Growing Up in Alameda: Adrenaline

Growing Up in Alameda: Adrenaline

Dave LeMoine

The author, on the job. Photo courtesy of Dave LeMoine.

Adrenaline is the most descriptive word I can think of to explain this job. At 7:15 a.m., I hugged my wife and kids and jumped on my bike for a leisurely ride to the station. No matter what the previous shift had been like, I had at least 24 hours of rest to unwind. The next morning, though, I would be happy to return to work and see the guys.

You could quickly tell by the tenor of the greeting and the facial expressions of the off-going crew, what their night had been like. I always looked for the old timers. They didn’t move stations much, the advantage of seniority. There was always an unexpected face, though, a newer guy who had been reassigned from his regular station for sick or vacation coverage.

The City of Alameda was only two miles by five miles, with four stations. You could sometimes go a year and miss seeing friends you had worked with in the past. I stayed pretty much with my regular crew, while others made numerous trades for personal reasons. With diverse people, the dynamics of the crew were always different. That’s why training was so important: Repetition works.

In 1968, we had to live within 40 miles of the city limits. Laura and I chose Alameda, but most guys moved over the hill to Livermore or Pleasanton: more house for the money, but also more commute time. I loved living in the city; I often knew the house and the people we were helping. My family would bike to the station after school or on Sunday afternoon for a visit.

The crews were always happy to see them; it made my day easier knowing the girls were within a couple of miles of my station. In case of an emergency, I could get home. On inspection near our house, we often detoured by to greet the kids and neighbors. It was a repeat of Dad’s legacy; in the 1940s, Dad had done the same thing.

I could hear the rig coming; that sound was so powerful. Looking up at the engine from the sidewalk, all four feet of me were in awe. The guys smiling down from this great red and gold machine seemed like superheroes. Opened cab, chain drive, loaded with hose and ladders, the picture is seared into my mind. I did get to follow in my dad’s footsteps, my destiny. It made more sense to me to be living and helping the community I was a part of.

At home on my days off, the sound of sirens always piqued my interest. The amount and direction of those sirens converging told something about the nature of the call. If the rigs continued to roll through, it was probably a fire. If all but one siren stopped en route, it was probably a false alarm or an emergency medical call. If all the rigs continued to the location, I would get in my car and go to the scene.

Sometimes Erin and Bree would ride along to watch the excitement from our car. They still like to kid me about how scared they were, but they always wanted to ride along. What fun!