June 29, 2015

Book Review

Filed under: Uncategorized — thedadlink @ 6:08 pm

By anikat on June 14, 2015

I loved this book by author Mike Adams. In the preface of Firehorses of Centre North, he promises a simple story about Babe, a Chicago fire horse at the turn of the 20th century. Babe was a magnificent animal, free spirited and intelligent and she lived an interesting, even humorous life.

He then goes on to give the reader an in depth, historical narration of a time in the fire service not likely known by current generations. Mike Adams is a good storyteller and it is obvious that he has researched his topic thoroughly.

Book Review

Filed under: Uncategorized — thedadlink @ 6:06 pm

By Kristin Hayes on June 13, 2015


Book Reviews

Filed under: Uncategorized — thedadlink @ 6:02 pm

By Curt Rude

Love this work. The story is very engaging and well researched. While reading this to children parents are going to find they love this story as much as the kids. Keep up the good work Mike!!!

June 9, 2015

The book is out and on-line

Filed under: Uncategorized — thedadlink @ 3:07 pm

The Firehorses of Centre North is now on-line at Amazon and is in the Kindle format. it is a story of a family of fire house horses in a historical tales set in the late 1880’s in a small village which became a part of the current Chicago metro area.

It is a story for all ages from grade 4 to retirement age and beyond. here is a small taste  of the book.

Thank you all for your support it was a long 4 year trip to publish my first feature book.

The Fire Horses of Centre North

By Mike Adams, Historian


© 2015 Mike Adams, all rights reserved.  No part of this book may be reproduced without written permission from the author, except for a reviewer who may quote brief passages with appropriate credits.

Photographs: 2011 Fire station © 2015 Mike Adams, all rights reserved.


As unaccustomed as I am to writing, I wish to thank those of my extended family for their love, support and encouragement as I traveled the road of ‘What once was US.’

To my youngest grandson Dominic Michael.  Thank you for the spark of youth which sent me down the path to being an author.

To my wife Shirley for allowing me many days of peace and quiet in my office.

To my daughter, Michaela, for enduring the editing process with a rookie writer.

To my twin daughters, Mary and Margaret, for listening to the old man’s stories.

To all of my friends at old Chicago Fire Department Engine #33 for making my internship enjoyable.

To Dick Witry and Ron Smith of the Skokie Historical Society for many years of support.


I have known Mike Adams since 1985 when he walked into a meeting of the Skokie Historical Society and announced that he wanted to be an officer.  That doesn’t happen a lot in small, volunteer organizations.  We were pleased to welcome him into our councils.

Most firemen I know are possessed of many trade skills – carpentry, electrical or plumbing for example.  I, of course, have none.  But, Mike Adams, then Captain of the Skokie Fire Department, was possessed of many trade skills which he brought to bear on behalf of the Skokie Historical Society.  Today, our museum collection is housed in a beautifully restored building – Skokie’s first fire house – which was built in 1887.  This building, and many artifacts contained herein, are due in no small measure to Mike Adams’ vision and industry.

Skokie’s Engine House was constructed when horses were the only means of transportation.  Today, we measure transportation in terms of ‘horse power’ and not the animals from which that term was coined.  In the Society’s collection are horse bones found in an excavation behind our museum.  Our first floor is devoted to the display of fire apparatus that only horses could transport.  We in Skokie are fully aware of the importance that horses played in the development of firefighting.

In “The Fire Horses of Centre North,” Mike Adams demonstrates, in a delightfully told tale, how important horses were to 19th century firefighters.  Babe, Chief, Jim and Baby Don come to life in this historically accurate story.  Mike Adams knows firefighting; he knows history and he is able to weave his knowledge in these areas into a story which will give you, the reader, a historically accurate portrait of 19th century firefighting and the role played by our four-legged friends in the metropolis of growing Chicago.

Richard J. Witry


Several years ago, I was invited to go to my grandson first grade class to speak on my career choice of being a firefighter. Nothing new for me as I had done this a few times in the past with my daughters and a couple of my grandkids.

The theme was National Pajama Day which just happened to be Dominic’s sixth birthday. The story I chose to read to his class was the adventures of a stuffed bear visiting our town. I played a very small part as Teddy Bear was shown around our fire station. The book title was Places I Visit, a Teddy Bears Adventures by Donna Kelly.

I read the entire story from an autographed copy of the picture book, holding up each page so the small group gathered at my feet could see Teddy Bear’s adventures.

