1999-06-19 / Columnists

Historical Views

~Good Old Days At Fire Department Remembered~
by Emil Lucev

Yours truly received the following letter from retired Fire Department Captain Daniel Sullivan, a Rockaway resident. Mr. Sullivan’s family history in the Rockaways goes back to the days when the Fire Department had horses to pull apparatus, and his father, Captain Daniel A. Sullivan, who served with ladder #121 during the early years of this century, became the first New York city Fire Department battalion chief here.

Mr. Sullivan makes reference in his letter to Wave issue of
Saturday, March 13 of this year, and the "Historical View" of the horse drawn hook and ladder company #121 just before receiving a motorized ladder truck and a new Beach 94 street firehouse in 1922. The letter relates as follows:

"Recently Emil Lucev chose as the subject or his Historical Views of the Rockaways, "The Rockaway Beach volunteer Fire Department - 1886 to 1905". He apparently did a lot of research. What caught my attention were the pictures included. They brought back many memories.

"As Emil stated, the horse drawn apparatus was quartered in the house in the background. This was located to the west of the (old) Wave office on the south side of the boulevard (in the Historical View of March 13).

"I can still recall the day my sister Anne and I went to see dad who was the captain of the company, Ladder #121. He is the Daniel A. Sullivan that Emil refers to in the story.

"It was a thrill for kids to visit the firehouse and see the horses.

"While we were there, an alarm sounded. One of the firemen wrapped an arm around each of us, lifted us up, deposited us against a wall and said roughly. . ."Don’t move!"

"The two horses were released from their stalls by the dropping of the chains and they immediately hustled to their positions in front of the rig. The collars were immediately dropped onto their necks, the rigging secured, and they were ready to roll. The driver, with the officer sitting beside him, got the go ahead and off they went.

"The two of us (my sister Anne and I) were petrified, and I don’t believe we moved until the apparatus was a few blocks away. We then ran all the way home to tell mom all about our adventure.

"Believe me, it was quite a sight to see those firehorses pulling an apparatus and galloping down the boulevard, particularly a steam engine with the smoke belching out of the stack.

"Getting back to the March 13 photo, the motorized apparatus shown is a Mack tuck built around 1916 I believe. The large insignia on the front of the truck was not an eagle as surmised in the article, but a large letter "M" as on all Mack trucks.

"The ladders were all raised by hand and included 35 to 40 foot extension ladders. Later these trucks would be equipped with aerial ladders with a tiller at the rear requiring a tiller man at the rear of the truck for steering around corners (a skill that had to be acquired through experience). Emil’s picture of March 13 was probably taken on the boulevard in front of the Beach 94 street firehouse, and this explains the trolley tracks that Emil pointed out.

"You can imagine the thrill I got when I saw this Historical View in The Wave, particularly since I still had a picture of the same apparatus. (Note: This picture appears today in History Views courtesy of Mr.Sullivan).

The letter continues:

"Pictured from left to right are myself (as a lad), my dad (in uniform), Captain Daniel A. Sullivan, and, I believe the gentleman in civilian clothes is David Wilson Murray, who owned The Wave.

"The driver on the truck, I believe, was named Oesau (E-Saw) who is also shown driving the horse drawn on the March 13 issue photo.

Dad became a battalion chief around 1925, and I joined New York’s bravest in 1938.

"Perhaps sometime in the future we can come up with more from memory lane"


Thanks to Mr. Sullivan’s letter relating to his boyhood experience, when the alarm came into the firehouse, we all have learned how well trained and invaluable firehorses were in the days before motor trucks. At times the horses must have thought that they were one of the boys! This is shown in an article about the firehorse "Jerry", culled from The Wave of 1902, telling of such an incident which took place in the old Atlantic Company house which was then located on Beach 86 street, just north of the boulevard on the west side. This article also appears today in Historical Views.

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