Saturday, July 23, 2016

July 23rd Musings

Museum Musing for July 23, 2016
Junction City Fire Department through the Years

At the Geary County Historical Society sits a hand-drawn fire extinguisher donated by the Junction City Fire Department.  It was used between the 1880’s and the early 1900’s to respond to kitchen stove fires, roof fires, and small fires. It was known as the Boyer Fire Apparatus which was manufactured by Obecnchain-Boyer Company of Logansport, Indiana.  The apparatus was approximately 11 feet long with the cart having steel-rimmed wooden wheels and painted fire truck red with brass trim. 
The cart was pulled by two firemen stationed at the cart’s four and one-half foot long tongue. When more speed was required a rope harness was attached and two more firemen were assigned to that task as well firemen utilizing the hand grips at the tank’s rear to provide push power. As the right wheel rotated it sounded an alarm as a striker hit the brass bell mounted on the frame.  All the wheels were four and one half feet in diameter.  The forty gallon extinguisher held soda water and was originally pressure activated when sulfuric acid was dumped into the soda water which created a carbon dioxide gas.
According to a Junction City Union article dated February 15, 1929 the issue was the method with which the then volunteer firefighters were alerted to the location of the fire.  As they were then a mostly volunteer unit they were not at the fire station when the alarms came through.  The majority of the complaints centered on the firefighters being unable to get through to the telephone operators when an alarm came through.  Normally the overnight telephone operator shift consisted of one person who had to call the firefighters with the location of the blaze, and then call the waterworks to start the pumps, contact the electricians to shut off power in the fire’s vicinity, as well as the business owners affected by the fire.  This meant that firefighters calling the telephone operator to learn the location of the fire were delayed in responding to the fire. It was not until June 29, 1931 that a new fire siren solution was finalized.  “The new city fire siren, which announces fires and heralds the noon hour, has a permanent home.”
Finally, this article would not be complete without mentioning “Snuffy”.  He was a Dalmatian puppy who was donated to the fire department by the German American Club.  The normally fidgety school age audiences at schools paid close attention not only to the firefighter’s presentations during Fire Prevention Week but to the small spotted face.  This is not surprising as it was the Junction City elementary school children who were charged with naming the newest member of the firefighting family.  It was Jeremy Winklemen who chose the name “Snuffy,” because “she can help to snuff out fires,” according to the Junction City Union article.   Snuffy slept in the front office and children were encouraged to visit the station to visit her.  Snuffy was a great at public relations as not only children but their parents would come and get to know the firefighters.  “The firehouse care for a pet seemed to convey that firemen are people, too.  Which was a good thing to learn.” According to firefighter William Wilcox.  
A special thank you to the Junction City Fire Department for their donation of the Boyer Fire Apparatus.  More importantly thank you for all you do for the Geary County community.  We invite everyone to visit the Geary County Historical Society and Museums during our normal Tues- Sunday from 1-4 PM.   On Saturday July 23rd we will be at the Spring Valley Historic site celebrating the “National Day of the Cowboy” with the Old Abilene Gunfighters between
10 AM-1 PM.  We look forward to see you.

Photo Courtesy of Joseph J. Pennell Photograph Collection at  The Kansas Collection Spenser Research Library University of Kansas.