At the end of the book I ask for questions about the story. One by one, I answered questions related to my adventures as a firefighter. I was told I had only enough time left for one more question.  I called upon the birthday boy and what he ask is the reason you are able to read this book.

“Grandpa, did you every take care of the horses at your fire station?”

I had to answer, “No, as I was not that old.”

Later that evening, I got to thinking about fire horses and I remembered reading old fire house log books while assigned to the fire station’s watch desk during the overnight hours. These books contained the writings of the daily events of Engine Company #33 of the Chicago Fire Department. These entries were written as far back as the time the station first opened, before 1900.

Over the next few months, I read many articles and books on the subject of these noble animals.  A few of the senior firefighters also told me stories from family members that had worked in the fire stations staffed with fire horses.

There are many written examples of the oral history of events repeated many times by those retired from the ranks of active firefighting.

During my internship in Chicago, I had the good fortune to visit lots of fire stations and talk to hundreds of firefighters. I took notes of the most interesting conversations during these visits covering major fires and important events of the fire company members.

So, with an eye to the era of the largest increase of fire stations in the history of the Chicago Fire Department, I began to write an outline for a book. Once this outline was complete, it was clear that horses played a major role in this expansion.

I turned my focus to the last wood frame fire house still in existence in Chicago. The original quarters of Engine Company #86, located at 2414 W. Cuyler Ave in the North Center neighborhood.

This location, and the settlers of this area, had a long history of providing the services needed for the fire protection of the area residents.

The story line starts with an article about a fire horse that had one bad habit which followed her during her entire career as the Star of the Centre North Fire Company.

It is at this time period, the turn of the 20th century, that Babe, Chief, Jim and Baby Don, answered the bells and ran the streets of a small area of Chicago.

The main human characters, African-American Blacksmith Donte Culpepper and the funeral director, Sir William James Healy, an English Gentleman of royal birthright, formed the Centre North Fire Protection District until the City of Chicago annexes the area and the fire horses were retired.

So, Dominic here is the story of Babe and her fire horse family.

Papa Mike February 2015

February 18, 2015

Follow the story of Fire Horses

Filed under: Uncategorized — thedadlink @ 2:19 pm

Coming soon to this site will be more on fire horse and how they served while attached to service in the Fire Service.

Here is a link to a part of the History of the Chicago Fire Department during the Great Chicago Fire of October 1871.

September 11, 2011


Filed under: Memoir — thedadlink @ 3:27 pm
Tags: ,

Ten years and I still cannot watch TV about the World Trade Center.  I lost some very good people on that day and I cry for them.  As a lover of life, I will never understand WHY?  I quess I am very lucky, I came close a few times, and the really question will always be if the time came, could I do the job I was trained to do knowing I would die trying?

Life has been good and some hands protected me, but WHY ME?

Jesus carried his cross for 33 years, I spent longer than that fighting fire and now, 17 years later, the embers of that time still causes me pain on a daily basis.  Many of my childhood playmates, my school pals and five of the firefighter class of 1966 are gone and I remain.

I buried my parents, all of my uncles and aunts and my older brother and hundreds of my extended family of firefighters.  I have faced cancer three times and beat that bastard three times and the question remains WHY?

The answer maybe that my life has been extended one day for each person I touched over the last 70 years.  There is a growing list of people I pray for every night before I close my eyes, knowing some morning I will no longer have to face the morning light because I will have learned the answer to the question of WHY ME?

March 19, 2011


Filed under: Uncategorized — thedadlink @ 4:17 am

This one is for real, it happened, I personally witnessed the events and I still wonder if it is REAL.

Background Information

There is a 5th Fire Station in town, it was built in 1884 for the Niles Centre Volunteer Fire Company # 1. It sits in the middle of the Old Town Square Mile and is currently the Fire Museum. It is the oldest public building in town and shares the building lot with the oldest building in town which is a Log Cabin that was built in the 1850’s and was moved on to the site in 1976.  Today they are a reminder of what the early history of Niles Centre was like at the turn of the 1900’s.

The volunteer fire company was very progressive and is one of the reasons why the area developed as it did around the politics of the local businessmen that banned together to provide for the safety of their businesses and of course their customer base. At the turn of the century the area had many green houses & truck farms growing the flowers and produce for the Chicago markets. So the only men that were around during the day were the shop owners and their employees. In the beginning it was the business owners that pulled the handcart, then drove the fire wagons using the first horses to the Engine House. Later these men retired and younger men took over and finally after WW II came the Paid Per Call Firemen. The Fire Company became a social club and from the outside appeared to be a Men’s Drinking/Street Brawling Social Club named the Nor Nacks.

