GLORY DAYS

nfd2004

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Dan, I can somewhat relate to your latest story "Ladder 5 - P12".

As a young guy my father and a couple of his buddies on the job would meet up about once a week or so for a study class at our kitchen table. I would hear the guys ask each other questions, then listen to them talk about it. Sometimes it would lead to a job that they had. But I was sure into it, just being able to listen.

I remember some of the books they were using. Arco and the Davis Company were always part of their studying and they also used a book called The Fire Chiefs Handbook, Fire Administration, I believe Fire Supervision, and a very thick book called the NFPA Manual.

Later in years, like you Dan, I got hooked on studying. I too used to get those FDNY manuals at the Fire Academy and every three months get the updates. I actually enjoyed reading them and I'm sure there were many topics there that later helped me to do my job as a firefighter.

If not spending my off time buffing the FDNY or Providence, I would sit in a commuter parking lot near my house, grab a Dunks coffee and spend some time reading up on my favorite topic. I too used those Arco and Davis Study guides like my father and his buddies.

I sure wasn't the honor student in school. I flunked my first semester in college because the day of my final exams I was trying to study in the car to pass the test but I had the scanner on. I heard a job come for a house fire on the small, dead end street I used to live on. I closed the book and said "GOOD BYE COLLEGE" and off to take in the job.

It turned out to be the old house I used to live in.

Of course I flunked college but it didn't really matter to me anyway. I just wanted to be a fireman not a brain surgeon.
 

JohnnyGage

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LADDER 5; P 13
SAVING PRIVATE PAUL

As an LLC one of the nice perks was I never got detailed, but if I work overtime that was a different story. When I worked overtime most of the details were to drive other ladder trucks for the tour, so far in Manhattan I have been behind the wheel of L 8 and L 10 both rearmount rigs and L 21, L 9, L 12, L 18, L 15 which are tower ladders. L 12 was the largest rig I drove, it was a dual axle one hundred foot Seagrave TL through the streets of Chelsea from their quarters on W 19th Street. There are a few differences between the two types of ladder trucks, the major difference is apparatus positioning.

Other ladder trucks I drove previously were L 38, L 112, L 174, L 103 and L 113 in Brooklyn, all rearmounts. Once in a while our tiller would have to go out of service for a period of time and replace it with a rearmount. It was interesting to watch a LCC of a tiller that had no experience driving these larger straight chassis rigs who did not appreciate their overall length. For instance making a tight turn it saved time to actually go wide, ‘back up’ square the turn and proceed instead of trying to fudge through the turn, ultimately having to back out to make the adjustment.

There were also all kinds of bosses I drove, most sat stone faced focused on the response with their ear plugged into the apparatus radio handset. Using the siren, I hardly touched it, however some officers like Lt. Mike would flip on the ‘wail’ mode and just leave the monotonous tone drone on and on, even if it was early morning with no traffic. Then some officers hardly ‘chirped’ the siren in traffic while others blasted the air horn like Holy Hell was about to erupt. An officer I drove in Bushwick preferred just using the “hi-lo”. According to our regulations, while responding, the officer was not to speak or interfere with the chauffeur unless it was about apparatus speed, questioning the route or additional information he was receiving.


CSubway.jpg
[Manhattan had many other type emergencies, including Subway fires. This one I was driving L 5 when we discovered heavy volumes of smoke emanating from subway grating at Houston and Varick. An electrical vault was burning. This became a 2nd alarm]

I was fortunate to drive some really wonderful bosses, and now Lt. JJ has been recently promoted, his vacant spot has been announced on the department orders along with all the other vacancies in other companies throughout the city. For over a month I have been driving covering Lieutenants, some are interested in putting in for the spot while others are checking out other spots available. However, the spot will soon be filled by one of the most amusing and entertaining Lieutenants I have ever met and drove. The new Boss comes from Brooklyn’s busy East New York L 103 truck and will be arriving tonight for his very first tour.

