Friday, July 17, 2009

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

One morning earlier this week, as I was preparing to leave for the Tuesday Morning Group Coalition monthly meeting in Richmond, I became aware of the presence of several emergency vehicles in and near my cul de sac: fire trucks, an ambulance, and at least one police car.

At first I thought there was a fire, but it turned out to be something different -- an idling car had escaped its parking brake and crashed into a nearby house.

While both the car and home owner must have been grateful that the damage was not significant (and that nobody was hurt), the incident flashed a memory of mine.

During my first year as a blogger, I wrote about the time my house nearly burned down. That was 34 years ago today: July 17, 1975. The fire was big enough that it landed on the first page of the local newspaper on July 24 (the Wauwatosa News-Times, founded in 1898 but now, as far as I know, defunct) -- with not one but two photographs.

One picture appeared above the fold.

The caption reads:

In the Line of Duty

PARAMEDIC JESSE MORENO (right) ministered to a fellow-paramedic, Acting Lieutenant Jim Filber, who suffered from smoke inhalation while serving at the scene of a residence fire July 17. Awaiting treatment, Lt. John Accola mirrored the exhaustion of local firemen who fought the $50,000 blaze. Also on the scene was Reserve Policeman Grant Schmidt, one of several members of the Police and Fire Reserves who aided at the scene. Moreno and five other firemen also were treated later for smoke inhalation. Story on Pg. 3. (Photo by Arthur C. Hombsch)
The second picture appeared below the fold, but in the prominent lower right-hand corner.

Its caption reads:
Fire-Call Figures

LEAVING THE SCENE of a major fire last Thursday night, Wauwatosa Fire Chief Byard Sheldon (in white coat) followed Jim Washcovick, on-duty assistant chief, as the two left the Richard Sincere home at 1503 N. 70th St. The fire had just been brought under control after having been fought for almost three hours. Eight Tosa firemen were treated for smoke inhalation from the blaze which caused an estimated $50,000 damage to the residence and its contents. (Photo by Arthur C. Hombsch)
The story on page 3 provided a few more details than the captions on page 1 did.

The text reads:
Nine Tosa Firemen Treated after $50,000 Blaze

Three Wauwatosa firemen were taken to hospitals and six more treated for smoke inhalation at the scene of a $50,000 blaze at 1503 N. 70th St. July 17, according to the latest Wauwatosa Fire Department report.

The fire began when wiring in a pinball machine short-circuited. The fire quickly spread from its origin in a basement recreation room through air ducts to other portions of the house. Damage was estimated at $35,000 to the house and $15,000 to contents.

Three firemen suffering from smoke inhalation were transported to hospitals. Firefighter Larry Tesch was taken to County General and Firefighters Peter Ernst and Lee Werner were taken to St. Luke’s.

Among those treated at the scene were Asst. Chief James Washcovick, who strained some shoulder and arm muscles moving a hose to the second floor; Lts. John Accola and Frank Jankowski, and Firefighters Jesse Moreno, George Polly and James Filber. Filber also sustained a burn on his leg and Jankowski was treated for a cut hand.

One of the interesting things about finding the Wauwatosa News-Times report on my family's personal adversity was seeing some of the items in the paper that put the event in historical context. For instance, there was this photo/story about the new Bicentennial coins being produced by the U.S. Mint:

The caption says:
'Change' of Design

A BIG CHANGE IN SMALL CHANGE will appear when these new Bicentennial coins start circulating throughout the nation and, of course, in Wauwatosa. The quarter, half-dollar and dollar shown here will bear the same head but the dates 1776-1976 will be stamped underneath. On the tails of the three coins are a colonial drummer on the quarter; Independence Hall on the half-dollar; and the Liberty Bell and moon on the dollar. The Federal Reserve System will start distributing the Bicentennial half-dollar to financial institutions July 7. The other two coins will be released by the U.S. Mint before the end of the year.
What really demonstrates the historical context are the advertisements scattered throughout the newspaper. For instance, these two restaurant ads (fish fry with a free stein of beer $2.65! prime rib dinner $5.95!) would make anyone's mouth water, Pavlov-dog style:

Then there are the ads that remind us how much technology (and our expectations and familiarity of it) has changed.

Remember typewriters? And typewriter shops?

Remember when people paid to have a television repaired, rather than just buying a new one?

Now here's something I don't remember: Businesses offering lessons in how to use a microwave oven. Did anyone reading this ever take a class like this?

By coincidence, I just bought a new microwave the other day. I paid $39.00 at Walmart to replace one that I bought just about three years ago at Target. That one shorted out. The microwave oven I had before that lasted more than 20 years: I bought it in 1984 at Sears for about $400, which was a lot of money back then.

Oh, for the good ol' days!

Post script: That same issue of the Wauwatosa News-Times also included a feature article about St. Bernard's Studio Theatre's summer production of Hello, Dolly!

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