Tales of the 7th Battalion 9

Engine House Cat

Dick Hoffman was the best running mate in the world. He was born and bred in the 7th Battalion. He went to Western High School where he was an all city athlete. He was a first class Firefighter and smart as a whip. His entries in the company journal looked like something out of an 18th century ship’s log. His handwriting was beautiful. He wrote with outstanding penmanship that included long graceful letters and stylish curls to each word. Dick had a repertoire of one liners that could make a clam laugh. He also liked to drink beer. You could say Dick was the complete Firefighter.

Once on a trip to Las Vegas with a few friends he ran into Buddy Hackett at the bar. Hackett was a headliner at the Stardust Casino back in the 1960s. It was early in the morning and the beer was flowing freely. Dick and Buddy started exchanging jokes. The one liners Dick was using had Buddy roaring with laughter. Buddy told Dick he was a fantastic comedian and should quit the Fire Department and go on stage in Vegas. Before he left he gave Dick a handful of free tickets to his show. Lucky for us Dick never left the department. We continued to enjoy his good humor until the day he retired.

When Dick Hoffman was promoted to Captain he was assigned to Engine 29 in the 7th Battalion. Engine 29 was a notorious Fire Company. It was known as the Black Hole of Calcutta. Their company logo was a Jolly Rogers. If you were a trouble maker in the 7th Battalion you ended up at Engine 29. Oddly enough this was a great firefighting unit. Many times this company was alone when responding to a fire. Their location was cut off from help by a busy railroad track and two rivers that defined the borders of their fire district. They were a rag tag bunch but a group you could depend on at a tough fire.

Dick loved to tell the story about his first day at Engine 29. Dick said he came into the building from the parking lot through the back door. Most companies, at that time, had a company dog. Not Engine 29. They had a company cat. He was wretched looking creature with one ear, a bent tail, and a battle scarred body. The cat hissed and hunched his back when Dick came through the kitchen door. Dick dropped his gear and helped himself to a cup of coffee. He leaned over and called to the cat. He received a low rumbling growl and a scowling glare. The cat then walked to the door and turned to look at Dick. Dick walked over and opened the door for the cat. The cat walked back to his box near the stove. Dick started to drink his coffee and the cat walked back to the door. Again Captain Hoffman opened the door for the cat. With a mean glare the cat returned to his box. Just then one of the company men walked into the kitchen. Captain Hoffman said, “That’s a weird cat you guys have. He keeps going to the door and when I open it to let him leave he just goes back to his box.” The Firefighter started laughing and answered, “That’s a smart cat Captain. He doesn’t want to leave. He wants you to leave.”  It was the start of another typical day down in the 7th Battalion.

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