Western Springs: The Fire Department Champs of 1937
Western Springs’ population was barely 4,000 in 1937. But, its volunteer firefighters managed to win national honors at a tournament held in Chicago’s Soldier Field.
By 1937, the Village of Western Springs' fire department had been conducting training drills every Monday night for three or four years. So, when the City of Chicago announced a national tournament for fire departments, Chief Waldo Erickson didn’t hesitate to enter his volunteers, limited to six in number. See second photo.
Thirty-one departments from 9 states were represented, all competing for a $500 grand prize ($8,000 in 2013 dollars). See third photo.
An estimated 100,000 spectators watched the contests at Chicago’s Soldier Field. These events included wall scaling, raising ladders, life line rescue, alarm response, and hose layout. The latter event required the teams to lay 300 feet of 2½ inch hose from a hydrant, connect their pumper to the hydrant, and operate a stream of water through two different fourth floor windows, all while maintaining engine water pressure below 150 pounds. See fourth photo.
At the end of the day, the Western Springs team had achieved 15.9 of a possible 20 points, nearly a full point ahead of the next best team. In addition to the $500 grand prize, the participants were each awarded a medal and honored at a banquet held at the Congregational Church. See fifth photo.
While congratulatory letters and telegrams poured in from numerous citizens, government officials, and fire departments, a letter from the village president, Howard Knowlton, probably said it best: “The whole town sleeps better, confident in the knowledge that we have a real fire department.” See sixth photo.