice from L 103 to L 120, but she politely cut me off…”You’re going to 112” she stated very nicely but factually, “there are four spots and you have one of them, OK?”...Wow, my wheels are spinning, 112? “Sure, yeah...sounds great to me,'' was my reply. Now I’m a little befuddled, I knew where L 103 and L 120 were located and what the firehouses looked like, but L 112 I had no idea, the only connection I had with 112 was through my friend Bob. I had to find the firehouse location on the Hagstrom. I knew Bushwick was north of East New York, but I was never in the neighborhood before. This was going to be interesting.

My days were now numbered in L 38, maybe three at the most. The Captain also received a phone call advising him that I would be transferred to Brooklyn and advising him he will be receiving a proby from the class that is about to graduate...the first proby L 38 would receive in almost nine years!

On the back wall of L 38’s kitchen an American Flag has been painted that takes up the whole back wall. The top is a field of blue with white stars that are about ten inches tall across in rows, the red and white stripes are wide and hung vertically below the blue field. The company policy has been that any fireman or officer who has worked in L 38 and was either promoted or transferred, their names were permanently written on one of the stars. Probably about twenty stars were adorned with names of previous members. My star said “GAGE” with “L112” below it, next to my star was “HICKEY, R4”. A couple of stars away was Uncle Jacks, “MAYNE, CAPTAIN”. There was one “Gold” star, and that was the center star with Lt. Leo’s name on it. I was in good company amongst the many stars who spent time in L 38.

Venting with Brothers from TL 33. This was a freezing cold night, I broke out an old pair of yellow bunker pants from my DCFD days to stay toasty.

Venting now complete, TL 33 can now do its thing....

Well the orders came down, DO # 125 dated October 6, 1988, there are about 250 names on the double column two page order and it is broken down into categories, the first bunch of guys are categorized under “Engine to Engine” transfers, as the list moves further down through the names the category changes; “Engine to Ladder” where another bunch of lucky fellas are listed. On the top of the second page is “Ladder to Ladder” and I notice my name; “Johnny Gage L 38 to L 112”... it is official and today I am working my last tour in the Bronx, it is a night tour and I buy the meal for the guys. There are a few melancholy recollections and funny moments while we eat. One funny story is remembered about the “colorful” Chicken L’Orange dinner not too long ago with “Major Child Brain” Vinny. Within my own thoughts I think back to the crazy Christmas party with Santa falling through the chimney and the dopey Yule log stunt. Later I had a flashback to the ugly fatal New Year's Day fire on Monterey and 180 Street  (revisit reply #42) where three teens brought down a dry Christmas tree in an elevator and lit it off joking around. I smiled as I thought about the time Jack assigned me the “roof” position for the very first time and of course that unique special day tour, a once in a lifetime opportunity as his ladder chauffeur.

While at L 38 I was asked to take over the WNYF “All Hands” Column for the 7th Division as long time contributor and legendary Fireman John Koskie (E 45) was retiring. I was glad to accept his offer and It was an honor to have my name top the page, under the 7th Division. Fortunately I was able to pass the column responsibility to another L 38 member after finding out about my transfer and so, to my knowledge, the WNYF All Hands Column has remained in L 38 to this day.

After dinner and straightening up the kitchen I headed upstairs to the locker room on the third floor and began to remove the contents from my metal locker and place them into several boxes. With the last item neatly packed I sit in front of it, the locker is now empty except for my clothes to change into and looking at it empty gives me a mixed pensive and emotional feeling.

We had a few runs during the night, but nothing to report on. I was relieved from my final tour of L 38 by McFouk. After I showered and put on my new jeans (with no rips across the knee),  I headed down for a quick cup of coffee before I packed up my pick-up truck with the boxes. I sit for a few minutes with the guys one more last time when the dual tones sound off, from the housewatch the fireman yells “get out 88 and 38, Saint Barnabas Hospital...first due”,  the men all pile out of the kitchen leaving me behind, most wish me a hasty “good luck”.

With the apparatus out, I can back my Ford pick-up truck into the open apparatus bay and load up quickly. Now all packed up I take one more stroll through the firehouse. The Bunkroom where Brian and I painted looks nice, refreshing and clean, I pass the company office where Jack and I talked sometimes, it misses Jack’s presence...I’m passing through Tough Timmy’s office and remembering the day I dodged the bullet when I told him I was going to transfer across the floor, as I make my way through the engine bunkroom lightly traipsing down the stairs into the Engine kitchen where I spent my first four years learning how to fight fires, learning life's finer points and introduced to the magic power of the kitchen. It was in 88’s kitchen where I would meet colleagues Ed and Martin and form a lifelong friendship, both became my closest friends to this day. Ed went through the ranks and retired as Battalion 2 Commander Ed Kearon and Marty transferred to Engine 53 where he battled Harlem fires until he retired. To this day we make time for lunch and speak about the Glory Days on Belmont Avenue with fondness. I am very grateful for their friendship.