The Engine House was located on Back Street and behind Out Back and beyond the Outhouse was a Stable House and then Mike Schmitz’s Tavern and of course, HE was the Fire Chief for a good many years. Each year the Company gathered to vote on who was to be Chief and Old Mike always won because the annual meeting were not held in the Engine House like the bi-monthly training meetings, No Sir these were held in Mike’s back room at the Christmas Holiday time and of course there was FREE BEER for all that attended the election meeting.

Mike never lost an election UNTIL a certain young man challenged him in 1948 and won on a kind of reform ticket, no drinking while on duty. His name was Herman Tessvile Meyerhoffer and he owned the local bus line and his family was at the heart of the political foreground and his wife was the Town’s social matron and director of the theater and movie house in town.

He held the top job for only 1 year and then he fell off the wagon so to speak. The story goes he was really afraid of his wife and that when he was too drunk to go home to sleep it off, he would stumble out Mike’s back door, across the large parking lot, and into the rear door of the Engine House and up the back stairs and fall onto one of the beds in the sleeping space provided for the over night sleeper Paid on Call firefighters.

Herrmy was a Lieutenant and usually the only officer present in the station at night, so he was present at almost every fire call in the little sleepy town. Since most calls happened on weekend nights he was able to tell his wife that he thought there would be a fire tonight and he needed to be at the station just in case. He drank more and more nights and soon lost his business, his wife and his family wanted nothing to do with him and soon the fire department changed, because in 1954 the department became a fully paid department and only a few of the original volunteers were hired. Many of the new firefighters were home from the Korean War and drinking and firefighting became a thing of the past. He died one dark and rainy night in the western part of town after falling in a drainage ditch and drowned in 2 feet of water.

When I was first hired by the department I worked out of this station for more then 3 years and I worked with some of the men that knew old Herrmy and here is the rest of the story.

I was assigned to Eng #1 Shift # 3 on October 31, 1966, yep Holloween folks the night old Herrmy died. My Lieutenant was Fred Witt and he was an Ex-Marine Drill Instructor and by all accounts, he was half nuts. He did not like rookies and he was going to test me right from the start.

On arrival at 0800hrs. He took me upstairs to the BIG SLEEPING ROOM, sat me in a chair, handed me the Drill Manual and a Bible and told me to read them as he would be back to test me. I was not to do anything except read these books.

The Engine got a fire call and I stayed behind as I was ordered, on returning the Lt. chewed my ass for not making the rig and stated that I could get fired for not responding, when I tried to explain he cut me off and told me never to do that again and get back to reading.

Of course lunchtime came and went and when the Lt. came back upstairs around 3pm, he ask me if I was some kind of wise guy for not coming to lunch when the cook called. Again when I tried to explain he cut me off, and then the hook, who do you think you are HERRMY MEYERHOFFER?

Well you know what comes next, No Sir. Who is that? So since you have already read the background info, no need to go into any more details, except that Old Herrmy died on October 31 and he loved to sleep in the very same bed that you will be sleeping in tonight.  O.K.

At supper I was very quiet as the stories of Old Herrmy were told and retold and added to for more then 2 hours. I knew that this was the night that I could expect some kind of prank to be pulled on me as I slept; after all I was sleeping in HIS BED.

The entire night I lay there with at least one eye open and nothing happened, in fact nothing happened for a whole bunch of nights. There still were some strange things that happened, like there were only 5 men assigned to the station, but the cook always sat out 6 plates and when I ask WHY I was told, that is for mister nobody. One time I was setting the table and remarked that I would set out Old Herrmy’s plate and the Lt. jumped all over me, saying don’t say that as he will be here for sure.

On Christmas Eve we returned from a chimney fire around 10pm and I was sitting in the kitchen with the cook and Lt. Witt. The knob on the rear door turned and the door opened, just like someone was coming in to the Kitchen.  It was snowing and there was about 3” of snow on the ground. The Lt. said “sit down and Joe( the cook) get Herrmy his cup.” Joe gets up goes to the wall where all our cups hang when not in use, takes one, pours coffee in it and sits it at Mister Nobody’s place next to the wall, it is the 12 O’clock position or straight North.

Ok lets see one of the guys must have went around the outside of the building opened the door so I could not see him and this is the big joke. I get up, open the door and look out and there is one set of footprints and they come right to the door from the East, the direction of what once was Mike Schmitz’s Tavern. There are no footprints leading away from the door so how did they make the door open, I ask myself. I look around and find nothing, or anything to explain the events that just happened.

