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Coast to Coast Fire Run 1939 — "The Longest Fire Run in History"

In the summer of 1939, when he was 23 year old, Bud Land joined National Fire Company No. 1 and rode on a fire truck from New York City to San Francisco, California.

Bud was a volunteer fireman in Smithtown when a call came out for volunteers to make a publicity fire run from "coast to coast". The stated purpose of the run was to foster fire prevention awareness.

A fire was set in a drum* at the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco, California and a fire call was made to New York City. Answering the call from the World's Fair in Flushing Meadows, four volunteer firemen jumped on board a new 1939 Mack fire truck and headed to California by a rather indirect route. The four firemen were: William Bensch, Adolph Jost, Edgar (Bud) Land and Andrew Ruoff.

The expedition also included the promoter of the venture, "Col." Arthur B. "Wild Bill" Hickox, and his wife, Mae who drove along in a car.

The fire truck was Mack Chassis No. 80S1017, a combination pumper with "tires furn. by Goodyear and Co. for advertising". "Coast to Coast" was stenciled on the hood of the truck and "National Fire Co No. 1" was stenciled on the sides.

The helmet shields also said National Fire Co No. 1. It is assumed that new uniforms were obtained especially for the trip. Although it cannot be determined from the photos, it is save to assume that all the patches and badges on the uniforms also said National Fire Company No. 1.

In addition to Mack and Goodyear, the trip was sponsored by Texaco Fire Chief gasoline so the Texaco Fire Chief logo was also on the sides of the truck. Bud said when they needed gas they pulled into a Texaco station and filled up for free.

In a Texaco ad of the time, singing gas station attendants boasted: "Oh, we're the men of Texaco, we work from Maine to Mexico." Nearly out of gas one day the National Fire Company No 1 was forced to stop at a competitor's gas station. While filling the tank the attendant kept singing,"Oh, Texaco, Texaco stinks from here to Mexico".

Photographs taken during the trip indicate that they were in the following cities: Philadelphia (Pennsylvania), Baltimore (Maryland), Washington (DC), Cincinnati (Ohio), Toledo (Ohio), Chicago (Illinois), St Louis (Missouri), Jefferson City (Missouri), Wichita (Kansas), Stillwater (Oklahoma), Oklahoma City (Oklahoma), Dallas (Texas), San Antonio (Texas), El Paso (Texas), Phoenix (Arizona), Los Angeles (California) and San Francisco (California). They also stopped at Coolidge Dam, Arizona.

Newspaper articles indicate that they also may have (or actually did) stop in Lima (Ohio), Houston (Texas), San Antonio (Texas), El Paso (Texas), Yuma (Arizona), Fresno (California) and San Francisco (California). An article in the San Antonio Express indicated that the trip was 5,890 miles. The San Francisco Examiner claimed they "made 169 city stops on the 7,203 mile run". Another article listed 7,158.

The newspaper articles indicate that the group left New York on Saturday, August 12 and were in San Antonio, Texas on September 9, 1839. Slightly over 5 weeks after they left New York they were in Fresno, California on September 19, 1939. They were at Treasure Island, San Francisco on Friday, September 22, 1939. 7,203 miles in 41 days is about 175 miles per day.

The truck appears in all the photos without a top. However, there may have been some kind of cover for protection against the rain and excessive sun.

In the summer of 1939 The World's Fair was in Flushing Meadows, New York and the Golden Gate International Exposition was on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay. The run was made from one fair to the other.

This web page started with the photos that were in the possession of Bud Land. The notations above each of Bud's photograph are the notes that Bud made on the back of the photos. These notes were made at two different times. One set is written in pencil with the hand of young Bud Land. The others were written in pen sometime after Bud had a stroke in 1986. Comments in red indicate the earlier notes - blue indicate the later notes. My notes are at the bottom of the picture. All of the photos that belonged to Bud are now in the possession of his son, Tony Land.

Since the page was created I have been contacted by a number of others who had images of the trip and/or the truck that they have generously shared with the web site.

Bud returned to the east coast by bus. He never mentioned what happened to the others on the trip or what happened to the truck.

Don Schumaker of the Mack Museum in Allentown, Pa. and Jack Krege of San Opisbo, California have provided information on the truck before and after the fire run. See below.

Bud made notations of three names besides himself: Bill Bench, Al Jost and Andy Ruoff.

  • William Bensch was born 1914, the son of William and Freda Bensch. The Bensches had a nursery in Huntington, Long Island.
  • Adolph Jost was born circa 1915, the son of Edward Anton and Anna Jost. The Josts had a laundry in Islip, Long Island in 1930.
  • Edgar (Bud) Land was born in 1915 was, the son of Percy and Meta Land of Smithtown. See Bud Land.
  • Andy Rouff born circa 1921 was the son of Charles (Carl Rouff) and his wife, Elsie. They had a restaurant in Smithtown.

Arthur B Hickox and his wife, Mae Vallen, were involved in motor safety in the late 1920s and early 1930s. See more below.

Robert Bensch believes that most of the photos that Bud had were taken William (Bill) Bensch (Robert's father). Robert still has the negatives.

*Bud always said that the fire was in a "drum". One of the newspaper articles mentions a small house built for the purpose.


Long Island Daily Press, August 24 , 1939:

VAMPS RIDE 3,130 MILES

"Four Suffolk County Volunteers left yesterday to put our a fire in San Francisco!

But it's all part of fire prevention propaganda and the blaze won't be started until they're right around the corner and 3,130 miles from New York.

They left in a new red shiny truck for the World's Fair grounds yesterday with the greetings form Governor Whalen to Lelend W. Clutter, president of the Golden Gate Exposition.

Those making the trip are Adolph Jost of Sayville, Andrew Rouff and Edgar Land of Smithtown Branch, and William Bensch of Huntington.

En route, Arthur Hickok will give a series of fire prevention lectures in connection with Fire Prevention Week.

When the vamps* get to the fair city on the West Coast they will show the Westerners how they do it in the East by extinguishing a timed fire on Treasure Island in the amusement center of the San Francisco Fair.

*Vamp = volunteer firefighter - origin unknown


Suffolk County News August 16, 1939

"Adolph Jost, a member of the Sayville Fire Department, is among four volunteer firemen who are making a coast-to coast trip in a fire truck with the Golden Gate International Exposition at San Francisco their destination. Arthur Hickok honorary fire chief of Ballston Spa, N. Y. accompanied by his wife Mae Vallem Hickok, and Jost, Andrew Rouff, and Edgar Land, both of Smithtown Branch and William O. C. Busch of Huntington, left the World's Fair over the week-end and at present are nearing Chicago.

The purpose of the trip is to give fire-prevention demonstations in 25 cities across the continent. The party is due in San Francisco on September 15, when the International Association of Fire Chief's hold a convention there."


Mack Promotion, August 1939

"The MACK BULLDOG was a monthly magazine written and published by the employees at the Allentown Mack Factory" (Jack Krege, March 2012)
"The cover of this months issue shows a Mack type, 80, 750 gallon pumper which, will start from the New York World's Fair on the longest fire run in history - straight through to the San Francisco Golden Gate Exposition.

The Mack will be driven all the way by Chief "Wild Bill" Hickox veteran racing driver who now devotes his activities to the cause of Fire Prevention. He will be accompanied by a crew of 6 firemen colorfully attired in bright red flannel shirts, white helmets and blue uniforms.

This long distance run is being made as a dramatic reminder to citizens all over the country of the importance of fire prevention and of the vital part played by local fire departments in the saving of life and property.

Stops will be made in over 200 cities along the route. Chief Hickox and his men will co-ordinate in every way possible with local fire departments and civic groups interested in tieing in their local fire prevention activities with the punch and color of the "longest fire run in history".

The cross-continent run will come to a climax at the San Francisco Exposition grounds. Upon hearing that the coast-to-coast fire engine has arrived at the city line, officials will ignite a miniature house previously erected on the rounds. Chief Hickox and his men will then speed to the scene, and in view of the assembled throng extinguish the blaze that brought them 3000 miles."

Article and magazine cover courtesy of Jack Krege, March 2012.

Fire Engineering, vol 92, 1939
"FIRE RUN FROM COAST TO COAST TO FURTHER FIRE PREVENTION

Company to Start from New York City and Will Make 180 Stops on Way to San Francisco World's Fair

Some time in July, following a signal from the New York World's Fair there will be started the longest fire engine run in history, under the guidance of Arthur B. Hickox, who, in his early automobile racing days, was known as "Wild Bill". He will drive a Mack fire engine over a marked route that will cover 17 states and stops will be made at over 180 cities.

Arrangements have been made to have welcoming committees at these stopping points made up of the Mayors, Chiefs, civic groups and fire insurance men. A police escort will be provided at each of these stops.

The apparatus will pull up alongside a designated hydrant, hose laid, and the hydrant operated. A tag will be affixed to the hydrant and the hydrant painted the national colors, as a symbol of its part in the coast to coast run.

