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2009: Firefighter Paul Maddox shares memories of Southside's fire station #3


Hannibal Courier Post

Nov. 19, 2009

Editor's note: Courier-Post Editor Mary Lou Montgomery began her journalism career in 1976 as a cub reporter covering the fire beat. Firefighters of that era, including Roy Hark, Paul Maddox, Jack Smashey, Frank Desmond and her brother, Becker Spaun, helped her learn the craft of journalism while covering important Hannibal fires. As a payback, she undertook the task of rebuilding the time-worn scrapbook started by veteran fire fighter, Wayne Bowles, decades ago. Today, Paul Maddox shares his memories of the Southside fire station, which closed in 1967. The interview with Paul Maddox follows:

Me, John Eisele and Donnie Collins were the last crew on the Southside. The chief came in one morning at 7 o'clock and said, "pack the truck up with what you can carry out and lock the door and let's go.' He didn't want to fight the Southside. The Southside built that station. It was theirs, exclusively theirs. The trains split the town. Bear Creek bridge, and the one on Main Street [provided the only vehicle access.] When the trains came through, the only way you could get to the Southside was to go all the way out Lindell Avenue, cut across and come in the back way. That was it. When they built the [Third Street] viaduct [across Bear Creek] the understanding was that station was built out there [on McMaster's Avenue] as soon as that viaduct opened up, we were gone. We knew it was coming, but not the day that it happened. We never did go back. The stuff was picked up by somebody else. That [Southside] station was built at an angle. When you backed into it, you had to cock the truck here, get so far in, and then crank the wheel real hard, and straighten yourself and come back in. Pulling out wasn't too bad, because you could see where you were going. If you backed up, you had to back up by mirrors. There was no other way of getting in. You backed up by mirrors. You knew where the pole was; you knew where the candy machine was. It was how you came in and judged your distance. Southside was the old [station] 3. I was there at least five or six years. Might have been longer than that. I'll tell you, I said the Southside owned that station. I still see the kids around [town.] When they were small they lived over on the Southside. What would happen is they would come over to the station and stay with us, and eat with us. They just got to know us, and we got to know them. Mom and Dad would call up the station from their house phones and say "would you send the kids home?' We were like role models to them; the kids liked to be around us and didn't cause us any problems. They knew the rules, and they followed them. If we went on a fire they went home. Then the old men over there established their card playing place. Every morning after we got our house chores done, the old men gathered in there and they played pinochle. If you won you stayed in the game, if you lost you were out. It was constantly. At 12 o'clock they ate. At 1 o'clock they came back. At 5 we ate, they ate; then they came back at night. I played a real good game of pinochle. Paul Maddox began working for the Hannibal Fire Department in 1965, and continued there for about 11 years. After that, he worked for the state as an arson investigator, and eventually retired as fire chief for Cyanamid.


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