“Dress, Drill and Discipline.”

“Dress, Drill and Discipline.”

In a communication, which will be found in other columns of this issue of the JOURNAL, an esteemed correspondent criticises somewhat an editorial which we recently published, with the above caption. No article that we have printed recently has elicited so much commendation from correspondents and others as the one referred to. Its purpose was to show Firemen the necessity for improvement in drill and discipline, and to impress upon them the fact that the more highly they esteem themselves the more nearly will they come to receiving, as they will deserve, the respect and confidence of their fellow citizens.

We believe that as a means of elevating the profession, and securing this respect and confidence, the matter of dress may be made to play a most important part. We are well aware of the fact that there are many Companies in the service who adhere to the red shirt uniform, who are proficient in drill and discipline, who are efficient Firemen, and who are always gentlemen, whether clothed in their red shirts and on parade, or in their ordinary citizen’s dress and attending to their daily avocations. These men are entitled to the greatest amount of respect for the manner in which they have dignified the red shirt; the more credit attaches to their efforts, because of the stigma brought upon the uniform by unworthy representatives of the Fire Service in some sections of the country in days past. We believe, however, that, when*.they entered upon their efforts to elevate the profession of Firemen, they would have succeeded sooner in their endeavors, had their first step been the abandonment of the red shirt, which would have been an indication to the public that they were determined that, in establishing the new, they would shake off the old, order of things.

There is no reason, that we know of, why effectiveness and proficiency in drill and discipline should not be acquired as well in a red shirt as a white one, except for the fact that a white shirt is the insignia of a gentleman, and he who wears one is likely to have more Yespect for himself and to more surely command the respect of others, than he who wears a shirt of color, be it red, blue, striped or speckled. While it is true that “worth makes the man,” it is also true that his associates are very apt to judge him by his clothes. The red shirt was the sign by which those Firemen, who brought disgrace upon their profession, were known. We believe that the regeneration of the Fire Service and its elevation in its own estimation and in the estimation of the public, will be more speedily accomplished by the abandonment of the red shirt as a distinctive feature in Firemen’s uniforms, than in its preservation. While so believing we have, nevertheless, the highest respect for the opinions of those who differ from us, and cheerfully concede that there are Companies who have achieved almost the perfection of drill and discipline, who still adhere to the old style of uniform.

Dress, Drill and Discipline.

Dress, Drill and Discipline.

Why do our Firemen cling so persistently to red shirts as a matter of uniform ? What is there in red shirts to commend them to the respect or affection of gentlemen ? For laboring men, engaged in rough, hard work, out of doors, woolen garments may be a matter of necessity, but for Firemen on parade, woolen shirts, white, red or blue, possess neither qualities of usefulness or elegance to commend them. The Firemen have much hard work to do at fires, and, on such occasions are apt to perspire freely, and woolen garments are supposed to prevent their taking cold. As a matter of fact, however, Firemen very seldom go to a fire in uniform. Called from their business or their beds by an alarm of fire, they do not stop to don red shirts, or fancy belts, but rush to the scene in such clothing as comes handiest. In the large cities, they generally have a fire suit of very rough clothes for night duty, and men in uniform are seldom seen. They wear their hats as a necessary protection, and their fire badges conspicuously displayed. The fact is, the red shirt is a tradition in the Fire Service, handed down by “ Mose ” and “Jake,” and those other heroes of the old Volunteer system who made their homes in the Engine-houses, and swaggered about barrooms in their red shirt, with pants tucked in their boots, lying in wait for some one to buy drinks for them, or for a victim to smite over the head with a spanner. This class of Firemen is obsolete. Respectable men have taken their places, and loafers have been relegated to the street corners. The red shirts should be sent to keep them company. Why cannot our Firemen adopt some neat, pretty uniform, wherein those evidences of respectability, a white shirt and a clean collar, shall be prominent ? Nearly all the Paid Departments have adopted neat suits of blue cloth, decorated with brass buttons. They adhere to the blue woolen shirts, but, we believe the day is not far distant when these will be abandoned, and white shirts substituted. A man’s moral calibre is greatly affected by the clothes he wears. When he returns from a fishing or hunting excursion, conscious that he looks as dirty as he feels, he is apt to sneak home by way of the back streets, and postpone the telling of his adventures till he has arrayed himself in clean garments. A clean, neat exterior is evidence of respectability ; soiled, rough or ill-fitting garments tend to lower a man’s self-respect. Firemen in red shirts have committed offences that they would be ashamed of if dressed in the garments common to gentlemen. Firemen’s uniforms are, as a rule, used mainly for dress occasions; why should they not he made dressy and attractive, as well as the uniforms worn by the militia? We have heretofore alluded to the dress, drill and discipline of the Ellicott Hook and Ladder Company, of Jamestown, N. Y., and the enthusiastic reception they received during the parade at Ithaca. Similar enthusiasm greeted the Chicago Firemen when they appeared in the parade in that city. They were dressed in their blue uniforms, wore white gloves, white shirts and collars, their boots were polished, and they looked like respectable men, who took a pride in their appearance. They were under excellent discipline, and the contrast between them and some of the straggling, red-shirt Companies, sprawling through the streets, with pants tucked in their boots, and cigars in their mouths, was so great that spontaneous cheers greeted them from every side. The Firemen of to-day are a decided improvement, in point of character, morals, and efficiency over those of ten or fifteen years ago ; let them cast aside what still remains of the old Service, and adopt some distinctive uniform that shall preserve the selfrespect of the individual and tend to improve them morally as it does in appearance. The woolen shirts—red, white or blue—belong to the historic past of the Fire Service, and. with a better class of men, we need better and more respectable looking uniforms.

Hand in hand with an improvement in uniforms should come better drill and discipline. While the Firemen are prone to appear on parade on all festival occasions, they should have pride enough in their profession to learn how to march at least as well as the police. They may not rival our crack militia regiments, but they can at least learn to keep step, and to bear themselves like gentlemen in the eyes of the public, and strive to bring credit upon their respective organizations. The cigar, elevated from the corner of the mouth at an angle of fortyfive degrees, should be abolished, and the men trained to march with uniform tread, eyes to the front, and wholly irresponsive to salutations from spectators. The drill which makes them march, look and act like soldiers, increases their efficiency as Firemen ; for all discipline tends to develop the highest type of manhood, and nowhere is this so much required as in the Fire Service. Those Companies which competed in the Tournament contests were generally under a good state of discipline, and showed that they had been well drilled in their respective branches of the Service. The best disciplined and best drilled Companies won the best prizes. The drill which made them successful there, fits them far better for service at fires than if they had never had it. It hardens their flesh, and develops their muscles so that they can depend upon them when they need them. It is as essential to the Fireman as to the soldier, and no man wasver made a soldier who did not take an interest in his drill. We have seen Fire Companies that marched and manoeuvred as well as the best soldiers, and they also had the reputation of being exceedingly efficient Firemen. The better appearance our Fire Companies present when they parade in public, the better will they be appreciated by the public. Let them improve themselves in matters of dress, drill and discipline, and they will, by that means, do more to win their way to public confidence than they possibly can by any other. When the public sees that they are determined to improve themselves, they will not hesitate to entrust their property to their keeping, and to encourage them by liberally sustaining their organizations.