The men making the run in the Mack apparatus will be known as National Fire Company No. 1, and it will make 25 overnight stops, at which places elaborate fire prevention programs have been arranged. Mae Vallem, radio and concert singer, will furnish a musical program. The run will terminate at the Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco, and as a climax, a miniature building especially erected for the demonstration will be set on fire and extinguished with streams from the pumper.

The progress of the fire run from coast to coast will be broadcast by the Columbia Broadcasting Company System and stories and pictures of the ride will appear in the newspapers. Gasoline is being provided by the Texas [Texaco] Company: Cairns & Brothers, are donating the helmets, badges, and uniforms and watches are being supplied by the Bullova Watch company. Other organizations are also cooperating.

The fire company will arrive in time for the I. A. F. C. convention where they will be guests of the association.

A fire run scout car, with advance representative, is to leave New York the middle of June. The sponsors hope that this run will create increased interest in fire prevention."

Fire Engineering vol 92, 1939


August 7, San Francisco Chronicle

"Just about four weeks from now, a fire engine Treasure Island bound will be due to heave in sight over the eastern horizon.

The engine, with Colonel Arthur B. Hickox at the wheel, is now on its way across the continent, having left the New York Fair and the swanky swamp of Flushing July 29 on a fire prevention tour. Along with Colonel Hickox and a regular fire engine crew will come Fire Queen Mae Vallem Hickox, radio and concert vocalist.

So there will be nothing anti-climatic about the engine's arrival at the Exposition, plans are being made to have a brisk blaze going in a trash can when the engine gets here. Colonel Hickox and his crew will put the fire out and then, feeling much happier about the whole thing, go about the business of looking ove the Fair.


Adolph Jost, of Syville Fire Department, Andrew Ruoff and Edgar Land, both of Smithtown, and William O. C. Burch (sic) of Huntington, Aboard Fire Truck on Trip to Coast

"Aldolph Jost, a member of the Sayville Fire Department, is among four volunteer firemen who are making a coast-to-coast trip in a fire truck with the Golden Gate International Exposition at San Francisco as their destination. Arthur Hickox honorary fire chief of Ballston Spa, N. Y. - accompanied by his wife, Mrs. Mae Vallem Hickox, and Jost, Andrew Ruoff and Edgar Land, both of Smithtown, and William O. C. Burch (sic) of Huntington left the World's Fair over the week-end and at present are near Chicago.

The purpose of the trip is to give fire-prevention demonstrations in 25 cities across the continent. The party is due in San Francisco on September 15th when the International Associations of Fire Chief's holds a convention there."

The Long Islander, August 18, 1939


Edgar Land and Andrew Ruoff of Smithtown

"Edgar Land and Andrew Ruoff both members of the Smithtown Fire Department left Friday on a months trip to the Golden Gate Exposition in San Francisco. With several other young men they left the New York World's Fair ground on a large Mack fire truck and will demonstrate modern methods of fire fighting at various stops along the route."

Long Islander (Huntington) Thursday, August 17, 1939 Page: 10


Worlds Fair News, August 12, 1939

Under a section of World Fair news. Long Island Star Journal August 12, 1939

The "longest fire run in history" postponed by the Fair several times was to get under way this morning with Fire Chief Arthur "Wild Bill" Hickox piloting a red engine from the Fair on the first leg of a trip to the Golden Gate Exposition at San Francisco.

The engine is to carry greetings from Grover Whalem to Leland Cutler president of the Frisco show. A house is being built at the California fair which will be fired on the company's arrival for the testing of the equipment."


Collection of Maggie Land Blanck


This is a photo of the fire hat shield from Bud Land's fire helmet. The shield is now in the possession of Bud's son, Tony Land.
Collection of Tony Land


The Fire Run from The World's Fair in Flushing Meadow, New York to the Golden Gate Exposition in San Francisco

"National Fire Company No 1" left New York City on August 13 1939 according to the New York Times.

The truck arrived at Treasure Island on September 22, 1939.

William Bensch's "certificate" as an "Active Member of National Fire Company No 1, Coast to Coast Fire Department" was signed by Art and Mae Hickox and dated, September 22, 1939. The International Association of Fire Chief's meeting ended in San Francisco on September 24, 1939.


Collection of Maggie Land Blanck

1939 New York World's Fair, Flushing Meadows, New York. The fair opened on April 30, 1939 and closed in October. It was opened for two seasons (April to October) and closed officially in October 1940.

FIRE ENGINE OFF TO COAST

Leaves Fair for Visit to San Francisco Exposition

"Fire Chief Arthur (Wild Bill) Hickox, automobile racer and lecturer on automotive safety, accompanied by a crew of five, including his wife, left in a new fire engine from the World's Fair yesterday morning for a trip across the continent of the San Francisco Exposition. Hickox carried a letter of greeting from Grover Whalen to Leland Cutler, president of the San Francisco Fair.

The crew plans to stop at twenty five principle cities and will cooperate in extinguishing any possible fires they encounter during their journey. At the San Francisco Fair, Hickox and his company will actually extinguish a blaze. A building being erected there for that purpose. The fire engine is fully equipped."

New York Times, August 13, 1939

Grover Aloysius Whalen was a prominent public relations figure in New York City in the 1930s and 40s. He was president of the New York Wolds Fair Corporation.

Leland W. Cutler was a prominent socialite in San Francisco and the first president of the Golden Gate International Exposition.


National Fire Company No. 1 Leaves New York World's Fair on August 13, 1939

Photo collection of Jack Krege, September 2008

Art and Mae Hickox are in the front seat. The man wearing the fire hat and standing behind Art Hickox is not known. The man in the fire uniform is Harry Blowell.

The flag draped on the side of the truck says: "1939 New York World's Fair"


New York City

Photo collection of William Bensch, April 2010


"Leaving Phila Fire House"

"Cross country trip in Phila"

Photo collection of Tony Land

The Texaco Fire Chief logo and National Fire Co. No 1 are visible on the side.


"Mayor of Baltimore and Fire Chief"
Photo collection of Tony Land

Mae and Art Hickox are seated in the truck. The mayor of Baltimore is on the running board. Baltimore's mayor in 1939 was Howard W Jackson. An image of him on the internet appears to be the same person. Howard W. Jackson (1877-1960)

I assume the gentleman in the uniform was the "fire chief".


"Emerson Hotel, Baltimore "
Photo collection of Tony Land


New Emerson Hotel, Baltimore and Calvert Streets, Baltimore, Md

Not posted.

The Emerson Hotel was built in 1911, closed in 1969 and was demolished in 1971.

Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck


"Dist Columbia Bldg, Washington, D. C."
Photo collection of Tony Land

The building is the State War and Navy Department.


Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

State War and Navy Department, Washington D.C. Not posted.


Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Peaceful Valley and Route U. S. 40 in Western Maryland

Apple orchards in Western Maryland.

Not posted

The exact route west from Washington to Toledo, Ohio is not certain. They did go through Cincinnati. In any event, this gives a hint of the type of landscape the crew must have experienced on the way west to Ohio.


Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

Cincinnati, Ohio

The Netherland Plaza in Cincinnati opened in 1931.

Netherland Plaza Hotel

The Netherland Plaza is a National Historical Landmark and is still in operation. It is now part of the Hilton chain of hotels.

On or near the truck from left to right: Bud Land, Andy Ruoff, and Al Jost.


Photo collection of Robert Bensch

Netherland Plaza (Hilton Hotel) Cincinnati, Ohio

A ladies' musical group appears ready to play and maybe sing. At least two violins are visible.


Collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Netherland Plaza Hotel - Cincinnati

NETHERLAND PLAZA HOTEL
Fifth and Race Street
CINCINNATI, OHIO
800 outside rooms, each with four-station radio, tub and shower bath, and circulating ice water. Four popular priced restaurants and beautiful cocktail terrace. Rates $3.00 a day and up.

Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

This photo was labeled "William Bensch, Chicago". However, the building in the background of the fountain is the Carew Tower in Cincinnati, Ohio. The fountain was erected in 1871 and Fountain Square is the symbolic center of Cincinnati.


Photo collection of William Bensch, April 2010

The Carew Building Cincinnati. The building is the same as indicated behind the fountain in the photo above.


Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Posted 1941. The crew must have gone through Lima on their way from Cincinnati to Toledo.


"Toledo, Ohio"
Photo collection of Tony Land


"Chicago"
Photo collection of Tony Land

Michigan Avenue looking towards the Art Institute.


Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Michigan Avenue, Looking North From Grant Park, Chicago.

Railway Exchange Building Peoples Gas Building and the tower in the background is the Montgomery Ward Building. Posted 1919.


Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Michigan Boulevard Looking North Seen From Aeroplane, Chicago.

Showing the Blackstone Hotel in the lower left corner.

Not posted.


Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Chicago Art Institute


Indianapolis

Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

"Being escorted."

I am fairly sure that this is Indianapolis. The monument in the background is, I believe, The Soldiers and Sailors monument.


