dsc00044bCaptain Pete Price passed away yesterday. He was hired on November 1, 1948 and retired April 28, 1984. He was a true character among Roanoke’s Bravest.

I met Pete along with Robert Guthrie back about 8 years ago at another firefighter’s funeral. I do not remember who’s funeral it was, and at the time I rarely knew the retired firefighters we were burying. So there I was with some of my brothers and we were talking to Pete and Robert after the graveside service. Those guys just took to us and told us some stories. Some of the stories probably had to do with the deceased, others were just about the FD. One thing was sure; Pete and Robert were hilarious and had some great stories.

It wasn’t too long from that funeral that I bumped into Pete and Robert at another Retired Firefighter’s Funeral. Once again we enjoyed the camaraderie after the interment with Pete and Robert.

Then there was the retirees breakfasts at the Union Hall. We just wrapped up the third one and you should see the look on those guys faces when they get together. However, there were always those guys who seemed to enjoy it more…like Pete Price and Roady Kelly. Pete was all smiles and enjoyed telling the stories.

And so it was the case this past Tuesday, at the retirees breakfast, that I got to hear some of Pete’s stories again. Lucky for you all I recorded it.

I must say that Pete was one of those guys I could listen to all day long.

This morning, IAFF Local 1132 members hosted a breakfast in honor of retired firefighters from the Roanoke Fire-EMS Department (although all were hired and most retired when it was still the Roanoke Fire Department). The breakfast was attended by about 50 firefighters, a couple of spouses/relatives, and a handful of helpful Local 1132 members. The highlight was having Bob Gillespie attend. Bob will be 95 in a couple of months and is the oldest living retired firefighter. There were so many firefighters in attendance who do not get to see one another on a regular basis. The guys loved being around each other and to tell stories on each other.

The Retirees normally meet on the second Tuesday of every month for a breakfast at K&W Cafeteria. Our breakfast took the place of the normal breakfast.

Roanoke City Mayor David Bowers stopped by to say hello as well as Roanoke Fire Fighters Association President Rodney Jordan and Roanoke Fire-EMS Chief David Hoback.

The event was put on by Captain Willie Wines Jr. (C-Shift VP) and most of his crew from Station 9 C-Shift. Thanks to all who helped including Robert Reid, Rachel Winter, Ben Obaugh, Scott Boone, Craig Sellers, Baron Gibson, Rodney Jordan, and Willie Wines Sr.

I must admit that you don’t really know about our fire department until you have hung out with these guys a couple of times. Enjoy the pictures and video.

Editors note: you are getting the videos in their entirety because I have not learned how to edit them yet. Give me some time and I will catch up to the technology! I have a camcorder that records in HD, but I lose some of the quality when uploading to youtube. I hope to figure this out in the future to make it better.

Video of the Retirees getting settled in and catching up.

Captain Wines welcoming the retirees.

Pete Price reminiscing over the past. Great stories!

RoanokeFire.com is still being circulated after being down for a couple of months. Some old readers are still finding us and checking it out. It will be getting a lot better soon. Hopefully, in the coming week or two I will be unveiling the next phase of RoanokeFire.com. I am not going into details right now, but I will say that it is something I have talked about in the past and it will be enjoyed by readers and nonreaders across the globe. I am looking forward to it and have been for over 2 years now.

Also…please note that there are some important dates coming up.

May 12th – The Retirees Breakfast at the Union Hall.

June 25th – Roanoke Valley Professional Firefighters 29th Annual MDA Golf Tournament (more info here)

If you have other events to post let me know and I will get them up here.

As always, I would like to remind you all that anyone can write an article for this site. Send it in and I will post it anonymous or not.

Read Station 3′s blog for the closest thing to a blog post from Station 13. We ran 2 dui wrecks with Medic 3 yesterday. Drunks are always good for some comic relief. I’m not as think as you drunk I am! Check it out here.

I am also working on some other things that I hope to share soon.

Mike Overacker has posted some more photos of the breakfast on RoanokeFirefighters.com. Check out the pictures here.

Yesterday, December 12th, was the second Retirees Breakfast at the Union Hall. Approximately 50 retirees attended who seemed to enjoy the camaraderie. It was really good to see all the guys enjoying each others company and able to get together in a large group to reminisce about “Back in the Day”. There were guys there who retired 20+ years ago up to our last retiree John Sweeney, who retired last month.

