Begins With An “F” And Ends In “Uck”

Of course it’s Fire Truck. Weren’t you ever a kid?

When I lived on the South Side of Chicago, at 8111 S. Chappel, before we moved to Pill Hill, every once in a while something phenomenal happened. It happened in the years before I was 10 years old, so that was before 1965.

In the distance, we’d hear the siren and the adrenaline kicked into high gear. Not because we thought there was a fire (although there is the story of my oldest brother and my sister-in-law, but I’ll save that for another day), but because we knew the fire truck was gonna come down our block.

I wish kids today had this thrill. This wasn’t in some rural area where there was one fire house. This was in the heart of Chicago; on the South Side; the greatest place in the world to grow up in the 60s and 70s.

We all swarmed the truck and the fireman like locusts, getting onto the back of the fire truck and touching everything we could see. One lucky kid actually got to get in the front seat in the cab with the fireman. The fireman started up the big red machine and took us all for a ride around the neighborhood for about 10 minutes, and those of us in the back screamed and hollered as people walking on the sidewalk waved at us. What a thrill.

One time, and one time only…he picked me to sit in front. I am not bullshitting you or bragging. I’m talking about an 8 year old kid whose heart almost burst out of his chest.

I remember climbing in the front seat, and there was just so much…stuff! Dials, and handles, and things were even above my head. I wore a fireman’s coat with the sleeves rolled up, and a fireman’s helmet that kept sliding over my eyes. I finally took it off and held it in my lap.

The fireman, before we even got started asked me questions I wasn’t prepared to answer. Hard questions, like “What’s your name, son?”

I reached inside my very soul, and trying to lower my voice, I shouted out, “Charley!”

“Well, Charley (he said my name!), wha’do ya say we take this baby for a spin?”

I nodded like a goddam bobblehead.

We went slow. I guess that was because he didn’t want any of the kids in the back to fall off. I didn’t care about that. I figured if that happened, we could just run out, hose him down, and he’d be fine.

“Do you wanna turn on the lights and the siren, Charley?”

My head was going to explode. Sex had never been that good. Then again…I was 8. I nodded my head emphatically and squeaked out, “Yes, sir!”

He showed me what to pull or press or whatever I was supposed to do, and I’ll be damned if the siren and the spinning lights didn’t turn on. The fireman glanced at me and I looked at him with eyes so wide open, if they weren’t attached they would have fallen out. It went on for a full 2 minutes or so. Maybe 30 seconds.

After the ride, we were returned back to Chappel Ave. and the fireman saved the best part for last.

He set someone’s house on fire.

Okay, that part isn’t true.

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