The Jefferson Fire Drill
By Gilbert Belcher retired SFR I
Our family moved to Corona, CA during the Christmas Vacation of 1938, so in January of 1939 I started the last half of the sixth grade at the Jefferson Grammar School, on the west side of town. Pupils in the 5th and 6th grades got to ring the “schools” out bell each day. The teachers kept track of whose turn it was. When it was my turn, the teacher called me to the front of the room and told me to go to the office , and ring the bell. At the office I was shown the button, and a big clock, when the big hand reached a certain mark, I was to press the button.
At the time, this was a really big deal in one’s young life. The practice fire alarms were rung fifteen minutes before school was out. The front side of the building was all window. Students were assigned to quickly close the windows, the students stood by their desks. They then filed out like soldiers to the front lawn, the teacher was the last to leave, and had the class roll book with her.
The teacher made sure that both of the room doors were closed. We lined up on the lawn and the teacher called roll to make sure everyone was out of the building. The Fire Department arrived with out the red lights, and siren. They stayed on the fire trucks until the all clear signal was given. All the school adults, and the fire department knew of the fire drill in advance. When it was Jack Murphies’ turn to let the school out, he rang the fire alarm ring. It was not a scheduled alarm, very few windows or doors got closed, and teachers fled without their class roll book. Kids were all over the lawn, some running around the building, looking for smoke. The fire department had the red lights and sirens on which added to the excitement. The first fire truck dropped a man and a bundle of hose off at a hydrant, and a wet hose lay was made to the schools main doors. A ladder was put up to the roof. The firemen made a search of the building, and the all clear signal was rung. Lots of rumors started, and we kids got our first look at pandemonium.
Jack Murphy, a real hero, got to stand in the hall for days.
Gilbert Belcher—6th grader