I take note one last time of my “star” on L 38’s kitchen wall and feel extremely honored to have worked here. It is time to hop into my pick-up and leave the Belmont firehouse behind, taking a quick glance at the favorite shopping spots while driving through the wondrous Italian neighborhood. It is a clear October morning as I travel over the Whitestone Bridge heading for “Broken-land” the Dutch term for Brooklyn to meet the new Boss and cohorts! Any apprehension I had is now gone and is replaced with excitement and adventure, this is going to be good.

Photo of L 38 SL#8307, once the "Flagship of the Fleet" with chrome bumpers and gold leaf FDNY lettering now decommissioned and awaits her fate on Randalls Island.

Next: "Half of a firehouse?"

Thanks for reading... Hope you enjoyed!                 KMG-365
« Last Edit: February 02, 2020, 05:04:16 PM by JohnnyGage »

Offline JohnnyGage

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« Reply #323 on: February 10, 2020, 08:56:03 PM »

I am in a tightly-balled crouched position leaning into a hallway wall being a heat sponge, just in front on me there is an apartment door slightly ajar with flames roaring out from behind, with the help of my six foot hook I am able to pull the wood door closed, the top portion of the door is burned off and flames are fiercely licking out from the totally consumed apartment on fire behind that door.

From my position, like a sniper, I cautiously but quickly pop up into the super heated confines of a small vestibule and quickly aim the nozzle toward the ceiling from the water extinguisher simultaneously squeezing the handle for a quick five second blast. The blast of water into the inferno upsets the thermal layers and drives the flames back for a few seconds. The water turns into steam instantly penetrating my rubber coat and linings. Immediately I return to my crouched position for protection in the small vestibule, the searing heat bearing down is testing my body and endurance, I’m as protected as I can be with helmet flaps down, collar pulled tight and facepiece on, still my entire body feels the searing prickly pain like a hard hand slap against bare skin.

Again the flames begin to pop out overhead licking the ceiling and top of the walls, I take a quick glance backwards, the engine is getting ready to push down the hallway, I carefully pop my head up again and squeeze of another quick blast, it’s af if me and the fire are playing a game.

I have been hunkered in this untenable position for what feels like a long time waiting for the engine to take over, but the time is actually a mere very hot few minutes...I’ve been in Brooklyn not more than twenty four hours.
The transfer order I was waiting for finally came from headquarters and I have just completed my final night tour with L 38. This morning I am headed toward Bushwick Brooklyn to meet my new commander of L 112. Driving northward on one way Knickerbocker Avenue there are traffic lights at almost every corner and I peer intently ahead for the first sign of my new firehouse with intrepid anticipation. Another block ahead, coming into focus I notice on my left the firehouse, it is situated in a fenced off school playground, the side of the firehouse is heavily decorated in graffiti and only the front portion of the firehouse is exposed, and with more graffiti. It is a rather narrow firehouse, one suitable for a single company. It is a slender three stories, heck, there isn’t even a front door! I slow down, look over the apparatus door for the company banner but there is none whatsoever. The apparatus door is open and I notice a lime green mack pumper with the red and silver 277 numbers. This must be it I figure, but where is the rest of the firehouse? It’s half of a firehouse.

Single door, no front door and no "Company Banner" overhead...Welcome to "No Frills"

I introduced myself to the fireman on Housewatch, who told the Captain I was here and shooed me up to the Captain's office. The Captain is a very nice affable Italian man, Captain Serge Giovanni, he likes to chat and he liked telling stories, in fact, he rambled on like we were old buddies...he definitely was blessed with the gift of gab. I immediately liked him, he was a fine gentleman and he made me feel welcomed. The new Boss gave me my group number, after leaving his office I ran into another old friend from my days as a volunteer fireman at the Valley Stream firehouse who happens to be assigned to the engine, Kevin. Kevin escorted me to the third floor where I found an empty locker to move into. It was good to see a friendly face.

God Bless him, Capt Serge could chat your ear off!...

