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The Infamous Black Bird Southern Oregon History, Revised


Firemen Eat Turkey

For many years, alumni of the Medford Fire Department would periodically reunite to eat turkey--and reminisce:

Medford Firemen 1910--March 13, 1930 Medford News
Medford's volunteer fire department, 1910. Front row, left to right: Harry Young, Victor Danielson, Harry Wilson, John Butler, Harry Ling, Gene Amann, Horace Roberts, Tom Flynn. Back row: Alec Wright, Con Cady, Frank Lindley, Jack Dent, P. C. Bigham, Frank Redden, Al Flynn.  Photo printed (and identified) in "Medford Firemen--20 Years Ago," Medford Daily News, March 13, 1920, page 2


Firemen of 20 Years Ago Will Recall Palmy Days
    "Curfew" may "not ring tonight," for the same purpose it did some 20 years ago, but ring it will, for more than a score of men, within a short time. Its vibrations may never once disturb the ether, no wavelengths may ripple at its swing, and no actual sound may beat upon the auditory nerve, and yet--its tolling will be loud and insistent, issuing a sonorous command not to be denied. And the hearts that hear it will respond.
    When the curfew bell rang more than 20 years ago during the midnight or early morning hour, it meant "Fire, Fire!" for that was the only fire alarm Medford boasted in those days. Of course there were fires in the daytime too, but all the "feature" fires that are still talked about occurred during the night hours.
    When the bell rang out on a cold frosty night, the brave boys who constituted the volunteer fire department of those days came running. There was no motor truck, not even a horse-drawn vehicle, in that unenlightened era, and the "boys" had to give dances and such events in order to purchase their uniforms. Navy blue, with silver buttons they were, with caps to match. And were they grand? Just wait till you see the pictures of the boys taken in their outfits.
    All these matters will be recalled and talked over when the 30 or more volunteers gather in Medford at the command of their old chief, Gene Amann, to celebrate for two days, March 13 and 14. They will recall the old hand-drawn hose cart, the first horse-drawn fire truck purchased in 1908, and the grand occasion when they first mounted the motor truck in 1912.
    There will be talk of "that time the opry house burned and no one ever knew what started it." The old opera house that stood where the Jackson Hotel now invites the tourist. There will also be recollections of another big fire, the Gaunyaw feed and livery barn on South Riverside Avenue, where the Pierce-Allen Motors now rears its proud expanse. And without a doubt memories of "livery barns and opera houses" will bring to mind many other souvenirs of that darkened age.
    It's the last call of Chief Amann, and the command reaches out all over the country, for not more than half the members of the old volunteer department live in Medford. The chief himself is a successful ranger at Wolf Creek, but among those who make their home here are P. C. Bigham, H. N. Butler, Charles Boussum, Everett Eads and Victor Danielson, who was sort of a mascot for the department.
    Henry Haswell was secretary of the volunteers, so he will see that the command is sent out for his chief. Frank Lindley, who was president of the department, is another who still lives in Medford, also John Butler of the Medford Furniture and Hardware Co.
    There will be great doings indeed, on the 13th and 14th. The boys will probably talk about the banquet they had when they invited his honor, the mayor, and all the council members. After feeding them and getting them in good humor, they asked for a motor truck--and got it, too.
    A big parade, turkey dinners all day long, and a dance are only a sample of the entertainment which will be put on for the gallant heroes of a day that is past.
    The chief will send out his last command, and the volunteers will come.
Medford Daily News, March 9, 1930, page 1


FORMER FIREMEN EAT TURKEY AND RECALL OLD DAYS
    Twenty-six of the 32 men who composed Medford's volunteer fire fighting squad of 1910, attended the turkey feeds held at the new fire hall Friday evening and today noon in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the organization of the "old gang." Several who helped devour the popular bird were fighting fire in Medford before the organization Company 1. Jack Fredenburg, a volunteer fireman of 40 years ago, was present to contest the wearing of red shirts. Jack feels certain he wore a blue shirt when he helped pilot the old hose cart about Medford in 1910.
    Eugene Amann, chief of the 1910 volunteer squad, is only a few months behind Fredenburg in duration of service. Last night's and today's sessions have been devoted almost exclusively to reminiscences. Firemen have been gathering about the stove in the fire hall since early morning to recall the days when they didn't have any red wagons to ride in and bought most of their own uniforms.
    Those who have been in Medford from other cities to attend the reunion will leave tomorrow morning for their homes.
Medford Mail Tribune, March 15, 1930, page 8


