Friday, May 9, 2014

Firehouse Famine - Part 2

Feasting at the firehouse has meant so many different things throughout my career in the fire service.  In the next few installments of “Hittin’ the Hot Spot”, I will recall some of my favorite stories about fighting firehouse famine.  Before you get too excited, these stories are not going to provide you with any new recipes, rather the manner in which the food was acquired and devoured.  I am sure there are more unique stories about food in the firehouse than there are firehouses, and I encourage you all to comment about some of your favorite memories about the people and procedures that helped feed the folks in your station.  

I have so many memories from the beautiful gray stone firehouse at 2265 Noble Street.  It was in this station where my fire service career began as a junior brigade member in 1980, and the memories mounted until the apparatus was moved into the new central fire station of the TSVFD some 25 years later.  As I sit here recalling the food situation at that station, I keep stumbling over great memories of the people and events that make up the greatest portion of my fire service experiences.  I have two documents open at the moment; this blog post and a list of stories to tell from the old West Lawn Fire Company.

Several companies come to mind that helped shape the cuisine at old station 5, 65, 85-2.  The most dominant ones were Chet Irwin’s, West Lawn Beverage, Clover Farms, Mays Sandwich Shop, Domino’s and Schwan’s.  Irwin’s Meats was a distributor located right across the street from the borough building that housed the fire station.  Even before I was a member, I knew that any special occasion at the hosey would have a spread that included Berks hot dogs (boxes of 50, boiled in beer, of course), New Yorker sharp cheese (sold in 5 pound blocks and often cubed in my kitchen), and hippy ring bologna from Chet’s.  The Irwins were past members who continued to support the fire company, and giving them our business was not only convenient, but the right thing to do to promote home town support.

West Lawn Beverage has been doing business for as long as I can remember, and it was a no brainer to give   From cases of beer and soda (in returnable bottles) to quarters and halves for fund-raisers zone meetings and special events, and even the peanuts and pretzels that were always on hand for the munching, “Boogie” Derr’s was always there.  Even when we phased out bottles and went to aluminum cans, WLB Co. was one of the few places where we could take our giant bags of crushed cans and sell them for scrap!  Cha-ching.
them our business as well.

Clover Farms certainly made the list of suppliers of the food chain.  Their highly addictive ICY TEA, both in regular and “unleaded” was a staple for cold refreshments, shuffleboard and pool table wagers, and for simply spreading good cheer by “buying a round” for anyone hanging around the day room.  From the little cardboard cartons, to the larger portioned cartons, to the plastic bottles, the contents of those drink containers is surely what kept the late night crew awake into the wee hours of the morning.  After chugging the deliciousness, you then had the unwritten responsibility of creativity with the waste.  Some popular activities included folding then stomping the cardboard containers to see how loud you could make them pop, and shooting from three point range into the trash can carefully tucked into the corner of the wall and the refrigerator to allow for bank shots!  If there was a downside to the Clover Farms deliveries, it was being the first one in the station on delivery day, and having to heft the four to six cases we bought every three days up the steps and then stack them all with Tetris-like skills in the fridge.  

Of course, no one could ever forget the great service we got from Denton and Bill from Mays Sandwich Shop.  Bill was a long time active firefighter who always supported the department even after he was no longer an “active” firefighter.  First there was the party catering.  Many of us could easily recite the spread that Bill would put together for our collection days, holiday parties, fundraisers and events; from the red-beet eggs, to the rolled up meats, macaroni salad to the super potent onions.  All we had to do is give Bill a number, date and time, and the food was ready to be picked up and put on the tab.  

Probably the greatest benefit we got from Mays’ is when they began to provide the food for Goodman Vending.  We became beneficiaries of their constantly refreshed stock of pre-packaged, individually wrapped, frozen and fresh sandwiches.  We enjoyed everything from cheeseburgers, to chicken patties on a roll, to Fiesta subs, and of course the fresh ham and Italians on KAISER rolls.  Those who know why I capitalized Kaiser most likely said it out loud in a high pitch voice or at least gave out a little chuckle.  I recall on more than one occasion eating Mays food for breakfast, lunch, and dinner while hangin’ at the hose house.  All these treats were sold on the honor system, with a very slim profit margin.  I am proud to say that for all those years, the contents of “box” always managed to pay the bills.  

Domino’s Pizza was a staple at this station as well.  I can’t remember how many times someone had to hang out the second floor window to tell the pizza guy that someone would “be right down” with the cash.  Everyone enjoying the pie would chip in, and the drivers learned that we were pretty good tippers.  Sadly, however, our fondness for Dominoes ended abruptly after a rather disturbing fire call at one of the driver’s houses.  Some swore off pizza altogether after that call, it was really THAT disgusting. 

My final tip of the hat goes to the Schwan’s Man.  While we had the food part covered through Mays, it was the Schwan’s man that provided the desert.  The best part of the SCHWAN’S GUY (said in a voice similar to “Kaiser Roll”) was that he carried the stuff up the steps.  There was nothing better that getting to the station to discover that there was a fresh batch of Schwan’s ice cream in the freezer.  His delivery schedule was so important that a fire prevention visit was once cut short to make sure we could be restocked.  Hey, priorities, right?   

There was no day room quite like the one at the West Lawn Station.  It was spacious, entertaining, and delicious. 

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