Among the Buffs

Among the Buffs

Five clubs were voted into membership and the first associate member taken in as the International Fire Butt Associates held its Seventh Annual Convention in Nashville, June 25-27. IFBA Scribe Henry G. Nathan of 3916 Brookhill Road, Baltimore 15, Md., says the clubs taken into membership were:

The Anne Arundel Alarmers of Ferndale, Md.; The Box 234 Club of Pikesville, Md.; The Friendship Fire Association of Washington, D. C.; The Box 8 Association of St. Louis and the Racine, Wis., Fire Bell Club. Nathan says the honor of becoming the first associate member of the international group goes to Buff Byron W. Brown of Paducah, Ky.

More than 70 buffs and their families gathered in Nashville. Representing 30 clubs, the delegates elected Edward R. Damaschke of Detroit, editor of the Visiting Fireman, as the association’s new president, succeeding Charles C. Price of the Baltimore 414 Association.

Other new officers include: Robert B. Wren of Cincinnati, secretary, and William E. Conradi of Newark, N. J., treasurer. Elected vice presidents were John Irvin, convention chairman, Nashville; Henry G. Nathan, Baltimore; Larry E. Pegler, Detroit; William H. Perkins, Boston; Edward J. Gill, Chester, Pa., and James M. Kirkley, Chicago.

The delegates reaffirmed that the 1960 convention will be held in Chester and that the next midwinter officers’ meeting and 1961 convention will be scheduled for Chicago.

Convention activities began with an open house and meeting of the officers in the Noel Hotel.

One of the prime topics of business was approval of an accident insurance plan which was sent to individual clubs for their approval.

Delegates and some wives toured the safety building which includes the Central Fire Station and headquarters and the Nashville fire alarm station. The ladies toured the city under the guidance of Mrs. O. J. Vann, women’s chairman.

The Nashville Fire Buffs Club opened its hospitality room at the hotel and “good fellowship and buffing prevailed,” reports Nathan. Later, the visitors were taken to Old Hickory Dam and Locks and then to the beautiful Colemere Country Club where a southern barbecue was served. The club adjoins the Nashville airport and the buffs attended a turnout of the field’s crash wagons when flames broke out in an airplane. Formal activities ended as visitors saw “The Grand Ole Opry” where a special section was set aside for them. Buff Nathan says Chief John D. Ragsdale and members of the city’s fire department and the Nashville Chamber of Commerce aided with convention planning.

Baltimore’s Box 414 Association welcomed the city’s new fire chief, John J. Kitten, when he took office and also Baltimore’s newest battalion chief, Kayton G. Moses. Chief Moses was a charter member of Baltimore’s Box 13 Association, the forerunner of the Box 414 Association, says Editor Bay Wheatley of the 414 General Alarm newspaper.

“He became a member of 414 almost at its inception and is an honorary member of our organization and a constant visitor at our meetings and affairs,” reports Brer Wheatley. Chief Moses told Editor Wheatley that one of the most memorable fires he fought was the 18alarmer in Canton.

Fire Chief Killen told the Baltimore fan club not long ago that: “The Box 414 Association is doing a fine job on the fire grounds and for the department. They are beneficial to the health and above all, a moment of cheer to a tired, wet and cold fire fighter, with their ever-present hot coffee and a smoke.” What better tribute could a buff want?

Herbert H. Harrington of 1557 West 27th Place, Cleveland 13, Ohio, wonders whether there are any fire buffs in Cleveland. If so, he’d like to hear from them. Firefan Harrington, formerly an active fireman, is now with the Erie Railroad. However he keeps up with Cleveland Fire Department activities by tuning in a Hallicrafters Model 104. He also is a fire policeman in Meadville, Pa.

“While I was in Meadville,” he reports, “I had the pleasure of making a movie of fire department activities which was received by the city as being a well worthwhile contribution. I was also secretary of a volunteer fire company for 10 of my 18 years service with them.”

That’s about the size of things until the bells go down again next month. Please continue to send your buff anecdotes and club reports to me at Box 8731, Crenshaw Station, Los Angeles 8.

Among the buffs

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Among the buffs

WHO SAYS all the romance is going out of buffing with today’s quick knockdown of fires by fleets of 1,000-gallon pumpers, most of which never make it to the fire but are turned back by radio? I used to say so.

I said so until yesterday afternoon shortly after visiting Fire Station 60 of the Los Angeles Fire Department where Chief Bill Miller presented a letter of special commendation to Fireman James A. Perry for an extraordinary act of initiative. Perry had administered mouth-tomouth resuscitation and closed-chest heart massage to a cardiac failure victim suspected of suffering from a serious contagious disease.