Medford 20 Years Ago To Be Shown in Fire Parade
    Fire equipment that was modern in the days when Fourth of July horse races were run on Front Street, and the sand of the railroad bed was used for sprinting, will be seen on the streets this afternoon when members of the volunteer team of 20 years ago will parade.
    All members of the reunion squad are urged by P. C. Bigham to meet at the fire hall at 2:30, to prepare for the march downtown. They will be followed by the present outfit on the modern high-powered trucks.
    Volunteer firing in the old days was hard on clothing and the anatomies of members not fleet-footed enough to keep up with the rest of the gang, Bigham declared, but the time record made from the hall to the Liberty Building [Main and Grape] has never been equalled, even by latter-day squads, he said.
    On one occasion, as the outfit thundered through the alley between Central and Front, toward Fifth, Fireman Jack Dent stumbled and was run over by the trucks, but arose undaunted and dusty and continued the run, Bigham recalled. On another occasion, Chief Gene Amann took the count under the speeding wheels.
    Fourth of July celebrations were something to write home about 20 years ago, Bigham asserted. Indians came over from the reservation in swarms and, enthused by a few swigs of firewater, provided excellent horse races. The first auto race staged in Medford started from the front of the First National Bank, wheezed thence out the north highway to Beall Lane, chugged desperately toward Jacksonville and then back to Medford in two hours, an appalling rate. A number of the vehicles ceased to function at various waypoints and were ignominiously hauled to town by teams, the ex-fireman said.
    Following this afternoon's antics, the firemen, past and present, will have dinner at the hall. A real feed, reminiscent of the days when the name and ancestry of the principal speaker was not a requisite of attendance, will be staged, Bigham said.
Medford Daily News, March 14, 1930, page 1



Hosecart Redshirts Vie in Parade and Banquet
    Heroic accomplishments and humorous incidents which marked the growth of Medford's fire department from its hosecart stage to its present status as an efficient organization were recalled last night at the 20-year banquet for veteran fire-eaters at the fire hall.
    Twenty-four graduates of the "old school" were present at the gathering, including three members of the first company organized in this city. They were D. T. Lawton, Wes Lawton and Ernest Langley, the original "red-shirts" of the Protection Hose Company, formed in 1890, when W. H. Canon was mayor.
    Twenty years ago the second department was organized and headed by H. N. Butler, one of the eleven members present last night. Oldtimers, whose memory of those days is still clear enough to remember the organization and its trials and tribulations, told of the first meeting on record, August 3, 1910. Just a few months after his meeting, the first fatality in the department occurred. Racing to a fire which later proved a false alarm, Warren Bodge was thrown from a wagon and suffered injuries which resulted in his death three days later.
    Following the banquet, presided over by Fire Chief Roy Elliott, a reunion was held in the club room of the hall. A photograph of the protection company was introduced by the younger members of the department, and the remaining members of that historic brigade, who could be identified despite flowing hirsute adornments, delivered brief addresses.
    John Demmers, former city councilman, whose efforts were largely responsible for the creation of the second company, also was among those present.
    The pioneer fire laddies and their equipment of 20 years ago broke into the "movies" when H. L. Bromley, Copco cameraman and advertising manager, filmed the parade through the business section.
    Some real "action" shots were obtained at the fire hall as the ex-redshirts dashed out of the building to quench a flaming domicile in some remote section of the city.
    The parade was headed by Chief Elliott in one of the department's new trucks and followed by the ancient hosecart brigade. Through cleared streets, the procession wound down Main, Central and other principal streets, disbanding at the fire hall.
Excerpt,
Medford Daily News, March 15, 1930, page 1


