History By Decade1887-1900 1900-1909 1910-1919 1920-1929 1930-1939 1940-1949 1950-1959 1960-1969 1970-1979 1980-1987
100th Year Committee
Robert Monson, Steve Barber, Diego Camacho, Jr. Don Hastert
Ken Staver, Mike Ritchie, Joe Boll, Terry Rasmussen
Typist - Mrs. Peggy North
Cover for the Book - Francis Hastert, Jr.
Book written by Chief Robert Monson
We hope we have not left anyone out in our search for names and dates.If we have, we are sorry, but we did not do it on purpose
REFLECTIONS BY CHIEF MONSON
As I got into the records and started to write some of the things down, I started to realize that I would have to put myself back in the same time-frame that I was writing about, in order to understand it more fully.
To start with, there was no electricity, no cars and no telephones. In the minutes of the meetings, they talked about the ringing of the fire bell and working out some kind of code so they would know what part of town the fire was in. The equipment they used had to be pulled by hand and they would have to run to the Hose House, get the Hook and Ladder wagon and the Hose wagon and run back to where the fire was. (I mean you really had to be in good shape.)
The use of chemical fire extinguishers was quite popular back 100 years ago because of lack of water. The City had a few fire hydrants but not enough to cover the whole city. It was on March 26, 1900 the department asked the city to buy them a cart suitable for conveying the chemical fire extinguishers.
Later on they started to use horses on their wagons. The horses would belong to people around the City who would use horses in their business and have them available everyday. They said that when the fire bell would ring, they had a real job to hold the horsesback, they would want to break away and run to the Fire House.
In 1903, the City Council was asked to pay each fireman $.30 per hour for fighting fires. There was no insurance on the firemen at that time, so if they were injured at a fire, the Department had to take their own funds to help out the injured fireman.
Tournaments played an important part in the training of the firemen. They would have to practice their skills at pulling hose carts, climbing ladders, water fighting and the many other things they did. They would go all over the State to the tournaments, like Monticello, Monroe, Horicon, Ladysmith, New Glarus, Rick Lake, Reedsburg and Clinton just to name a few.
All the bigger Departments had bands, which were a big part of the tournaments and the parades. Darlington Fire department had a very good band, one of the best in the State. The Band Director was J.F. Hoskin and they had a 25-piece band. As the years went by and the band members would retire, it was hard to get replacements. Today I don't know of any Department with a band. We did have a small one a few years ago, but they ran out of wind.
Through the years, the Fire Department has always been good about helping out in time of need. In 1917 and 1918, they voted to turn the money from their Annual Dance over to the Red Cross Society. When there were bad storms and floods across the United States, they would donate by sending money. When there was one of their members who was sick or there was a death in their family, the Department members were the first to help out. At the Nov. 4, 1917 meeting, it was voted to pay $20.00 for the death of any active member, the funds to come from the Firemen. This was the their insurance coverage.
Remember, you couldn't jump in your car and drive 400 or 500 miles in a day, so if the Department members went to a tournament or a convention, they would have to go by train and if it was very far away, they would have to stay overnight and most times they would pay for this themselves.
As far as I can find out, the first motorized truck they bought was in 1921 and the Department used their funds to buy it. (This is the truck that is on the cover of the book.) They then turned it over to the City as a donation. It was a new Ford truck and was used to carry equipment. All the work of setting the truck up was done by the members along with the car dealer who was Stuart and Chapman. For a time, some of the members who had a car or truck would hook on to the Hose Cart and pull it behind their vehicle.
In 1922, a new siren was purchased, because the old bell system was out of date. In order to get a new siren, the Department offered to pay for half of it and if the City did not have the funds for the other half, the Department would lend them the money.
When the community did get the telephones, there was for sometime two telephone companies in the City, the Farmers Telephone Company and the Bell Telephone Company. So the Fire Station had to have two phones hooked up. The operators would take the fire calls and push a button to set off the fire siren. Today we call the Sheriffs Office and they set the alarm off by radio controls and also the paging system that some of the Firemen have, which tell them where the fire is.
It was not until 1926 that the money that was donated to the Fire Department for fighting fires was put into the general fund. Up until that time, the members would divide the donations between themselves. This was due to the fact that most of the things they had in the Department the members of the Department had paid for themselves.
In the 1920's, the Department was going through a change, due to Chief Brunkow. He was forever after the City Council for upgrading the equipment. He was also on the City Council which didn't hurt the Department one bit. Motorized fire apparatus were starting to make their mark on the Fire Service, with their inboard pumps, ladders and hose all on the same unit. Chief Brunkow could seet hat this was the way it would be in the future and so he was pushing for the newer things all the time.
