Friday, June 11, 2010

George Steinbach Interview 1975 (continued)

(continued from June 4)

George Steinbach - interviewed by Kelly Everett, Interviewer, 1975
On this part of the tape they are talking about the Chariton Volunteer Fire Department.  George was a long time member.

It was organized in 1877.  Organized with two companies; an engine company and a ladder company.  I don't recall exactly what year it was that they consolidated but along about 1900.  The department is strictly volunteer.  No one receives any wages or anything, no matter how much you do.  Although they do accept donations from the party that has had the fire, if he feels he owes them something for their effort, many times the department instead of taking their money, would put another check with it and send it right back to them, equal to what they offered to give us.  That has been done several times.  There have been times when people would be under very poor circumstances, but they would still want to give us money. 

 In the earlier days before we had this modern equipment about the only thing that we had really of any value was the old steam engine.  At the end of the year or so there would be a convention somewhere in the state.  This old steamer, Old Betsy, was taken to Dubuque two different times.  We would put it on a train and haul it over there and went into competition.  It took first place two years in a row.  So, the following year they had an International Convention held in St. Louis.  The idea was, with the old steam engines, the one that could throw a stream of water the farthest in a certain given time would be the one that would be the winner.  Starting with a cold engine, we had to build a fire and get the stream up high enough to hit a target at a certain distance.  Well, the boys running that old steamer pulled a few shenanigans.  The others tried their best to find out about it, but they never did.  What Ed Jones and Billy Briles, who was running the drug store on the west side of the square, did was, they had these little two ounce bottles of Benzine wrapped with paper and tied a string on them and there are five sets of cones in the side of that boiler where that heat goes up through and around the water in the tube.  They would tie those little bottles together and drop them in the tube about half way down.  They put several of those in there and when they got to St. Louis, the idea of wrapping the paper around the bottles was to keep them from breaking.  We had a certain kind of wood that everybody had to have.  Pine wood and shavings and that sort of stuff to build the fire.  Every steamer was in the same condition; with an empty firebox.  They were examined.  But, they weren't smart enough to know what was going on inside.  So, when the fire was lit the Benzine bottles burst and burnt up and they had the water out there and they kept pouring the coal in there.  Then they came around and they smelled a mouse, thinking something was wrong and they want us to put the fire out.  We said we can't kick that fire out yet, it is so hot, it will burn up the pavement it was sitting on.  So, they had to wait another 10 minutes.  By that time all the evidence was burnt up.  We came back home with a silver trumpet.  I don't know what happened but someone stole that silver trumpet.  So, they won two state titles and the International with that old steamer.  It will still pump water today.

Of course we have lots of new equipment now.  A new truck that just arrived yesterday, they tell me.  I haven't seen it but I heard that it came in.  The fire department has 35 active members, in Class A, but there are a number after 10 years that will drop out.  They are still members but they are in Class B.  So I imagine there are in the neighborhood of 50 to 55 in all; in case of the second alarm.  If that second call comes in the other guys have to come in.

Old Betsy's name was put on the fire truck at the manufacturer.  We didn't put that on.  That was her name when she came here.

They had a fire team that was kept across the street at Doug Thomas' livery barn that is where Ford Motor is setting today.  Whenever they had a fire they would bring them across the street and the harness was all hanging up there ready to put on.  They just had three buckles to buckle and they were ready to go.  The firebox with the wood was all set and they would throw in a little Kerosene and a match in it and they would build a fire in it while they were on their way to the fire.

I remember that steamer before we ever had any pavement in this town.  There wasn't a foot of pavement up until around 1900.  The Methodist Church was built, the corner stone says 1899 but it was 1900 before they ever got it completed.  I saw them build that church.  They had a jinney pole on the outside and a team of horses and they would raise up one stone at a time, lay it down and that is the way they build that.  You can imagine that with as heavy of stone as that is and as big a building as that is, it took a while to do that.
(this will be continued)

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