Dick Friend passed away June 24th. He will be greatly missed. Not only was he a stand-up guy, but he went above and beyond with the fans. The world is a smaller place now that he is gone. Our heart goes out to his family and friends.
I was born 1929 in Long Beach, California and resided there until 1937. I "Survived" the Great Long Beach earthquake in 1933.
In 1937, with my parents, I moved 20 miles to the very rural area right on the coastline known as the Palos Verdes Peninusula. It was mostly hilly canyons (lots of brush) and coastal agricultural lands (In Los Angles County).
I was "recruited" with several other kids to be an Air Raid Messenger, reporting to the district Air Raid Warden soon after the start of World War II. Our house overlooked Los Angeles Harbor; the Palos Verdes Hills housed a number of army anti-aircraft batteries and radar (what was that way back then?) sites.
Two days before my 14th birthday, I was named a Los Angeles County Fire Auxiliary and with my pal, who was sixteen and could drive his parent's old car, we were put in charge of a Civil Defense Trailer-Pumper assigned to our community. It had a 500 gpm Hale pump, powered by a Chrysler engine, and scads of 2 1/2-inch hose. Problem: there was only one fire hydrant in an area of approximately 50 square miles AND the trailer had metal wheels and a "military style" trailer hitch which wouldn't fit anything anyone owned.
We made the most of it, borrowing a water company tank truck so we could "draft water" and pour out a lot of water onto a vacant field. My friend and I checked it daily, charged the battery, kept it going and dutifully entered each activity into the official OCD Journal.
In 1944, my buddy and I recruited six friends in high school and with the aid of the County fire captain in the nearby town of Lomita, formed the Fire Department Auxiliary #817. We drilled at Fire Station 6 in Lomita, with the 1926 American LaFrance pumper. Great fun!
That same summer, five of us (we were officially underage but there wasn't anyone else) worked all summer for County Fire Department's weed abatement division, burning off vacant lots and fields near homes in the Palos Verdes Hills. Our boss was about 60, always had a three-day stubble of a beard, and chewed tobacco which drooled out between his missing teeth. That guy could control a fire with a long handled rake as well as most firemen using a hose line. I learned fire behavior at the grass (and brush) roots level.
In 1945, the property development corporation for the Palos Verdes Peninsula converted a 1 1/2-ton dump truck into a "fire truck" by installing a 400-gallon tank and a John Bean high pressure pump which utilized 3/4-inch h.p. hose. I just sort of took over its maintenance and feeding and we painted it by hand, bought a siren and red lights, and went to every fire we could find in the area (which weren't too often except in the dry summer and fall months).
This same summer, the L.A. County Fire Department placed one fireman full time at the community building with a "brush fire" type pumper (green in color, no less). We worked as a team, both of our "engines" responding to the fires.
In January 1947, our Community Homeowner's Association purchased a Navy surplus pumper, with 200 gallon tank and a 500 gpm pump and both 1 1/2 and 2 1/2-inch hose beds. We officially formed the Rolling Hills Volunteer Fire Department, with two adults and seven kids. But we now had two sort-of fire engines. We drilled and studied and washed and cleaned. I elected to be the "engineer" so I could always drive.
In June, our association annexed to a County Fire Protection District and our RHFD Engine 1 became L.A. County Fire Department Engine 56, with myself and another kid as the two full-time firemen, working one man on a 24-hour shift. But we were NOW real firemen and they treated us like that. In fact, we worked overtime to fill in vacancies at other County fire stations on our days off.
Within six months, a fire station had been built and "real" firemen came to take our spots. First just one per shift, then two, then three, etc. etc. etc.
I attended Occidental College in Los Angeles, 1948-52, and graduated with a BA in Political Science. I worked as a paid call firefighter during summer vacations at County fire stations, filling in vacancies.
I served in the U.S. Army from 1952 to 1954, 6th Infantry Division, which "fought the war" on the beautiful Monterey California Peninsula.
I was a photographer in Division Headquarters.
I went into the newspaper reporting business and worked for several newspapers, including the Long Beach Press-Telegram, Los Angles Daily Mirror and the Los Angles Times before being asked to rejoin the L.A. County Fire Department as its Public Information Officer in 1967. I held that job until 1975, and took a leave to publish the Western Fire Journal (now known as American Fire Journal). I rejoined the County Fire Department in 1979, and headed the Public Education and Information section, with a staff of me, a fire captain, seven fire fighter specialists, two photographers and two graphic artists. We handled all press relations for the chief, and all Fire Safety Education programs in schools, hospitals, etc., and all filming permits.
I got a phone call from a Robert A. Cinader in 1972, asking about our new "paramedic" program. After a lengthy conversation, I took him to a fire station where he soon spent many long hours listening, reading, and riding on Squad 7 (West Hollywood area). From this developed the Emergency! show. Fire Chief Richard Houts appointed me as the production coordinator to assign paramedics as technical advisors, final script review, work out on-site fire situations, order up all necessary fire apparatus and personnel needed for a particular "shoot," and keep the chief informed on how things were going.
Finally, in 1984, at 55 years of age, I retired. I was still responding to incidents all hours of the night and day to provide on-scene information to the rapidly expanding news media teams in the L.A. area.
