Do you know what this is? No, then leave me alone.

Do you know what this is?

A common Facebook meme these days, especially among the Baby Boomers, starts with “Do you know what this is?” or “Ever seen one of these?” These questions precede a photo such as drive-in movie speakers or a Slinky, perhaps. From what I have read, Slinky stills remains a best seller. I can understand why. There is nothing like watching a spring run up and down a set of steps. I don’t know why. It just is what it is.

If it is something that doesn’t piss me off, like a Care Bear for instance, then I enjoy playing along with the meme. Some folks don’t appreciate a joke one might make along the way, which I understand. The truth is, not everyone has the same frame of reference.

So I thought I would put up a few photos. Not everyone will recognize them. The pictures are of a specific occupation, firefighting, which I did from 1978-1983. I think most of the objects found — I’m sure some of those — are still used in battling blazes. Fighting fires hasn’t changed that much during the period of time I have been out of the profession although some tactics and gizmos have become much better. I wish some of the gadgets they have today were around when I worked in the profession. Here are a few of the devices we used way back when. And perhaps now.

Top of the morning to you! Do you happen to have a Halligan tool handy? We always had certain job-specific tools around, many were made from sheer need. Before I introduce the Halligan, to the right, I will briefly explain the pike pole upstairs and to the left.

From what I’ve found so far, pike poles at least date back to the days of the Cossacks fishing for sturgeon in the Ural River of Russia or Kazakhstan. The Cossacks used the spike of the pole to break ice and pull out sturgeons which were hibernating. It is not exactly the best way to be awakened from sleep but then again, neither is having some galoot whose call happens to be a wrong number. As for as why it was called a “pike” pole and not a “sturgeon” pole, you’ve got me.

For firefighting, pike poles run up to about 12 feet long and are stored on some kind of clip lengthwise on a fire truck in many cases. The pole is good for pulling sheetrock, walls and ceilings apart to find fire. Much can be said as well for the Halligan.

The Halligan, or known as well as a “hooligan” tool, was reportedly named after a New York fire lieutenant in the 1940s.The tool has a pick and claw which can be useful in forcible entry and other purposes, such as helping pry doors apart until the Jaws of Life come. Or if a particularly unruly cop is on the scene who interferes in your services to the public as a fireman, the Halligan becomes a hooligan and once the cop has turned to look away one might give him a pop alongside the head. Just joking. None of that would happen.


An odd-looking bugger indeed. But if you want more water than is in one’s pumper tank or tanker, then it is the perfect way to turn the top of a hydrant to the “gimme” position. Yes, dear friends, it is a hydrant wrench or key. Notice the long shaft of the tool. It caused me some great difficulties while I caught the “plug” one day as a gasoline truck tank blazed along, threatening an entire gas facility. My path was impaired by a fence and it took me twice as long as it should have to open the hydrant. That made me popular, of course, as the firefighters down the supply line awaited the gushing water from me.


Below you will see the SCBA. Notice the “U” is missing. What happened to the “U?” Who stole it? Where’d it go?

Well, there is SCUBA and SCBA. One is meant for breathing underwater and the other for breathing during fires or other hazardous respiratory conditions. The equipment is called a Self-contained breathing apparatus for firefighting and Self-contained underwater breathing apparatus for SCUBA diving.

There are differences between the two types of breathing equipment. If you want to know about the difference you can start here.

Hopefully you have learned something here. If not, sorry. There are millions of other places on the Internet where one might learn many, many things.



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