Has Helped to Win Public Support for Department; Team Organized Originally for Annual Dance

CHARLES J. BRENNAN chief of the San Francisco Fire Department, has long been an advocate of intra-departmental activities, contending that this makes a more efficient fireman. The broad viewpoint has naturally been fostered by the department members and the latest idea to manifest itself along these lines is the Special Drill and Marching Unit, made up entirely of men in the uniform force. Incidentally, none of the men has been in the department more than five years, and the average age is 26 years.

Chief Charles J. Bennan Congratulates Lieut. Roy Mow In the background are some of the drill team, and in the foreground, a few of the cups won by the team.

Believed to be the only one of its kind in the United States, it has proven to be a great asset in bringing the Fire Department to a place of greater esteem in the eyes of the citizens of San Francisco. The effect upon the mind of the public attained by the appearance of the unit in the parades has been very complimentary to the department, for in the discipline, the instant understanding of orders and the precision of their execution, the good people of San Francisco see a reflection of these invaluable attributes of the department in its performance at fires.

Organized primarily to function at only one occasion, the Fireman’s Ball, it was so well received that it has been retained by popular demand. How it came into existence is a story in itself.

Prior to the 1938 Annual Ball, the Entertainment Committee, endeavoring to add a feature to the spectacular firescene, hit upon the idea of a fancy drill and marching unit. Chief Brennan, a veteran of the Spanish-American war, who still retains his love for the Army, gave the order to go ahead. All this happened a scant five weeks before the ball. Lieut. Roy Mow was selected for the job of organization and he did splendid work. Days of tedious practice and hard work followed. Came the night of the ball and the team was still of an unknown quality, with plenty of skeptics. However, the 20,000 people who jammed the Civic Auditorium that evening will attest to the precision and skill of the unit. At the conclusion of the exhibition, the audience was on its feet and the applause literally “tore down the rafters.”

Many Appearances

Since that first appearance, the team has appeared in numerous parades, competitions and other civic functions. In all of these, they have been awarded first prize. In the Independence Day Parade, it was voted the outstanding marching unit. Chief Brennan has received letters and comments from people in every walk of life. Major General George S. Simmonds, U. S. Army, was impressed to the extent that he wrote:

“It is a real pleasure to tell you that the marching of your men. as well as their appearance, was splendid …. I have rarely seen a better performance by uniformed marching units.

“Their bearing and discipline and their very straight lines reflects great credit on the personnel involved and on those responsible for their training and discipline.”

Another turnout caused Major General C. H. Lyman, U. S. Marine Corps, to express his compliments, describing the team as being able to perform “intricate movements which would have done credit to any organization.”

Despite the enviable reputation that has been established, the team continues to practice weekly. Plans are being made to again participate in this year’s Annual Ball which will be held during the International Convention of Fire Chiefs. Here it will be possible to demonstrate to the visiting Chiefs that the San Francisco Fire Department can accomplish other results than extinguishment of fires. They hope that sonic visiting Chief will issue a challenge for a competitive drill, for, according to the words of its Commander, the team invites national competition.

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