"Mayor and Fire Chiefs of St Louis"
Photo collection of Tony Land

Bernard F Dickmann was the mayor of St. Louis in 1939. He is the fellow in the straw hat closest to the fire truck. An image on the Internet confirms that this was the mayor. See Bernard Francis Dickmann, St Louis Mayors


"St Louis City Hall"
Photo collection of Tony Land


Photo collection of William Bensch

City Hall St Louis, Mo.


Photo collection of William Bensch

City Hall St Louis, Mo.


Photo collection of Robert Bensch

William Otto Frank Bensch, Edgar (Bud) Land, Andy Ruoff and Adolf Jost


City Hall, St. Louis, Mo.

Post marked 1910.

Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck


Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Picturesque Pacific Bluffs overlooking U. S. Highway 66, Pacific, Mo. Not posted.


Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Along Scenic U. S. Highway 66 in the Beautiful Missouri Ozarks. Posted 1954.


Photo collection of Robert Bensch

Missouri State Capital Building, Jefferson City, Mo.


Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

Yost's was a furniture store in Kansas City. By 1931 the Yost Furniture Company, had been serving families in Kansas City and the south-west for over twenty five years. In 1939 Jane Jackson, buyer for of the Yost Furniture Co. Kansas City, Mo. was "remodeling its entire first floor for more decorative treatment."

There was a Yost's furniture store at 1225-1227 Main street Kansas City in 1961.

There was also a Jones clothing store in Kansas City in 1954.

This photos is most likely take from a hotel room window.


Photo collection of Robert Bensch

Broadview Hotel, Wichita, Kansas

The Broadview Hotel


"Pump Exhibit, Wichita, Kansas"

"Bill Bench at controls"

Photo collection of Tony Land


Photo collection of Robert Bensch

Wichita, Kansas


Photo collection of Tony Land

Original negative in the collection of William Bensch.


Photo collection of Robert Bensch

Wichita Fire Department


"Stillwater, Oklahoma State Fire College"
Photo collection of Tony Land

Oklahoma State University still has a School of Fire Protection in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

"The fire service related programs at Oklahoma State University can trace their history to the early 1930's when the Stillwater Fire Department served as host to statewide training sessions. During these meetings, the need for uniform training material and methods became greatly apparent. Oklahoma firefighters and Oklahoma A & M organized the Fire Service Training Association (later known as IFSTA) which fulfilled this need."

Fire Protection Publication's Research Library

Collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Okla. Fire Service Training School, A. & M. College, Stillwater, Okla 1950


"First half of Fire Station No. 2 - 1938"

Courtesy of Rick Schumaker, April 2011

"This images shows the station with only two bays and two floors which was built by City of Stillwater funds with labor help by the firemen. Funding was a problem. The college later matched the City's funds and with a Public Works Administration grant there was enough money to complete the station as your dad saw it in 1939."

Rick Schumaker, April, 2011


"2010"

Courtesy of Rick Schumaker, April 2011

"The other picture is from Sept 2010 from my visit to OSU for a reunion with fire protection students who attended in the years 1950-1955. The station is in dire need of repair and is the object of dispute between the city and the university as to who will fund the repairs."

Rick Schumaker, April 2011

Rick also sent an image of an historic sign recognizing IFSTA which reads:
STILLWATER FIRE STATION NO 1

"In the early 1930s, an innovative and motivated group of men led by Stillwater Fire Chief J. Ray Pence met and discussed the lack of quality fire service training and materials in the United States, particularly in Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri. In July 1934, a group of educators and fire service leaders met in this building to draft a series of training manuals to be published "as economically as possible while providing thorough and valid information about fire fighting." The manual were subsequently published and distributed by Oklahoma A & M College (Oklahoma State University)

This initial meeting and subsequent meetings continuing on a yearly basis, launched what would become the International Fire Training Association (IFSTA). Headquartered at Oklahoma State University, IFSTA is the world's largest publisher of fire training materials. This nonprofit, volunteer organization, with participants from around the world, continues to grow while maintaining an awareness of its founders and those who contributed to its growth and success. The contributions of Chief J. Ray Pence, Professor W. Fred Heisler, and Professor R.J. Douglas will always be remembered.

IFSTA and the fire- related academic, extension, and research efforts of the OSU College of Engineering. Architecture and Technology were all products of these insightful leaders as they met and worked in this historic place

ERECTED AND DEDICATED THIS 13TH DAY OF JULY, 1997, IN HONOR OF THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE STILLWATER FIRE DEPARTMENT

ERECTED BY THE INTERNATIONAL FIRE SERVICE TRAINING ASSOCIATION, OKLAHOMA STATE UNIVERSITY FIRE SERVICE PROGRAM, AND THE CITY OF STILLWATER FIRE DEPARTMENT"


"Fireman training tower"

Photo collection of Tony Land

Bud did not indicate where this picture was taken but it seems likely that the tower was part of the "Fire College"

"Oklahoma City"

Photo collection of Tony Land
The engraving near the top of the building says, "Municipal Building"

Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Municipal Building, Oklahoma City, Okla. Not posted.


Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

Oklahoma City Fire Department, 1939


Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Central Fire Station Oklahoma City, Okla.


Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

Oklahoma


Photo collection of Robert Bensch

Dallas, Texas


Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Houston, Texas

According to the San Antonio newspapers the fire truck had arrived from Houston to San Antonio on September 7, 1939.

See Press below.


National Fire Company No. 1 Arrives in San Antonio on September 7, 1939 — 25 days after they left New York City.

San Antonio Express Saturday September 9, 1939

Caption to an image of the truck.

"National Fire Company No. 1 which is making a coast-to-coast run in the interest of fire prevention is shown in this picture just before the company make a demonstration run on Friday morning with fire Chief Claud A. Hart here as a guest. Seated at the streamline pumper is chief Arthur B. Hickox, a representative of the International Fire Chief's Association. Left to right on the running board are Mae Vellam, officially designated fire queen by mayor Fiorello LaGuardia of New York City and William Bensch, Adolph Jost and Andrew Ruoff, volunteer members of the Long Island District fire department. Seated above the pumper left to right are Edgar Land and Harry Blewell, also members of the Long Island District fire department. The company, which left New York City Aug 13, is scheduled to Arrive in San Francisco Sept. 18 where it will put out a blaze as a demonstration at the San Francisco Exposition grounds."
The picture itself is too fuzzy to use. There is also an article under the image

"FIRE TRUCK MAKED CONTINENTAL RUN

PUMPER STOPS HERE ON WAY FROM NEW YORK TO SAN FRANCISCO

En route from New York to San Francisco to make the longest fire engine run in history, a swing across-county of 5,870 mile, National Fire Company NO. 1 stopped in San Antonio Friday to present a demonstration in the interest of fire prevention and give greetings for Fire Chief Claud A. Hart and Mayor Maurey Maverick.

Headed by Arthur B. Hickox director chief, representative of the International Fire Chiefs Association, the company of five firemen volunteers from the Long Island District fire department will go to San Francisco where the will put out a fire at the San Francisco Exposition. The company is due to arrive in the California city Sept. 18.

Chief Hickox brought greetings from Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia of New York City to Mayor Maury Maverick and greetings from Fire Commissioner John McElligott of New York city to the fire department here.

The coast-to-coast journey is being made in a stream-line pumper fire truck which has the capacity to pour 750 gallons of water each minute. Stops are being made in 200 cities en route to the San Francisco Exposition with Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Del Rio and El Paso in Texas included in the itinerary.

Mae Vallem, officially designated as fire queen from New York City is accompanying the fire company presenting radio concerts en route in connection with fire prevention work.

In New Jersey the company found actual work to do when stopped by a local fire-fighting group to put our a brush fire Chief Hickox said.

Fire Chief Hart was a guest of fire Chief Hickox on a denomination run Friday morning."

The San Antonio Light also ran an article:
" N. Y. FIREMEN HERE ON 'RUN'

On the "longest fire run in history", a fire engine from the New York World's fair had visited San Antonio Saturday on its way to San Francisco to put our a fire at the San Francisco World's fair. The fire truck, a late model thermodyne engine arrived in San Antonio from Houston Thursday night and left for El Paso at noon Friday.

The crew is composed of Chief Arthur B. (Wild Bill") Hickox, Mrs, Hickox, and four volunteer firemen, designated by Grover Whalen, head of the New York fair as "Nation Fire Company No. 1".

Mrs. Hickox was named "fire queen" by mayor LaGuardia of New York city and already two songs have been dedicated to her: "The Red Headed Kid With the Fireman's' Hat" and "Stretch In (?).

The fire truck left New York August 12 and Hickox expects to reach San Francisco September 18."

Del Rio Texas

After leaving San Antonio the crew stopped in Del Rio, Texas.

The Del Rio Herald September 10, 1974

"THIRTY-FIVE YEARS AGO SEPTEMBER 10, 1939

Cleanliness of the city of Del Rio and the excellent fire equipment were praised by Arthur B. Hickox, director- chief and representative of the International Fire Chief's Association."

