Re: Firehouses' Decorated

09/04/07 - posted by Frank Dunnigan

I've come into possession of a 1951-1952 scrapbook (which I am turning over to Woody for preservation by WNP) that was compiled by the President of the SF Women's Chamber of Commerce, a group that disbanded sometime in the 1960s-70s. Among the many newspaper clippings on civic events is this SF Chronicle article dated Wednesday, November 21, 1951:

CITY'S FIREHOUSES WON'T BE DECORATED THIS CHRISTMAS

San Francisco's fireman voted yesterday to end their three-year custom of decorating city firehouses for Christmas.

At two meetings at their David Scannell Club, day shift and night shift firemen voted to discontinue the nationally famous and colorful competition.

The vote was 196 to 81.

The firemen gave lack of money as their reason. They said that building elaborate ilumined displays cost some stations as much as $500 last year, and that contributions toward the decoration fund were as high as $20 per man in some stations.

Prize for the best decorated firehouse last year was $500, with television and radio sets going to runners-up and division winners.

"Our men just don't have the money this year," Captain Vincent Reid of Engine Company 19, last year's winner, said. "With the new tax bite and the cost of our own Christmases, our pockets just aren't loaded for any extras."

Robert Callahan, secretary of the David Scannell Club, said the firemen were not in the mood for personal contributions toward Christmas ornaments after their heavy donations to the campaign for Proposition "A".

Proposition "A", defeated by the voters last election day, would have given the city's firemen and policemen a pay scale geared to changes in the cost of living.

Mayor Elmer E. Robinson said last night he would not recommend a city appropriation to finance the decorations.

"This is a volunteer project to be undertaken either by the public or the firemen," he said. "It should not be tax-supported."

In the past, the Fire Commission has contributed $25 for Christmas decorations to each of the city's 57 firehouses, with the firemen making up the balance of the cost out of their own pockets.

Max Sobel, former fire commissioner, and chairman of last year's Christmas decoration campaign, said last night he had guaranteed to raise the full cost of the displays for all firehouses, but that the firemen felt there was not enough time left before Christmas to do the job properly.

Original decision not to decorate the stations was made November 8, but the firemen agreed to ballot again yesterday after Chief Walsh asked them to reconsider.

The Western Neighborhoods Project is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.