Willie Wines Jr. kicks off the breakfast and welcomes the Retirees

Willie Wines Sr., his buddy the Larry the “Governor”, Willie Wines Jr., Brent Berry, Wayne Hall, Stacy Boothe, and J.J. Price cooked up one hell of a spread for the guys. They should be commended for the breakfast they served to the group. We appreciate the job they have done for the second time now. Next time you see those guys be sure to say thanks.

Travis Collins, George Perdue, and Mike Overacker attended and were able to capture the event with photographs. Thanks to all the other guys who attended and helped out including R. T. Flora, Kenny Furrow, Rodney Jordan, and Jon Willdigg.

The Retirees seemed to really enjoy the event once again. I think that all the current firefighters really enjoyed seeing the “Old” guys have such a great time.

“Firefighting in Roanoke” the recently published pictorial history of the Fire Service in Roanoke was available for the guys to purchase and most of the guys got one. I think the best part of the event was that the guys were having their comrades sign the book like high school students signing a yearbook. I think that Gary Moorefield’s Wife started off the signing and she would not let anyone leave before they signed her book. There were enough stories told that day to write another book.

George Perdue signs “Big Daddy” Sullivan’s Book

There were a couple more spouses than the last one present at the event. It was great to see the excitement that they shared in their husbands careers.

After it was all over with, it was fun to kick back with the guys who had helped with the event and chew the fat. It was good to open up the Union Hall for another event. It seems as though the building is being used more and more for events. If any of you firefighters have an event coming up let us know if you want to use it.

From what I understand, the “Billy Obenchain” T-Shirts sold pretty good after the event at station 2. If you want to get a hold of one of the shirts, stop by station 2 on any shift and they will have one for you. Here are some pictures of the event, I will have the rest up on the Local site tomorrow.

The Union Hall was a packed house

The guys look over the book “Firefighting in Roanoke”

Amanda Codospoti, a reporter with the Roanoke Times, was able to interview many retirees for an article she is working on for the paper. Look for something on Friday in the paper possibly.

There are many posts which I have meant to upload. I have not had the time, so you will have to wait a little longer. There will be a post tomorrow on the Retirees Breakfast. I hope to incorporate pictures as well. The guys really had a great time.

The book has made it’s rounds to most stations by now. If you have not had the chance to get a copy yet, let me know and I will get one to you. We have sold around 150 copies so far. We have plenty left. The response to the book has been great.

This is a big week (this year) for the Fire-EMS Department. The moves will be listed, letting many firefighters know where they will be working in January. Many of them want to move, many don’t. Some have to due to promotions and the new recruits who might have been temporarily filling a hole until the new roster comes out.

Word has it that there are three internal applicants for the Chief’s position with Roanoke Fire-EMS; Acting Chief Hoback, Battalion Chief Roger Manuel; and a Captain which has been unconfirmed. I heard today that Chief Birch, Roanoke County Fire-EMS Chief, has applied for the position as well. But don’t hold me to it. The next year will certainly be interesting for the Department. Many changes are on the way.

The books are in. Get your hands on a copy while supplies last. The RFFA has ordered 400 copies. Contact me to get your copy asap. You can stop by the Credit Union today, or stop by station 10 tomorrow for your copy. They will also be available at the Retirees Breakfast at the Union Hall on Tuesday December 12th starting at 9am. My pager number is 201-4667 if you want to get a hold of me, otherwise email me.

So the other day, Local 1132 held the first Retirees event in a long time. The Retirees, as well as the current firefighters were invited to the Union hall to have breakfast together. Fortunately we had almost 70 retired Firemen onhand. Unfortunately we only had a handful of current firemen/firewomen on hand. All those who were present had a great time. The menu was sausage gravy, biscuits, bacon, sausage links, eggs, and hash browns.

I would have to say that the highlight for me was the fact that Jimmy Jennings picked up Pete Smith. Jimmy retired several years ago as a fireman at Station #1, and Pete (Elmer Elijah) Smith retired in 1974 as a Captain. Pete is right at 94 years old and worked for the Roanoke Fire Department for 32 years, he has also been retired for 32 years. That is what you call getting your money’s worth. Jimmy also brought Pete Price, another retired Captain.