Unfortunately as of March 2012 the Del Rio Herald is not available on Newspaperarchive.com for 1939.
Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas


Collection of Maggie Land Blanck

"Central Fire Headquarters with Two Pumpers and Chassis"

San Antonio, Texas, Fire Engineering, December 1939. C. A. Hart was the fire chief.


Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

El Paso, Texas


Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

El Paso, Texas

Not posted, but a similar card was posted 1939.


Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

New Mexico Mountains


Photo collection of Robert Bensch

Coolidge Dam


Photo collection of Robert Bensch

Coolidge Dam


Collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Coolidge Dam. Posted 1942.


Collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Coolidge Dam.


Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

Arizona desert


Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

Mountain pass


"mountain pass, Arizona"

Photo collection of Tony Land


"entrance to tunnel"

Photo collection of Tony Land


"tunnel highway in mountain pass"

Photo collection of Tony Land

The Claypool Tunnel between Globe and Superior, Arizona.


Photo collection of Robert Bensch


Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Claypool Tunnell, Highway U. S. 60 and 180.

Posted 1936.


Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Claypool Tunnell, Highway U. S. 60 Arizona

Not posted.


Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Devil's Canyon, Highway 60 and 70 Between Miami and Superior, Ariz.

Not posted.

The 1926 Claypool Tunnell was bypassed in 1952 by the Queen Creek Tunnel.


Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Queen Creek Tunnell on U. S. HWYS 60 & 70 between Miami and Superior through the sheer rock butress of the Queen Creek Gourge.

Not posted.


"Al Jost and Andy Ruoff"

Photo collection of Tony Land

With the saguaros in the background this is clearly Arizona.

Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

On the Globe Superior Highway, Arizona.

"A wonderful mountain highway, through a region of mighty rock masses, towering cliffs and deep canyons, the short route from Globe to Phoenix via Miami and Superior, a distance of 80 miles."

Not posted.


Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Superior Highway, Arizona.

Not posted.


Photo collection of Robert Bensch

Arizona Sonora Desert vegetation: Ocotillo, Saguaro cactus, cholla cactus, barrel, prickly pear and other cactus.


Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Printed on back:

"The Security Building is the landmark where motorists entering Phoenix on Van Buren Street, U. S. Highways 60-70-80-89, turn north to the residential sections and the many outlying winter resort hotels, or south to the downtown hotels and shopping district."
The crew came into Phoenix on route 60 from Globe. It seems likely that they would have passed this intersection.

The Security Building at 234 North Central Avenue was erected in 1928 and is still standing.


"on the air in Phoenix, Arizona"
Photo collection of Tony Land

My dad, Bud Land, is at the right side of the truck. His face is partially reflected in the windshield.

William Bensch has the original negative of this image.

In August 2010 Eva Kinnard wrote to say that C. P. Stephen's auto dealership was at 915 North Central. Eva send a copy of a Staff Report of April 6, 2009 from the Phoenix Planning Department. In discussing the historic value of Quebedeaux Chevrolet Showroom & Offices, 750 Grand Avenue Kevin Weight, Planner III reported:

"Only three other pre-1955 examples are known to exist:
  • A.E. England Motor, Inc., 424 North Central (1926);
  • C.P. Stephens DeSoto Six Motor Cars, 915 North Central (1928); and
  • Stewart Motor Company, 800 North Central (1947).

The Quebedeaux building represents the shift of automobile sales and service centers away from Central Avenue and downtown Phoenix during the years following World War II. New dealerships began to appear on Camelback Road and Bell Road, as well on other major streets such as Grand Avenue, which at the time was U.S. Highway 60, 70 and 89."
In March 2012 Robert Graham wrote:
"The Stephens DeSoto Building was constructed in 1928 by Alice Hine, owner for C. P. Stephens, the tenant. They operated the DeSoto dealership (and later picking up Plymouth) in this location from 1928 through about 1955. The architects were McDonald & Morrison. The original rendering of the building appeared in The Arizona Republican on September 23, 1928, and shows the building from almost the same angle as your photo! I have attached a copy of this drawing. The building still exists, although in very poor condition. The photo on your website is the best we have found of the building in its original state.

The building on the right in the same photo was the Blenheim Apartments. This building no longer stands.

The reason this photo would have been entitled "on the air on Phoenix, Arizona" is that KOY, Phoenix's first radio station, was located across the street. The second Phoenix photo (with Keen's Flowers) is the KOY building. This building stands, although in radically altered form, and still houses radio stations. The adjacent property with Phil Torreys is now their parking lot.

I have also attached the Google Streetviews taken roughly from the same spot as the firetruck photos, showing how the area looks in March, 2009."

Newspaper Rendering of the De Soto Dealership, courtesy of Robert Graham, March 2012
The Stephens De Soto Building as it looked in March 2029, courtesy of Robert Graham, March 2012
Koy Building, March 2029, courtesy of Robert Graham, March 2012

Photo collection of Robert Bensch

Robert Graham identified the building on the left as the Koy building. (See above).

The 1936 Phoenix directory listed the following businesses on N. Central between Garfield and Roosevelt:

  • Keens Flowers at 838
  • Lola's Custom Hat Shop at 838
  • Mrs. I Burd at 903
  • Blenheim Apts at 911
  • Phil Torrey (restr) at 914
  • C. P. Stephen's (autos) at 915
  • Shell Oil Co at 920

Note: Phil Torrey "Pilot and restaurant owner" and three other died August 1936 in a crash when the plane he was flying hit a tree.

History of Koy Radio Phoenix

The man in the white shirt leaning over Art Hickox is the same person as the man on the running board in the picture above.


Yuma, Arizona

THE YUMA WEEKLY SUN

September 15, 1939

"NY FIRE TRUCK STOPS HERE ON WAY TO S. F. FAIR

National Fire Company No. 1, making the "longest fire engine run in history," from World Fair at New York City to the World Fair at San Francisco stopped here this morning.

The big fire truck a 750 gallon pumper, has a crew of seven, uniformed firemen, including the director-chief, Col. Arthur B. Hickox, veteran automobile racing driver, and Mrs. Vallen Hickox, "fire queen". Also with the party is Harry Blowell, general secretary and business representative. The truck is sponsored by the Texaco company.

On arrival at San Francisco the firemen will extinguish a fire at the fair grounds on Treasure Island."

US Highway 80 crosses the Colorado river in Yuma.

Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

California State Line


Collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Broadway, Fresno, Calif.

The Fire Run was written up in the Fresno Bee on September 19, 1939. See Press below.


Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

Santa Anita Racetrack, Arcadia, California, opened in December 1934.


Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

Hollywood Hotel

Located on what later became Hollywood Boulevard, the Hollywood Hotel was built in 1902. It was enlarged several times. In it's heyday it was an in spot frequented by many famous movie stars. It fell into disrepair in the early 1940s and was razed in 1956.


Photo collection of Robert Bensch

Courtyard Hollywood Hotel


Collection of Maggie Land Blanck

IN CALIFORNIA
Internationally Famous
HOLLYWOOD HOTEL
on World Renowned Hollywood Boulevard from Highway Avenue to Orchid Street.
Its broad Veranda is a fascinating spot from which to view the continual Cosmopolitan Parade - Spaciousness of Lobby, Dining Rooms and Guest Rooms. Many objects of historical interest.

Collection of Maggie Land Blanck

HOLLYWOOD HOTEL, HOLLYWOOD CAL.
Open All Year
Mission Architecture
Climatic Conditions Unsurpassed
Magnificent View
As Seen on the Ballon Route Excursion

Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

William Bensch at the Hollywood Bowl.

History of the Hollywood Bowl


"Al and Andy at Chinese Theatre, Hollywood, California"

Photo collection of Tony Land

Grauman's Chinese Theatre usually had an elaborate awning in front. Workmen on ladders in the background are working on the awning structure.


Grauman's Chinese Theatre, Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood, California.

This postcard shows the theatre with the awning in place.

Star's footprints, handprints and signatures are impressed in the cement of the sidewalk in front of the theatre.

Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck


Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010


"Los Angeles, Ca."

Photo collection of Tony Land

Jack Yolton was an early pilot for Goodyear blimps. I cannot find anything on the Washing Greasing, motor tune-up" business


Photo collection of Tony Land

Las Angeles, California. Bud is on the left.

William Bensch has the original negative of this image.


Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

San Francisco showing Bradley's 5 and 10 on the right.

Frank L Bradley, San Francisco hotel and tavern owner, opened Bradley's 5 and 10 on Fillmore street near Eddy street (between Geary and Post) in 1936. It boasted the tallest (7 ft 8 inches) and shortest (4 feet 10 inches) bartenders in the world. It also boasted the longes bar in the world. Bradley's served beer for 5 and 10 cents a class.

I am assuming this image was taken from a hotel room window on Steiner street looking east towards South Beach/Embarcadero. The building with the cupola at the left of the image must be on Webster street.

Frank L Bradley died at age 84 in 1964.


