Detroit Firemen Refuse To Be Paid In “Unlucky” $2 Script

Today in Detroit Fire History, April 27, 1933

On April 27, 1933, Detroit Firefighters stood in line at the city’s script headquarters to exchange “unlucky” $2 city script for luckier denominations.  

Due to economic hardships brought on by the depression, Detroit Firefighters and other city employees were paid in city script. The stigma that $2 bills were somehow jinxed had carried over to the $2 script. 

Some firemen flatly refused to be paid in the $2 denominations on the grounds that even if it wasn’t unlucky many people believed it was and would not accept it as payment.  



Detroit Firemen’s Hall Flag Raising Ceremony

Today in Detroit Fire History April 23, 1861

On April 23, 1861 during the early days of the civil war, Firemen’s Hall hosted an elaborate flag raising ceremony.  The event even included a live eagle. 

Patriotic symbols and small flags festooned Firemen’s Hall in honor of the event. The city’s fire companies gathered around a speaking platform. Volunteer company Engine 9 had a live eagle at the head of their ranks. (This was less than a year after the city initiated paid fire companies, and most of the volunteer fire companies were still in active service.) 

A large crowd of citizens surrounded the firemen filling up the avenue for a considerable distance. Ladies crowded onto balconies to watch the proceedings.  

During it’s time Firemen’s Hall was a premier Detroit location, hosting cultural events and entertainment of all kinds. It was located on the corner of Jefferson and Randolph. Mariners’ Church now occupies this site.  


Raising The Flag

Benjamin Vernor (brother to James Vernor, who would soon become famous for his ginger ale) gave a brief address.  Then a large American flag was hoisted above the high roof of of the Hall. Three cheers and a tiger rang out. “Hip, Hip, Hooray! – Hip, Hip, Hooray! – Hip, Hip, Hooray!” followed by a loud the shrieking roar and clapping of the crowd.  

Benjamin Vernor, firefighter during Detroit’s volunteer era, Detroit Fire Commissioner for the early paid department.

The Star-Spangled Banner was performed by the Zouave Band while a firemen’s “glee club”, specifically organized for the occasion, sang along. When they reached the chorus the entire fire department joined in the singing. 

More speeches were given. Firemen who had served their country in previous wars were honored. And the large number of firemen who had volunteered to serve in the current war were given special mention. 

Parading Through The Streets

When the speeches were done, the department formed up. The band lead the procession and citizens following behind the firemen. As they paraded through the streets, the group temporarily halted at several locations, giving three rousing cheers at each stop. An employee had just hoisted a flag above Mayor Buhl’s place of business when the procession passed. A spontaneous raucous cheer was raised among the firemen’s ranks.   

The event was characterized as showing the “spirit, enthusiasm, and heartiness which distinguishes our firemen in all their undertakings” and “one of the most spirited demonstrations that have taken place since the inauguration of the war times.” 

Firemen’s Hall was owned and operated by an organization composed of the membership of the Detroit’s various volunteer fire companies. The first floor of the building contained storefronts that were rented to provide income for the organization.


Detroit Firefighters’ Dramatic Rescue Of 4 Year Old Boy

Today in Detroit Fire History March 29, 2000

On March 29, 2000 Detroit Firefighters made a dramatic rescue of a 4 year old child from a house fire on Seyburn Street. 

When the fire started the house was occupied by a grandmother and 3 small children. The children were all under the age of 4. Prior to fire crews arriving the grandmother was able to get herself and the other 2 children to safety. Unfortunately she died from smoke inhalation and cardiac arrest. 

The rescued boy was resuscitated on scene before being transported to Childrens’ Hospital. He was later reported to be in good condition. 

This photo was taken by long time Detroit fire photographer Bill Eisner. It shows firefighters Eric Jurmo and James Babbish as they reach the bottom of the aerial ladder and hand the boy off for medical care. 


Ladder 5 Is Motorized With A Christie Front Drive

Today in Detroit Fire Department History: February 21, 1913

On February 21, 1913, a representative of the Front Driver Motor Company was in Detroit overseeing the delivery of a Christie tractor that was used to convert Ladder 5 from a horse drawn to a motorized vehicle.

Ladder 5 was a 85′ American LaFrance built in 1908 The aerial ladder was equipped with a turn table and spring hoists. It had been pulled by 3 of Detroit’s powerful fire horses. The Christie tractor was a 4 cylinder, two wheel, chain driven, 90 horsepower vehicle equipped with solid rubber tires. 

Ladder 5 and crew after the ladder truck was motorized with a Christie tractor – 1914 photo

When fully equipped, the motorized ladder truck weighed in at a whopping 15,980 pounds.  Once the Christie front end was fitted to the existing truck, Ladder 5 was able to respond at twice the speed previously possible.

The listing from the department’s annual report for the 1914-1915 fiscal year gives details of the equipment carried on Ladder 5.  
In this photo the words “Christie Front Drive” can be seen on the rig’s front nameplate. It also gives a good look at the solid rubber tires the unit was equipped with. 

This modern day picture shows the front of a Christie tractor that is similar to the one Ladder 5 was converted with.