Marcia Strykowski

Raymond’s Fire Engine

Thought I’d run a different sort of post to celebrate a special day. A version of this story was published eight years ago in a children’s magazine that has since gone belly-up.

Raymond 11 monthsRaymond’s Fire Engine
Whir, whir went the siren on top of the fire chief’s car as it sped onto the main road. Young Raymond Sorensen watched with excitement. Ray lived across the street from the town fire chief. Whenever the fire whistle blew, he would race to the window to watch the chief jump into his car and drive off with lights flashing. At that time back in the 1930s, Raymond had no idea that seventy years later a fire engine would be dedicated to him, his name boldly inscribed on its side.

ray kid 2Early Fire Chief Practice
As a child, Ray spent hours playing a homemade game using a map of a large city. The city had three fire stations. He studied their locations and the list of engines and ladders that were assigned to each. He made flash cards with different types of fire emergencies on them. Raymond would flip a card over and then decide how many fire trucks were needed, and which ones he should dispatch from each fire station.fire game


ray u.s.Following a Dream

Raymond knew what he wanted to be when he grew up. By the time he was sixteen, he was a volunteer firefighter. He says, “I was so proud. I wore my badge on my belt so everyone could see it.” He put a red light on the front bumper of his car. A few years later, and after serving his country, he was appointed to the permanent force. His parents weren’t sure he was making the right choice. He already had a good job with the telephone company. But Raymond didn’t like his job, and his dream of someday being the fire chief was too strong.

Hard Work Pays Off
After a few years, a town official gave him the best advice ever. He said, “Ray, you’re just another firefighter now—just one of the crowd. If you want to get your head above the rest, the only way to do it is to go back to school. Take every fire course you can. Study hard and make yourself stand out.”
fire picture 001chief ray
Raymond did study hard and got excellent scores. Soon he was promoted to lieutenant, then captain, and finally, chief. The above photograph shows him in action. At forty-one years old, he was the one getting into the red car and racing off to fires. A bell was installed in a closet at Raymond’s house. When it rang in the night, Ray would leap out of bed and throw on his fire outfit. He’d listen to the number of taps on the bell and know just where the fire was.
Raymond accomplished a lot during his nineteen years as fire chief. He started many fire prevention programs for the children in his town, such as—“Stop, Drop, and Roll” and “Junior Fire Marshals.” He retired in 1986.

Local Celebrity
Every year, Ray’s town celebrates Town Day in September. He was told that on September 15, 2001 there would be a dedication ceremony for his many years of hard work. After a few speeches by important people of the town, the crowd parted. What a surprise! A brand-new shiny red, American LaFrance Eagle Rescue Pumper truck pulled up in front of the town hall. Chief Ray was asked to remove the little flag that was taped to the side of the truck. Under the flag was an engraved plaque with his name spelled out on it. For many years while cruising through his favorite town, he’d spot his fire engine rushing past, give a wave and say, “There goes my truck!”
truck on blueRay Sorensen - Copy
Since my story above, Ray has continued to keep busy on several committees and also with his own writing. His autobiographical book: Strike a Third, Big Things Happen in Small Places, about his days on the force was a hit around town and beyond. He gets up at 4 AM each day and still volunteers at the hospital, sometimes bringing in homemade baked goods for the group. mom dad 2015 001Ray is an ardent reader, quite computer savvy, loves a good jigsaw puzzle and has many other hobbies and activities. He also enjoys going to bookstores and out to breakfast, as well as family events with his wife of 66 years. This week the hospital volunteer staff surprised him with a special cake and party. Nurses and patients alike joined in to sing “Happy Birthday” and even the president of the hospital wished him well and bought him lunch.group with cake

Born during a major blizzard 90 years ago today, I really just wanted to say Happy Birthday, Dad!

54 Comments

  1. slochman

    Love this story! Marcia, I think you can rework this into a nonfiction picture book. What a wonderful tribute that would be to your dad.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Sharon. I’d love this to be a picture book, maybe someday!

      Like

    • Anonymous

      Marcia your dad was a great fire fighter and chief and a good friend to all in town, my father though the world of him, great tribute ( walk it proud ) say Happy Birthday to your dad from me. Happy Birthday Chief !

