Rabid Fun

John Cowart's Daily Journal: A befuddled ordinary Christian looks for spiritual realities in day to day living.

Friday, December 21, 2007

One Christmas In My Fire History Book:

Being it’s so close to Christmas, here’s a section of my unfinished fire history book which you may enjoy:

Red Lights — Red Faces

Documentation is hard to come by for this incident, but as best I can tell, it happened on the Saturday night before Christmas, 1987:

It seems that on that night, two sailors, stationed aboard the destroyer USS Hanks in Mayport, got commode-hugging drunk in downtown Jacksonville.

That same night a sprinkler went off in the May Cohen’s Department Store. Cohen’s at the time was Jacksonville’s largest store; it occupied the entire St. James Building (Now, City Hall).

Huge crowds of Christmas shoppers gathered at Cohen’s windows all season long to view the annual elaborate animated window displays.

More crowds packed inside the store, so when the sprinkler went off, an alarm went in, and Hook And Ladder 1, biggest fire truck in Jacksonville, rushed up — siren howling, flashing red lights ablaze.

Cops also came by the carload., sirens howling, lights ablaze.

Firemen rushed into the store as cops blocked the streets and hundreds of onlookers clustered to watch.

The two blotto sailors joined the crowd.

Firemen, cops and crowd paid intense attention to the possible fire (there wasn’t one). But nobody paid attention to Jacksonville’s largest fire truck. No body except the two drunk sailors — They stole it.

They headed down Duval Street (it was two-way then), one drunk in the driver’s seat, the other in the tiller seat.

Cops on the scene laughed at the expression on firemen’s faces as they called in the stolen fire truck to dispatch.

A police dispatcher, trying seriously to do this with a straight face, put out a Signal 10 -- stolen motor vehicle -- dispatch. It went something like this:

"Be on the lookout for a Signal 10, city Hook and Ladder No. 1, large, red vehicle, city license tags, believed traveling east on Duval Street toward the Gator Bowl ..."

But soon the Cops had to swallow their snickers — two police officers working further down Duval Street had not heard about the stolen fire truck but they saw it having difficulty. They asked the driver (who wore his white uniform and a stolen fire helmet) where he needed to go.

He pointed toward the Gator Bowl and yelled, “We’re headed thataway”.

The helpful officers hopped into their patrol car, darted ahead of the fire truck, giving it escort!

Lights and siren going full blast, the cops escorted the stolen fire truck — till it crashed into a street sign.

Then the other Cops caught up.

And the angry firefighters arrived — one threatened the sailors with a fire ax yelling something about capital punishment. One drunken sailor complained, "We would have turned on the siren. But we couldn’t find it."

Even more policemen arrived. Even a few State Trooper joined the scene. Officers J.P. Branch and R.W. Wollitz made the arrests.

The report[i]. says, “Several Duval County patrolmen stopped by, too, ever eager to help and to lend as much moral support as they could while holding their sides and laughing until they got all red in the face and tears ran down their cheeks and they had to put their heads down on the top of their patrol car and slap their hands up and down on the roof.”

Sailors. Firemen. Cops — there were a lot of red faces in Jacksonville that Saturday night just days before Christmas.

[i] “Sailors Added Fire To The Season”, Bill Foley, T-U, Feb. 4, 2001.

Please, visit my website for more www.cowart.info and feel free to look over and buy one of my books www.bluefishbooks.info
posted by John Cowart @ 3:54 AM


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