In 1929, Chief Brunkow could see that the Department would soon have to have more room, because of the bigger equipment they were getting. So he and the members of the Department started looking at some buildings that could be fixed over into quarters for the Department. After looking at several old buildings and much discussion with the City Council, it was decided to build a new City building which would have the Fire Department, the City Department and the City Office all in one building. At the end of 1935 the new building was done. The Depression was on and this new City Building gave work to some of the men in the City. The Government paid 30 percent of the cost.
About this same time, the Department was in the process of buying a rural county truck. This was due to some of the farmers in the area who would like to have some protection in the country.
An association was formed called the Rural Truck Protection Association and these members had paid into the association for protection and that money was used for paying some of the cost of the new rural truck. If the farmer did not belong to the association, he would have to pay the Department for fighting the fire on his farm. Today the Townships and the Department cover give us a budget through the tax roll and everyone is covered.
The Darlington Fire Department went through the big depression also. In 1936, the banks closed and for a time had to wait to get their money out. But this did not stop the Department from thinking and planning for the years ahead. I ask myself, if this would happen today, would we have the courage to plan ahead, faced with the same conditions these men were faced with? My answer is yes, because we are firemen and we would think of it as just one more challenge.
When I was going over the records and through the minutes of the meetings, I tried to put down as many of the old business places as I could, to record them on this 100 years of the Department. The reasons I did this was to bring back to some of us, some old memories of the stores that have disappeared over the last number of years.
The Annual Dance has been the main funding for the Department from its beginning. Everyone has enjoyed this dance over the years but not anymore than the Firemen themselves. But there has been other things the Department has put on that has been enjoyed by the public, like the Stock Car-Races, the Ice Shows, the Canoe Races and, of course, the Guy Lumbardo Dances.
We had the Guy Lombardo show twice, but the first time I will never forget. We had people wall to wall in the school gym. We ran out of parking room at the High School parking lot and had to get school buses from Al's Trucking to haul people from the County Shop, where we had to park the rest of the cars, back to the school. It rained all night but no one cared because they were having a good time.
In my 34 years in the Department, I have seen many changes take place. One of these would be the air packs that we see the firemen have on at house fires. Years aso there was not all the plastic and synthetic fabrics used in firrniture that are used today. Plastic and synthetic materials give off a very toxic smoke when burning and so we have to use the air packs for breathing when in a house fire.
Until he retired in 1986, Vic Oechslin trained almost every fireman in our Department in the use of an air pack. Vic knew the value of this equipment and how important it would become in the Fire Service. He was very good at it too, because he and I were in a lot of fires together and I always felt very safe with him.
But there were other things too that have changed as time goes by. Today we use bigger fire trucks, tanker trucks to haul water to country fires, radios to report back and forth, bigger hose, air packs and, of course, training.
Training has become the most important part of the fire service. We have instructors come to our Department from the Southwest Vocational School. These instructors are very good in what they teach in the classroom as well as when we have a house burning and they will come and give us instructions on the use of equipment and fighting of fires.
The men in our Department today are very well trained, but fire fighting is a very changing thing, as new methods are learned on fighting fires and new advanced equipment comes on the market, we must in the fire service keep up with the times.
I could go on and on about the Darlington Fire Department, but two things I have to say in closing:
I have to thank our former Mayor, Francis Reichling, and our Mayor today, Mrs. Beverly Anderson, for their support of our Department. Also the help our City Council members have given us. Without their support and help, our Department would not be what it is today.
The other thing I have to say is that I have had the privilege to work under the command of former Chief Carroll Parkinson, Assistant Chief Joe Procter and two 2nd Assistant Chiefs, Glen White and Paul Peterson. Carrol Parkinson was well-liked not only in our Department but throughout the State. He had the respect of all the State Officials and also the Fire Chiefs. He is a man you could turn to not only on Fire Departnent business but also in your personal life. He was always there to help. Joe, Glen and Paul were equally as good in their jobs and the four put together are a hard act to follow.
To the men now under my command, I want to thank you for the wonderful job you all have done in helping me in running of the Defartment in the last few years. It is this spirit and co-operation that makes the Darlington Fire Department the very best.
In the words of former Chief A. C. Brunkow, "We all have our faults and failings, but the good spirit, as displayed by the men in our Department, out-weighs all else," and someone cried "FIRE"