San Diego Then & Now — The Volunteer’s Bell
Here in La Mesa, “Jewel of the Hills,” we have one of the highest sales tax rates in the state of California.
However, we also have a brand new and beautiful police station, a brand new and beautiful fire station, a brand new and beautiful city hall, and a brand new and beautiful library. We might have more brand new and beautiful city buildings and such but I’m really tired of dictating “brand new and beautiful.” We also have streets without potholes (quite unusual), sidewalks that aren’t heaving and caving, great mass transit, and a vibrant downtown (Oktoberfest is the best in San Diego County!).
The brand new and beautiful (I guess I’m not so tired of dictating “brand new and beautiful” after all) fire station looks like this:
In the bottom left corner of that picture, there is a not-so-brand-new-and-beautiful bell. See it? It looks like this:
See the bronze plaque on the base of the bell? It looks like this:
Before I go any further, note that the presentation line at the bottom of the plaque says that it was presented in 1957. However, in the upper right corner is the date 1952. Hmmm. I’m thinking there’s an error and either the 1952 should be 1957, or the 1957 should be 1952. One of the things that leads me in this direction is the text on the plaque, text with four errors:
This bellwhich (could have used a space)
here,proudly (also could have used a space)
The Volunteer’s Bell (apostrophe should be after the s as I’m sure there is more than one volunteer)
the volunteer’s (definitely a misplaced apostrophe, and telling us that the first apostrophe is also misplaced)
I know that sometimes, when I’m in a hurry, my twos and sevens look the same. Quite possible here.
Since The Volunteer’s Bell is quite old, I went looking for more information on it. Little there is. However, I did find this picture of it in my book, “Images of America: La Mesa” by James D. Newland and the La Mesa Historical Society:
Picture reprinted with permission of Arcadia Publishing.
“Images of America: La Mesa” is available from the publisher online at www.arcadiapublishing.com or by calling 888-313-2665.
Back in 1948, the La Mesa Fire Department received an unusual gift, a springer spaniel-pointer mixed dog that was named Blaze and given the honorary title of Fire House Greeter. Our doggy in the picture is Blaze, with the book saying the picture was taken “c. 1960.” I’m guessing that the picture was actually taken on the day that Blaze retired in 1959, which, of course, is “c. 1960.” Just seems logical. No, I don’t have an updated picture of Blaze since he died in 1962.
However, I did find out a little more about The Volunteer’s Bell’s recent history. When the new fire station was built, the bell was removed and put into storage, which caused a minor uproar in La Mesa. Many people believed that it was wrong to put into storage something that represented the efforts of hundreds, if not thousands, of volunteer firemen over the years in protecting life and property. Some of those volunteer firemen had even died in the line of duty, making The Volunteer’s Bell an accidental memorial.
Look at the top of the bell in both pictures and you can see that it has been altered slightly, a result of cleaning and refurbishing while in storage. In the black & white picture, look closely under the butt of the guy at the right. That square you see is the bronze plaque!
If you enjoy history and live in small-town America, check out the Images of America series by Arcadia Publishing. They are small books of about 125 pages and with lots of historical pictures. Unfortunately, they are on the expensive side, ranging in price from around $18 to $24 new. Amazon has some of them so a check there for good-condition used copies is worthwhile.
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Posted on February 10, 2013, in Halls of History, History, Out & About, Photos, Then & Now and tagged blaze the fire house dog, la mesa california pictures, la mesa's fire house greeter, the volunteer's bell in la mesa california. Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.