The Ticker in the Home of Chief Swingley
How would you like to have a little instrument in your home whose ticking voice each day might mean the last call for one in their home? Such is the instrument in the home of Fire Chief Swingley of St. Louis, Mo., which lets him and his wife know the whereabouts of each fire in the city and whether or not it is being controlled. The little ticker tells the wife the whereabouts of her husband at every call for the fire department, but doesn’t tell whether or not he is in danger.
“Whenever I hear the ticking 1 feel that it may be the last call,” said Mrs. Swingley. “People say, it seems that you would become use to it.’ I have heard it day and night for many years now, and the fear of it has never decreased.”
Many’s the night Mrs. Swingley has hoped the small machine would remain soundless, and when it did sound she would hope her husband would not be aroused. However, duty has always won, and if the day has been especially hard and the chief was unusually fatigued that he did not awaken easilys, she would call him and send him out sorrowing, thinking that perhaps she was sending him to injury or death. The instrument is the same as in the office of Chief Swingley in the City Hall. It has a paper tape running through it on which are printed as many dots as the number of the district from whence the alarm conies. Mrs. Swingley understands the different signals as well as any of the firemen and watches the ticker as attentively.
“During a big fire I draw my chair up to the machine and watch for each call,” said Mrs. Swingley. “I try to do sewing or read at the time, but with little success, as my nerves are too wrought up to do anything that needs concentration.”
The Fourth of July is always a dark letter day with the wife of the fire chief, as she knows from experience that on that day there are fires, many of which are threatening to the life of Chief Swingley; and she is glad when the day is over. Last Fourth, as she heard the call for the department lo Broadway and Utah street to the fire which destroyed $35,900 of property and took one life, she took her seat before the then busy instrument, with the hope that it would result in nothing but a small blaze. When the second and third alarms were sounded, however, and the announcement that one fireman had been instantlykilled by stepping on a live electric wire came, she sat motionless with fear, until the call came that the fire was under control. Although many hours of agony are spent because of it, Mrs Swingley is proud of the work of her husband. “I am glad he is brave enough to offer his life,” she said.