EARLY-DAY FIRES OF CITY RECALLED AT FIREMEN MEET
    "Skinny and Rastus," the two speedy bays who formed the first team purchased by the Medford fire department, did not attend the reunion of the first volunteer squads, which came to a close in this city last night. Their names were frequently called, however, and highlighted in all bull fests held round the stove, where 26 members of the volunteer squad of 1910 enumerated events growing out of the quenching of Medford's "first flames."
    "Skinny and Rastus" joined the department in 1910. [Tom and Jerry replaced Skinny and Rastus in 1910.] They weren't volunteers. They were drafted. They knew nothing about so hot a life when they entered the employ of the city. They soon learned the meaning of the hurried ding-dong of the city bell (the one which will sound curfew tonight) and dashed to burning structures until 1912, when the old Pope-Hartford auto took their places. [Horses continued in fire service at least until 1915.]
    In those days Medford didn't have a reservoir. A water tank similar to the one located in the outskirts of Central Point towered above the trees on the lot where the city library now stands. When the fire bell rang the pumps started working to store up water for the coming campaign. Even then, the firemen stated yesterday, the supply of water was very inadequate. Dwellings frequently burned down because of lack of water to put out the flames.
    Before "Skinny and Rastus" came into the fire department the volunteer squad pulled the hose carts 'round the city. Manpower was also used to rush the ladder cart, purchased by the volunteers, to the scene of the fire. The sides of the cart were lined with buckets, which waked the few sleeping citizens with their continued jangling as the department scurried down the streets.
    Events of early days in Medford, subject of each session of the firemen's reunion, were not all recalled by ex-volunteers. John Demmer, member of the city council in 1910, added to the list of reminiscences.
    Three members of the first squad, organized in 1890, attended the meetings. They are D. T. Lawton, J. W. Lawton and Ernest Langley. Other veteran fire fighters, who claim to have saved the town from burning at one time or another, are ex-Chief Eugene Amann, Jack Fredenburg, W. J. Fredenburg, J. H. Butler, H. D. Ling, J. J. Osenbrugge, F. E. Redden, P. C. Bigham, G. F. Lindley, C. A. Hamlin, Horace Roberts, Chas. Boussum, H. L. Wilson, H. D. Haswell, Victor Danielson, Everett Eads, Jim Bates, George Eads, Herman Fredenburg, Harry Young and Tom Merriman.
    The majority of the group will return to homes in northern California and neighboring cities in Oregon today.
Medford Mail Tribune, March 16, 1930, page 3


City's First Fire Lads Swap
Tales of Pioneer Experiences at Reunion
    Looking back over a quarter century, to the time when they answered the cry of "Fire!" with clumsy hand-drawn hose carts, 23 old-time fire laddies spent a memorable day at the Medford fire hall yesterday in a reunion of firemen of 25 years ago.
    Old times came back with every handshake and eye twinkle as the oldtimers gathered during the day, inspecting the modern fire hall and equipment, chatting about how things change, and sitting down in the evening to the climax--a real firemen's turkey dinner.
    But there was one thing the firemen missed. There was no call. Had there been a fire last night, while these veterans were patting the red hoods of Medford's fire trucks, it probably would have been too bad for the fire.
    From many parts of Oregon and even northern California, firemen arrived in ones and twos throughout the day, first visiting old friends and relatives in the city. Lunch was served at noon, and the group grew in size during the rest of the day until the banquet, pronounced excellent, was spread by P. C. ("Sody Pop") Bigham.
    At a short business meeting minutes of some of the old meeting were read and letters from some of the oldtimers who were unable to attend opened. The minutes of the first firemen's reunion, held March 14, 1930, were read, and it was unanimously agreed to hold a similar reunion five years hence, when firemen of 30 years ago will reassemble.
    Outstanding in the group were three charter members of Medford fire department: Eugene Amann, 64, chief 25 years ago; D. T. Lawton, 83, and Ernest Langley, 67, all members of the first fire department Medford had, the Medford Protection Fire Hose Co., organized some 40 years ago.
    Ex-Chief Amann, now living at Wolf Creek, observed a great many changes in methods of fire fighting. When "Gene" was chief, the department possessed only hose carts and one horse-drawn wagon. In 1912 Medford's first auto truck was put into use, and served faithfully, despite the first hoots from the public, until only five years ago.
    One of the tales told by the most reminiscent of the fire laddies brought back the days of 1910, when fire ordinances were nearly as few as automobiles. One day, the story ran, a livery barn at Eighth and Riverside caught fire.
    All hands reached the scene and set to work laying out the line, but it so happened that the mayor at that time was out of town, and the acting mayor, passing by, ordered Chief Amann to remove the hose from the street so as not to block traffic. Chief Amann refused and soon had the blazing barn under control. He was later taken before the mayor, who complimented him upon his sense of duty.
    Another fire, one of the hottest the firemen could recall, was the burning of the old opera house at Eighth and Front streets. The building was demolished in less than 20 minutes, but the firemen kept the flames from spreading to other frame buildings not ten feet away.
    When the old Washington School at West Main and Oakdale burned to the ground, Ernest A. Langley intercepted the cart on its way up Main Street and guided the tongue by hand through the crowd. Gordon Schermerhorn drove the buggy and Gene Amann led the hose cart by a rope. The only firemen on the scene for some time, these three were unable to combat that spectacular blaze.
    Then, as now, the duties of the fire department were not only to fight fire, and when the big flood of [1890] reached Medford, the firemen were the first at salvage work. It was told how one fireman, as the Main Street bridge left its moorings and swept downstream, tied a rope to it from an apple tree. When the rope tightened it snapped like a string. A barn, with haystack, chickens and all, came floating downstream, the firemen recalled. They relived these and many other experiences.
    Those who attended the reunion were:
    Eugene Amann, former chief, Wolf Creek; H. D. Ling, his assistant, Yreka; H. T. Haswell, secretary, Medford; J. E. Dent, Roseburg; Harry Young, Dorris, Cal.; Ernest Langley, Jacksonville; Herman Fredenburg, J. H. Butler, P. C. Bigham, F. E. Redden, H. L. Wilson, H. N. Butler, George Eads, Everett Eads, C. A. Hamlin, Horace Roberts, D. T. Lawton, J. A. Perry, J. J. Osenbrugge, T. K. Flynn, Clarence Boussum, Charles Roberts, W. J. Fredenburg, all of Medford.
    Guests of honor were George W. Porter, Chief Roy Elliott, Police Chief Clatous McCredie and Sheriff Sid I. Brown.
    Two of the old-time firemen who attended the reunion of 20 years ago passed away recently. They were J. W. Lawton, former chief, and Tom Merriman.
Medford Mail Tribune, March 12, 1935, page 2


