May 20, 2014 10.8 miles
I spent a good part of today’s ride in the Lex-Ham neighborhood, specifically at the newly rehabbed 869 Fuller. That story is on the previous post titled “A Cinderella Story.” I moved south on Victoria Street for the second part of the outing.
The unique Fire Station Number 5 features a collection of noteworthy stories. First, the charming fire house is another of the City structures designed by Architect Clarence “Cap” Wigington. Wigington, as you may know, is considered the nation’s first African-American municipal architect. He is credited with many fire station, school and other public building designs around Saint Paul.
As I took pictures of Station 5, I caught sight of a neighbor intently watching me. Dick Sarafoleon greeted me and began talking about Station 5, which quickly led to more tales. It turns out, Dick worked for the Saint Paul Fire Department for 33 years, including several at Station 5. “I started on the fire department January first of ’64. First they had me on the West Side, on the other side of the river, and then they had me out in the Midway. I worked five years out there and I kept complaining that I wanted some action. I wanted to go where there was some work.”
Dick said winning the Jaycees’ Firefighter of the Year Award 1968” opened the way for his assignment to Station 5, “So when I got that award I went to the chief and I says, ‘Now can I get what I want? I want some work. I want to go to a busy house.’”
“When I was workin’ here, every night we’d have a fire in the neighborhood.”
Back then, Station 5 housed more rigs to keep up with demand, “We had a hook and ladder on one side and we had the engine on the other and we were out running all the time.”
By the mid-1970s, the workload at Station 5 decreased enough for Dick look for a new assignment, “Things changed and it got very quiet. So, in 1976 I said ‘I’m goin’ to go to the paramedic program; I’m tired of sittin’ and waitin’. So for the last 21 and a-half years I worked as a paramedic and I loved every minute of it. I would have stayed longer but my wife was dying with cancer and gave me my marching orders.”
Sadly, Dick’s wife, Dorothy, passed away 5 and a-half months later.
I asked Dick about the interior of Station 5. “The woodwork was pretty special. It was a maple; it wasn’t Birdseye maple but it was a really nice finish. The kitchen was upstairs and there was the chief’s car that went out onto Victoria where there is a door closed up; that’s where the kitchen is now.”
Originally, this front was all dormitory where the firefighters lived. The captains had their own rooms in the back with their own bathroom. You know, rank has its privilege.”
Dick has lived in Saint Paul for 74 years, including the last 31 two doors west of Fire Station 5, at 870 Ashland.
Here is the map of the entire May 20 ride: http://www.mapmyride.com/routes/view/468912562