"On Fire Boat"
Photo collection of Tony Land

From left to right: Al Jost, Bill Bensch, Andy Rouff, Harry Blowell, Bud Land.

Original negative in the collection of William Bensch.


Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

Fire Boat, San Francisco


Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

Visiting a winery


Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

Portland Oregon Fire Department


Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

Portland Oregon Fire Department

September 25, 1939, Berkeley Daily Gazette in a news article about the disaster service unit of the Portland Oregon Fire department says:

"Brought here in connection with the annual convention of Pacific Coast and International Association of Fire Chiefs, which concluded yesterday in San Francisco, the new truck was also displayed in Oakland and Alameda."
The J. W. Stevens Disaster Service Unit had a portable power plant, communications equipment, fire fighting apparatus, and emergency hospital facility, room to transport seven injured persons, and was capable of speeds of up to 69 miles an hour. It was equipped to handle not only fires, but train wrecks, plane crashes, building, bridge and elevator collapses, ship wrecks, highway disasters, avalanches, and jail breaks.


Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

San Francisco Fire Department washing hose.

San Francisco Fire Department Museum says the Fire Chief in 1939 was Charles J Brennan.

In reference to the World Exposition they say:

"Little else changed in the Department until the advent of the World's Fair of 1939-40 on Treasure Island. Charged with the fire protection responsibility of the entire installation on the man-made island, the Department established two complete stations at the fair site. The equipment situated on the island consisted of two engines, two trucks, two tank wagons, a fireboat and a hose tender all under the general jurisdiction of a Battalion Chief.

The duty proved popular with the members, and there was no problem keeping the stations staffed. The units remained for the duration of the fair and were successful in supplying adequate fire prevention and protection coverage."


Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

San Francisco Fire Department washing hose.


Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

San Francisco City Official

The mayor of San Francisco in September 1939 was Angelo J Rossi who does not look like any of the people in this photo. Angelo Rossi

From 1929 to 1943 Charles J Brennan was the Chief Engineer of the San Francisco Fire Department. Charles J Brennen


Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

San Francisco Fire Department Escort over bridge.


Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

Bay Bridge San Francisco. The Bay Bridge connects San Francisco and Oakland and crosses over Treasure Island the site of the 1939 exposition.


Photo collection of William Bensch

Approaching the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in San Francisco


Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

Edgar (Bud) Land


Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

Adolph Jost


Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

Bill Bensch


Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

Andy Rouff


Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

The Crew: Mae Hickox on truck, Art Hickox, Andy Ruoff, Edgar (Bud) Land, William Bensch, Al Jost and Harry Blowell with the Tower of the Sun in the background.


Photo collection of Tony Land

In November 2009 J B Williamson, CFPS from Johnson Space Center wrote:

"In the photo one of the trucks has High Pressure Battery SFFD on the side which is most likely the San Francisco FD and the building to the left with the mosaic murals is the Federal Building. It was probably not the center building but the one on the left or right. The California Building was one of the buildings at the fair.
Some searching of the internet confirmed that this image is the Federal Building at the Golden Gate Exhibition.

The marble mosaic murals of the Federal Building at the Golden Gate Exposition were designed and executed by Herman Volz and his assistant Juan Breda.

Bill Bensch has the original negative of this image.


Magazine collection of Maggie Land Blanck

In the March 6, 1939 issue Life magazine ran an article on the Golden Gate Exposition. The exposition was held on a man made island, called Treasure Island, in San Francisco Bay.

The image above from the Life article shows the opening ceremony which took place in the Court of the Nation. The Federal Building is the building with the columns and two wings at the top of the picture. The building marked with the red arrow is the building seen in the photo with the fire trucks.


September 22, 1939

"AH! NOW FAIR'S SAFE!

Long Island Fire Truck Arrives

A little late to put out the 1906 fire, but in plenty of time for the next one, five volunteer firemen, their chief, the chief's wife and the Long Island district fire truck arrived on Treasure Island yesterday.

The boys had just completed a cross country trip which had lasted two months. On their arrival they were greeted by Exposition President Leland Cutler, and 1,600 fire chiefs who, by coincidence, happened to be observing fire chief's day at the fair.

For some time the fire truck had been lost in the Midwest.

True, Lyn Fox, the chief of the fair's publicity department, did receive a letter from the wayfarers postmarked Indianapolis and appointing him an honorary fire chief. But after that, there was nothing but silence until their arrival yesterday.

Chief Arthur B. (Wild Bill) Hickox reported that they had made 169 city stops on the 7,203 mile run. The chief and Mrs. Hicox (known as the "fire queen") will start driving the truck back home next week.

The firemen, however, just came for the ride. They're going back today - by bus."

The San Francisco Examiner, Saturday September 23, 1939

Thanks to Ron Claveloux for searching the San Francisco paper's archives to find this article.

The arrival of the Long Island truck coincided with the staged demonstration of modern fire fighting methods held under the auspices of the National Fire Chief's day and the 1,600 fire chiefs who attended the event in the Court of Nations at the Exposition. The fire chiefs had attended a luncheon hosted by San Francisco Fire Chief, Charles J. Brennan and later were served a buffet supper at Treasure Island's three fire stations. (The San Francisco Examiner Sept 23, 1939, courtesy Ron Claveloux, March 2012)

The truck remained in California.

September 22, 1939 - San Francisco Chronicle

FIRE ENGINE HERE AFTER TRIP FROM EAST COAST

With Colonel Arthur B "Wild Bill" Hickox, veteran race driver at the wheel a streamlined fire engine rolled into San Francisco yesterday concluding a 7,168 mile transcontinental journey form Long Island "the longest fire run in history."

En route the truck and its crew of five volunteer long Island firemen visited 187 cities and made demonstrations as part of a fire prevention program.

Not once while crossing the country did the crew find a fire to extinguish, but two motorists were rescued.

Hickox was accompanied by his wife< Mae Vallem Hickox, and fire firemen. They are Andrew Ruoff, Smithtown, Long Island, William Bensch, Huntington, L. I., Harry Blowell, Edgar Land, Smithtown, and Adolph Jost, Sayvelle, L. I." San Francisco Public Library May 2016

An article on the same page reported on the fire chiefs 67th annual convention where over a thousand fire chiefs from across the country and Canada suffered the hot weather.


Miscellaneous Photos

The locations where these taken photos were are not known or are uncertain.


"Conrad Hilton at the wheel"
Photo collection of Tony Land

Conrad Hilton started his hotel chain in Texas — Cisco, Dallas, Abilene, Waco, Marlin and El Paso. His first hotel outside of Texas opened in Albuquerque, New Mexico in 1939.

Most likely this photo was taken at one of his hotels in Texas. The route the fire run took did not go through Albuquerque.

Their route was from Wichita, to Stillwell, Ok, Oklahoma City, Dallas, San Antonio, El Paso.

What little detail there is does not look like the Dallas Hilton.

From Dallas to San Antonio they would have gone by way of Waco and Austin. In 1929, Conrad Hilton built his eighth Hilton Hotel in Marlin, Texas. It was a nine-floor, 110 room Falls Hotel. Marlin is quite near Waco. There were double pillars on the facade of the Marlin Hilton, but I cannot get a clear enough image of the hotel to be sure.


Photo collection of Tony Land

Mae Hickox is in the passenger seat.


Collection of Robert Bensch

Harry Blowell, Bud Land, Andy Ruoff, Al Jost, William Bensch and Mae & Art Hickox


Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

"End of fire Run"


Photo collection of Tony Land

Notice the Texaco pump. Bud labeled this image Los Angeles but William Bensch labeled it "Texas".

Photo collection of Robert Bensch, April 2010

Showing of the truck


William Bensch's Certificate for the Fire Run

Collection of Robert Bensch


The Truck

The truck on which the crew made the run was a Mack 80S 1017, 1939 Fire Truck.


Courtesy of The Mack Museum, Allentown Pa.


Courtesy of The Mack Museum, Allentown Pa.


Courtesy of The Mack Museum, Allentown Pa.


The three photos above were generouly shared by the Mack Museum in Allentown, Pa. Mack Museum

In September 2008 Don Schumaker the curator of the Mack Museum wrote:

"The truck that Colonel Hickox used was the Mack 80S 1017 fire truck. We can supply you with copies of the Sales and Build Records for that vehicle for your files, if you wish. We also have three file photographs of the chassis taken in one of the cities along the way. My guess is that the photos were taken in Philadelphia since the A9634 photo shows the "chief's car" in the background with a Pennsylvania license plate. The date code 839* on the photos indicates the photos were taken in August 1939 near the start of the trip."
*I cut the codes out of the images.

The Mack Trucks Historical Museum
Don Schumaker, Curator
997 Postal Road
Allentown, PA 18103
Telephone: 610-266-6767
Fax: 610-266-6823

Hours: 10:00 a.m. To 4:00 p.m.

Monday, Wednesday, Friday

Please call before you visit!