      Like

      • Thank you very much. I wish I knew who you were, but your comment came out anonymous!

        Like

  2. Oh wow! My heart did a leap when I read the last line! I was thinking , what a wonderful, person Ray is, and then found out it’s your Dad. Happy Birthday to him!

    Like

  3. What a wonderful story. You are blessed to have such an amazing dad!! Please pass on a Happy Birthday from a blogging friend!

    Like

    • Thanks so much, Darlene. I’ll make sure he reads the comments! 🙂

      Like

  4. What an inspiration your Dad is. Wonderful tribute, Marcia!

    Like

  5. Loved his story!

    Like

  6. Louise Pryor

    Happy birthday to your dad, Marcia. What neat tributes–both from the town and from you! I agree that this would be a great topic for you to make into a picture book. Please do it!

    Like

  7. Bobbi Miller

    What a lovely tribute to your dad! And I love those photos! You know, I think this could also be a picture book?

    Like

  8. Wonderful story Marcia. He is a wonderful guy and it is a pleasure and honor to know him.

    Like

  9. Bette Norton

    What a beautiful tribute, Marcia! An excellent role model in how to live a life well! Happy 90th birthday! 🙂

    Like

  10. Marcia! What a wonderful story! The last line, of course, was quite the ending. Yes, yes, yes, this needs to be a book someday.

    Like

  11. Edna Lord

    Great accomplishments Ray and you’re still going strong. Proud that you’re my brother in law.

    Like

  12. I got to the end and reading ‘Happy Birthday, Dad!’ brought tears to my eyes. Your father sounds like a wonderful, wonderful man!

    Like

  13. Loved this story — I kind of sensed it was your Dad all along. Happy 90th Birthday to him!!!

    Like

  14. Wow! A wonderful story, but an even more wonderful person!

    Like

  15. Beautiful, just precious!

    Like

  16. mirkabreen

    What a beautiful tribute, Marcia. Somehow i knew this was your Dad, and yet it still came as a nice surprise at the end.

    Like

    • It’s been fun to read the different reactions. I wasn’t consciously trying to make it a surprise, just added in the last line to wrap up the post. Those who saw my posts on Facebook had an early hint. 🙂

      Like

  17. Raymond

    Marcia, I’m overwhelmed with all these nice comments.
    Your Dad

    Like

  18. While reading that I was thinking what a wonderful man – but I had no idea you were writing about your father, you must be so proud of him. I can’t help thinking how handsome he was as a boy, a young man and how handsome he still is at 90. Please wish your dear dad a very happy belated 90th birthday from me.

    Like

    • I will, Barbara. Thanks for your lovely comment and for the tweet, too!

      Like

  19. What a fabulous tribute!

    Like

  20. How great for you to have such an amazing Dad! It would be great to see a PB of the story. 🙂

    Like

    • He’s a keeper and I’ll have to work on that PB. 🙂 Thanks for visiting, Ann!

      Like

  21. A beautiful tribute, Marcia. I had a feeling this piece was about your dad or someone very special to you! Yes, to a PB!

    Like

  22. Happy Birthday to your father! He sounds like an incredible person.

    Like

    • He is, Sheryl. 🙂 Thank you for your birthday greeting. He appreciates all the comments coming in!

      Like

  23. Ashley

    Another beautiful article!! Your posts are always very special and this one got me right in the heart. Thank you for it and happy birthday to your father!!

    Like

  24. What a sweet story Marcia. I love the photo of him when he is about 6 years old– reminds me of old pictures of my father. You do have a wonderful father– such a blessing…

    Like

    • I love that picture, too, all soft and tinted with personality showing through. Thanks for your comment, Rhonda!

      Liked by 1 person

  25. WOW, that’s your dad? What an inspiration! I love the advice he got about going back to school and studying everything he could on fire to stand out from the crowd. Happy Birthday to your dad, Marcia. What a great post!

    Like

    • His studying really did pay off. A school representative from where he took all the fire science courses wrote in a letter that his grade average was higher than any student had ever achieved–a great addition to his resume. Thank you, Claudine, I’ll make sure he sees your message!

      Like

  26. Great story 🙂 Love it

    Like

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