I have heard a lot of stories over the years of many of the “old guys”, I have now met most of them. One of the very interesting things about the old guys is that almost all of them had nicknames. The nicknames were so well known that even to this day, some of the guys do not know their peers real first names.

Some of the nicknames include Scooter, Pooper, Slim, Stick, Floor Board, and Big Daddy.

I have received nothing but thanks for the Local putting on the event. I hope that the Local is able to continue putting on this event once, maybe twice a year.

Travis Collins was hoping to get a group photo of all the retirees. Unfortunately we were unable to pull it off. Logistically it was just not possible.

So thanks to all who helped. Check out the Local site to see who helped. Once we get all the pictures we will post a photo album.

I apologize for the lack of posts recently. Part of the reason for it is that I did not want to cover up the posts about Captain Johnny Price. I also have been extremely busy recently. I will be catching up this week hopefully. I have this coming cycle off, however that does not mean that I will be vacationing. I hope to get back on track, but I cannot make any guarantees.

On Tuesday I will be at the Union hall for the Retirees Breakfast. All current and former Roanoke Firefighters are welcome. I will comment on the event later Tuesday night.

This week I start Fire Instructor II. Not that I really have time to take classes, I said “what the hell” and signed up.

I wish I could point you to some interesting sights, etc. However, the truth is that I have not been on the up and up recently. Just check out the links on the right hand side. It might be the largest listing of Fire and EMS related Blogs on the NET. But who is keeping track.

If you have any leads, let me know.

The lessons of the Crusty Old Jakes.

I would like to let you all know that if you haven’t sat down with one of those old crusty firefighters from yesteryear then you are missing out. You thought you knew something about firefighting, it’s traditions and the lifestyle as it was meant to be well guess again. I am not only writing this because of my last encounter, rather due to the magnitude of the conversations, history lessons, and memories that I have had the pleasure of listening to.

Warren Hawley became a firefighter in 1952 and retired in 1982. This 30 year career took him to station 8,10, and the old airport facilities, among others I am sure. He still makes time to stop by a couple of stations every once in a while to chat as well as make it to the monthly breakfast of the Retirees (I will refer to them as the Crusty old Jakes out of reverence). The stories that Warren shared with me over the hour and a half that he was at the station were priceless. I have several photos of the past that I keep with me at the station and at home, which I got out for him. It was neat to see his face light up when I showed him a picture of him and his old crew. Captain Robert Lee Mutter, Captain Daniel Ralph Sink, Lt. Blenkey W. Greer, Lt. Everett Ray Walters, FF William W. Kopcial, FF. Lawrence E. Hylton (Bones), “that is me right there” he stated , and last FF Donald Ray Barbour. He went right down the list not missing a beat. He spoke of the guys as though he was still working with them. I had to continually ask him the guys real names as he simply referred to guys as Bones, Foots, Jake, Ann, Lightning, Brigham. I will let it be known that Warrens nicknames were Calhoun (sp) and Floor Board.

Warren spoke of different experiences and then talked of his time in WWII though not in depth. He said he was in the Air Force and he was sure to have me search the internet for his listing on the WWII memorial website, www.wwiimemorial.com. There you will find Warren Hawley as well as his brother Albert L. Hawley both of Roanoke with their pictures. He was very proud of everything.

Warren didn’t mind me taking notes during the conversation. I could show him a picture that to me was a 50′s era engine. He would tell me the make, engine size, GPM capacity, where it was stationed and any interesting story he could think of about the engine or some of it’s drivers. I was able to add about 40 names to my list of the Roanoke City Fire Department Roster. I will continue to add until I am finished. I will post the roster on the site soon so you all can give input on who I am missing.

Speaking to Firefighter Warren Hawley was very interesting and I thought I would pass on to you the information you can find out. I have not put everything on here of course. There are things that you will just have to ask him yourself. What I am getting at is the next time you are in the station and a Crusty Old Jake shows up to say hey, why don’t you ask him about the good ole days. What are you so busy? Unlikely. You guys aren’t going to know what you have missed until it is gone. The links to the past, traditions, history.