This tale takes place during April school vacation in 1954.
Things were a lot different then. The Fire Department’s three engines operated out of the old wooden fire station that would be razed in the summer of 1954 to make room for the new station.
There were no full-time firefighters then. All firefighters were “on call” and just came in when there was an emergency.
Joseph V. Pyne Sr. was the fire chief and lived two houses from the station. The “office” for his trucking business was in the back porch of his home. During the day, his wife, Margaret, would answer the fire phone, blow the fire alarm and dispatch the engines to the fire location. Also, there were no radios in the engines yet.
On this particular April morning, I was just hanging out at my house on Ash Street when the fire whistle sounded. I decided to ride my bike down to the station to see what was up.
When I arrived, two of the engines had gone to a brush fire in East Hopkinton near the Holliston line.
There were five or six of us there between the ages of 12-15. Margaret called over, “Are there any drivers there? We have a grass fire at 49 Pleasant Street.” We answered, “No drivers.” She said, “I’ll blow the fire whistle again.” She did so, and no one came. After about 10 minutes, one of the guys said, “I know how to drive the fire engine,” and another said “I know how to run the pump.” So we all jumped on the fire engine, and off we went to the fire.
We got to the scene, got the pump going, pulled off the hose and, in about 20 minutes, had the fire out. We rolled the hose back on the engine and looked at each other. We were in deep trouble. If we drove back to the station and the men were back from the other fire, they’d see that none of us were even old enough to get a driver’s license. What do to?
Just then, we looked up, and a call firefighter was driving down the street. We flagged him down and told him of our plight. He said, “No problem. Whoever drove the engine up here, take my car and drive through the grove and park it behind the Fire Station.” (There was a dirt road from Maple Street to the rear of the Fire Station through an area that was known as the grove.)
We piled back on the fire engine, drove back to the station, backed in and filled the booster tank with water, and nobody ever knew who had driven the engine to the fire.
P.S. In 1989, the Pyne home had to be removed to make room for a commercial building. It now sits on the field at 49 Pleasant Street, where the fire was.
P.P.S. Ten years after this tale, after a hitch in the Navy, I became a call firefighter, and in 1967 became one of the first four professional firefighters/emergency medical technicians (EMTs) the town employed, working a 30-year career.
Love your memories, Hambone.