Totem Pole Tales-The Fire Hose Houses
Submitted by Nute Chapman Jr.
From Onaway Outlook Mar. 16, 2012

Caption: Here's a quality photo of Onaway's former waterworks building, which was at one time, one of three hose houses in town.
(Editor's Note: Totem Pole Tales returns this week with a primary focus on the history of the area. Newton "Nute" Chapman, Jr. will share historical photos and knowledge he's collected from "old timers", his father Newton Chapman Sr., as well as other family members.)
On the eve of this weekend's fireman's ball at St. Paul Hall, lets look at what was once an important piece of the Onaway Fire Department's history: hose houses.
Onaway once had three, but only one still stands. It is now owned by Brewbaker's Housing & RV.
In the early 1900s, there was a large hose house on the corner of Elsden and State Street, where the little blue vacant building is now. The other one was on North Second, which was as a block from the train depot. It was a building used to conduct classes when the school district was bonding for a second school.
This (photo) is the one we used when I was on the department, and we were still using the method of drying the hoses from the top of the tower. Since then, the new hoses have made it better.
As a police officer for a while, I went to a lot of fires and helped out. Our fire department was getting short on staff and they decided to take some people on. You didn't have to run for it, you were voted on by the rest of the firemen. That's how I got mixed up in the fire department.
That's when I really found out what a hose house was, because we had to be taught the method of keeping a hose dry. That's also when I learned what a rookie was, because the five new guys on the department took the dry hoses down and hung up the wet ones, and got the truck ready for the next fire.
When we returned from a fire, the rookies dumped all the wet used hose in a pile inside the hose house and a couple of guys went to the top of the tower and dropped a rope that had a set of clamps on it.
You hooked them in the middle and when you pulled them up on a pulley, you had to reach out and grab them and put them on a peg. You could walk all away around the outside, and the inside had all the pegs to hang the hoses on. It drained the hose, and you left in there for a few days to dry.
This would take an hour of time, getting all the hoses changed out.
The new hoses are of synthetic materials and you don't even have to dry them anymore. We definitely don't need hose houses of yesteryear. Some departments still use the old methods and the old hoses, because they are really expensive. You took care of them.
The rookies who joined the old timers were Jim Hall, Ken Paulus, Bob VanStee, Jim Lenox, and myself.
The following year, we held Onaway's first fireman's ball. There are probably a lot of readers that remember the first couple of years we had the ball, we pulled the old 1937 pumper right into the Catholic Hall, so the kids could climb on it and looked it over. That '37 is still in service. We still have it.--Onaway Outlook, March 16, 2012, p. 3 Retyped by J. Anderson.

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