Today was the firehouse hoagie sale. One Saturday every June our firemen drive up and down the streets of Stone Harbor in their engines shouting "Hoagies! Hoagies!" to the myriad vacationers running, walking, jogging, blading, or biking (like me) up Second Avenue.
By the time I got back from my ride, showered, and headed over to the firehouse, the hoagies were all gone. 2000 hoagies sold in two hours. Pretty good little fundraiser. Stone Harbor's firehouse is impressive for a town that's only 3 square miles. I remember when they built it; the year after the big fire at Hoy's 5 & 10.
It must have been the summer of 1968 or '69...and we were all fast asleep in my parents' yellow house on 100th Street. Because my aunt, uncle and cousins were visiting, along with the requisite babysitter, my cousin Laura and I were sleeping on cots in the upstairs living area, with a funny folding divider propped at the foot of the beds to give us "privacy". The windows were all open looking for relief from a heat wave, that had suddenly whipped itself into the wild wind that accompanies extreme weather changes.
The fire siren of our little one truck station began to wail. The only other time we ever heard the siren was when the daily noon "whistle" blew. The town is so small, the siren's sound can be heard from one end to the other. That night it was relentless. Can you picture five sleepy children rubbing their eyes and crying, a teenaged babysitter mortified to be seen in her pjs, three bewildered parents trying to wake the fourth...as police cars with loudspeakers crawled down each of the three avenues alerting homeowners to hose down their roofs. It was quite a sight. Our beloved 5 & 10 was burning, along with several other shops on 96th Street, generally referred to just as "downtown". While Hoy's was only four blocks north and one block west of the house, the wind was carrying huge embers to our roof and beyond.
My dad, always a deep sleeper was the last one to rouse. He and Uncle Curt took turns trying to reach the roof with the spray of our garden hose. It was a long, loud, sleepless night.
The next day, I remember us walking into town to see the devastation. The paperback book rack stood inside the glassless front window of Hoys. It was hard to tell what had caused the most damage, the fire or the water. But, one thing was for sure, it was the worst thing that had ever happened in this family resort town.
When we arrived the following summer to find a 6-bay firehouse, it was the first of many times I've seen tragedy lead to overkill. Hoy's was rebuilt as well, along with a whole string of shops, some old, some new, and they all still stand today. I have to admit, I was glad. Knowing that this town still looks much the way it did when my mom was my age, and that it has a good chance of looking the same when my daughter is too, has a certain comfort. So maybe it's not the worst thing that the town has a bigger firehouse than most towns ten times it's size.
Last January the volunteer department fought a huge fire on 94th Street , and a few weeks later, after two vicious storms hit the East Coast back-to-back knocking out power for several days, the guys evacuated many of the seniors that live here year-round. They also showed up the summer we opened our front door to the smell of gas. Every Monday evening the town hosts Family Night at the firehouse, and for years they have shared their space with our local kids' theatre group, Seven Mile Island Stars.
It's hard to be anything but thankful for our men in uniform; I just wish I hadn't missed the hoagies...