As a very young child he had been taken to
the roof of his family's house in Boston to watch the
towering flames from the great Boston fire of 1870. He remembered being
worried about my grandfather who had gone downtown to try to
rescue some important papers in his office. All this, no doubt, was
responsi- ble for his becoming an ardent proponent of
organized fire fighting.
Just as he watched the great Boston fire of 1870, I watched
the great Salem fire of 1914 from the roof of our house in
Weston. A brilliant glow lit up the northeastern sky and stream-
ers from explosions shot into the air. There was lots of tension
in our house that evening. Late in the afternoon my father had
put Mary on a train in the North Station bound for Ipswich,
where she was to visit the Robbinses. The Ipswich line went through the
heart of Salem. He knew nothing about the fire until
he got home and Uncle Oney Robbins called from Ipswich and
told him about it. Mary had not arrived and no trains were com-
ing through. The telephone was very busy for the next hour or
so as we attempted to locate the train she had taken and we eventually
learned from the Boston and Main office that it had been
routed through Peabody. Finally, about 9 P.M. Mary ar- rived safely in
Ipswich and all was well.
We had a fire alarm in our
house hooked into the town system. Ina corner of our basement laundry
there was a complicated relay affair with lots
of fascinating wires and switches and plugs.
I often watched my father tinkering with them.
One day, at the age of four, I decided to go down and tinker
with the wires myself. This set all the fire alarms ringing and the