"For many visitors, the museum's real treasures aren't made of steel at all, but of paper and celluloid. There are more than 80,000 photos in the collection, many dating back to 1905. And there are records. If you were to come across an old AB truck under a tarp in a barn, there was a record made when it was built. The company's been doing it for every chassis manufactured since 1905, and except for a few rare cases, they are filed here. When requesting information about a particular truck from the Mack Museum, please provide the complete chassis number and your postal address."
Don wrote: "The entries for this Chassis indicate that he truck was delivered to Col. Arthur Hickox at Long Island City, New York. The date is not legible. The second entry on this record indicates that it was delivered to t he City of San Luis Obispo, CA on December 22, 1941 by the Mack Los Angeles Branch".

He notes that Col. Hickox probably had the use of the truck without purchasing it.


After his stroke in 1986, Bud like to xerox old photos, sometimes make notes on them, and send the xeroxes to family and friends. This is a doctored picture from one of those xeroxes. I don't know where the original picture is.

Photo collection of Tony Land


The Xeroxed copy
Photo collection of Tony Land


The Mack Truck After the Fire Run

Jack Krege of San Luis Obisbo, Calfiornia contacted me in September 2008 to the say that his father "drove and operated the '39 Mack for many years".

Jack wrote:

"Following the end of the San Franscico Exposition, the Mack Company used the 1939 fire engine as a demonstration unit to promote new sales on the West Coast.

During April 1941, sales representative, Richard Cornell, delived the Mack to the City of San Louis Obispo, California for their use until a newly ordered Mack arrived in July.

However, the federal government intervened and took all fire engines under production for their use. The new Mack arrived in December 1941. An agreement was reached then to also purchase the 1939 for $6,400.

In front line service until 1964, the Mack was used as a trade-in on a new Van Pelt Fire Engine. The Van Pelt Company, located in Oakdale, California, then sold the Mack to a dairy farm operation in the Central Valley of California.

In 2000, the dairy company contacted the City of San Luis Obispo asking if they would be interested in purchasing the 1939 Mack to restore. The city declined their offer"

Jack also wrote:
The Truck was Mack E Series. The engine was a Mack Thermodyne 6 cylinder gasoline motor, 611 cu. in., rated at 168 horsepower pump - 2 stage hale rated at 750 g.p.m.

The hose bed held 1,200 feet of 2½ inch diameter fire hose. The Mack Company installed a hose reel above the pump panel.

Added by the City of San Luis Obispo, a 435 gallon water tank replace the original tank. An additional hose reel and a high pressure pump were installed in 1955.

The truck was painted white in 1959"

City of San Luis Obispo Fire Department. Thanks to Bill Riedemann for the connection. They still have the 1941 Fire Truck!

Press

Lima News, April 30, 1939

"Long Fire Run To Be Thru Lima

The longest fire run in history will be made thru Lima next July.

A fire truck piloted by Col. Arthur B "Wild Bill" Hickox, veteran automobile racing driver, will visit our city enroute from San Francisco to New York City where a "squad" of four will extinguish a "blaze" on the World's fair grounds.

Fire chief, Harry Taflinger, announced Saturday that Hickox had visited Lima recently to make arrangements for a lecture he will give here about July 20 in the interest of national fire prevention.

Accompanying Hickox will be four members of the San Francisco and New York City fire departments and the driver's wife, Mae Vallen Hickox, concert singer, who will be heard over the local radio station the day the group arrives here.

Chief Taflinger said Hickox and his crew will be met at the city limits by the Lima fire department and escorted to a central point where Hickox will speak over a public address system.

Expenses of the fire prevention tour are being borne by a manufacturer of fire fighting equipment Taflinger said."

Note: In fact, the fire run was made in the opposite direction with five Long Island volunteer firemen.

Oakland Tribune Tuesday July 25, 1939

"A fire engine is to leave the New York World Fair Saturday to extinguish a blaze at the Golden Gate International Exposition, some five weeks hence a long run for any fire engine to any fire.

Being a feature of National Fire Prevention Week the engine is to carry Mae Hickox, fire prevention queen, and Col Arthur B Hickox fire prevention marshal. Stops will be made en route, presumably to extinguish fires in some 200 cites and towns on the itinerary."

San Antonio Express September 9, 1939

"Firemen in 5,870 - mile run

National Fire Company No. 1 which is making a coast-to-coast run in the interests of fire prevention is shown in this picture just before the company made a demonstration run Friday morning with Fire Chief Claud A. Hart here as guest. Seated at the wheel on the streamline pumper is Chief Arthur B Hickox, a representative of the International Fire Chiefs Association. Left to right on the running board are Mae Vallem, officially designated fire queen by Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia on New York City, and William Bencsh, Adolph Jost and Andrew Rouff, volunteer members of the Long Island District fire department. Seated above on the pumper left to right are Edgar Land and Harry Blowell, also members of the Long Island District fire department. The company which left New York City Aug. 12, is scheduled to arrive in San Francisco Sept 18 where it will put out a blaze as a demonstration at the San Francisco Exposition grounds."

San Antonio Light September 9, 1939

"NEW TRUCK ABOVE MAKING "LONGEST FIRE RUN IN HISTORY"

Chief A. B. Hickox, 2nd from left. Paul Mc Sween has on helmet!"

Picture of very poor quality.

The accompanying article:

"NY FIREMEN HERE ON "RUN"

On the "longest fire run in history" a fire engine from the New York World's fair had visited in San Antonio Saturday on its way to San Francisco's World's fair.

The fire truck, a late model hydrodyne engine arrived in San Antonio from Houston Thursday night and left for El Paso at noon Friday.

The crew is composed of Chief Arthur B. "Wild Bill" Hickox, Mrs. Hickox and four volunteer firemen, designated by Grover Whalen, head of the New York City as "National Fire Company No 1."

Mrs. Hickox was named "fire queen" by Mayor LaGuardia of New York City and already two songs have been dedicate to her: "The Red Headed Kid With the Fireman's hat" and "Stretch In".

The fire truck left New York August 12 and Hickox expects to reach San Francisco September 18."

The Yuma Sun, Yuma, Arizona, September 14, 1939
"N. Y. STOPS HERE ON WAY TO S. F. FAIR

National Fire Copany No 1 makeing the "longest fire run in history" from the world Fair at New York City to the World Fair at San Francisco stopped here this morning.

The big fire truck, a 750-gallon pumper, has a crew of seven, uniformed firemen, including the director-chief, Col. Arthur B. Hickox, veteran automobile racing driver, and Mae Vallem Hickox, "fire queen". Also with the party is Harry Blowell, general secretary and business representative. The truck is sponsored by the Texaco Company.

On arrival at San Francisco the firemen will extinguish a fire at the fair grounds on Treasure Island."

Fresno Bee, September 19, 1939

"Good Will Fire Fighting Truck Visits Fresno

Fresno today became the 129the city in the United States to join in a nation wide fire prevention appeal with the greeting here of a special fire department pumper which in the last month has visited fire departments from New York to California.

Signifying Fresno's joining in the goodwill program and fire prevention appeal was the coupling of a hose from the special engine a 750 gallon 185 horsepower pumper to a hydrant at the Fresno Fire Department drill tower, E and Fresno Streets, and the shooting of a stream of water into the tower.

Later today the truck was on exhibit at the Fresno District Fair. The special engine is under the command of Arthur B Hickox, former automobile racing driver, and is manned by four Long Island, N. Y. firemen, William Bensch, Edgar Land, Adolph Jost, and Andrew Ruoff. In addition, the party includes Mae Vallem Hickox designated as the "fire queen" by Mayor Fiorello La Guardia of New York City, and Harry Blowell, general secretary.

Hickox said the engine yesterday afternoon en route to Fresno was able to give first aid to a motorist injured in an accident near Grapevine.

Hickox said the group will leave Fresno tomorrow and drive to San Francisco, where they will greet the International Association of Fire Chiefs conference and extinguish a ceremonial blaze at the Golden Gate International Exposition."

The International Association of Fire Chiefs ended September 24, 1939.

Los Angeles Times

Collection of Robert Bensch

Ripley's Beleive It Or Not
Collection of Tony Land

The 1939 Fire Run was recognized in 1944 by Ripley's "Believe It or Not" as the "longest fire run in history". The listed the distance as "6,800 miles". While they stated that there was a "crew of 5" they depicted 6 men on the truck.


The Route of the 1939 Fire Run

U.S Department of the Interior and U.S. Geological Survey Map from nationalatlas.gov

This map is an estimation of the route based on the places the crew were known to have stopped or passed through.

The run was made before the days of the super highway.

The most likely route between New York City and Washington was Route 1 through Philadelphia and Baltimore.

The route from Washington to Toledo, Ohio is less certain. There were two possibilities — routes 40 and 50 both headed west from DC. Route 40 was a slightly more northerly route and Route 50 went a little further south. In any event, they were known to have been in Cincinnati where they stayed at the Netherland Plaza Hotel. From Cincinnati they most likely went through Lima on Route 75 to Toledo. From Toledo it was a straight shot across Route 20 to Chicago.

