Volunteers on the run

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CIZ-ComMondayFirehouse

They don’t call it “Firehouse Antiques” for nothing. David Brown’s antique and lighting shop at 85 E. Cedar St. was, when I arrived in Zionsville, the town firehouse. It doubled as Town Hall. I’ll never forget the first time I wandered into the station. The smell about knocked me over. That and the big red fire truck parked in the middle of the floor. The aroma was heavenly. I soon found the dispatcher. Her name was Cathy.

“What’s that wonderful smell?” I asked. “It smells like supper.”

“It is supper,” she said

Hubert Longest and Tom Gruhl meet most mornings for coffee at McDonald's. Tom was one of the fire truck drivers for the Volunteer Fire Dept.

Hubert Longest and Tom Gruhl meet most mornings for coffee at McDonald’s. Tom was one of the fire truck drivers for the Volunteer Fire Dept.

“Really?”

Her explanation was simple. Dispatching within sight of the big red fire truck, Cathy was taking no chances. Afraid to leave her crockpot at home all day unattended, she brought it to work. This was back when the town had a volunteer fire department. No professional firefighters then. Nope. We depended on local volunteers to answer the call when the siren blew. Tom Gruhl drove the fire truck. He was president of Farmers State Bank, which was located at Main and Oak Streets (Now Kristeen’s).

I was in the bank one day when the fire whistle blew. One man looked at another, who nodded to a third. Soon the bank nearly emptied of men. Then they came roaring through town together on the big red fire truck with Gruhl at the wheel and Noel Kendall hanging off the back of the truck.

Gruhl remembers those days well.

“What I remember most,” he said, “is being in the bank when the fire siren went off. Noel Kendall, John DeLong and I would just get up and run to the firehouse. We left customers just sitting there.”

Firemen got their annual checks in December. Gruhl said they were paid $2.50 per fire run, and in 1984 he used the entire check to buy his sweetie, Kathleen, a dog.

They were underpaid, but not under appreciated. We villagers never knew when it might be our house on fire or our child trapped. We knew one thing for certain. When and if the awful happened, the Volunteer Fire Dept. would be there. We were ever and always grateful.


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