July 9, 1930 (Toledo Blade) by Allen Saunders
When 202 years of firefighting get together for a little reminiscent chat, a lucky outsider who sits in on the session may safely expect to have his blood turn to ice water.
In the cool shade of #3 Engine House sat five veteran fire chiefs, whose combined period of service aggregate measured over 200 years. They were First Asst. Chief C. M. Trepinski, 37 years in service; Second Asst. Chief John McCune, 47 years; District Chief Richard Lawler, 48 years; District Chief Peter B. Smith, 35 years, and Chief Fred J. Meyers, 35 years. They are show above, left to right, in the order named.
Like soldiers, these men do not flaunt their perilous careers in you face. You have to overcome a hero’s natural modesty to get you thrills.
Chief Meyers, for instance, dismissed the whole matter
of hair-breadth escapes with the comment “they were all bad ones in the
old days, when you did not have pressure enough to fight a fire without
That recalled to Chief Smith a yarn about how a protesting shop owner cost one man his life.
“It was at the Rosen Rag Shop fire at Vance and 13th St.”, he narrated. “Capt. John Gallagher and I were walking around looking for axes and lanterns when the owner of the place came up and began wailing about his loss.
“I was disgusted and stepped out into the street. Gallagher stood there laughing. The wall fell and caught him, just as I reached the road.”
“Listen, Chief,” interrupted McCune, “If you have never had to slide five stories down a rope, you don’t know what thrills are. Back in 1894, a bunch of us got cut off from escape on top of the old C. L. Louis Building. We had to take the lifeline and all got down safely, but with blistered hands.”
Chief Lawler went back almost half a century for his chiller. Then “In 1882, we were fighting a fire in the old Hall block, now occupied by the Richardson Building. I had just stepped away from a ladder when the cornice fell, breaking the ladder and a telegraph pole off like kindling wood. But, Trepinski has the only really good story. Tell him about the time you read your own death notice.”
The Assistant Chief’s tale was a true spine-freezer:
“Capt. Wills and I were on the fourth floor of the Down-Snell Wholesale Grocery that night, May 22, 1898, about midnight. Suddenly the captain yelled, “We’re gone.” ..and the whole building went down with us.
“We fell together and he lived about a minute. I had a beam across my legs and 35 feet of wreckage above me, but I was still conscious. I lay there thinking and listening to Wills’ watch tick and fighting to stay awake.
“The fire came up and started burning me, then the water started to rise and I thought I’d drowned, but it went down just as it got to my mouth. Eight hours I lay there before I heard voices and the tap of axes. As they started tunneling in, the stuff above began to settle.
“I called to them and directed the work. They got to me about four in the afternoon, lifted a six-ton coffee roaster off from above me and pulled me out. There was an undertaker standing there with his basket. I told him to go on home, that there was nothing doing for him.
“And I still have the papers with my obituary in them.”