Saturday, December 06, 2008

Alarm Clocks

The other day in the article about the sounds that come to my home on the wind, Loopy said something about the siren that still blows at noon everyday from the local volunteer fire department. I’m a bit surprised to hear that in the day where every volunteer has a scanner or a plectron; that sirens are still sounded at all.

In the town where I grew up there were five volunteer fire departments, two of which were in ear shot of where I lived. One station had a siren and the other had a loud horn. The horn had a code that by counting the horn blasts you could tell where the fire was. Every day at Noon the siren and horn would sound; I suppose as a test. Then they would go off again at 5PM as another test. They were somewhat convenient because if you worked within ear shot you would know when the lunch hour began and when your work day was over. You wouldn’t think it was so great if you lived within a half mile of the horn. It was very loud and very sudden. It could scare the crap out of anyone unsuspecting of the sound.

We also had a mill in town that would blow a steam whistle at 7AM and 12:30PM. These were convenient as well by telling you if you heard the 7AM whistle you were going to be late if you were still in bed, and the 12:30pm one told you when lunch was over.

The odd thing about the steam whistle was that it had no bearing to any operation or crew shift at the mill. It was something that was set up when the mill was built in the late 1800s. No one knew why or how the whistle even sounded. No one knew how to alter the timing or even prevent it from going off. Even if there was a power failure the whistle would still sound as though it were hooked to some cosmic team clock. It may be some phantom or ghost whistle. I’ll need to ask some relatives if it still goes off. The mill has been closed for several years now. It still may be operational.


Blogger Auntie said...

We had the noon siren where I was babysat as a young child. My bro I would look at each other and say some 'baby talk' version of "OH SHIT" time for our nap. But before that we always had really watery tomato soup. NO cheese sammy though. Oh the humanity!

6:37 AM  
Blogger Uncle Walt said...

When I was attending high school, they were doing some remodeling. One of the things they did was repair and upgrade the school's clock/bell tower. Other than one of the local churches, the school had the only bell tower in the city - but it hadn't worked for decades. So they repaired the clock, and replaced the bells with a sound system that could play any sounds "plugged in" to it.

I remember that for the first couple days, it played a bell gong every hour from 7am to 10pm. I think it didn't "ring" the other times because of the city's "quiet" times. Anyway. After the first couple days, neighbors complained so much that it only played at the start and end of the school day.

10:18 AM  
Blogger darev2005 said...

We still have a noon whistle here in the lead bible belt. They sounded it every day for the lead-mine workers to break for lunch. I don't know why they still do it, but they do. When I was a kidling we had an air raid siren in the lot behind our house. They tested it once a month and it was so loud it would rattle the dishes in the cabinet. The best thing you could do was to sit down and put your fingers in your ears because you couldn't hear anything while that sucker was going off. My dog would go out in the back yard and howl until she was hoarse for a day.

2:28 PM  
Blogger darev2005 said...

Poor poor auntie.... no cheese sammiches for you! Did you always want the edges cut off? Are you still the Anti-crust?

2:31 PM  
Blogger Auntie said...

Oh, you are gonna pay. Don't make me come over to BFE to kick some butt! and cover ain't gonna help. Sorry.

7:38 PM  
Anonymous kicki said...

I once had a job interview at a college in Iowa, only a few hours ride from Kansas City. Well, for dinner that night the faculty took me out early ( little dry town). I must explain here that I knew very little of the Midwest part from tornadoes and so when the horn blew I duck under the dining table. Little did I know it was the local manufacturing place letting their workers out...not a tornado. Needless to say I did not take the job.

10:56 PM  
Blogger The Guy Who Writes This said...

Auntie, we haven't heard from K.K.K.K.Herb in a while. Maybe he's still napping.

Walt, that reminds me, we had two churches that had bells of off in the mix as well. One was a real bell and the other was a cheesy recording of bells.

Darev, that sounds like that one fire horn at Co #1. It was Nasty.

Keeks, sounds like a bit of a hold over from growing up in Northern Europe was thrown in there as well.

5:42 AM  
Blogger darev2005 said...

Guy, I don't know how big that thing was. It appeared huge to me because I was so small. We lived only a few miles from McClellan AFB in California at the time. It wasn't until years later that I actually knew what it was for and it retroactively scared me all over again.

Auntie, come on out to BFE and I'll make you all the grilled cheese sammiches you can eat and good thick tomato soup to dip them in. And you don't have to take a nap afterwards if you don't want to.

6:17 AM  
Blogger Jaggy said...

Growing up in Lebanon close to the old mill, I fondly remember the mill's whistle morning, noon, and night. I could hear the church bells from the First Christian Church in the middle of town, plus the mill whistle on my walk home from school. Of all of the sounds I miss living in Corvallis, those two are probably the ones I long for most. And the train whistle as the trains would cross the streets down by the canal. I truly miss those as well.

10:50 PM  

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