I worked for 11 more years in the News Department of Southern California Gas Co., which serves all of Southern California as a public utility. I retired in March 1995. I am doing a lot of volunteer work in my community (not fighting fires, however) and have lived in Lakewood (near Long Beach) since 1970. I have two grown daughters.
Some Various Thoughts and Great Memories of Emergency!
This is a lot of rambling.. but as I looked at the great videos you sent, and relived the portions of the E! (forgive the squeezing in of space), Lots and lots of stuff came to my mind and I just had to share it with those who really made the show a success -- YOU.
There really is no continuity to this: I hope part of it makes sense. But as I reminisced looking at the TV, many things twirled thru my old and feeble brain. Some of these things should not be shared outside of "our group," but I also have eliminated names of particular individuals or even cities in some cases. You'll see I have tried to split these thoughts into times at the very start of trying to put E! together -- with the film? TV industry on one side and us, hopefully in reality, on the other side. I will try to elaborate a bit on that of what it's like to be here in L.A., sort of the TV/film capital -- and the stuff they want US (the FD and others) to LET them do. (Blow up the whole city???)
As Jim Page so correctly said in the video, he received a call from me introducing Bob over the phone. Actually, Bob called me at FD headquarters about 2 p.m. Bob, of course, had produced (and co-created) Dragnet and Adam-12 for Jack Webb. These unsung heroes of shows that start them are unknowns to us viewers. The reason Bob called me was because of a mutual friend: Lt. Dan Cook of the Los Angeles POLICE Dept. Dan and Bob had been friends since Dragnet and Adam-12, both Bob Cinaders creations for Jack Webb. Bob had a big sailboat and he loved to take his friends) spent many hours as E! went on, with cast and crew sailing around the Pacific just tossing out wild ideas).
Jack had told Bob to come up with some idea of a "rescue" show. Bob and Dan were sailing around the blue Pacific one Sunday and this came up. Now Dan works for Los Angeles CITY. I was his counterpart in L.A. COUNTY F.D. A BIG difference out here. Dan said he understood that county fire has some kind of paramedic program underway. He said he had no contacts at the L.A. CITY F.D. , but he knew a guy at L.A. County. So Bob called me.
We spent at least one hour on the phone trying to tell him what we did. We had about 3 paramedic squads in service-- one in West Hollywood not far from Universal Studios. Bob said he wanted to go out there NOW. I called and Capt. Jim Page was on duty (thank God). I told him I was going to meet this producer at 7s in an hour. I arrived and so did Bob. He hit it off with everyone. They talked, talked, recounted stories (remember: we had only been paramedics for a brief time). It got to be dinner time; I live 35 miles away and left Bob with the crew. He ate, washed dished, talked, and was there for a response. We were lucky in out F.D. You were supposed to go thru a bunch of clearances to let a civilian ride -- but the dept. was very understanding. (I think we had never been involved in a lawsuit at that time!!)
The next day, Bob Cinader called and said he was very interested in all of this and has asked Capt. Jim Page to do some research. I sent a memo to the Fire Chief (I reported directly to him). No response -- didn't expect one.
Week's later¸Cinader calls and sez with all the material that Jim has provided, Webb wants to start a paramedic show and wants to have a meeting with the chief at Universal. Chief okays, and he and I attend and Webb charms everyone (he always did) and Cinader who is quite "gruff" till you know him, outline the idea for a paramedic program. Chief Houts was dubious, BUT he also knew that his paramedic program was in jeopardy because there were a lot of medical personnel, ambulance companies, etc., that saw it as a threat. We spent 3 hours in the meeting. I drove the chief back to HQ and he asked me how the TV show would benefit us. I gave him my thoughts. He said nothing for 20 minutes. When we pulled up at HQ and he got out, he turned to me, and wit his "Chief Houts attitude," pointed his finger at my chest and said, briefly: "MAKE IT WORK!" That was Chief Houts. I had all of the resources of a very large FD at my call. And I never risked letting a real emergency overtake the great show-biz possibility of being seen by people on TV. Besides, the chief would have killed me instantly.
As I said "on the video," during staging of the first show, a two-hour premier, Jim staged a big fire in Carson (his own battalion) as a DRILL at night, and I staged a two-day shoot in a large canyon with a big cave, supposed to be a cave-in. Webb said he wanted to "see everything," so I drug out all kinds of tractors, funny-looking hose laying devices; you name it. I had about 40 pieces of fire equipment scheduled to be in Bronson Canyon two days. I had carefully "covered" all active operational equipment and manpower, in case we had a real fire. It was just before Thanksgiving and our major brush fire season had elapsed.
The day before we were going to shoot, I took a two-page list to Deputy Chief Walt Meagher who was as Irish as they make them and could be very tough. I (luckily) had grown up with Walt. I said: "Chief. I'll need this for the next couple days." He studied it for all of 1 minute, tore it up and threw it in the trash. I WAS WORRIED. What was I going to do? Walt said": "Dick. We have worked together and known each other for years. DON'T EVER SEND ME A LIST AGAIN. BUT .DON'T HANG ME OUT TO DRY WHEN I NEED EQUIPMENT AND YOU HAVE IT."
And, Walt (who just died), I never did.
Read Mr. Friend's article "Nation Viewed From Pumper" which tells about his cross-country promotional tour with Engine 51
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