It is about 5:00 PM as members begin to report for duty. On Sixth Avenue the apparatus door is open and it is not uncommon to have anywhere from four to eight guys milling about watching the traffic and pedestrians passing by. But tonight there is a gleeful anticipation waiting to check out the new L 5 Lieutenant. Suddenly a car screeches to a halt into one of the front parking spots of the firehouse, the car does not look familiar and a couple of members are about ready to tell the driver that’s not a parking spot when the door flings open and out pops ‘Elvis’ in a full white rhinestone jumpsuit regalia complete with buck teeth. The impersonator introduces himself to the group; “Hi, I’m Vinny Giammona, L 5 Lieutenant, new guy”. The front of the firehouse erupts with uproarious laughter as Vinny shakes hands and then trots upstairs to change into his work duty uniform. This would not be the only time the new Boss created such an exhibition.

crane flip.jpg
[With all the construction developing in Manhattan, it wasn't uncommon to get a crane that flipped over while lifting heavy loads]

That's how I met my new boss, and I would drive him and Mike for the next couple of years. Vinny could make anyone laugh, he was three years younger than I with a glowing personality, unbridled energy and a profound charisma. He had the knack for making outrageous good natured funny remarks that made people chuckle.

Vinny was a fearless and gutsy firefighter when it was time to get down and dirty plus he was strong and extremely physically fit, too. When he had the time after completing his office paperwork Vinny spent time in the gym, in addition he was an avid runner training for the upcoming NYC twenty six mile Marathon. When new probies came to L 5 we would take the rig and crew out to one of the residential hi-rise buildings on a Saturday morning where Vinny would wage a friendly challenge to the probies. The new fresh troopers straight from the training school and in peak physical shape were ‘invited’ to keep pace with him as he ascended the interior staircase with full turnout gear including breathing apparatus saying he’ll meet them on the tenth floor. He’d smoke them all, everytime.

It did not take long, all the members loved Vinny and his enthusiastic passion and began to refer to him as Lt. Fun. One time, Vinny wanted to host “Cowboy Theme Night” in the firehouse, he bought everyone a cowboy hat and loaded the kitchen up with numerous bails of hay strewn all over the kitchen floor.

When we worked during a comfortable night we would all jump aboard the apparatus after dinner, making the first stop at Starbucks where we all partook in a double espresso. From there we’d cruise the neighborhood checking out any one of the numerous hot spots and Nightclubs that was ubiquitous to our covering area, pulling the rig to the side of the curb and having fun celebrity spotting. It never failed, Vinny was usually the first to notice the celebrities getting out of their limos.

celebrity.jpg
[The photographer was standing right next to me when he took this snap of Debbie Harry and E 24 Fireman Kevin Anders in front of the legendary nightclub "Don Hills" on Spring Street]

Today I have just completed the first half of my twenty four and I’m looking forward to the day tour ahead of me. My usual routine on twenty-fours like this I hop out of bed at 0600, jump into the shower after laying out my clothes for quick donning and do what I call “the mad one minute shower” hitting all the major points. The hardest clothing to put on when you are wet is your socks, so my feet, ankle and legs I dry off first. Then I can kind of go into a more relaxed mode as I dry the rest of myself off knowing I could be dressed and ready to go if the tones go off. I think I have been caught in the shower once or twice, and thank the Lord, never caught on the porcelain bowl throughout my career.

Today is a nice bright pleasant Sunday morning with the sun shining onto the apparatus floor just before roll call. I have a fresh cup of coffee in my hand and I can’t imagine anything better at this moment. But, boy am I wrong.

Six year veteran Firefighter Paul Keaning has not reported for duty. The usual course of action when this happens, a member gets on the phone and tries to make contact with the missing firefighter and to make sure everything is alright. And if not, another firefighter steps up to ride until the delayed firefighter arrives or works the tour and is repaid at a later date.

But today that is not the case, you see, Paul has recently moved into a small apartment in downtown Manhattan, he is a single young man and like most young men he enjoys the nightlife, but unfortunately has trouble responding to his alarm clock. Grievously this is not the first occasion, or second, or even the third that Paul has had to call the firehouse because he was running late imposing on one of the members to stand by until he arrives. His habitual tardiness and irresponsibility has started to wear thin and is sadly becoming a nuisance. Vinny has warned him many times and even cautioned Paul that he was on “thin ice”.

Today the summer sunshine has melted that last trickle of ice and I have never seen Vinny so mad and aggravated as he is right now a few minutes before roll call and Paul is missing in action. I think I could fry an egg off of Vinny’s forehead.