The firehouse is very tight and the living conditions are extremely close. Before I headed upstairs to the office I noticed L 112 was parked behind E 277 with maybe only two or three feet of separation between the two rigs, the only unique apparatus arragement in Gotham. After procuring my locker I took a quick tour of the new joint. I first noticed that the kitchen was extremely small, in fact it was the size of a galley kitchen in a small house. One wall was made up of the sink and six burner stove, the opposite wall was an opening to enter the dining room, there was a small table with a coffee machine, a microwave oven sat on a shelf above the coffee pot and the refrigerator squeezed in, that was it! The dining room was just as small, two tables were side by side, blue plastic chairs surrounded the tables, with the chairs between the tables touching. On the wall was a table to ”flip down” and held by chains, this was the table to place the food and plates on. Two beat up sofas that saw better days sat one in front of the other in the other half of the room to watch the television that was mounted catty-corner on a shelf. The dining room, tv room and kitchen would be very “charming” for one company, however two companies peacefully shared this “single” firehouse cohesively. And, that was the secret magic of Knickerbocker Avenue!

It became that way when L 112 was relocated from their single house three blocks away on Madison Street to E 277 as a “Temporary Detail” while upgrades and modifications were to be implemented in their old quarters. However, the following night L 112 original quarters burnt down. The temporary detail remained, despite other ideas from the Big-wheels of FDNY as to relocating L 112 with E 222 but failed because of resistance from the community. The temporary detail became permanent and a few years ago, E 277 and L 112 moved into a new state of the art, double bay firehouse at the same location... still in the school yard.

My first tour was a day tour. I arrived early with a dozen bagels and cream cheese and left them on the dining room table while I headed upstairs to change into my work duty uniform.  I gingerly cut through the bunkroom which was totally in the dark searching for the door that led to the third floor locker room. The bunkroom is completely dark, the walls have all been painted a dark brown and there is not an inkling of light. I have to be careful to locate the door in the dark to go upstairs without tripping over something I can’t see. All I hear is snoring.

I remember the day as being uneventful, I worked with a nice  lieutenant that had “Elvis” type hair complete with a pompidou named Marty Helmen. That day we responded to a few vacant lot fires. The vacant lots are dotted all over and on every street where homes and businesses used to be, the lots are stocked and stoked with garbage debris and makes it the perfect target for the local kids to start rubbish fires. It seems like the vacant lots have their “specialty”, certain lots would have stacks of refrigerators, another stoves and still another old window air conditioners, of course, a lot would not be complete without plumbing debris, mattresses, tires

and at least a few crushed car skeleton remains abandoned. Some lots have a “Mongoman”, who is an unfortunate entrepreneur resident that would burn tires for the steel belts and wire for copper to cash in with the local metal junkie. Every neighborhood had their favorite Mongoman.

In between the rubbish fires and water leaks that afternoon after lunch we had hydrant inspection duty. It was a nice dry cool October day and I was able to see the type of neighborhood and different structures I would be working in. One structure I was familiar with was noticeably missing, the ubiquitous six story Bronx apartment building. Bushwick was noted for block after block of attached two and three story “Row Frame” type homes that shared common cocklofts and small apartment houses. Dotted along Bushwick Avenue were “Queen Anne” type mansions where once upon a time affluent doctor offices used to operate from. Almost every corner has a bodega with a yellow and red awning pumping out loud Spanish music. The main thoroughfares are lined with taxpayers, the elevated “M” line runs above Myrtle Avenue and “J” line above Broadway.

During the 1970’s Bushwick saw a transformation, blockbusting caused residents to flee and  local businesses began to close including the Rheingold brewery that employed many residents. Then during the blackout Bushwick was hit extra hard, many businesses along Broadway were decimated by fire and rioting that never recovered. Abandoned buildings became vacant after residents fled the neighborhood.

My second tour was my first night tour. I met my new lieutenant, he is a young looking handsome boss, he’s tall, thin and  looks like the “All American Ivy league” jock, he has a great smile and warm greeting. We exchange stories chatting at the rear of L 112 by the backstep. He is the first young lieutenant I have ever worked with and his name is Ed Kilduff, the future COD. Tonight he has assigned me to the can. The night tour is exciting, it is a crisp autumn night and we are running to the usual rubbish fires, food on the stove, gas leaks and ADV fires. During the early morning we are toned out to 331 Cornelia Street for a reported fire with somebody still inside. Brooklyn Communications is advising us over the house intercom and radio of a person trapped.

