Old and New.
BY AN OLD FIREMAN.
One of the most encouraging facts to an observer of fire matters, is the decided change for the better that has taken place within the past few years in the materiel, and general tone, of the greater part of the Fire Departments throughout the country. Time was, when the Fireman did not occupy a very exalted position in the estimation of the community at large, and when the name even of a Fireman, caused the bearer to be looked upon with distrust and his favor to be courted, and himself, at the same time, despised. That the general opinion had some foundation in fact cannot be doubted, as the old-rime Fireman was in some respects a very singular being. His attire, combining a certain gorgeousness ot shirt and neck-tie, resplendency of badge, and lavish display of boot tops, combined with the somberness of hat and pantaloons, was well calculated to impress a feeling of awe upon all beholders ; while his constant heartfelt yearning for an alarm, and his reckless haste to obtain “ first water ” marked him as anything but the staid and solid citizen. His soul delighted tn the excitement attending a conflagration, and he scented the battle from afar. He affected the noble and aristocratic game cock, and infallibly filled a four flush. His officers were chosen, not from the fact of their knowledge of fire matters, but were emphatically the “best men” physically of his company. The efficiency of a company was rated in direct ratio to its ability to ” lay out” allcomers. Naturally, drink played a most important part in all Company and Department affairs, and it is more than hinted that many a Chief owed his election to the fact of his ability to “ set ’em up ” for the boys to an unlimited extent. The house life of the member partook in a great degree of his surroundings, and the literary exercises while constant, would seem to an observer to become somewhat monotonous, as they consisted almost solely of a persistent and prolonged study of the history of the Four Kings. If there was any one thing that the old Volunteer absolutely went his length upon, it was his Company Ball. Preparations were made for days and weeks, his particular district was scoured in the sale of tickets, which were always purchased, not willingly perhaps, but from the feeling that policy demanded it; the hall was trimmed and resplendent with the paraphernalia of his vocation, and when the eventful occasion at last arrived, and he appeared with his own particular divinity radiant in smiles and good clothes, joy reigned unconfined. That the affair often ended with a slight unpleasantness did not detract from the festivities, but rather afforded that spice of dash and recklessness in which he delighted.
The old Volunteer was always on hand, and the fact of missing a fire would rankle in his breast for years. His apparatus was an object of worship, and the fact of its being outdone by a rival stung him quick, and he was always ready with tongue and muscle to defend it to the last. That there was many good qualities in the old Fireman is beyond dispute, and he possessed a certain chivalrous feeling in relation to his business that we now look for in vain.
The paid Fireman of the present day is an almost exact contrast. He is a staid, quiet person, who is paid for what he does and therefore does no unnecessary work; is neat to fastidiousness in his dress, which is as modest in style as its wearer, and has a general air of coolness and self-restraint that is refreshing. The apparatus in his charge is in perfect order, his quarters ditto ; and the horses under his charge are trained until their intelligence seems almost human. He is a respecter of law and order, and is beginning to occupy the position in the public esteem to which his calling entitles him. He is brave to desperation, and sets about a dangerous task with a certain cautious recklessness that would shame many a soldier on the field of battle. The commands of his officers are as the laws of the Medes and Persians, and he hears but to obey, even at the cost of his life. An alarm, instead of (as in old days) being the signal for a general stampede and hurly burly, involving the jamming of apparatus and noses, is considered by him in much the same light as a call to dinner, being a matter of course, creating no excitement and no unnecessary noise. The fighting of fire has, with him. been reduced to a science, and he proceeds about his work in an appropriae manner. That there is yet room for improvement is not to be doubted, and if ever brought about it will be mainly by the circulation, and general perusal by Firemen, of publications devoted to their particular interests, and also by gatherings of representative Firemen from different organizations, to consult and compare notes as to the requirements of their business. The writer, however, looks for the best results to follow from the circulation of appropriate literature, as the knowledge therein contained is always in shape to be readily referred to, and easily consulted.