With repeated attempts, Paul is not picking up his phone and this is not good, Vinny assembles the day crew members together and we hop on the rig for a road trip to extract Paul from his apartment on Liberty Street only a few doors east of L 10’s quarters. I flip on the overhead lights, turn out of quarters heading west on Houston Street, then a left on West Street for a ‘quick’ ride toward Liberty Street.

At Liberty Street I hang a left passing the South WTC Tower #2. Since it is only mere minutes after the 0900 roll call as I approach L 10’s quarters their members are on the apparatus apron and notice us as we “respond” by. The surrounding area is very quiet with no bystanders, traffic or commuters, just us. The “Tenhouse” officers and members have this puzzled look on their faces as we stop just a few doors past their quarters where our boy Paul rents a third floor apartment.

I see the Brothers from the Tenhouse scratching their heads trying to figure what is going on at this point, they must be assuming they missed a first due assignment. One of our guys keeps pressing the intercom to Paul's apartment, but there is no answer. I thought Vinny was mad as hell before, but I can tell Vinny is steaming now and losing patience.

dbl fatality.jpg
[This was a double fatality. The driver executed, lost control of his vehicle and mowed down a bystander standing at the corner of Spring and Sixth Ave. I was driving B 2 and requested a second CFRD Engine (E 55) to respond to assist E 24 who were dealing with an injured pedestrain that had his leg severed.]

L 5 tillerman Greg Saucedo happens to know what windows are to Paul's apartment, Vinny has me raise the aerial to one of the three. Greg hustles up the ladder and it happens to be Paul's bedroom window. Greg can see through the window and spots Paul enjoying his cozy restful slumber. With a few raps on the window, Greg steps back when an aroused Paul lifts up the wooden sash, with blinking eyes he sticks his head out from the window flaunting an awkward smile. In the meantime the entire Liberty Street firehouse members are now watching the spectacle unfold with bewilderment.

Vinny is below the aerial and looking upward scornfully orders Paul to get his ass down onto the rig pronto before he “has to…” something or other. Incredibly Paul blurts to Vinny; “Do I have time to Shave?”

It takes all my might grabbing a hold of the back straps of Vinny's suspenders and rein him in from charging up the aerial ladder. Alas, Paul was never late again and he did have to endure some late watches for a while though.

Thanks for reading, hope you enjoyed! KMG-365
 
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columbusfire

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Sep 2, 2015
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Great story! I never understood guys being late for duty. I had a perfect attendance record for my entire 36 year career. Came close a few times because of accidents, heavy traffic, etc. We worked the 3 platoon system, 24 on, 48 off, so you only had to be there once every 3 days, but we had guys like Paul too, and they had to be the ''watchman'' for 10 days in a row. That part was nice for the rest of us!
 

nfd2004

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Jun 22, 2007
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Great story! I never understood guys being late for duty. I had a perfect attendance record for my entire 36 year career. Came close a few times because of accidents, heavy traffic, etc. We worked the 3 platoon system, 24 on, 48 off, so you only had to be there once every 3 days, but we had guys like Paul too, and they had to be the ''watchman'' for 10 days in a row. That part was nice for the rest of us!
"Columbusfire" - that is an EXCELLENT record for 36 years. Enjoy your well deserved retirement.

I just want to add, without going off track with the Glory Days Great Stories by Mr Gage, that I once visited the Columbus FD way back in the 1980s. They were a very progressive dept and one of the first that I know of to use both BLS and ALS units, along with a group of rescue companies. I don't remember how but I met a guy named Glen Schafer who was on the job there working at Engine 24/Ladder 23s quarters. He treated me GREAT and showed me around the entire dept.

I took a lot of apparatus photos and some were just going to the Lime Green and white color. They also had a few Sutphen Tower Ladders.

If you know Glen and he's still around, tell him to join us here. In fact I think he lived on Carolwood Ave (?) as I remember.

Thank you "columbusfire".
 

columbusfire

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I was in the 1982 class and I don't recall that name. The old BLS and ALS, squads and medics, was a good system at the time. I spent a lot of time on Squad 14 and 15. They changed in 1996 to a paramedic engine concept with a paramedic on all 34 engines and 2 person/paramedic transport units. The old medics had 3 and the squads had 2 FF's assigned to them. Now, not only is there a transport vehicle in ALL stations, but they have ''peak demand'' transport vehicles in 4 stations in addition! They still can't keep up at times.
 

