Newton Rally Proves Good Public Relations
“Here they come with their axes,” is a cry of derision which usually offends fire fighters. That’s the way an article in the Boston Traveler started off, after which it went on to laud Newton, Mass., firemen for “axe work” that was greatly admired by all who witnessed or heard of it.
The “axe work” came one day last April, at the site of a fire which two weeks before, had almost wiped out the Salvation Army summer camp in Oak Hill. Some of the men who responded to that multiple alarm blaze of April 14 at the hidden camp on Puddingstone lane, near the West Roxbury line, were among the axe-wielders at the subsequent gathering. They remembered the devastation left by the slow burning fire which destroyed the kitchen facilities and equipment of the camp. So it was, two weeks later, they returned, with comrades, to the scene of the original blaze on their own time, and spent a day clearing away tottering walls, toppling chimneys and sagging roofs, to pave the way for reconstruction.
“We have learned through the Salvation Army that unless the burned portion of the building is torn down and work on reconstrutcion started immediately, vacation for the kids of the crowded districts of Boston won’t materialize this year.” That’s what Fireman Elliot McClelland of Engine 3, in charge of the project, said in justification of the enterprise. He never expected the response he got when he posted a plea, at all fire stations for fellow fire fighters to go out and do the wrecking job.
In response to the urge to do something for the city kids, who wouldn’t get a chance for surcease from the city’s sweltering summer streets if the camp wasn’t rebuilt, the firemen swarmed to the scene. They came in cars, on an ancient hook-and-laddcr truck and on city trucks. They swarmed all over the burned-out ell, swinging axes, yanking at pull down hooks and pike poles, and hauling on ropes. In less than two honrs the area was leveled.
The blueshirts were too busy to see that watching them intently and waiting to serve coffee were two women from the Salvation Army. Major Gertrude Atkinson estimated it will cost about $14,000 for repair work—and wondered where the money would come from. But she declared, even without all the facilities, the children are going to the camp, if they have to eat and sleep on the grass. She looked around at the busy firemen and added “All things work together for good. We’re going to build our hopes on that.”