I remember the first fire truck, a 1959 Ford, owned by Perry Township. When the township received it, they did not yet have a township owned building to house it.
Just south of our home on Madison Avenue was an automotive garage operated by Bob Boggs who agreed to keep the new fire truck for the township in the back of his building. I’m thinking that if there was a fire emergency after normal working hours, someone from the Boggs family would have needed to meet a volunteer fireman at the garage to unlock the building.
A few years later, the very first Perry Township fire station was built on Madison Avenue just north of Epler. That building still exists. The fleet grew to three or four vehicles before a second firehouse was constructed. There were always a couple of firemen on duty to drive the two main fire trucks that faced Madison Avenue. There were six full time firemen who worked the normal on-duty 24 hours and off-duty 48-hour fire department shifts.
Most everyone else connected with the Perry Township fire department was a volunteer. A couple members of my high school class volunteered with the department. Because my father’s service station and the fire station were almost directly across the street from each other, we knew many of the volunteers also.
A couple of weeks ago, Ron Tanner, a member of my high school class and longtime fireman passed away. He was a volunteer for many years and even held the position of fire chief for a while.
During my visit to the mortuary, I visited with members of Ron’s family, his wife, Maryann (also a member of my high school class) and several of his former volunteers. I enjoyed tossing out a few names of volunteers that I remembered. From the stories that I heard, Ron really enjoyed his life as a firefighter.
I also had friends with the Indianapolis fire department. For several years, I worked a part-time position as a charter bus driver. One of the fellows that I met during that time was Ron Lowe. He worked out of the fire station that was located on Hanna Avenue just west of Shelby Street. He would often do a charter trip during his 48-hour off-time from the fire station.
We took many trips together and became great friends. Ron was also a bus driver during the 9-11 attack on New York City. Several busloads of first responders were dispatched from Indianapolis just a few hours after the Twin Towers fell. Ron drove the lead vehicle. The teams worked several days at Ground Zero.
I’m certain that those first responders from Indianapolis made a big difference as did the teams that arrived from all over the country. The teams that were transported by charter bus arrived first because all the airports were closed. No planes, commercial or private, could fly over the U.S. for safety reasons.
Sadly, Ron contracted cancer a few years after 9-11. It took his life in just a few months. I have often wondered if his exposure to all that debris at Ground Zero had any bearing to his cancer.
Several of the fellows we worked with at the charter bus business have a breakfast each month. Ron was a member of that group and we still really miss him.
One other fellow that was a customer at my dad’s service station was Warren Roller, an Indianapolis fireman. He also had a small construction company that he operated on his days off.
He also owned a small single-engine airplane that he kept at the Greenwood Airport. One day we were chatting at dad’s station and Warren asked me if I had any plans for the afternoon. I told him that I didn’t. He invited me to join him at the airport and help him put a coat of wax on his airplane.
I agreed to do that and after the waxing was completed, he invited me to go on a plane ride. I was surprised and excited. Soon we were in the cockpit and he was talking with the tower. Shortly after we took off, we were crossing Southport Road. He told me to watch closely as we flew over our family home on Fairhope Drive. It was very cool to see the neighborhood from the air.
We also flew over Longacre and then south over US 31. Warren was excited because the fresh coat of wax had allowed the airplane to travel faster than he ever remembered it going.
I was a bit worried because cars on US 31 were traveling faster than the airplane, but Warren was so excited that we were breaking a personal speed record for the airplane.
I never pointed out that I had noticed the automobiles were going faster than we were.