Brigade memories span decades
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.