Don’t ask Claude Doublet about the conditions inside the former Creole Fire Company No. 1 because he’ll be sure to let you know there was no heat or hot water in the old building.
“It was cold,” he said. “It didn’t have any heat in it.”
Doublet, who served in the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department (MFRD) from 1955 to 1987, joined a group of current and former members to pay tribute to the 200-year-old building downtown that housed the city’s first volunteer fire department.
Doublet served at the Creole Fire Company No. 1 and No. 21 stations in Plateau until the department was integrated, he said. The Creole Fire Company was initially comprised of only black and Creole firefighters.
Doublet was joined at the ceremony by other former firefighters who served at the station and family members of others. They were honored by MFRD Chief Mark Sealy.
“I am tremendously honored and blessed to be here as we honor the past and look to the future,” Sealy said. “We honor the men standing here.”
The importance of the day was not lost on Tony Gayles, who also served at the station.
“This is a big day,” he said. “It’s a historic day.”
Like Doublet, Gayles remembers some of the negative aspects of the building, including its missing kitchen sink, but he remained positive about the experience.
“It was good seeing the old building,” Gayles said.
The MFRD celebrated the 200th anniversary of the Creole Fire Company on the heels of graduating the most diverse class of firefighter recruits in the department’s history, Mayor Sandy Stimpson said at the ceremony. The class comprised 11 black members, 10 white members and six women, Stimpson said.
“That does not just happen,” he said. “I want to compliment Chief Sealy on that.”
Stimpson called firefighter Tony McCarron the department’s secret weapon when it comes to recruitment.
Raymond Heningberg had two uncles who served in the company. They raised and trained horses to pull steam engines to fires, he said. He served in the MFRD as well for 35 years before retiring.
“It’s a good occupation,” he said. “It’s a good feeling; it’s a rewarding feeling. It’s a good job.”
The building that housed the Creole Fire Company No. 1 in 2019 has been maintained and is currently being used as a single-family home by Tillman Brown.
Brown apologized for work continuing on the home even as the crowd gathered to honor the building. He did so while poking a little fun at the city’s issues with a now famous drainage project in Midtown.
“It’s like Florida Street,” Brown said of the renovations, “It never damn ends.”
Brown said when he bought the building where he has helped raise three daughters it didn’t have a roof. Now that those daughters have moved away, he sits on the couch by himself sometimes and thinks about what the men who served in the building think about the conversion of the station to a single-family residence.
“We rescued it, repaired it and we’re going to pass it on to future generations,” Brown said.
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