Remember a couple of weeks ago when I posted a photo of Ontario Fire Department Station 1 and the new changes I had noticed? I finally got around to asking some questions about it. Here’s a story that recently ran in our City News edition.
Less than two months ago, the Ontario Fire Department station in the downtown got a bit of an upgrade: new signage in black bold letters that sits above the garage doors as a tribute to how it appeared a half-century ago.
It’s part of an effort to bring back some back attention to the downtown, said Fire Chief Floyd Clark.
But the recent change also carries out late Fire Chief Fred Nelsen’s desire to get the letters off the building wall.
“Fred believed and loved the history of Ontario and especially in the Ontario Fire Department,” says Rita Nelsen, wife of the former fire chief.
Nelsen said that her husband would often talk about the signage when he was serving in the post. It was due in part to the fact that previous fire chiefs had shared with him a photo which showed that the department’s signage use to rest on an overhang just in front of the garage doors. Nelsen said her late husband even showed her a photo of what the station marquee looked like.
The original letters appeared to be made out of metal but at some point, when some upgrades were made to the property – either roofing or electrical – they were taken down. He couldn’t remember what agency took it down, but the letters were never put back up, she recalled. He would tell her that those letters must be in some storage in a city building.
“I know that I’m echoing what Fred would say: `It’s got to go back the way it was’,” she said.
But late chief passed away more than two years ago and not much was discussed after that, Nelsen said.
Then one day a couple of months ago current chief Clark showed Nelsen a photo.
“One day I was talking to Chief Clark and he pulled out of his desk a picture and said I want to show you something you will remember’,” Nelsen said.
Clark had showed her the same the picture that her husband had once shared with her. After sharing her late husband’s desire with other city staff, Nelsen said, “the chief took it over and got it done.”
But she didn’t see the finished product until about a month and a half ago. Clark had told her to come by and visit the department because he had something he wanted to show her.
“As I drove up I look at these bold black letters,” she said. “I thought `Oh my God I know that Fred would be so proud.’ He had such a sense of pride and respect for the fire department.. it’s better than the old picture.”
Nelsen said her husband was intrigued with the city’s history, and this sign’s relevancy to the historical quality of the Ontario Fire Department.
“It’s a tribute to what Fred believed in, Fred was honored to be a fire chief but Fred would always say `I’m a firefighter first and foremost’,” she said.
And years after he had retired, Nelsen said her husband would always wave or salute anytime a firetruck passed by.
Nelsen said she knows she is prejudiced but other fire stations which have brass letters on the wall sort of get lost on the wall.
“It makes statement that this fire department is here and it is here to serve,” she said.