Detroit Firemen’s Field Day holds a special place in the hearts of those who grew up the child of a Detroit Firefighter. Every year Dad would the pack family and as many neighborhood kids as he could fit in the car to go to Field Day. One, now grown, firemen’s kid wrote “To me, Field Day was the same portent of fall that the State Fair is. It made me feel so proud!”
The First Detroit Firemen’s Field Day
The first Detroit Firemen’s Field Day was held at Navin Field (at Michigan & Trumbull) in 1922. The tradition has continued every year since, with the exception of 1933. It has been held in a variety of locations including: Briggs Stadium, University of Detroit, Tiger’s Stadium, Hart Plaza, Ford Field, and is currently held at Historic Fort Wayne.
Apparatus Parade from the 1974 Field Day held at Tiger’s Stadium
Those who attended Field Day would be treated to games, clowns, the Fire Department Band, exciting acts relating to firefighter skills, fire apparatus displays, dignitaries would attend, for many years there would be a raffle of 25 new cars (now replaced with a 50/50 raffle) and in years gone by the day would end with a fireworks display.
Detroit Fire Clown Team’s ties to Field Day
The Detroit Fire Clown team has it’s roots in Field Day. The Clown Team was officially formed in 1947 by Firefighter Larry Scarpace with seven firefighters to perform for the annual Field Day. Prior to that, clowns had been a part of Field Day, but not as an official team. The Clown Team continue to be a highlights of today’s Field Day activities.Continue reading →
Shortly after the article on the Tradition of Detroit Firemen’s Field Day our friend, retired Detroit Firefighter Wayne Isken, emailed pictures of Field Day tickets from various years. These tickets give clues to how Field Day has evolved throughout the years. You can also see how popular culture and current events influenced Field Day.
Ticket from the 1922 (First Annual) Detroit Firemen’s Field Day
A Tradition Begins With Baseball 1922 -The first Detroit Firemen’s Field Day was a one day event held at Naven Field (Michigan & Trumbull). Tickets cost $1.00 and were war tax exempt. The event began to raise funds for the Detroit Firemen’s Fund Association for the benefit of injured Detroit Firefighter, and firefighters’ widows and children.
In the 1920’s baseball entered it’s golden era of popularity, so it is no surprise that one of the main attractions of the early Firemen’s Field Day events was Baseball.
The Capitol Theater (now the Detroit Opera House) opened.
Radio’s were just becoming popular. Detroit’s first radio station, which began broadcasting 2 years earlier, was officially assigned the call letters WWJ.
The Depression Era 1933 -No field day was held. The reasons for this are unclear. More than likely that year’s field day was another causality of the depression. 1933 was the worst year of the depression. During this time of such widespread economic hardship, it would have been very difficult to get enough tickets sold for a successful fundraising event.
Detroit Firefighter’s Story Revealed in a Recently Released Book
Recently one Detroit Firefighter’s story was revealed in a new book titled 38 Years a Detroit Firefighter’s Story. It is a memoir written by retired Detroit Fire Department Senior Chief Bob Dombrowski. In it he recalls the highs and lows of his nearly 4 decades with Detroit Fire.
Chief Dombrowski began his career as a trialman with the Detroit Fire Department in 1972. Over the years he rose through the ranks to retire as Senior Chief in 2010. He served through some of the busiest years the Detroit Fire Department has experienced. He recalls that “In the late sixties and early seventies, Continue reading →
Below is Chapter One from “38 Years a Detroit Firefighter’s Story” by retired Senior Chief Bob Dombrowski. The book is a memoir in which it he recalls the highs and lows of his nearly 4 decades with Detroit Fire.Chief Dombrowski began his career as a trialman with the Detroit Fire Department in 1972. Over the years he rose through the ranks to retire as Senior Chief in 2010. He served through some of the busiest years the Detroit Fire Department has experienced. The book is available in paperback and kindle edition from Amazon.
“Pans open,” yelled the cook. I dropped the Detroit Free Press I was reading and headed
back to the kitchen. There, half a dozen guys were herded around our big old Garland
cast-iron stove with all its burners on. On top of each burner was a cast-iron frying pan with
little chunks of fat burning to grease up the pan. In the center of the small kitchen was a
square, green table piled high with food. Front and center were nine beautiful rib steaks (my
favorite) sitting on the white wrapping paper they came in.
“Looks like the cook finally spent the money,” somebody joked.
I grabbed the big fork, stabbed one of the steaks, plopped it in one of the sizzling pans,
and sprinkled on salt and pepper and garlic powder. I grabbed a platter, scooped up a pile of
mashed potatoes and some green beans, then stood around with everyone else, waiting for
my rib eye to finish frying.
I finally headed, platter in hand, to the dining room, a long, narrow room adjacent to the
kitchen. I found my seat at the heavy, oblong, fifteen-by-three-foot wooden table that was
standard in every Detroit fire station. It could probably fit both units, about eighteen men, if
you had to. I always sat Continue reading →
Detroit Fire Department Steam Fire Engine Company No. 17 and Hook and Ladder Company No. 7 Established
June 1st, 1893 Detroit Fire Department established Steam Fire Engine Company No. 17 and Hook and Ladder Company No. 7. They went in service at a new fire station located at the corner of Cass Avenue and Amsterdam Street. At the time this was the far northern section of Detroit. The area had been annexed by Detroit in 1891.
Detroit Fire Department fire station located at Cass and Amsterdam. Opened June 1st, 1893. Housing Steam Fire Engine Company No. 17 and Hook and Ladder Company No. 7
In the 1890’s this area was rapidly expanding due to the building of a major railroad infrastructure known as the Milwaukee Junction. Several industrial plants quickly sprung up in the area to take advantage of rail transportation for incoming materials and outgoing products. Many of these plants were related to Detroit’s growing Continue reading →
Today in Detroit Fire Department history – May 30, 1919, Detroit Firefighter Line of Duty Death
Detroit Fire Department Pipeman William Christopher O’Brien made the ultimate sacrifice in service to the citizens of Detroit. At the time of his death William was assigned to Flying Squadron Company Number 1.
A fire was reported in the basement of the plant of Berry Brothers Varnish Company around 2:00pm March 29th, 1919. Pipeman O”Brien was overcome Continue reading →
Not so long ago you couldn’t get on the job as a Detroit Firefighter if you were too tall, too short, too heavy, or didn’t have all your own teeth.
Being the problem solvers that firefighters are, guys found creative ways to deal with their shortcomings. Here’s a Detroit Firefighter story that illustrates how creative thinking led to a 25 year (and one day) career .
Detroit Firefighter Story – Too short to be a fireman.