11/22/14 911 W, 2 I - + 12 - 7 Remembering Sunday School at Raleigh Fire Stations

On Sunday November 5, 1967, a service was held at Raleigh Fire Station 1 celebrating the twelve anniversary of the fire department's Sunday school program. The event started at 2:30 p.m. and the program is shown to the right.

The program was started as extension of the Men's Bible Class of the Edenton Street Methodist Church. The first classes were held at Station 1 on November 3, 1955. Nearly nine years later, the classes were also held at Station 5 and Station 7. And would be starting at Station 9 in the summer of 1965.

Other churches assisted with the classes. White Memorial Presbyterian, Hayes Barton Methodist, Hayes Barton Baptist, and St. John's Baptist helped with the classes at Station 5. Longview Baptist was the partner for the programs at Station 7. Emmanuel Baptist would be assisting with the classes at Station 9.

Noted a Raleigh Times story on June 20, 1964, four men "not members of the fire department" were play key roles in organizing the original class at Station 1 (and which included firemen from nearby Station 2). The included E. Y. Floyd who was a long time Sunday school teacher, Dr. W. D. Miller who accompanied the singing firemen on the piano, and E. C. Banks who was the group's leader. And Pat Murphy, an insurance underwriter and a member of Edenton Street Methodist Church.

Said of Murphy in the story, he was "perhaps the man most responsible for the formation of the classes" nine years earlier.


Singing hymns was an important part of each Sunday's service. The fireman sang at least three or four hymns. Said Banks to the newspaper "We certainly don't claim to be professional singers," "[but] we make up with enthusiasm what we might lack in musical skill."

The singing firemen have also made outside appearances as a choral group. Notes the story, they've "sung for North Street Baptist twice and Layden Memorial Methodist a like number of times."

What happens when there's a fire during class? Said Miller, "The firemen slid down the pole right in the middle of class" and then "come back and [resume] the classes when the fire is put out."

Rescue Office Harold Jones, acting President of the class, could recall only one or two times that "school" was interrupted. At least on his shift. (There were two shifts at this time.) And those fires "didn't amount to much." (The other officers for the 1963-64 term were James E. Warren as Vice President, and Jack Barden as Treasurer.) Click to enlarge:

Raleigh Times photos - July 1964 (left) and July 1961 (right)

Offerings are taken during each service and the monies benefit needy Raleigh families. The class members at Station 6 (comprised of firemen from Stations 4, 5, and 6) also donated for a project to fund bible translators for Brazilian Indians. The firemen sent monthly checks to the project coordinators for about three years.

When Floyd was available to act as teacher, firemen served as substitute teachers: Jones, Charles Wood, and Richard Mabry. Three retired firemen continued to attend classes after leaving the department: V. C. Mims, B. A. Edwards, and M. E. Perry.

Noting this important point, Fire Chief Jack Keeter said "the classes haven't jeopardize fire service at all." And "the firemen stay in their own territory when they attend the classes. The trucks are on hand and they are ready to go to the fire when the alarm rings."

There's also been a side benefit to the station-based classes. Firemen who attended on duty invariably attended church service more frequently, and all of which brings members of the fire department closer to each other.

Added Keeter, "When we were talking about [starting] the classes, we wanted to avoid any mockery and fly-by-night aspects." He added "We wanted to run the classes just as they were run in regular churches."

The firefighters have also had a chance to directly "pay back their debt" to Edenton Street Methodist Church. After a devastating fire in 1956, one of the contributions for rebuilding came from the fire department.

Additional notes, from a Raleigh Times story three years earlier on July 29, 1961:


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