Fire Department Tales Of Days Gone By

I recently brought you an article about the 2014 Comanche Volunteer Fire Department and how it functions. In that article Chief Steven Gillette made the comment that today’s department is not the department of our grandfathers. Of course, that turned my thoughts to my own grandfather, and the stories he used to tell me.

Thankfully, Granddad, M.F. Davis (who lived to be 101), liked to talk, and even more thankfully, I listened. When he told me about his friend (and a relative through marriage), Ernest Lyman Carpenter, and his service to the fire department, I really listened because I found it a truly amazing story.

Mr. Carpenter was born in 1890, and he was nine years older than my grandfather.

1890- Comanche's First VFD Seated: Henry Carter, Fred Paine, Ira Tunnell, Bob Moore, Gayle Talbot, Frank Holmsley Standing: John Ramsey, Rufe Turner, Joe Verbert, Charlie Rancier, Bob Drake, C.M. Moore, H.W. Harris, Charlie McPhail

1890- Comanche’s First VFD
Seated: Henry Carter, Fred Paine, Ira Tunnell, Bob Moore, Gayle Talbot, Frank Holmsley
Standing: John Ramsey, Rufe Turner, Joe Verbert, Charlie Rancier, Bob Drake, C.M. Moore, H.W. Harris, Charlie McPhail

Carpenter became a member of the fire department in 1905, where his duties were to keep the horses fed and to hold them while the other men were fighting a fire. It’s easy to forget that we haven’t always had shiny red fire trucks, isn’t it? It’s also hard to imagine letting a fifteen year old be a part of a fire department, but it does sound as though the older men tried to keep Ernest away from harm.

Now, here’s the part my young girl mind found amazing…

According to Carpenter, the fire horses were perfectly trained. When the alarm sounded (and I never did understand this), their stall doors opened, freeing the horses to position themselves under their harnesses, which were kept at the ready.

The men had only to pull a cord for the harnesses to drop down into place. In some way that I do not understand, the collars had a type of “latch” that also closed automatically, and the men were off at a dead run, heading toward the blaze.

And in that one respect I’d say that the VFD of my grandfather’s day certainly had a lot in common with our 21st century VFD…good men volunteering their time to come to the aid of those who need them.

About Fredda Jones

Fredda Davis Jones was raised “in the country” in Comanche County and learned very early that creativity and innovation are traits that can flourish even in small-town Texas and that with enough effort, indeed nothing is impossible, including being married to the same man for over 40 years! Rickey and Fredda have 2 children, 5 grandchildren, and a crazy life that includes sitting in the bleachers several times a week. The rest of her time is spent creating great content for texansunited.com and marketing small-town Texas.
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