A young Ivy League All American nice guy and future COD

The firehouse is now alive with activity as guys hustle to their turnout gear and the apparatus fires up. All signs indicate we are going to a good job. The Engine is in front and turns out making a right against the one way traffic and heads to Cornelia Street which is five blocks south of the firehouse, L 112 follows close behind. About five houses into the block is a two story row frame type house with heavy smoke showing. Lt. K jumps from the rig, our inside team is at the front steps and we can see the fire down the hallway. Lt. K orders me to take the can and hold the fire behind the open apartment door as he and the irons man race to the top of the stairs to search for the missing occupant.

I have been hunkered in this untenable position for what feels like an eternity, but actually mere minutes maintaining control of the door and attempting to hold back the angry red devil. It’s imperative I have enough water until the engine gets here to protect my boss and irons man above. The heat is bearing down and I crouch tighter to protect myself, then squeeze off another shot. I can hear the engine as they crack the line expelling the air down the hallway, they are about twenty feet or so and making progress, with that there is just enough water left in the can to take one more final shot at the fire, the can is spent. The engine brothers are now at the half burnt door ready to move in and I’m in their path and squeeze out of their way...they’ll take care of business now. With the fire now being pushed back I commence a quick primary search wherever I can, it is a small apartment flat. Meanwhile In the front of the building Lt. K has removed an unconscious 51 year old woman he located from the second floor above the fire without the protection of a handline. With the fire now under control I am whipped, snotty and completely exhausted and return to the cool crisp morning fresh air while I catch my breath sitting on the back step of the truck with my crew...this is just what I was looking for...And just my first night tour in L 112.

Lt. Ed Kilduff received the Columbia Association Medal on Medal Day 1989 for his heroic actions that night tour.

(331 Cornelia Street today)


Readers may want to revisit previous stories about L 112, see:  “MEALS” (reply #19), “CAN’T MAKE THIS UP” (reply #32), “BIG LARRY” (reply #56), “AL DI LA” (reply #61), “KNOW WHEN TO SAY WHEN” (reply #64), “PROFILE, GARY T (reply #126).

Next; More “NO FRILLS” yarns and stuff...
Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed!   KMG-365
« Last Edit: February 10, 2020, 09:27:32 PM by JohnnyGage »

Offline res8cue_99

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« Reply #324 on: February 11, 2020, 09:16:06 AM »
Thanks John!! Was waiting for the stories of 277 and 112. Great job keep up the great work. Stay safe and God Bless

Offline jkal

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« Reply #325 on: February 11, 2020, 06:38:31 PM »
Johnny Gage and I have similar starting points, I was appointed to the FDNY on 12/17/1977, I was 25 y/o.  Our Fireman list was held up in Federal Court for 2 & 1/2 years.  I took the entrance test in 1971, at the insistence of my Father, who was “On the Job” from 1939 to 1960, along with my best friends Dad, LT Bill Spinelli, who at the time was a LT in L-24 (and also very good friend’s with Father Mycal Judge).  I was assigned to Engine Company 94, in the Hunts Point section of the South BX in Feb.1978. Spent one year in 94 and transferred across the floor to Ladder Company 48, much like Johnny Gage. I spent 2 & 1/2 years in 48, working with the Best and Most Experienced Fireman ever.  I am honored and humbled to have been part of that Firehouse.  In Mid-1981, I transferred to Ladder Company 59, the Blue Devils.  When I left Hunts Point, the Firehouse was the Only occupied building left on the block. The fire duty in the BX moved north & west.  The West Bronx burning experience started in the late 70’s and by the end of the 80’s, the same level of destruction that had happened in the South BX was done to the West BX. We (the Fireman) thought that if the BX burning went past Fordham Road, the Borough was doomed.  For whatever reason, it stopped at Fordham RD.  In 1989, it was time to move on, just as Fireman Gage decided, even though it is a difficult decision. I transferred to Tower Ladder 111, the NutHouse, in the Borough of Brooklyn, where I was born. My former LT in 59, Frank Pampalone (RIP) became my new Captain. Great time with Great Firemen.  We were part of the 37 Battalion, were I met Johnny G.  At the time the 37 consisted of Engines 214, 222, 252 & 277. Along with Ladders 111 & 112. Not too shabby.  I was detailed many times to 112 Truck and at that time, we ( Hancock St) called it the Ant Farm. Couldn’t ask for a Better group of men and Tremendous Firemen. I was a Firehouse cook and 277/112 was one of the few places I would “travel” to and cook for them. That was the level of respect I had for them.  After 5 years in TL-111, with the Greatest Fireman and Officers, I was promoted to LT. February 1994.  As Danny says, stay tuned for another chapter...
« Last Edit: February 19, 2020, 04:55:06 PM by jkal »

Offline mikeindabronx

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« Reply #326 on: February 12, 2020, 09:38:05 AM »
jkal, thanks for sharing your story

Online nfd2004

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« Reply #327 on: February 16, 2020, 06:35:49 PM »
 This is part of the great video titled "Brothers in Battle". As posted here earlier, briefly at the 2:40 min mark you will see FDNY Firefighter Dan Potter, then of Ladder Co 112.

