The Right Stuff

There is a commercial currently running on television that exalts the strong moral character of most Firefighters. It is a scene where a room full of Firefighters in full turnout gear are sitting in attendance at a meeting being run by a tough looking Fire Chief. They are voting on vital issues and all seem to be on the same track. They are accomplishing good things using common sense.

The fire Departments throughout this country, and probably the world, are staffed by these kind of individuals. I know I can remember several who took a stand to defend Firefighters. One such person was Harold (Hank) Meyers.  Jeff VanEvery, a fellow Firefighter, asked me a question one day and then proceeded to give me the answer. The story involved Hank. You people on the Detroit Fire Department may be particularly interested in this tale of courage and fortitude.

Jeff asked,” Are you aware how our pension system grew to what it is today? Most guys don’t have a clue.

Back in the 50s and 60s all the money was in the National Bank of Detroit at 2 % or a tad more than 2%. When the City ran out of money before the end of the fiscal year, they could get a interest free loan from NBD to tide them over. What a sweet deal for both parties.  In the early 70s we could not get anyone to run for trustee of the pension board to fill the position available for Captain or above so Harold (Hank) Meyers threw his hat in and ran unopposed.

After Hank started attending board meetings he would come back to the engine house with all the rules and bylaws for the board. It seems that a representative of the Mayor was running the board meetings. Not an appointed ex-officio member, just someone the Mayor wanted to keep in control of the money. The 3 DFD members of the board (Hank Myers, Jimmy Jenkins, and I can’t remember the 3rd) along with a couple of police reps threw out the Mayor’s representative. In fact it was Hank who confronted the Mayor’s rep and asked him to leave. Then they did the right thing that allowed the fund to grow.  They admitted that nobody on the Board was smart enough to know where to invest the funds. So the first thing they did was to invite other local banks to the Board meetings to bring proposals on how to invest the Police and Firefighter’s pension funds. Sometimes in the late 70s all the funds were moved to another local bank, at that time about 350 million dollars. They had to close off all of downtown Detroit because the money had to be moved physically(no wire transfers at that time). One of the first investments made by the Board was to finance a mall outside of Boston at 18% interest. In a couple of years our fund was transformed from a savings account into a portfolio. We have many people to thank for our fund growing from 350 million to 4 billion dollars.

I thank Jeff VanEvery for this enlightening piece of history and we should  be grateful for people like Captain Hank Meyers who worked so hard to protect all of us.

Comment Section:

Retired Chief Greg Pearn sent these comments

A good one... I remember I ran with the two of them on Squad I heard stories all the time. Captain Hank always wore a red sweat shirt at fires...I don't even remember a fire coat very often. He had his own (never washed) coffee cup (which Van Every and Black Jack Mueller set me up with to my dismay). Sold a big Buick to someone in the firehouse every year, talked constantly without breathing. Looked a bit like an old boxer. How rough and tumble could a man with a beer belly who was only 5'7" or 5'8" be. He instilled fear in people and constantly referred to his crew as his boys (squad men). He looked and talked like a longshoreman and required the battalion chief to remain at the watch desk until he was escorted in by the captain. Those were great days....thanks to Jeff for shaking my memory.

A comment from retired Fire Engine Operator Ralph Rehmer:

Hey bob,,, while running at eng 35 around 1970, I was detailed to sell Firemen Field Day tickets for the summer at Eng 53. Good ol hank ran the house in those days, and I think he still was with the pension board. Anyway...we used to gather in the kitchen doing what Firefighters do in the kitchen.  The chief came in for a surprise visit that afternoon. He was gonna go to the kitchen, when hank stepped in front of him and told him...Chief, your business is here at the watch boys are in the kitchen. you don't belong there. The Chief called his driver (probably in the kitchen with us), and promptly left the scene. Hank ran a good clean house. after he retired, he moved to Howell at Lake Chemung, and occasionally visited our pizzeria. He also, while living in Detroit, had a fire in his house. it's so long ago, I don't remember all the facts, but he didn’t call the dept, put the fire out himself, and got singed up a little in the process. He was a special guy.

Please send any comments or stories you may want to appear on Fire Talk to Bob Haig at

"Fire Talk" Archives

"Fire Horses" book authored by firefighter R.J. Haig.


Home PageAbout the BookFirefighting LinksAbout R. J. HaigPhoto GalleryTrail of the FirewriterFire TalkCop Talk