Brigade mem­o­ries span decades

Matamata Chronicle - - Welcome To Matamata - By EVIE MARINKOVICH

When Jack Martin, 86, joined the Mata­mata Vol­un­teer Fire Brigade in 1942 they didn’t have uni­forms; they would go and fight the fire in what they were wear­ing at the time.

Seventy years later, the brigade has uni­forms and Jack has just been to his 70th an­nual meet­ing.

Jack was just 17 years old when he signed up with the brigade and was an ac­tive mem­ber for 39 years.

He has at­tended the an­nual meet­ings ever since he joined and still goes ev­ery year.

‘‘I still have quite a bit to do with it,’’ he said.

‘‘If I’m in town and the alarm goes off I go down there in case they’re short and I per­haps have to an­swer the phone or make sure no-one comes in and mucks around with some­thing.

‘‘I take an in­ter­est in the brigade and com­pe­ti­tion team, and call in to see them and give them a bit of cheek.

‘‘Some­one’s got to keep the place alive.’’

When Jack signed up the brigade was not what it is now.

‘‘We had a 1936 Ford V8, it wasn’t closed in, she was wide open. We didn’t have much gear,’’ Jack said.

‘‘We did have a cork hat, that’s all we got.’’

Un­like now, re­sources were scarce and the fire fight­ers made do with what they could find.

‘‘We had just one fire truck but now there are three and a wa­ter tanker and of course, they’ve got all the equip­ment,’’ he said.

‘‘I re­mem­ber go­ing to a house fire and we had can­vas buck­ets and we were go­ing from house to house to fill the tank up with wa­ter.

‘‘We got the fire out in the end.’’

There was no such thing as a fire siren, a bell was used, and if you didn’t hear it you could trust your neigh­bours to phone and let you know you were needed.

He was al­ways will­ing to pour his heart and soul into the brigade. Many years ago when the Wa­haroa Fac­tory burnt down, Jack and his brigade mates spent four days bat­tling the blaze.

‘‘We didn’t think or worry about sleep­ing, you just car­ried on.’’

This ded­i­ca­tion has seen Jack re­ceive life mem­ber­ship and a gold star, awarded only af­ter 25 years of ser­vice.

This Oc­to­ber the Gold Star As­so­ci­a­tion’s 50th an­niver­sary will be held in Mata­mata.

For Jack, this will be his 45th year as a gold star holder.

Not far from a life­time spent with the brigade, Jack only gave it up af­ter his late wife be­came sick with can­cer.

Still, from then to now, Jack has stayed in­volved with the brigade purely for his love of it. Even af­ter he re­tired and was tied to a lad­der on top of a fire truck and towed around town, he only has pos­i­tive things to say as he re­calls his 70-year con­nec­tion to the ser­vice.

‘‘I’ve had good mem­o­ries of the brigade and the chaps down there are very good to me.’’

Long ser­vice: Jack Martin re­cently at­tended his 70th Mata­mata Vol­un­teer Fire Brigade an­nual meet­ing.

Hon­our: Jack is pre­sented with his Gold Star medal by Mata­mata bor­ough Mayor J Buck­land.

Broth­ers: Jack pre­sent­ing his older brother Harold with a Gold Star medal.

Con­test: Jack at an Auck­land Districts fire fight­ing com­pe­ti­tion in 1950.

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