Thursday, September 25, 2014

Kids and False Alarms

People have always needed a way to transmit information about disasters, especially fires.  For a long time they were limited to using bells, whistles, gun shots and watchmen in towers.  In the 1850's a Massachusetts physician came up with an alarm system using electromagnetics and the telegraph to send a coded message to a central fire station.  There were various improvements made and the Gamewell became very popular.

However, civilization progresses in many directions.  Such was the case with sending in a fire alarm.  There came a time when telephones were saturating neighborhoods and the fire alarm box was becoming obsolete.  That was when they became  a focal point for neighborhood kids.  They discovered that pulling the hook would bring firemen with their trucks rushing into the area.  It was fun for them, especially on those long hot summer days.  It reached a point where the majority of calls coming over the system were false alarms.

My husband was a fireman in Little Rock, Arkansas, for many years.  When an alarm from a box came in they would arrive to see all the neighborhood kids waiting for them.  They would lecture the kids and go back to the station only to have the process repeated.

One time they got there to find a five year old boy standing on a box he had used to get him up high enough to pull the alarm.  He was grinning with pride at doing the call successfully.  The police also made the run and the policeman asked the boy for his name and address.  He quickly gave the info to the cop.  My husband interjected, saying that's not a good address; they don't run that high in this area.

The policeman asked again.  The boy immediately provided a different name and address to the cop.  My husband again said, no way, it's not a good address.  By talking to the other kids it was eventually ascertained the address where the boy was said to live.  It was close by.  The cop and the firemen accompanied the boy to the home and a man soon answered their knock.

The cop explained what had happened and the boy must not do this again.  The man said he would take care of it.  When asked if he was the father, he replied, "No, but I'm closely associated with his mama."

Needless to say, this became one of the stories that circulated through the company.  And the phrase enjoyed a period of time when it was often used with their own kids when talking about discipline that could occur when something was reported back to their child's own mother.  "You better watch it, kid.  I'm closely associated with your mother and she'll help me get to the bottom of this situation."

In the early 1980's the boxes were deemed no longer necessary and were removed.  There was a resultant decline in the number of false alarms.  The neighborhood kids had to find something else to occupy their summer days of boredom.

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