JohnnyGage

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^^^^^^I met a few members from CFD when they rode with us in L 112. One guy sent me a copy of the CFD yearbook that I still have and a patch. The patch closely resembled the FDNY patch. I wore the patch on my denim LCC coat for many years (photo), only a few members recognized the difference.
colpatch.png
 
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mack

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Dan - Some pictures of Capt. Tim Gallagher, Engine 88, from 1977 WNYF. Tim was team captain in 1977. He was also one of the FDNY hockey team founders in 1968:


Tough Tim  WNYF 1977.jpg


1974-75 team:
Tough Tim 1977 Team.jpg


1977 FDNY hockey team starting lineup:
Tough Tim 2 (2).jpg
 
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t123ken

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Sep 8, 2013
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It's a blast from the past seeing "The Big Whistle" Bill Chadwick, who was a long-time NHL referee.
It wasn't advertised much but he was blind in one eye. I remember him being interviewed saying when a player who didn't agree with one of his calls would ask "What are you? Blind?", he was half-right.
 

t123ken

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A player in the back row of the picture above (the '79-'80 team) is retiring with almost 42 years on the job.
 

nfd2004

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Last year in May, 2019 I received a very SPECIAL Gift from Dan Potter, aka "Johnny Gage". I would like to share two pictures with you, both the front and back of that GREATLY Appreciated, Collectors Gift he sent me.

For those of us who know Dan Potter personally, we know him as a gentleman and a greatly respected firefighter by those who worked with him. A guy very much still "into" the job like so many others here.

Thanks Dan for your contributions to this great web site and certainly a THANK YOU for all you have sent me in the past, including the E277/L112 Tee Shirt that I'm wearing right now.

I think Brad, "signal73" is willing to post that picture here for me.
 

JohnnyGage

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Thanks Willy for the shout out! Our lunch was a special GRAND DAY! I even got the ol' EMERGENCY Lunch Box from you gents. We need another gang gathering as soon as this virus thing moves on. Enjoy my friend. Thanks to all my friends who have been so supportive of my ditties, too!Lunchpail.png
 

JohnnyGage

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LADDER 5 P 14
EPILOGUE

Lt. Mike has finished his treadmill exercise in the back of the firehouse and bums a cigarette from one of the passing firemen, he tears off the filter and tosses it into the garbage pail, flips the cigarette around then lights the end where the filter was attached, his workout is now complete. In the backyard of our Sixth Avenue firehouse, Mike and I are attending our three tiered garden that we created in a little plot of soil. In early spring he and I planted about a dozen various types of tomato plants including Cherry and Beefsteak to add to our summer meal salads.

The rear yard is a handball court that can convert into a volleyball court or a half basketball court with a single basket. The garden that we prepared is behind the basketball hoop where we built a makeshift fence to ward off an errant basketball from smashing through and damaging the plants, but, who were we kidding, the basketball manages to get through and so Mike and I head out this summer afternoon to repair and maintain our patch.

Joining us in the garden is a young fireman from L 5 and he reminded Mike that during early springtime when we were planting the tomato plants he too was planting them back in his home garden. He listened to Mike’s advice that to strengthen the plant, it is necessary to pinch every yellow flower as soon as you see it. The young firefighter tells Mike that he has diligently followed his advice of pinching every yellow flower and unlike the bounty we are cultivating today, he has hardly seen a single tomato and maybe his plants are “defective’. Mike is besides himself giggling as any gardener knows that the yellow flower is the first sign of producing the fruit and pinching them back won’t allow pollinating and fruiting.

Finally, the young fireman realizes that he has been hoodwinked, and thankfully he’s a good sport and so we think it’s only fair to share the bounty of beefsteaks from our garden for him to take home.

Vinny2.jpg
[Last lunch with my colleagues, Left to right sitting; 'Saving Private' Paul, Lt. Vinny, standing Davey and Greg fiddling with glasses. This is the last time I saw Paul, Vinny and Greg alive with 9/11 just ahead.]