However at some point they were in Indianapolis (either before or after Chicago). They were said to have sent a letter from Indianapolis and there is also a picture taken in Indianapolis.

The next known stops were St. Louis, Missouri, Kansas City, Missouri and Wichita, Kansas.

They certainly must have spent some time on the historic Route 66 which had opened in 1926. Route 66 ran from Chicago, to Los Angeles through, St. Louis, Missouri, Tulsa, Oklahoma, Oklahoma City — stops they were known to have made.

They took a detour between Tulsa and Oklahoma City to go to the fire school in Stillwater, Oklahoma.

Routes 77 and 81 went between Oklahoma City and Dallas/Ft Worth. From Dallas/Ft Worth they most likely took route 81 to San Antonio. From San Antonio route 90 went as far as Van Horn, Texas where it met up with route 80. The were know to have stopped in Del Rio, Texas which was on Route 90. They would have taken route 80 through El Paso and on to Las Cruces, New Mexico where it met route 70. Routes 70 and 80 ran together as far as Lordsburg where they must have followed route 70 north west through Globe Arizona and on to Claypool, Arizona where it met route 60. Route 60 and 70 ran together through Superior on to Florence, Arizona. From Florence routes 80 - 89 went through Apache Junction Mesa and on to Phoenix. The picture of the tunnel indicate that they were on Route 60 - 70 at the Claypool Tunnel between Globe and Superior, Arizona.

From Phoenix they would have continued on Route 60 -70 to Los Angeles. Then up through California on either 99 or 101. They were in Fresno, California on September 19. Fresno was the "129th" city they visited.

They ended in San Francisco at the World Exposition.

The routes were worked out with the aid of 1939 maps.

The Route Today

Route 1 still exists but has been supplanted by Route 95.

Routes 40, 50, 23, still exist.

US 35 is now the main route between Oklahoma City and Dallas/Ft. Worth.

Route 66 was officially removed form the US highway systems in 1985. Part of the road which goes through Illinois, New Mexico and Arizona has been designated a "National Scenic Byway" and renamed "Historic Route 66".

The main route from San Antonio to Las Cruses New Mexico is now US 10.

Route 60 which once ran from Virginia Beach, Virginia to Los Angeles, California now terminates at Route 10 in Quartzsite, Arizona. The rest of Route 60 was decommissioned in 1964. California Highway 60 replaced Route 60 from Beaumont, California to LA.


Image courtesy of Ken Kapson America's Scrapbook

Ken Kapson has a store on eBay at Kenbay . In August 2008 he had the sheet music for "The RED-HEADED KID with The FIREMAN'S HAT up for auction and said the following about it:

The cover illustration of this sheet music is not what it appears to be, at first glance. It seems to only be a cartoonish illustration with a fireman related motif. In actuality, it is really a reference to a little-remembered but actual historical event which took place in 1939.

In 1939, the same year this sheet music was printed, a fire truck made a publicity run with the purpose of publicizing fire prevention awareness. A small fire was set in San Francisco and a call for help was sent to New York, where five firemen boarded a truck and headed west, to "put out the fire". The words "Coast to Coast"" and "National Fire Co. No. 1" were printed on the fire engine. The helmet shields were also inscribed National Fire Co. No. 1. It's a good thing that the fire in San Francisco was very small because the fire truck took it's time making the run, stopping at numerous cities along the way, to promote fire safety. The coast-to-coast trip was honored in "Ripley's Believe it or Not" as being "The Longest Fire Run in History".

If you want to see more about this event, there is a web site (with lots of great pictures) at maggieblanck.com/FireRun/FireRun.html

In regards to the sheet music being auctioned, usually the vignette photo on a sheet music cover would be of some entertainer who featured the music in their act. In this case, however, the person pictured is a woman named Mae Vallem, nicknamed the "Fire Queen". The picture's caption identifies her as being "On Longest Fire Engine Run In History...Coast to Coast". The shield on the helmet she's wearing reads: "National 1 Fire Co. Coast To Coast". The same wording appears on the helmet the boy wears in the cover artwork. Mae Vallem is probably the wife of Arthur Hickox, who promoted the event. Hickox, and his wife, didn't really travel on the fire truck, they followed behind in an automobile.

The sheet music in this auction, which was published in 1939 by the Stasny Music Corp. (New York), is titled "The Red-Headed Kid With The Fireman's Hat". The words and music were written by Johnny Tucker and Joe Schuster. On the title page, is the notation that the music was arranged by Lindsay McPhail. The music is dedicated to the Junior Firemen's Brigade of U.S.A.

The song's lyrics don't refer to the Coast-to-Coast run but they certainly are concerned with fire prevention. The first verse is only about the red-headed kid. However, there are 3 more verses, printed inside the front cover, which consist of lyrics such as:

"I'm so proud that I was made,
A junior member of the fire brigade.
The boys so brave, who do such good, Protect the homes in your neighborhood."

and

"Don't smoke, when lying in your bed,
It might mean your life, if the flames reach your head,
Don't clean your clothes, near a flame, It might explode and you'll be maimed."

The cover illustration, showing the kid with the fireman's hat running with an ax and hose in hand, bears the signature which shows that the artwork was created by the noted illustrator Albert W. Barbelle.

The sheet music in this auction is standard (small) format and measures about 9-1/4 x 12 inches. The color on the cover is bright and the inset photo of Ms. Vallem is large with detail, printed in blue. The corners have typical light bending at the tips; the bottom right corner has a larger bend, about 1-1/4 inches up from the bottom edge on a diagonal. Inside, the spine is intact and the music is complete, printed over three pages. Additional verses are printed on the inside front cover.

Ken graciously send me a jpg of the image to add to the web page on the Fire Run.

Arthur Benjamin Hickox

Birth: Jan 31, 1880 (0r 1881), father Benjamin Hickox, mother Mary Gower

1910 Census: Rochester, Ward 18, New York, Lodgers, Hickox, Arthur B age 29 married 5 years, born New York, advertizing, Florence H age 22, born England, immigrated 1892, Arthur B jr age ? months.

1st Marriage, 1912: Arthur B Hickox of Ballston Spa*, New York, age 31, and Florence H. Beeson of London England, age 24, married at Nigara Falls, New York, 17th April 191?, father Benjamin A Hickox, paper maker, mother, Mary E. Gower, father, Wm Beeston, mother, Sallie Prime

WWIDR: Arthur Benjamin Hickox, 178 W Water Elmira, New York age 37 born January 31, 1881, manager Fink Rubber Co,, Chi-- Fall, Mass, wife Florence Hickox, medium height, stocky build, brown eyes, brown hair

1920 Census: Very fuzzy, Buffalo: Hickox, Florence sister in law, age 33 immigrated 1892, born England, Arthur B son, age 10 born New York.

1921: Wisconsin Rapids Daily Tirbune April 21, 1921

FATHER WANTS SON SHIPPED BY MAIL

Minneapolis, Minn. — This is to tip Postmaster General Willard Hyes that he has a big question to decide pronto.
Arthur Hickox Jr. is in Buffalo, N. Y. His daddy wants him home. The boy is 11 years old and wighs sixty-three pounds. Uncle Sam takes packages up to sevety pounds under parcel post.
So Arthur Hickox Sr. akded Postmaster Purdy on Monday if he counldn't have the boy mailed home Purdy asked Hayes.

1931: In 1931 Arthur and Mae Hickox ran a traffic safty campaign for the grade schools of Elyria, Ohio. An article in the Chronicle Telegram Elyria Ohio Saturday October 10, 1931 described Arthur Hickox as "a former veteran race driver now devoting his entire time to life preservation" and said arrangements had been made to show "a special Indianapolis speedway picture of Capt. Hickox."

Death: Birth Jan 31, 1880 New York died 15 January 1969, Los Anglees

Arthur Hickox, SSN: 427-03-5390, Last Residence: 90255 Huntington Park, Los Angeles, California, United States of America Born: 31 Jan 1881, Died: Jan 1969, State (Year) SSN issued: Mississippi (Before 1951)

* Near Saratoga

Art Hickox in the Press

  • October 11, 1927 Des Moines mentions Art B Hickox "former registered automobile racer" as the self styled "apostle of safety" and director of a movement known as "national public safety, Indianapolis".
  • October 1931 The Chronicle Telegram Elyria, Ohio: "Safety Campaign By Capt Hickox" - "Captain" and Mrs . Hickox ran a six day safety campaign in Elyria. He is described as a "former veteran race driver now devoting his entire time to life preservation" with a "rapid fire manner of delivery". He lectured to the police and fire departments and also addressed a meeting of drivers "both men and women" encouraging them to take a test on "motor knowledge and traffic laws". Youngsters were given a "traffic safety game originated by Capt Hickox and Mrs. Hickox and dedicated to their millions of little friends throughout the country". Mrs. Hickox "known as the Mavis of safety" entertained the "little folk with special song numbers".
  • San Antonio Light September 9, 1935 Col. Art B Hickox veteran race driver ran a "safety on the streets" program. He encouraged not only driver's safety but that suggested that drivers should be licensed after undergoing testing. He was accompanied for the six week safety campaign by his wife. The campaign involved talks lectures, luncheons, and "driver"s mass meetings".


