My Dad the Norman Fireman

I was just a gleam in my Dad’s eye when he started at the Norman Fire Department, maybe a decade after he did his stint in the Navy during WWII.

I didn’t get to bask in the glory, as did my older sisters, when Dad and other firemen visited grade schools to teach kids about fire safety and to trust firemen.

My oldest sister Lynn was in Washington Elementary when Dad first visited.

As a fireman’s kid, she got to be the first up onto the fire truck and onto the ladder, which absolutely made her Queen Bee for the day.

Cathy, two years younger, also got to bask in Fire Department Family Glory when Dad visited Adams Elementary.

The only thing that could outdo a visit from a fireman in an actual fire truck was when actor James Garner came to town and moseyed on up to grade schools, sometimes dressed as Maverick!

Lynn was so hyped up that she shouted, “My Mom and Dad are Gene and June Moore and they know you!”

Jim smiled and told Lynn to say “hi” for him, which forever elevated her to Queen of the Cool Kids.

I came along in 1956 when Dad (known as “Spot” to other firemen) worked at the Main Fire Station downtown.

My earliest memories of him are filled with his smell.

When he came home after fighting fires, it didn’t matter how many times he showered at the station, he still smelled like whatever blaze he’d been battling.

I learned to tell the difference between the smell of grass fires and car fires and structure fires, which was pretty darn exciting for a little boy.

I loved to stand in his big rubber boots with the loops at the top, which came up to my waste!

I used to put them in the back of my pedal car fire truck as I raced around the house with the siren (my big mouth) wailing, as I bounced off the walls and furniture. 

I remember Dad putting his enormous fire jacket on me once, which weighed about a thousand pounds and had an overwhelming aroma of smoke and sweat and adrenaline.

My sister Lynn is the “keeper of the fire stories”—the actual newspaper stories and word-of-mouth stories passed on by our Dad and other firemen.

Some are life-saving stuff.

One time, when they were fighting a bad structural fire, Dad saw a wall starting to come down on them. Another fireman didn’t see it, so Dad grabbed him and somehow got both of them to safety, just in time.

Another time, when they were battling a big grass fire, Dad got tangled up in barbwire. The fire was quickly advancing on him, but he couldn’t move.

Another fireman cut him out and dragged him to safety.

Who knows how many stories like that went unmentioned or have been forgotten?

Saving somebody’s life, or having them save yours, was part and parcel of being a fireman,  which didn’t make my Mom very happy.

Despite all the excitement, Dad told us that fighting fires was a small part of the job.

Most of the time, he and other firemen were repairing or cleaning equipment, or attending classes to learn how to operate new pieces of equipment or deal with new fire threats.

At one point, Dad served as Training Officer, which makes sense.

His grandfather, Charles L. Moore, was full blood Sac and Fox by birth and Potawatomi by marriage.  He learned the blacksmith trade at Haskell Indian School in Lawrence, Kansas. It was said that he could fix or repair just about anything.

In 1901 or so, the U.S. Government employed Great Gramps to do all the blacksmith work for the Shawnee, including hog-tying and shoeing wild Mexican mules!

Great Gramps passed his skills to his son George H., who in turn passed them to my Dad the fireman.

All of these men had the “square Moore hand” and the ability to “fix any damn thing”, a skill that served Dad well as a fireman and then Fire Marshal.  

When Dad was at the No. 2 Station by Lion’s Park, our family would frequently visit for this reason or that.

My sisters got to slide down the fire poles a lot (I’m still jealous!) when things were quiet.

But Lynn adds:

“We all knew that if the bell rang for a fire, to get the hell out of the way and shut up.”

Firemen were truly a big family, so there were a lot of family picnics, frequently at Lions Park. I remember running around the park with a whole mess of other children.

As a fireman’s kid, you had to pay attention to the calendar on the wall if you wanted to stay out of big trouble. The date didn’t matter; just whether Dad was just back from a long shift.   

He did a lot of 24-on, 24-off shifts. But seems like some shifts were several days long. When he got home, he sort of collapsed into bed, and WOE TO YOU if you woke him up.

After he’d recovered from sleep deprivation, you maybe could entice him out of bed if Dunn’s Dairy Queen was running their “5-for-a-dollar foot long hotdog” ad in the Norman Transcript

That’s about the only time we could afford to eat out, and we made the most of it!

Mom and I would split a foot-long, my sisters would each get whole one, and Dad would wolf down TWO!

As if that was not impossible enough, he’d then down a whole big glass of water in one gulp.

I nearly choked to death trying to imitate that. But I never, ever, thought of emulating him drinking coffee.

Like at the Fire Station, our kitchen always had a fresh pot of Cain’s coffee percolating.

The instant the coffee was perked, and absolutely boiling hot, Dad would pour a cup right down his cast-iron throat and never bat an eye.

I figured his lungs also had to be cast-iron, or at least hermetically sealed, from fighting fires for so many years.

How else could you explain him sitting unperturbed in a room full of firemen, with cigarette smoke so thick you could cut it with a knife, yet I was the only one coughing his head off?

Every now and again, I still look through a box of Dad’s Fire Department knickknacks that includes his gold Fire Marshal’s badge and buttons, name tag, a fire axe tie tack, and the silver holder for his Zippo lighter, which must have lit 10 million cigarettes.

They’re nice to have, but I really wish I had his boots and heavy fireman’s jacket to hang in my New Zealand shed. 

You just can’t beat the smell of smoke and sweat and adrenaline for jogging your memory!  


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Amazon Reviews


Just finished reading your book. I was laughing out loud so much my husband asked what was I reading! And I kept thinking, “Bless his mom's heart”! My dad also read it and said he found it delightful. Looking forward to the second book. Thanks for the entertainment!

2 years ago


Fun and great read!!! If you grew up in the 60 and 70 you will be able to relate to many fun stories the author tells!
Bill Moore is a very talented and entertaining author with a great sense of humor! I highly recommend this book!!!

2 years ago
Susan B.
Susan B.

Couldn’t put it down. A total joy to read.

The author was a classmate of mine in high school, and is still a great Facebook friend. I knew this book would be awesome b/c of the way Bill writes his posts on Facebook telling his friends of his life in New Zealand. This book touched my heart in soo many ways. Bills writing is so descriptive, that in your mind you see what he’s writing about or transports you to the place. I couldn’t put it down. Bill, thank you for letting me go back to my days of innocence as a child in Norman, Oklahoma.

2 years ago

Having known the author all our lives I expected nothing less than stellar from him and he does not disappoint. It brought smiles and loud guffaws as I tripped down memory lane with him. It was so much more personal to me as I knew the characters in the book but all will enjoy reminiscing about that magical time in Norman . Give it a read you wont be disappointed!

5 years ago

I think anyone who grew up around the 1960s will enjoy this trip down memory lane!

5 years ago

Bill Moore, Writer

Norman-born Bill Moore spent four decades as a newspaper reporter and P.R. guy, writing at least 900 gazillion words in Texas, Washington, D.C., Singapore and New Zealand.
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