March 29, 2011
1800s fire trumpet on display at fire station
By KEN de la
Tribune enterprise editor
Kokomo — Before the days of radios, fire
departments used “fire trumpets” to communicate with firefighters
working inside a burning structure.
Kokomo received its trumpet — an
elaborately decorated nickel-plated piece — on Aug. 13, 1875. The
trumpet was given to Chief David P. Davis, who served as the chief from
1874 to 1882.
Davis was instrumental in organizing the
first fire company in Kokomo, which consisted mainly of a “bucket
brigade,” meaning men would line up to pass buckets of water from the
well to the scene of the fire.
At the time, Kokomo’s fire department
was using horse-drawn fire equipment.
Now, the trumpet has returned to the
fire department. Stew Lauterbach of the Howard County Historical
Society presented the trumpet to KFD during a brief ceremony Tuesday at
Fire Station 1 at the corner of Washington and Superior streets. It’s
there that the trumpet will remain, permanently on display in a cabinet
built by firefighters.
Jon Zeck of Kokomo received the trumpet
from a neighbor whose husband was on the fire department in the 1970s.
“She lived down the street from me, and
we would invite her to dinner at Thanksgiving and Christmas,” he said.
“She gave it to me with several photographs.”
Having kept it for a couple decades,
Zeck donated the trumpet to the historical society in 1998.
“I’m very happy about it,” he said of
the fire trumpet being on display at fire headquarters. “It’s a good
place for it, very fitting.”
Before gingerly placing the trumpet in
its display case Tuesday, Chief Pat O’Neill showed those gathered how
the trumpet was used to shout orders to firefighters. He said the item
is on permanent loan from the historical society, and he’s happy to
have it back.
“We wanted to bring it back to the fire
department,” he said. “We wanted to bring it home. It belongs to the
Kokomo Fire Department.
“We’re trying to keep our history here,”
The department is proud of its history,
as showcased by the many pictures of original fire stations that
decorate the walls of the administrative offices.
That history will also be on display
once the new fire station on Center Road is completed. Photographs and
memorabilia of the original station will be on display there as well.
“I’m sure this will be enjoyed by
firefighters and visitors,” he said of the fire trumpet.
Lauterbach, curator of collections for
the historical society, said the fire department was the best place for
“It’s best that it’s displayed here,” he
said. “It’s an important piece to have on display for the public to
Though many fire departments lost their
trumpets over time, they continued to be part of the departments’
history. Lauterbach said every firefighter’s badge includes a fire
trumpet. For each rank increase, another trumpet is added.
Kokomo Mayor Greg Goodnight said the
fire trumpet will be seen by many, as numerous school children take
tours of Fire Station 1 as field trips.