 I'm sure there are others on here that many of you recognize and I know in some cases, others who are no longer with us.

 Here is the last few minutes of the "Brothers in Battle" video.


Offline JohnnyGage

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« Reply #328 on: February 17, 2020, 09:17:26 PM »

I immediately fell in love with L 112 and found a new home. L 112/ E 277 was a very unique firehouse with some extraordinary characters and outstanding aggressive firemen, plus they were all about my age. I found so much more in common with my new Brothers and friendships flourished immediately, it felt like I worked in this firehouse forever and did not take me long to adjust to this crazy joint.

(A few of us got together at the kitchen table to discuss a "sign" for the side of the aerial for identification. All the TL's had a name, number or logo and the aerials did not at the time. I presented the idea of a "License Plate" that was bold and easily read. The guys loved the idea and I painted the first license plate sign that was eventually professionally reproduced.)

I’ve described some of the small rooms and cramped kitchen already, the apparatus floor was very tight too. With both rigs parked front to back there was minimum clearance between the two rigs, maybe three feet. The apparatus to park in the back almost touched the slop sink that was mounted on the back wall and there was just enough room to squeeze through if you needed the small toilet in the corner of the apparatus floor. We used to call it the “skel” toilet, you used it only to pee, even with a daily cleaning the old plumbing and over usage made the facility ugly and nasty.

Along both sides of the rigs mounted on the walls were black metal pipe coat racks, overflowing with coats, boots and helmets. No one had a specific “spot” singled out with your name, you simply found a spot somewhere on the coat rack that you used to stow your gear when off duty. Only the officers had a specific spot on the first rack. My spot was on the officers rack where there were vacant spots and other firemen used, too. Space, any space was a premium.

Both rigs were parked front to back, of course the back position was the favored choice especially during the early morning night tours. If a run came in for the other company and you were in the back spot you did not have to pop out of the rack to move the rig. It was comical on occasion when we were busy running late nights and sometimes the chauffeur would forget if he was in the front spot or rear only to be yelled at by the housewatchman, “Truck (or Engine) Chauffeur move your $hit”!

If the house responded and the truck was in the front, the LCC would pull out into the street for all of us to board, then pull over so that the engine could wisk by with us close behind. But returning from alarms especially at night was a different ballgame, first company back to quarters got the “primo” spot in the rear. I remember riding the truck with the LCC and ECC racing parallel on different avenues back to the firehouse in order to get the coveted rear position.

When you assumed duty you took your gear and placed it on the floor near your riding position. If you placed your gear on the truck, it had better be “inside” because if the truck was in the front and had to clear out for the engine to respond your gear wound up on Knickerbocker Avenue. All the doors on the front apparatus were kept shut to expedite clearing for the back apparatus to respond. The tight quarters feature made the house dynamic and unique.

(Young Johnny Gage, photo from L 112 Centennial yearbook)

Even our coverage area was dynamic, besides the different structures I described earlier in the previous article, we were surrounded by active single engine companies that expanded our response area. Certain company response areas have large blocks of parkland, cemeteries, college campuses, waterways, zoos or other natural boundaries that reduce the potential number of alarms. Our area was just stoked with blocks of row after row of homes, businesses and small apartment houses full of potential. And the location of the firehouse on the corner of Gates Avenue and Knickerbocker Avenue afforded a quick response into any part of our box assignment. In the late 80’s and early 90’s the Bushwick area was gritty and hardcore, hydrants running, abandoned ADV’s, vacant structures, drug dens with burnt out storefronts that brought back memories of my buff days with Uncle Jack during the War Years with L 31 in the South Bronx. The “War Years” might be over, but in Bushwick we were still receiving “sniper fire”.