William O Bensch (1914-1990)

Birth: 26 April 1914, the son of William and Freda Bensch.

1930 Census: Huntington, Main Road, Bensch, William head own 15,000, age 40, married at age 23, born New York, father and mother born Berlin, Germany, partner nursery, Freda, age 37, married at age 19, born Frankfurt, Germany, William O, age 15, born New York, Raymond L, age 14, born New York

More:

The Bensches had a nursery in Huntington, Long Island.

Death: William O F Bensch, Service Info.: AMMF 3C US NAVY WORLD WAR II, Birth Date: 26 Apr 1914, Death Date: 6 Oct 1990, Service Start Date: 23 Apr 1943, Interment Date: 11 Oct 1990, Cemetery: Long Island National Cemetery, Cemetery Address: 2040 Wellwood Avenue Farmingdale, NY 11735-1211 Buried At: Section 2s Site 3532

Additional Information From Robert B. Bensch, The Son of William Bensch

In February 2008 Robert Bensch emailed to say that he was the son of William (Bill) Bensch who also made the run. Robert said:

"The Company consisted of; Adolph Jost, Andrew Ruoff, Harry Blowell, William Bensch, Edgar Land, Chief Arthur Hickox and his wife Mae."
He added that Texaco and Dr. Pepper were the sponsors.
"My Father went to war in the pacific soon afterwards as a Navy PBY flight navigator. My family ran a large nursery & florist "Bensch Nursery & Florist" on 25A in Huntington for many years up until around 1970. William became the Horticulturist for the Town of Huntington. He past away in 1992 while living near Sayville."

Photo collection of Robert Bensch

William O F Bensch


Harry Blowell

I haven't been able to find anything on Harry Blowell.


Adolph E Jost (1914-1990)

Birth: 1914, the son of Edward Anton and Anna Jost.

1930: Oak Street, Islip, Jost, Edward A, own 5,000, age 35, married at age 19, born New York, parents born in "Checho-Skovikia", proprietor laundry, Anna, age 36, married at age 20 born Pennsylvania, parents born in "Checho-Skovikia" Adolph, age 15, born New York,

Military: Adolph E Jost, Birth Year: 1914, Nativity State or Country: New York, State of Residence: New York, County or City: Suffolk, Enlistment Date: 10 Jan 1944 Enlistment State: New York, Enlistment City: New York City, Branch: No branch assignment, Grade: Private, Term of Enlistment: Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law Component: Selectees (Enlisted Men), Source: Civil Life, Education: 3 years of high school Civil Occupation: Foremen, services amusements, Marital Status: Married, Height: 00 Weight: 000

1944 :

Mrs. Adolph Jost and her son, Edward, and Mrs. Edward Jost returned on Monday from Camp Lee, Va. where they spent the week-end with Pvt. Adolph Jost. SAYVILLE, MAY 26, 1944 [Old Fulton Post Cards by Tom Tryniski]

1946: Adolph Jost is now in the dry cleaning business on a cash and carry basis. One day service. 13 Oak Street, Sayville. Phone 242. THE SUFFOLK COUNTY NEWS, SAYVILLE, MAY 10, 1946 [Old Fulton Post Cards by Tom Tryniski]

1949: December 23, 1946 article on the Fire Department's need for new equipment listed listed Adolph Jost as the Fire Chief in Sayville. [Old Fulton Post Cards by Tom Tryniski]

More: The Josts had a laundry in Islip, Long Island in 1930.

Death: Adolph E. Jost, BIRTH: 15 Dec 1914, DEATH: 2 Mar 1990 - Clearwater, Pinellas, Florida, United States of America CIVIL: New York

In July 2014 Aldolh Jost's son Edward wrote:

My name is Edward Jost and my dad was Adolph Jost of Sayville, New York and Clearwater, Fla. ..... I was born in 1940 and remember as a young boy the story of the fire run. I spent a lot of years with him at the fire house and going to fires in Sayville. He really loved the fire department and also started the Community Ambulance Co. In Sayville. I married and moved to Smithtown in1965. We had many friends there in our 20 years we lived there. I knew Andy Ruoff and ate at the tavern many times. Smithtown Appliance was owned by my brother Arthur's father in law, Andy Rudtke. John V N Klein and Audrey his wife were good friends. The Patanjo's owned the Bandbox Cleaners on Main St. Nick Barbado had the yellow top stand and George Holst had the Florist shop."

Edgar (Bud) Land (1915-1999)

Birth: 1915, the son of Percy and Meta Land of Smithtown.

More: See Bud Land.


Andrew (Andy Ruoff) (1920- 1976)

Birth: Nov 25, 1920 was the son of Charles Rouff and his wife, Elsie

Marriage of Charles Ruoff and Elsie A Bruhus: Nov 15, 1918, Manhattan #32881

Children of Charles Ruoff and Elsie Bruhus:

  1. Albert c 1919

  2. Andrew, 1920

1930 census: Queens, New York, 71st Avenue, Ruoff, Charles, rent $45, age 45, married at age 33, born Germany, immigrated 1902, restaurant manager, Elsie, age 40, married at 27, born Germany, immigrated 1913, Albert son age 11, born New York, Andrew son age 9,born New York, Heine, Charles age 26 border, born Germany, immigrated 1923, iron worker,iron factory, Horne, Ernst age 21 border, born Germany, immigrated 1928, welder aeroplanes

US Army Enlistment WWII: Andrew H Ruoff Birth Year: 1920, Nativity State or Country: New York, State of Residence: New York, County or City: Suffolk, Enlistment Date: 13 Sep 1944, Enlistment State: New York, Enlistment City: New York City, Branch: No branch assignment, Branch Code: No branch assignment, Grade: Private, Term of Enlistment: Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law Component: Selectees (Enlisted Men) Source: Civil Life, Education: 4 years of high school Civil Occupation: Semiskilled construction machinery operators, n.e.c. Marital Status: Married, Height: 00

US Public Records: Andrew Ruoff, birth 25, November 1920, 65 E Main Street, Smithtown [from various public records between 1950 and 1993], Ancestry.com.

More: The Rouff family had a restaurant in Smithtown.

Death: Andrew Ruoff 065-01-3461 born 25 Nov 1920 died January 1976

Thanks: My thanks to Chris Kozel for information on the Rouff family.

Ruoff, Albert H. RUOFF-Albert H., 86, a 75-year resident of Smithtown, on April 2, 2005. Longtime proprietor of Ruoff's Smithtown Tavern (currently Smithtown House). Former member of the Smithtown Fire Department, founding member of the Smithtown Booster Club, member of the Smithtown H.S. Sports Hall of Fame, and a veteran of World War II. Husband of the late Edith. Beloved father of Sandra, Elsa, Charles (Barbara), and Michael (Regina). Loving grandfather of Jason, Cara, Chuck, Matthew, and Kimberly. Great-grandfather of Cailin and Molly. Friends may call at the Hawkins & Davis Funeral Home, 17 Manor Rd., Smithtown, on Monday and Tuesday, 2-4 and 7-9 PM. Religious Service, Tuesday, 8 PM. Mass of Christian Burial, Wednesday, 9:45 AM, at St. Patrick's R.C. Church. Interment, Calverton National Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, donations to the Society of Lending Comforts to the Sick, would be appreciated. Published in Newsday on 4/4/2005.
"The site is where the restaurant is that is called Butera's. See the following link for a " 'street view'.

March 2010


Europe On The Brink of War, August 1939, and the Invasion of Poland, September 1939

While the young men of National Fire Company No. 1 made their way across the United States, Europe was on the brink of war as the Nazi Germany gobbled up territories with little resistance from other European powers.

On September 1, 1939 Germany invaded Poland. England had signed treaty agreements with Poland and consequently was obliged to declared war on Germany. France as an ally of England also declared war on Germany.

The US did not enter the was until December 7, 1941 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

Interestingly four of the men of National Fire Company No 1 were of Germany extraction.

  • William Bensch's mother was born in Germany and paternal grandparents were born in Germany

  • Harry Blowell - I have no information on him, but Blowell was a German name

  • Adolph Jost's family was of Czech origin, but the name was also common in Germany.

  • Bud Land's maternal grandparents had been born in Germany

  • Andrew Rouff's father and mother were born in Germany

William Bensch enlisted in the Navy 23 April 1943. Adolph E Jost enlisted in the Army in 10 January 1944. Bud Land was 4F and worked in Republic Aviation during the war. Andrew Rouff enlisted in the Army 13 December 1944.


Of the five young men on the fire run two of them were Smithtown boys, my dad, Bud Land and Andy Ruoff, whose family owned a restaurant in Smithtown. See Smithtown Photos

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