Another Piece of History – The Firehouse Pole

Another Piece of History – The Firehouse Pole

The image of a fire station for many people includes bright red fire engines, a Dalmatian, firefighters, and the firehouse pole or fireman’s pole or fire pole. It’s an iconic fixture associated with fire stations in so many movies. How often have you had people ask you in a conversation, “When did they start using those brass poles in fire stations, and why?” Frequently, right? Well if you’ve never had the answer, this is the post for you.

firehouse pole

First a quiz to evaluate your skills at guessing the correct answer. This is multiple choice and not an essay. Relax.

firehouse pole

History of the Firehouse Pole – The Quiz

How and why was the firehouse pole first introduced?

firehouse pole

A)  Maypole—On May Day in 1902 at a firehouse in London, England, resident firefighters celebrated the occasion with festive dancing around a maypole. At the sounding of a fire alarm for call to action, the firefighters rushed to the stairwell in unison, jamming against each other at the uppermost step. One of the firefighters, slower than his brethren, seeing the blockage of bodies at the stairs ahead, used the may pole to slide down from an open window. Carling beer may have been an influential factor in the historic event.

firehouse poleB)  Pole Vault—A Boston, Massachusetts firefighter who enjoyed pole vaulting for relaxation decided to take his pole home with him after a field practice in July 1893. Since his work shift was scheduled immediately after the practice, he brought his pole into the firehouse, not wanting to risk theft if left in his carriage. A fellow firefighter solved the dilemma for temporary storage when he suggested resting the pole through a new stairwell construction hole in the second story floor. A fire alarm soon sounded. In a rush to descend to the fire wagon, one of the men slid down the pole.

firehouse pole

C)  Pole Dancing—Six firefighters held a bachelor party at a local exotic dance pub in Sydney, Australia on a September 1921 evening. Watching one of the dancers perform a routine using a brass pole, one of the men who was attentively contemplating her skills, suddenly yelled, “Hey, we could do that!” Following some very odd expressions from his companions, he convinced them to bring the dancer and her pole to the firehouse. Interested in a continuation of the entertainment, they agreed. Once a hole was cut in the second story floor and the pole affixed to the ground floor, Easy May (the dancer’s name) performed a twirling, sliding descent from second floor. All personnel at the firehouse gawked in appreciation of the demonstration. The pole became a permanent fixture in that firehouse and was nicknamed, “The Easy May.”

firehouse pole

D)  Flagpole—A Canadian construction firm was contracted to install a flag pole at a Toronto firehouse in November 1889. On the scheduled day for setting up the flag pole, a fierce snow storm arose. Because of a heavy booking for the coming days and weeks, the construction company stuck with plan for installation in spite of the bitter conditions. Once the work crew arrived at the firehouse and got out into the blinding, heavy snowfall they quickly realized the folly of attempting an installation of the flag pole on that day. But install, they must. One of the crew screamed out a suggestion above the howling winds. The others quickly nodded agreement. And so, the men carried the pole into the firehouse, chopped a hole in the ceiling, through the floor above, and raised the pole through the breach. The firefighters gathered around the upper portion of the pole protruding into the second story sleeping quarters. After minutes of silence, one of the men spoke. “It looks nice. Should we hoist the Union Jack, the Red Ensign or the governor’s flag?”

firehouse pole

E)  Hay Binding Pole—Wooden binding poles were used to secure hay on wagons. Horses at early firehouses fed on hay and the poles were frequently stored in firehouse lofts. In 1878 at a firehouse in Chicago, Illinois, a firefighter decided to slide down a hay binding hole to reach the ground level quickly during an alarm sounding. The captain at the firehouse, witnessing how quickly the firefighter reached the fire wagon on the ground floor, had a pole made from pine, coated with varnish and wax. The firefighters from that firehouse soon became the butt of jokes by firefighters all over Chicago, but they were always the first fire wagon to arrive at the scene of a fire.

THE ANSWER

Click or Touch the Image Below for the Answer

firehouse pole

Note:

This post prompted by a suggestion from my editor, Judy Berlinski, and the following passage from the upcoming novel, Three Remain:

Entering the station with Sunshine on his heels, the same disquiet he felt at Frank’s home surfaced. He called, his voice echoing throughout the empty garage. Two fire engines sat pristine in their allotted spaces, but no people. The glossy, bright-red trucks awaited call to action with a crew that did not exist.

Twisting to take in the deserted surroundings, Sunshine mumbled, “Maybe you should shimmy up the brass pole thing they all have. Where is it? I can’t see one.”

“One story building.”

Sunshine whispered, “It’s creepy in here, let’s go.”

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