I understand you had a lot to do with the organization of our fire
department. What can you tell me about it?
The fire dept. as it exists now began about 1932. It
seems there were about 15 men at the original meeting.
Do you know who any of those were?
Yes, I know them very well: some of them are dead. Of
course all those names are in the original minutes books over at the
Did you have trouble getting it organized?
No. At that time some people thought it was a funny
thing to organize a fire dept. in a town this small. But we had some
pretty serious fires over a series of years and didn't really have
much equipment to fight it with. The first piece of equipment they
had here was a soda acid cart. I think the museum has the original
cart. At that time there was no organized dept. And just whoever
happened to be there used it. I think it was bought about between
1916 and 1918. The dept. as it ixists [exists] now was organized
January, 1932. I remember when I was a boy and we had a fire that
people would get out and shoot pistols and holler fire. About all
they could do then was just save things from whatever was on fire.
Grass fires were just out of hand, we couldn't really do anything
You didn't have a bucket brigade?
No. Not an organized one.
Did you have a building in 1932?
No. When we got the first truck, the city and the
county went together and bought it. But there wasn't any place to put
it. The old Burnet Merchantile (where Dilbeck's is) had a tin shed
behind it and we put the firetruck in there. Then we got donations
and gave money ourselves and got scraps of lumber. The owner of the
Bulletin, Mr. L. C. Chamberlain had a vacant place behind the old
paper's offices. We built a little fire station right in there
between the Bulletin office and that 2 story building over there.
Then we got this other place in 1942 or 43.
When did people stop shooting guns off and you used an organized
When we got the fire dept. organized we provided most
of the money, because the city didn't have any money. We bought this
truck and then bought a siren. There used to be a big water tower on
the east side of the square behind where Western Auto is now. That
was the city water supply. Before that there was no city water
supply, but when they got that tower up we put the siren on there.
How did it operate?
How did you raise money?
Any way we could. We ran the picure [picture] show
here for 3 or 4 years. We took tickets, ushered, showed the picture,
How much did you charge?
I don't remember, and we didn't make a lot of money,
but enough to do what we needed to do.
How many members do you have?
The actual working fire dept. always ran around 30
members. During the war a lot of the original members were gone, and
everybody helped. Our minimum age is 21. After the dept. was
organized no women were members, but the women of this town have
helped in many ways-raising money, bringing food and coffee and dry
clothes. They have been helpful. I guess about 1972 was the last time
I fought a fire.
What's the biggest fire you ever fought?
The longest one was a grass fire that burned the whole
[not legible] from the railroad through the Brownlee ranch,
Clyde Garener's ranch, the old Adams ranch, over to
Donald Duncans, and it came clear up to Hwy 29. We fought that
for about a week. That was in the 50's, but just when I couldn't tell
I've lived here on this block since 1906. (106 E. Post Oak.)
Where did your parents come from?
My mother grew up here and my father was from Ft.
Worth. He came here when they were building the capitol because he
was a stonemason. They were hauling the granite from granite mountain
on the old narrow gauge railroad and unloading it at the old railroad
station. He was a stonecutter down there. They did it by hand and
each piece was numbered according to the architect's plan.
My father and grandfather and two of my uncles cut the stones for
the old rock schoolbuilding.
Who were they?
O.D. Nichols was my father and my uncles were
Willis and Paul Nichols.
Who was your mother?
Maggie Kincaid. In 1882 she and her mother and
uncle came here and established the old Churchill Hardware. It
operated until the second world war. Her uncle was Jimmy
Churchill. The fabric store is there now. The original building
was a two story rock building. The old Westfall Bank building
was next to it on the east. That was later the county building. The
old Bulletin office as on the ground floor. It burned-the
Churchill Hardware store and county building both burned, and the old
paper lost everything. The old bank vault was in there and the county
used that for the treasurer office. The sidewalk in front of there is
the old granite sidewalk. Where Heckman is was another 2 story
building that burned later in the early 20's.
Do you remember the first movie in Burnet?
I remember the old opera house on Washington St. where
that church is. They ran lots of movies there with carbon lights for
the projector. These were silent pictures. I guess Mr. J. O.
Cole ran the movie the longest. Then Mr. Percy. They'd
have dances on Saturday night with a band, from Austin sometimes.
Who had the first car dealership?
I'm not sure unless it was Claude Shipp.
Oscar and Bob Lamb had the first car. They were in the saddle
and harness business down where Bill's Dollar store is. It was
a motor buggy, with a gasoline motor and you cranked it on the side.
It had buggy wheels on it and drove with a chain.
In later years Mr. Will LaForge opened a hardware store
here and in 1943 he bought Churchill Hardware from Mr. Churchill's
daughter, who had run it since he died.
What did they sell?
Chains horseshoe nails, tacks, guns and ammunition,
water buckets, cups, tubs, barbed wire, bolts, dishes, stoves,
anything. I remember what I thought was the greatest thing in my
life-a kerosene oil burning cook stove, down at my uncle's hardware
store. It was wonderful at that time.
Do you know how much it cost?
About 30 dollars.
What was $30 worth then? What would it buy, like flour, or a pair
A good pair of shoes was about $2.50. Real good dress
shoes. You could take $5 and go to the grocery store and get enough
food for an ordinary family for maybe a couple of weeks. So $30 was a
lot of money. Heating stoves sold for about $10-12, and cook
stoves-cast iron wood burning ones-were about 15-20 dollars. The big
fancy ones with warming ovens were a little more. Back in those days
that was expensive. Nowadays an 18 yr. old kid can go out and earn
8-10 dollars an hour. Back then if you earned that much in a week you
were in the money.
Do you think the best times have already been?
I don't know. There's so much more available now-the
car industry, radio, tv, all that. You don't know if it's better or
Are you optimistic about America?
Oh yes. I've been out of this country, during the war.
And I was in Alaska for 2 years and South America for three. It just
takes a few trips out of this country, and then you come back and
realize how great a country we've got. People don't appreciate it.
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