Last visit to No. 1 firehouse both historical, hysterical

Bill Milligan

Bill Milligan

I was honored to be among the handful of men who took a final walk through Mehlville Fire Protection District’s No. 1 firehouse last week.

Former Chief Clifford Zelch and several men who had served at the fire station shared a lot of memories about the place, the people who served there and the fire district in general over pastry and coffee.

Anyone witnessing the event would have been impressed by the men’s sense of dedication to the fire service and our community.

I hope the article in this week’s newspaper gives our readers a sense of how important the lives and wellbeing of south county residents were to the men who served there. I came away impressed by how much they felt for the people they had helped over the years.

A lot of our area’s history was made right there at the No. 1 house and a glance at the men who worked there in 1965 gives us all a hint of how much history we’re missing.

In the background near where a sandwich shop is today there is pictured a free-standing road sign that has disappeared since the photo was taken.

There probably are people around who remember that sign and the shop owner who erected it, but who and where they are is anybody’s guess because natives of this area never took the time to write down their history until Barbara Waddock published “Foundations of a Community” in 1977.

Before that the fire district had taken a stab at a local history and after that the Chamber of Commerce published a collection of photos, names and dates in the 1990s, but neither work told the stories of the people who lived and worked here.

My friend Bill Nottelmann took up the project in 2000.

Through his hard work and the help of people like Frank Ziegler, Irene Treppler, Cliff Stratton, Tracey Bruce, Gene Matlock, Roger Taylor, Marcella Forestel, Charlotte Baumunk, Warren Wiethop, Karen Markel, Mary Hurst and Ruth Morris some of that story has been preserved.

But it is only a start and we look forward to future efforts that will flesh out the details.

Sitting on Highway 61-67, this area had to have been a stopping point last century for many leaving the deep South to find jobs and a real future in the industrial North.

Since 1989, the history of south county and the story of the people who made it has been recorded in the pages of these newspapers, copies of which have been donated to the Missouri Historical Society.

Not all of our history will be as funny as the memories of the men who served at the MFPD’s No. 1 house, but we’d love to tell the story.

History unfolds each week in the Call.