John and the Boots

John and The Boots

In the late 1960’s, Geri and I lived in Quinton, NJ, where I taught school and where the hospital Geri worked in was only 7-8 miles away. This is a small hometown type of town where people all know one another or are related by blood or marriage. Since it is in Salem County, NJ (probably the least populated county with only 60,000 residents at the time and may well still be), many folks know or have kin throughout the surrounding towns and cities. 

City here is a relative term, since the only community qualifying as a city was the county seat (Salem, NJ) but its population at the time was about 7500 and it has decreased over the years until today (2013) there are only 5100 residents.

The entire township of Quinton had a population of 2500 at the time and the town itself probably about 1000 and today it is about the same.

All this is to set the scene that this is a small town area with small town values and life style. Of course, the town could not afford a police force or fire and rescue service and accordingly didn’t have municipal employees of any type. An elected school board of seven and an elected township committee of three were basically all the government of the area.

Not having a police force was not a major problem, since crime was and still is almost non-existent (when everybody knows everybody and when the median household income is below the poverty line little crime is committed). Fire and rescue services were another matter since they are always needed no matter the size of the community.

To this end, the fire company was a volunteer company as was the Ambulance Squad. The township provided the building and the firetrucks (we had two - generally 10 years apart in age), but the Ambulance Squad raised the money for their own vehicle and supplies though it was housed in the community building with the firetrucks.

What about the boots, you ask, well I’m getting to that just be patient. In 1967, I was asked to join the fire company and since I was becoming a part of the community, I accepted. I had attended several drills and some basic fire schools during the first 3-4 months of joining, but there had been no fire callouts during that time.

While no one wants a fire to start, the longer one goes without the actual experience of answering a fire call, no greater the anticipation becomes. And for me this was no different.

So, in the course of time, the fire whistle in the middle of town goes off. We lived one block south of the center of the town so I could be at the station in less than 5 minutes and didn’t need to drive. Excitedly, I jumped out of bed put on my boots and then attempted to put on my trousers over them. This of course did not work and Geri was laying in bed having a great laugh at my attempts to pull the pants over the boots. Of course, I had to remove the boots to finish the job, but made the fire call with no problem. (I don’t remember the nature of the call today, we had very few serious fire calls during our 10 years in Quinton and this was not one of them).

Soon, I started to get teased by folks all over town about my skill in dressing for a fire and realized my sweet wife had spilled the beans to someone - probably Kathy across the street, whose husband was also a fireman.

After bit, the teasing stopped and the matter was put behind us, that is until the annual Christmas party. One of the customs of the party was for the Chief’s wife to give out gifts to deserving firemen and rescue squad members (who had to be fireman). 

All year long, Florence would gather data or pay back ideas in order to find the correct gift. I was quite surprised when she called my name, but then presented me with a pair of tiny boots telling everyone that they were small enough for any of my trousers to slide over!

Davdan @ 2008-2018