FIREMEN RECALL OLDEN DAYS OF HOSE CART ERA
    Memories of Medford's first fire department, "Hose Protection No. 1" back in [1890], were recalled at a reunion of old volunteer firemen at the fire hall Monday night. Of the 23 men who served in Medford's department in 1910, and who were present Monday, only five, D. T. Lawton, Eugene Amann, Harmon Fredenburg, W. J. Fredenburg and Ernest Langley, were members of the first company.
    Numerous comparisons were drawn between present-day firefighting methods and those of yesterday, especially in regard to hose pressure. It was recalled that often there was not sufficient pressure to shoot a stream of water 20 feet high.
    Despite the handicaps, efficient work was always done, even when the city water supply for the fire department consisted of a large square hole on the present site of the Liberty Building [Main and Grape], from which it was pumped into a tank in the city park. The water came by ditch one and one-half miles from Bear Creek.
    A luncheon at noon and a banquet in the evening, as prepared by P. C. (Soda Pop) Bigham, were features of the day's events. A short session in the evening brought talks from Mayor George W. Porter, Chief of Police McCredie, Fire Chief Roy Elliott and others. Resolutions of condolence were passed by the oldtimers for J. W. Lawton, Thomas Merriman and John Demmer, members who died since the last meeting five years ago.
Medford News, March 13, 1935, page 4



FIREMEN ARRANGE REUNION
PROGRAM FOR NEXT FRIDAY
Volunteers of 30 Years or Longer Invited to Participate in Festivities
    An all-day program has been prepared for the reunion of old volunteer firemen of Medford at fire headquarters, Front and Third streets, Friday. The reunion, held every five years, is for Medford's volunteer firemen of 30 years ago or longer.
    First session of the reunion will be held at 9 a.m. There will be various activities during the day with the climax a turkey dinner prepared and served by chef P. C. Bigham, himself an old-time firefighter.
    Eugene Amann, former chief and head of the old volunteer organizations, asks all volunteers of 30 years ago or longer to take part in this reunion.
    The volunteers' organization has its roots in a meeting in the old town hall April 11, 1890, at which a permanent firefighting unit was formed.
    The first company of fire fighters was known as "Protection Hose Company No. 1." It alone served the city until January 30, 1903, when another company was formed, "Protection Hose Company No. 2." In those early days the fire department's equipment consisted of a few reels of hose [on a cart] which the volunteers lugged to the scene of a fire on foot.
    Medford's two volunteer hose companies held the state record in competitive drills until 1912, when the city organized a professional fire department. Chief Eugene Amann was the leader of the two hose companies.
Medford Mail Tribune, March 11, 1940, page 8


TURKEY BANQUET MAIN FEATURE OF VOLUNTEER MEET
    The old-time volunteer firemen of Medford, convened for the second day of their reunion, voted yesterday to meet every two years instead of every five years as in the past. Time of the reunion was also changed to put it nearer Decoration Day so that special tribute might be paid departed colleagues. The next reunion will be held on May 29, 1942.
    A feature yesterday was a turkey dinner served in the afternoon by P. C. Bigham, chef and one of the old volunteers. The dinner was attended by Mayor C. C. Furnas. Pictures were taken of the group at the dinner table.
    During the dinner hour Chief Amann told a story of the horse and buggy days that involved his fire-trained horse. Mrs. Amann left one day in the family buggy to go visiting. When almost to her destination the horse-drawn fire wagon passed on its way to a fire. Mrs. Amann's horse, trained to run to fires, took to its heels and didn't stop until it had reached the blaze. Mrs. Amann had to walk to the home of her friends.
Excerpt, Medford Mail Tribune, March 17, 1940, page 2


