Tales of the 7th Battalion 26, Destructo

The Oakwood section of southwest Detroit was a peaceful area. It was a blue collar neighborhood populated by mostly Italian immigrants. Engine 48 was located here and considered a rest home for 7th Battalion Firefighters suffering from battle fatigue. The houses surrounding the quarters were old but well maintained with fresh paint and attractive flower gardens. Lieutenant Benny (the hook) Patterson fit into this scene with ease. He enjoyed sitting in a comfortable chair in front of the engine house on a gentle summer’s eve watching the old ladies bending over pulling weeds from their front lawns. One day, into this tranquil scene, a moving van arrived carrying a devious small kid and his large family.

The elderly lady across the street had died and her children decided to rent out the immaculate two flat that had been her home. The van had barely stopped moving when 6 or 8 small kids hit the ground running and yelling. A few were barefooted and a couple of the younger ones wore diapers. All were loud and boisterous. They attacked the unsuspecting house all at once. A 300 pound woman carrying a stick waddled after them. Her screeching voice boomed two octaves louder than all the kids combined. Lieutenant Patterson picked up his chair and headed inside. It would prove to be an interesting summer.

Within weeks the front door of the old home was torn from its hinges. The flowers were all picked and holes appeared in the once finely trimmed lawn. Some of the windows were broken and replaced with pieces of cardboard. The house struggled to provide shelter but it soon became apparent that doom was upon it. The leader of the of the kid demolition crew was a four foot tall, Dick the Bruiser look alike, who the Firefighters named Destructo.

Everything he touched he destroyed. He was always thinking up fun games like throwing stones over the engine house into the lot where the Firefighters parked their cars. Another was to use the crab apples from the tree in his front yard to bombard Lieutenant Patterson when he tried to sit in front of quarters to watch the ladies weed their lawns. All the stray cats in the neighborhood left the area. Spot, the engine house dog, had a nervous breakdown and Chief 7 no longer stayed to chat when making his rounds. The wild kids and the Firefighters co-existed without hostility most of the summer. War broke out just before school started in September.

The kids had got some squirt guns and playfully crept behind the Firefighters seated in front of quarters and let them have it. One of the men grabbed a garden hose and gave the little devils a good soaking. Destructo ran home and returned with a bucket of muddy water. The other kids followed the leader and soon a full scale water fight was on. Lieutenant Patterson threw in the big bell for reinforcements. Water was flying everywhere. The kids were starting to win and the Lieutenant ordered the red line from the rig to be stretched. Engine 48’s crew held the platform momentarily as the force of the fire hose knocked the kids down and pushed them back. More kids arrived and joined the fray. Lieutenant Patterson ordered his men to get back into the engine house and seal the doors. Before the windows could be closed, Destructo managed to slip in with a fully charged garden hose. As Lieutenant Patterson rounded the back of the rig he was caught full in the face with water from Destructo’s hose. The fun was over. The Lieutenant grabbed the little monster by the scruff of the neck, dragged him to the downstairs bathroom, put his head in the toilet and flushed it.

It must have been the madness of the moment Lieutenant Patterson later told me. "The strange thing was that Destructo loved it. Up to that point I always thought the kid would grow up to be a truck man because he could bust things up so quickly but after the toilet flushing incident, which he enjoyed, I knew he was destined to ride the squad."

The prediction of Lieutenant Patterson must have come true. Most water fights are started by squad men. So look around brothers and sisters and be aware, Destructo lives and is among us today. He may even be riding your squad.

Stay safe my brothers and sisters.

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