Work was plentiful and consistent too. Among the several car fires you could expect during the night tour we responded to many emergencies too. There was a certain time when we “knew” we were going to catch a good job, it was “in the air”, you could sense it. Maybe several tours would pass by without a good job, while you would hear on the department radio other Brooklyn companies going to work...we would be chomping at the bit. But when it was “our time in the barrel” you could expect to go to work almost every tour, and we did.

Now let me define what I mean about a “job”, the simple definition and explanation would be; when you turned the corner of the reported address, there would be no need to “look” for the house number, the reason for your response was clearly obvious. I never considered “food on the stove”, dryer fire, electrical short, trash in the hallway, mattress, etc as a job. On occasion we did three jobs during the twenty four hour shift, which we referred to as the “hat trick”.

One particular night tour L 112 did the “hat trick” on one Box. We turned out for a reported top floor fire a few blocks south of the firehouse on Knickerbocker Avenue and sure enough, three windows of fire... it was a good kick a$$ fire. While taking up the LCC put us back “in service” instead of taking time for a brief respite ordered by the BC. The Brooklyn dispatcher immediately assigned us to a fire reported in a bodega not too far away from where we were operating and of course the bodega was another snotty job. Upon completion of the bodega job and while taking up the boss took the radio out of the LCC’s hand and advised Brooklyn CO that we were returning to quarters for a brief rest, a cup of joe and to change clothes...however, during our ride back to Knickerbocker Avenue we were flagged down in the street, a “verbal” reporting a fire in another top floor apartment, we “turned off the fire”...that’s how residents ask us if we “extinguished” the fire... “Yo firemans, did you turn off the fire?” Yes, we turned it off, it’s now off. Three “J-O-B-S” on one Box, the hat to speak.

(NO FRILLS TRUCK, Original License Plate design)

I remember one of the most outlandish runs during my time with the “No Frills” truck...Early night tour, and we are taking up from a Box near Putnam Avenue and Broadway, the El trains rumble overhead.  I don’t recall what the incident was but a full Box was assigned to the location; E 222, E 252, E 233, L 176, B 37 and L 112. The companies are in the process of taking up and getting ready to head back to our respective firehouses. Then, over the handie-talkie a member of L 176 has spotted an unusual piece of hardware laying against the steps of a vacant building and notifies the BC that he thinks he has spotted an “incendiary device”.

The Battalion Chief working is a bit of a pesky Chief, he is not a very friendly man... he’s stern, stiff and often likes to find menial faults with any of the troops under his command. He is a very handsome man, his uniform is clean, sharp and crisp... his tie straight and tidy, he has neatly white combed over hair with a white trimmed military mustache, he is meticulously groomed. But on the whole...annoying.

The Chief wanders over to the site to investigate the report from the fireman of L 176. Following department procedures he dutifully orders his aide to pick up the “incendiary device” very carefully with a shovel and place it in the back of his GMC Suburban Chief vehicle to take back and secure at his quarters with E 222.

The following morning, the BC has his aide go around the corner to the Police Precinct that is actually a part of the firehouse and share the same walls. The aide is to have a police officer take a look at the device and remove it. 

The police officer walks around the corner to the firehouse, whereupon to his amazement he recognizes the “secured” incendiary device is actually a “PIPE BOMB”! The firehouse and attached police station are evacuated immediately and now have to await the arrival of the Bomb Squad.

From then on, many of us referred to the pesky Chief as “Chief KaBoom, the Bomb Transporting Chief”

Next: “Ant Farm, Mole Hole and No Frills”

Hope you enjoyed...Thanks for reading!        KMG-365

« Last Edit: February 18, 2020, 07:56:32 AM by JohnnyGage »

Offline jkal

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« Reply #329 on: February 18, 2020, 04:21:15 PM »
Danny, it was BC Donny K.  A Blockhead.  He would come over to Hancock St to “talk” with Capt Frank Pampalone (TL-111).  They would be up in the Truck office and you come hear the screaming as you walked by. We, the Members, thought it was pretty funny. Donny was also the Captain of 96 Engine, when I was a young Fireman in 94/48, so I knew him then. Overall the 37 Battalion Chiefs left the Brothers alone. We were doing a considerable amount of fire duty then and these fires were being extinguished. I was “drafted” for a month to drive the 37 when I was a Fireman in 111. Good experience but I told the Chiefs, if we were driving by and saw something, I was going in.  Ironically, I ABC’ed in the 37 many times when I was a Captain in the 15th Division. Best part of it was they were in with Triple Duece (222 Engine), one of my favorites...
« Last Edit: February 19, 2020, 05:37:24 PM by jkal »