Old Firefighters To Hold Annual Reunion on Thursday Evening
    Reminiscences of the "good old days" of firefighting in Medford will fly thick and fast when volunteer firefighters of the 1890s, representing the old Protection Hose Companies 1 and 2, gather in the fire hall Thursday night for an 8 o'clock dinner and a general get-together.
    Attending the function will be Eugene Amann of Wolf Creek, who was chief at that time, along with many local businessmen who were volunteer firemen in their younger days. Amann and Ed Canoose, present assistant chief, are making arrangements for the dinner, which will be cooked and served by local firemen. Canoose said he had mailed 24 invitations to old-time volunteer firefighters.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 27, 1942, page 1


ANNUAL FIREMEN DINNER ENJOYED
    Members of the old regular and volunteer Medford firemen enjoyed their annual dinner and get-together at the fire hall Friday evening, with the present regular firemen being the guests and preparing the food.
    Many tales were spun regarding the "good old days," when Protection Hose Companies 1 and 2 pulled their own fire carts, and firefighting was in its cruder stages.
    U. M. Damon of Oroville, Cal., recounted how he left Medford on July 31, in 1896, on a bicycle. He hadn't been back since until the Friday dinner.
    Among the old volunteers and regulars present were Eugene Amann of Wolf Creek, former fire chief; E. A. Langley of Jacksonville; Harry Young of Dorris, Cal.; Damon, and the following from Medford: Charley Boussum, C. S. Roberts, F. E. Redden, George Eads, T. K. Flynn, J. A. Perry, H. A. Fredenburg, H. L. Roberts, J. T. Conrad, W. J. Warner and Roy McConochie.
    Fire Chief Roy Elliott thanked all the old volunteers and regulars for being present, and the present firemen were in turn thanked for the fine dinner they prepared.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 28, 1944, page 6


Old-Time Firemen Will Meet Tuesday
    Annual meeting of the old-time firefighters of Medford who were attached to Protective Hose Company 1 and 2 will be held at the Fire Hall, Third and Front streets, at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, according to Ed Canoose, acting secretary-treasurer.
    Eugene Amann, Wolf Creek, who was fire chief here many years ago, will preside over the meeting.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 29, 1945, page 6


FIREMEN STAGE ANNUAL REUNION
    The annual dinner and reunion of old volunteers of the city fire department and present members of the force was held last night at the fire hall. Mayor C. A. Meeker delivered the main address, and the history of the force was discussed by both the mayor and Robert A. Duff, city water superintendent. Music was presented by the Accordiana Girls of Mrs. Eve Prentice.
    Members of the old volunteer protection hose companies No. 1 and No. 2 during the years 1898-1905 who attended were Eugene Amann, chief in 1898, and Charles Boussum, C. S. Roberts, C. A. Hamlin, George Eads, Tom Flynn, H. L. Roberts, J. T. Conrad and Al Flynn, brother of Tom Flynn, who returned to the valley from Portland for his first reunion with the force in 35 years.
    Following the program firemen took members of the accordion band on an inspection tour of the hall.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 29, 1946, page 7


Old-Time Firemen Hold Reunion Here
    Members of the Medford fire department leaned back and listened Friday night at the fire hall while old-timers, staging their annual reunion and banquet, related their long-past experiences as volunteers of Medford protection hose companies No. 1 and No. 2.
    Eight of the old volunteers, headed by Chief Eugene Amann, Wolf Creek, and one man who "used to help out," were present for the affair. Other volunteers from out of town were Frank Lindley, Portland, and Jack Dent, Roseburg.
    Medfordites of the group attending were C. L. Roberts, Charles Boussum, Frank Redden, George Eads and John ("Shorty") Conrad. Gordon Schermerhorn was the helper present.
    Twenty-three men altogether gathered for the affair. Special guests were Eldon Winkley of the state fire marshal's office and Robert Duff, city water superintendent.
Medford Mail Tribune, May 29, 1949, page 7


I've found no mentions of subsequent reunions.

   




Last revised August 5, 2010