11/06/09 440 W - + 15 - 13 Reflections on Research


In addition to finding and photographing all those former and historic firehouses in central and western North Carolina, this year’s trip to the mountains also included stops at libraries, history rooms, and historical societies in Asheville, Charlotte, Gastonia, Hendersonville, Kannapolis, Morganton, and Salisbury. The same question was asked at each stop. Do you have historical information on local fire departments? The results were varied; treasure trove here, crickets chirping there. The vertical files at the Burke County headquarters library were well-stocked, as were the files at the main Charlotte-Mecklenburg branch. The availability of a computer and scanner at the latter saved me many dollars on copies.

Asheville’s Pack Library has copied and bound their vertical files-- which are collections of clippings and other paper materials-- and the volume about fire departments was reasonably rich. Other places, alas, had thinner files. The history room at the Cabarrus County system’s Kannapolis branch yielded a few photos in addition to some useful clippings. They too had a computer and scanner for patron use. Time didn’t permit a visit to the Concord branch and their history room, however. That’s the place with county-wide information, and not just about Cannon Mills and Kannapolis.

But even the best results at these places still paint an incomplete picture. There are other sources to consult, and most notably the fire department itself. Usually someone on staff has compiled a department history, or can put their hands on such a history, or knows one or two people who know the history. That’s what happened in Tryon in Polk County, where police department personnel pointed me in the direction of a downtown hardware store. The owner had been long-involved with the fire department, they advised, and could answer my questions about the location of prior stations.

Said store owner wasn’t present, but his daughter was there. She showed a nifty picture of the Tryon Fire Department from a prior decade. Wish I had had a laptop and scanner handy. But that’s how it goes, digging for historical gems statewide. Sometimes they’re collected in a single place; in history rooms, in libraries, in files at fire departments. Sometimes they’re scattered around; on the walls, in the homes, in the memories of former members.

But we’re making progress. Slowly but surely, Yours Truly is methodically piecing together the history of the fire service in our state. Best of all, the more I learn about other departments, the better I understand my department. It’s all relates.





...she must do a lot of shopping while your are excavating history.
Olson - 11/06/09 - 22:50



  
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