I go back inside and the Lt. asks me why did you go outside and look around and I tell him to see how you pulled that trick on me. They both laugh and leave. I finish my coffee, it is still warm & drinkable. I pick up all the cups to wash them and when I pick up the hot coffee that was poured for Herrmy the coffee is frozen. Yep the cup is super cold and the coffee is frozen. I let the cup set on the table, wash the others, place the shift’s cups on their pegs and go to bed. In the morning, I am the first one in the Kitchen at 5am, the cup I left on the table has been washed and placed on it’s peg.

Over the next 6 months, there are nights when I hear the floor boards squeak as if someone is walking across the bunkroom floor, the street light across the street lights the room as there are no curtains and so I raise my head and see no one is there, but I can hear someone walking. Ever time I say something to Lt. Witt, the answer is the same, it is Herrmy you idiot, I told you so.

Well I do not believe any of the tricks they are somehow able to pull on me and I make no bones about it.

July 4 weekend, Lt Witt brings his dog Rex to the station and old Rex likes to sleep under my bed for some reason. It is a very hot night, the station has no screens, no A/C and I am laying in bed in my shorts listening to myself sweat. There is a low growl from Old Rex and I am suddenly bathed in very cold air. Rex starts to whimper, he is a very big Shepard and not afraid of anyone or anything. I get out of bed and look at him under my bed and he looks like he has GREEN eyes. I notice it is very warm while I am standing up and when I put my hands on the sheets they are very cold and damp. I straighten up and it gets warm and when I bend over and it is cold. From behind me comes Lt. Witt voice. He sleeps in the next bed to mine and he says “Now do you believe?” He says” you better say Yes, so we can all get some sleep, Right Boys” One by one starting at the sliding pole end of the bunkroom. Joe the Cook “shut the f–k up and go to sleep”  Artie the Engineer  “enough go to bed” and then Frank the first pipe man “He used to keep me up until I got to move over one bed.”

Suddenly there is a flash of light and the bunkroom goes dark. The streetlight across the street blew out and the room is warm again.

I crawled back into bed, but there was no way I was sleeping, because I am sure these guys are stilling playing a joke on me.

That station closed in January 1970 and it was the same old shift from that night that did the last watch in Fire Station # 1.  We answered the last call for a car fire and returned to new station # 1.

Over the year the building was used by the village heath department and then fell into the hands of the Historical Society and with a little help from friends we were able to save it from being torn down and today it looks like it did in 1898. I worked many hours alone in the building doing the demo of all the years of remodels done to the building over the years. Everyday when I went into work in the building I always greeted Herrmy and his coffee cup is still in what was the kitchen area, it is now the Society’s office.

The staff workers have reported some strange noises coming from the old bunkroom and when they go to look who is making the footsteps, no one is there, so it must be Lt. Herman Tessvile Meyerhoffer’s Ghost

March 16, 2011

The Paper Plate Trick

Filed under: Uncategorized — thedadlink @ 12:47 am

It all started in The Summer of 1972

It ended in the Fall of 1992

Fire Station # 2, the Eastside Rural station was built in 1948 to cover the underdeveloped Village’s East side. This area had very few homes as it was subdivided in the late 1920’s just before the big bust of 1929. Most of the streets were paved, sidewalks installed with street lights, water & sewer service, even natural gas, electrical power & phone service.

Block after block of vacant over grown city lots were waiting for people to build their American Dream Home. In the years following WWII the area saw rapid expansion and required the addition of a 2nd fire station to cover the 5 sq mile area.

The city purchased 6 residential lots using 3 of them on a side street to construct a 3 bay, 2 story fire station, leaving 3 lots facing a main street for future expansion. This large chunk of land became known as Dog Shit Park by the Fire Guys because many local folks would come to the overgrown lot and allow their dogs to crap all over the place including the alley way between the lots and the fire station which was where the fire fighters were forced to park as to not take up parking places on the street.

The local kids also liked to play Cowboy & Indians in the tall weeds and in the spring before the weeds took over they played baseball.

When I was assigned to this station, me and the Boys of Shift # 3  (GOLD) decided to clean up the lot, grade it and turn it into a green area for the kids, including the BIG kids to have some fun while on duty.

