|DECEMBER 26, 1999
I recently lost one of my oldest friends, John Burzynski, better known to all that knew him as "Johnny Buzz". I thought I would write some of what I knew of his life so the younger men of the Department could realize what it was like to be a firefighter during the thirties, forties and fifties.
John was born in 1910, on Hamilton Street near Hoag, attended St. Anthony's Grade School at Nebraska and Junction. John was one of six children; three sisters still survive. After graduating from grade school, he went two years to Central Catholic High School, and then went to a trade school, studying to be a carpenter graduating in 1928. He, along with many thousands of other young men around the United States, could not find full-time work. After trying his hand at many part-time jobs, he joined the "CCC" (Civilian Conservation Corps), an organization set up by the president for young men to work for the government, building all sorts of buildings, roads, digging ditches, and clearing land. Lots of times, they worked with the men of the WPA and PWA. Many of their jobs are still standing in and around Toledo: The Toledo Zoo for one, and the High Level Bridge for another. He told me of the hard work, long hours and very little pay, but they got three meals a day and a place to sleep, many times in a tent. The main thing was that they weren't a burden to their families and they were learning many trades.
In 1936, John took the fire exam and was appointed September 21, 1937. There was no drill school in those days. They got their training at the station and at fires. On weekends, the chief would pick up the rookies at single stations and take them to stations where there was a truck. They would be instructed on the raising of ladders and other equipment on the apparatus. That is where I first met John, at Old No. 17's. After a period of 30 days, the drill master, the house captain, and the district chief would make the decision for your appointment and send their recommendations to the chief. If you were okayed, you were given a slip to go to Otto Peters, the tailor the Fire Department used for making your dress Uniform. He was located in the basement of the Lion Store. Then you were given another slip to go to the Union Supply on Superior St. to get your rubber goods and helmet. You were now classified as a "rookie fireman" for the next 11 months.
John was lucky, being assigned to No 8's station. It was not only the busiest house in town, but also it, along with No 2's and No 3's pumpers had five men on them. All other pumpers had four men, but those companies needed them. They were always vying for the "Little Brown Jug", given for the company getting the most runs during the year. John fit right in with the crew at No 8's. He loved to go back to the fire maintenance shop located in the rear of the station. It faced John R St. This is where the fire trucks were built and repaired. The shop crew at that time included superintendent Louis Steffens; plumber Lou Bellner; mechanic Ellis Seelman; carpenter Hank Ludwig. There were also two civilians working there. Besides taking care of the repair of the trucks, they did all the maintenance in the stations. John was always willing to give a helping hand when needed and his past skills were often used.
After working five years at No. 8's, World War II came along. John enlisted in the Navy.