The summer months are bearing down, it becomes so hot and sticky that as soon as you put your gear on you become soaked with sweat in just a few minutes. I have been the LCC for almost seven years driving Mike and Vinny and it seems the time is flying by, I have nineteen years on and I still recall my first day walking into E 88 like it was yesterday. Although I love the responsibility of being the chauffeur and the exciting position of being one of the senior men I am beginning to get the itch to get back into the type of fire duty only the tough neighborhoods can provide and find myself being drawn to once again. I have been studying doggedly for the upcoming Lieutenants exam for the past two years and after a pre-test given by the prep course administrators I did very well and I feel confident that barring some inane fallout I will be successful with the upcoming exam in a few months.

In the FDNY, when you are promoted, usually you are assigned to another boro. However some new officers are lucky and remain in the same Boro except with another Division, but that is rare. And this circumstance weighs in as I’m toying with making a change back to the Bronx. I always had a desire to work at L 31 since I was a young teen, and given the opportunity, I could take a shot at a spot in either E 82 or L 31 as a Lieutenant, providing I remained with L 5 and promoted. But, that would be a long shot since I would have to cover a long time to build up seniority, transfer into the Battalion of the two companies and await my time for a vacancy, and this process could take years.

Or, my second option was as a firefighter, right now, I could transfer to L 31, take the promotion exam and either pass or fail, I’ve achieved my goal living the dream. In addition, if I transfer immediately to L 31 as a fireman there are two other advantages. The first is that I will be able to “re-sharpen” my tools getting back to consistent fire duty honing my skills, and the second really made sense. Should I be successful in passing and get promoted, I could request to go back to Manhattan’s First Division where manpower is always the issue and, who knows, maybe grab a lieutenant vacancy quicker with zero commute. These thoughts are bouncing through my head and I’m questioning which plan of action I need to initiate. This day's tour, my decision was made crystal clear.

Enter the “Tool” or should I say in FDNY lingo; a “hairbag”. Sadly, not every firehouse runs smoothly, and on Sixth Avenue there is a disgruntled burnt out bitter member of E 24 who makes everyone's life miserable when he works and he is one of the senior men. When members see his car in front of the firehouse they realize it is going to be a long tedious tour. The “Tool” disrespects officers, and physically confronts gullible probies with his truculent manner. Out of fifty members assigned to this firehouse he’s the only angry malcontent that sorely disrupts an otherwise cohesive firehouse and unfortunately the officers turn a blind eye.

Watching his act today I have had enough of his ugliness and convinced myself it is time to submit a transfer request. I listed on the transfer request only one company, although I could select a total of four, I typed; L 31. The transfer will take place in just two weeks from my submission. I have mixed feelings, but I’m certain that this is the best direction, and actually the more I think about it, the more excited I get returning to the down and gritty I have been missing and away from this hairbag.

The first week of July 2001 my name was listed with many other firefighters that were transferred to other companies on the department order, I am now officially assigned to L 31 and it has a ‘ring’ to it. I bid farewell to Lt. Mike and Vinny who are both in the office as I gather my turnout gear and retrieve my personal items from my locker. While on vacation, one of the probies I mentored has neatly painted my locker fire truck red as a friendly gesture and there are well wishes pasted on it from off duty members. I stopped by the First Division ro meet with Deputy Chief Hayden, the Chief I highly respect and enjoyed working for to say so-long, he has kind words for me sharing a handshake.

Unknowingly, this would also be the last time I will see most of my crew members of L 5 alive with September 11 looming just a few weeks ahead.

Thanks for reading! KMG-365

Mojica.jpg
[Summer job in the Village 2001, R 1 Lt Dennis Mojica (RIP 9/11) speaks with DC Hayden, me over Dennis' shoulder]
 
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BritishAndy

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Feb 9, 2010
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Dan P (JohnnyGage), I've been loving this thread since it started, even though I'm across the pond in the UK, I'm a huge FDNY buff.
I listened to you on the Getting Salty podcast recently whilst taking a train journey across country and found myself getting a few glances off fellow passengers as I was laughing loudly over the 'Tough Timmy' story when you were driving him down Southern Boulevard, "RAM THEM, RAM THEM!".

You absolutely have a gift for telling these stories!
 

entropychaser

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Jun 27, 2017
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Sadly , the beloved Queen Mum has been pushing up daisies in the marble orchard for several years. Gin sales in the UK have plummeted ever since.
 
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