Thursday, November 05, 2015

It's a 137-year-old firefighter (& Chariton) tradition

Yes, that was me parked on the base of a light pole on the square at 5 a.m. today, taking this photo of the sign advertising the Chariton Fire Department's "138th" annual banquet, scheduled for Saturday evening, Nov. 14, at Van Allen School. This was something I decided to do rather late in the game (at 4:30 a.m.), primarily because I'd neglected to do it during daylight Wednesday. And yes I realize that the firefighters consider it to be the 138th annual banquet, not the 137th. 

Whatever the case, it's that time of year when Chariton celebrates what has to be one of the oldest continuing events in the state. As you can see, serving will be from 4:30 to 7:30 p.m. and the menu will include, of course, escalloped oysters (as well as another main dish for those not fond of oysters).

Chariton's Volunteer Fire Department was organized during 1877 --- that's where "138" comes from --- and, as it happens, we have invitations to the first two celebratory  anniversary banquets in the Lucas County Historical Society collection.

The venue for both was the brand new Mallory's Opera House, then located on the northwest corner of the square.

The Silsby Steamer printed on the invitation is not our beloved Old Betsy --- a youngster that arrived in town during December of 1883.

This was the original Old Betsy that, somewhat embarrassingly, went up in smoke with the fire house during August of 1883 and was promptly replaced with what now is the pride and joy of the the fire department and Chariton in general.

I couldn't find anything to tell me what the menu was during that first event, but here's the text of a brief story from The Chariton Democrat of Nov. 13, 1878, describing the program that awaited guests:

ANNIVERSARY --- The Chariton Fire Department will give their First Grand Anniversary Ball and Banquet at Mallory's Opera Hall on Wednesday evening, Dec. 4, 1878. The order of exercises will be as follows:

1. Opening Address, by Hon. D.M. Baker, Mayor.

2. Toast --- The City Council. Response by J.C. Mitchell.

3. Toast --- Our City. Response by E.E. Edwards.

4. Toast --- the Fire Department. Response by Eli Manning, Chief Engineer.

Doors open at 7 o'clock, speaking to begin at 8 o'clock. Dancing begins at 9 o'clock. Supper from 10 to 12. Good music will be in attendance.


Linda Artlip said...

Cool! Do the horses belong to the fire department? Old Betsey is a beautiful machine. I wish Villisca had kept its original pumper.

Frank D. Myers said...

No, the firefighters borrow horses when Old Betsy is making an appearance.

Anonymous said...

If the first event was the 1st anniversary in 1878, the 2nd anniversary event in 1879, etc. and no year was missed, then you add 1877 to the anniversary number to get the year it should be celebrated. Thus the 138th anniversary would be in 2015. I think they got it right.

On the other hand, I harass the Corydon Old Settlers committee about their numbering when I get a chance. I believe the numbering they use is equal to the anniversary number from the 1st Old Settlers gathering, but there has been one more gathering than anniversaries.

So when they advertise the Nth celebration, their number is is actually the Nth anniversary of the first gathering, and thus is the N+1 gathering. I call this the fence post problem - when you build a rail fence there is one more post than the number of spans.

Bill, being his nerdy self again

Frank D. Myers said...

You're right, Bill. It's the 138th anniversary banquet. But then so am I --- It's the 137th banquet held. Or at least I think so. Or maybe not. Numbers confuse me.