City Fire Department History, 1835-1941

Columbus Indiana


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     Mayor Fred C. Owens particular interest in the Fire Department is not hard to trace. You might almost say he was reared in a fire house. A son of Capt. Ralph Owens of No. 2 Company, he spent a lot of his time as a lad, playing around the fire house in Maple Grove, and frequently was permitted to spend the night there with his father, to the envy of other boys less fortunate. That was in the days of the old fire horses, and watching them go out when the alarm sounded, then get away for a run to a fire was a thrill the Captain's son can still feel more than twenty years after. Mayor Owens says he has seen a number of boys practically reared in the Fire Department, and has never known of any of them going to the bad. He thinks, too, that it is understandable why he has such a warm spot in his heart for the firemen and the Fire Department. Mr. Owens was born August 29, 1900, in Columbus, and educated in the public grade and high school here. His first job was working in George Habig's grocery in his spare time from 1909 to 1917 while going to school. He delivered the Indianapolis Star during the winter of 1917-18, then went to work at Reeves Pulley Company in 1919. He worked for Cummins Engine Company in 1920 and 1921, then in the latter year took a position in Irwin's Bank, which he held for several years. He was elected city clerk in 1929, and held that office from 1930 to 1933; then was city clerk-treasurer from 1935 to 1939, when he was elected mayor. He and Mrs. Owens and their two children reside at 737 Hutchins Avenue.



Harry N. Hull is not a member of the Fire Department, but his work as city electrician is so clearly connected with the department that it deserves mention in this booklet. It is he who, along with his other duties, keeps the city fire alarm system in working order. Mr. Hull was born August 26, 1896, in Columbus. He started working in the signal department of the Pennsylvania Railroad company in 1912, then served in the 30th Service Company of the Signal Corps in the World War. He had worked for the Telephone Company for six years before becoming city electrician in 1926. Mr. Hull installed the first electric traffic signal in Columbus. When he was appointed, the city had 239 overhead series lights; it now has 410. There were no traffic signals; now there are 15. The city also has added six fire alarm boxes in that time, bringing the total to 48. He supervised removal of the central switchboard of the fire alarm system to the new Central Fire Station last September from the City Hall, where it had been housed for many years. Mr. Hull's duties include looking after all the city's street, alley and park lights, and maintaining all the city's electrical equipment. One of the jobs he has done was to overhaul the electric generator and steam turbine at the water works and put them back into service in 1930. This equipment had lain idle since 1919, while the city bought its electric current. The city has been generating its own current since 1930.



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