Shortly after the presentation and the lunch prepared by Jordan “Prince Romanoff” Seibert, Chief Charlie Rossie invited this column to try out the fire department helicopter. The day was dry and hot—brush fire weather out here— and besides, it offered an opportunity to play hooky from the mundane pursuit of public relations.

Fireman Ross Reynolds’ takeoff was smooth. But then it should be; he’s been a pilot for so long. Wedged between us was Captain Fritz T. Bush, head of the department’s public education section, who was along with the chore of trying to educate me. If I had any brains I probably would not have climbed into that infuriated palm tree in the first place.

No sooner did we clear the field than we saw an ugly black puff of smoke rising slowly from the dreaded “green area” which at this point in time was about as green as a Marine after five weeks on Iwo Jima. Ross swung the chopper in the direction of the loomup which by now was beginning to sprout a field of flame. We monitored the radio as the first-in chiefs took up positions. Among them was Battalion 14 Commander Neil R. McCullom, one of the department’s brilliant combat and administrative chiefs.

As the department helicopter churned across the San Fernando Valley flatlands to the second-alarm fire, I wondered why we weren’t responding under siren and light. A darn fool thing to wonder, I realize, but then magazine writers usually wonder dam fool things, especially if they happen to be tinctured with the title, “buff.”

I realized something else, too. This was the first time I had ever responded to a fire in a helicopter. Was my buff life complete? Would there never again be anything new under the sun for this buff? Not upon your pitch helmet, Clyde!

Every try orbiting a raging brush fire in a fish-bowl-like helicopter that has no doors? Was Ross out of his mind? Now we were banking. At least that’s what he later told me we were doing. All I know is that my stomach was where my Charatan pipe usually is. And my pipe was feeling mighty uncomfortable where it was. To my right was the wondrous blue sky. To my left was a mass of smoke, flame, and bits of airborne debris. Now I know how Colonel Glenn must have felt when he saw those space fireflies.

Borate bombers were now on the way as we orbited in what I remembered (as my big ears flopped in the blast furnacelike gale now blowing through the cockpit) as figure eights. Below, the flames were running a break-even race with firemen as smoke poured from the roofs of three large and expensive homes which even the most conservative chief would call, “fully involved.”

And then we were down on the ground as Fireman Perry drove Chief McCullom over to our makeshift pad. Neil went up to reconnoiter the situation himself, although I, as a buff, could have told him that he would be in imminent danger of losing Jordan’s excellent omelette. Down came Neil. Up went Fritz and I again.

The borate bombers came in low, made a dry run, came back and dumped their loads. The first hit was a beaut. The second pilot should have stayed home. In 30 seconds, Chief McCulkim had changed from the sandy-haired idol of North Hollywood’s younger set to a greyhaired ghost.

Fritz and I, back on the ground for keeps (and to the everlasting gratitude of mv insurance agent) hurried over to the command post with Cal Egerton, LAFD public information major domo At the command post was Chief Henry Sawyer. Quite an amazing guy, that chief. He was directing a fleet of pumpers, aerial tankers, helicopters, tank wagons, and miscellaneous other combat equipment with all the calm dignity of a man in a grey flannel suit conducting an executive business session.

Just as the brush fire was being brought under control, the Coldwater Signal Office was striking a second alarm for another brush fire to the west. Away we went—this time by car—through the courtesy of Chief Marvin Meador who is still on his honeymoon, or should be. There we found Chief Rossie directing operations along with Chiefs Gene Judd (who looks good in borate solution) and Walt Con well (who looks good in anything).

You bet your sweet pogo stick, Clarence, the romance is still there for buffs. And don’t tell me these firemen don’t feel it, too. Such hard work, team play, dedication and training makes all us sidewalk superintendents of fire proud. Single out one man? Fireman Perry? Chief McCullom? Chief Sawyer? Never. They’re all heroes in any buff’s book.

This buff is a member of United Air Lines “Million Miler” Club, TWA’s Ambassador Club and equivalent memberships in similar airline organizations. You can keep your charming stewardi; your champagne flights. Ross Reynolds can be my pilot any day!

Speaking of flights, I am at this writing on my way back to Washington, New York, Buffalo, and Chicago again. Hope to look in on a few of you. Meanwhile, please keep your news notes, club reports, and other column information coming to me: Paul Ditzel, Executive Vice President, Pete Summers, Inc., Suite 913, 9255 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, California, 90096. Regretfully, letters cannot be answered other than in this column.