With the help of public works, a front end loader, some black dirt, sand, gravel, clay, lots of off duty hours and the help and guidance of our neighbors we had one of the nicest looking parks in the entire village. One small problem, the Parks & Rec folks did not like us muscling in on their Rice Bowl so to speak. Seems the local media picked up the story and it made the Fire Guys look like heroes and the P & R department seem like they were not doing their job of wasting the taxpayer’s money.

We had a softball diamond, clay horseshoe pits and in the wintertime, we flooded the area and had a nice ice-skating area and a hockey rink. It was our job to go to the City parks and flood the  P & R rinks, but ours was always the best one in town and it was lighted because we installed flood lights on the roof of the Fire Station with a switch at ground level so that anyone could use the lights. We later installed a nice BBQ area with a gas grill so that anyone could bring their families over and cook out and even camp over night and be able to use the bathroom on the apparatus level because we would leave the back door unlocked for them if they ask.

As I said P & R did not like the unofficial name of the place, that being Dog Shit Park or as most of the neighbors call it DSP. For about 15 years they tried to gain control of the lots, but the Fire Chief held to the fact that someday a new station would need to be built because there was no way to increase the height of the apparatus floor and aerial ladder trucks were getting bigger every year.

In 1988 the P& R folks struck a deal where they would take the lots and help save and restore the original Fire Station # 1 in the City Center to what it look like in 1884. The new park was named the Main Street Tennis Complex and was completely fenced in and paved into 4 tennis courts.

Now the area was still being used by folks that allowed their dogs to POOP everywhere on the property, until a fence went up and the real trouble started.

The dog walkers now allowed their animals to use the parkways on both streets and even brought them around in the east side lawn area of the fire station just outside my office window, to crap in my flower beds, on our wood deck area and our rear parking area.

Early Saturday and Sunday mornings before 6 am a woman would show up with 3 boxers and these guys were really good at taking a dump in all the right places. The women would sit on the park bench in front of the station until the dogs had done their duty.

One morning I was returning from a fire call and saw this woman on the tennis court with the dogs POOPING on the courts. I called on the fire radio for a police beat car and 3 of them were on the scene before she could get off the courts and get to her car. She told the cops it was her way of protesting the loss of the Dog Park. She also told them that the Firemen had no RIGHT to hand the land over to the P & R department for people to play a stupid game.

She was ordered to pick up after her dogs and was issued a ticket. She did not have anything to pick up the POOP so she had to pick it up bare handed and placed it in her cars’ trunk while the 3 cops looked on.

For months every Sunday she returned to the area bright and early and one by one allowed the dogs to go in the fenced park area and when the dog would squat, she would place a paper plate under the dog and catch the droppings. She then placed it in the trash basket on the parkway next to her car and then take the next dog. This act became know at all 3 fire stations as the Paper Plate Trick.

The trash basket was emptied only when the P & R folks got around to it and many times it was overflowing with dog waste and the smell in July and August was overwhelming sometimes.

I told her many times that the practice was to be stopped, but even after 7 tickets she still kept on with her routine.

And now the end of the Paper Plate Trick.

One day an idea popped into my brain and it was kicked around the house for some days and when a vote was taken the House Captain applied the action plan to end the practice.

For several weekends, once the lady had left the area the paper plate with the dog shit was removed from the trash barrel, wrapped with plastic, placed in a cardboard box and frozen in a large chest freezer in the basement.

Since we already had the women home address from the copies of the Police tickets she had been issued, the next part was easy. It was noticed that over a period of time the women had been losing weight and the police had noticed that there had been an empty Jenny Craig box, the kind sent through the mail, in her trunk. At the time I too was on the program and had several of those types of boxes in my garage.

So I simply took the frozen paper plates with the dog shit, boxed them up and dropped them off at the local post office. We never saw that woman or her dogs again.

Needless to say she was not at my retirement party with all the neighbors wishing me good luck and good riddance.

Battalion 16 Chief INNY – Retired

February 13, 2011


Filed under: Historical — thedadlink @ 11:02 am

From time to time we all wonder where we came from and about those who have gone before us. The Niles Centre Volunteer Fire Company #1 has a long and colorful history.  Many very important and ordinary people have contributed to the public safety by dealing with the Red Fire Devil.

Even before there was a Village Government, a small group of firefighters worked to protect the people of this town. This small fire department has always been a recognized leader, not only in this area, but worldwide.

Rekindle Fact:  The current Fire Department started out as the Niles Centre Volunteer Fire Company #1 in 1881 following a fire which destroyed the Eiserman home.  This house was located in the 8200 block of Niles Center Road.  The fire took place in January and was apparently caused by a faulty fireplace.

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