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My Blog

Touring Chicago on O'Leary's Fire Truck

Well, good morning.  A beautiful day outside.  A little on the cool side for this time of year, but I will take it.  Hope that everyone remains safe this holiday weekend and takes a moment to reflect why we have this weekend.  Thanks to all our military that have lost their lives so that we may keep our freedom.  And to all those currently in the military and our veterans.  A Huge thank you. 
Last night, My Red Hatters, some friends from the Grove and I went on a tour of Chicago on the O'Leary's antique, 1965 fire truck.  What an amazingly fun time!  It was awesome to arrive on Illinois and Michigan Ave to fine this old fire truck converted into a somewhat tour trolley. We were greeted by retired fire captain George and his Dalmatian Dog Brandy.  We climbed up the fire ladder to take our seats and with siren blaring and the sound of the old metal bell clanging, we were off to tour the sights of the famous Chicago Fire.  Along with the story of the fire and the damage it had done to the city of Chicago, we also learned so much about this fair city.  We visited old Engine houses and memorials as well.  We drove along lake shore drive to visit some of the famous architecture that Chicago has to offer, along with the wonderful buildings and their history. 
Captain George told us about the Chicago Public Library and how it came to be that we lend out our books.  Something I had never known.  We learned all sorts of little things about a city that was once predominantly wood, streets and all.  George revealed that in the olden times, firemen would chop a whole into the planks to get the water from below and then siphon it out.  They later corked up the hole. 
We visited the building that survived the raging fire where 90 percent of the city came to it's end that fateful night. 
As we drove up and down the streets, the streets were hustling about with people in every direction.  Many had stopped to stare and take pictures and videos of us as we passed them by.  What a treat for more than just us.  A rare treat to see such a vintage truck cruising by. 
It was a rather cool trip for those of us on board.  It was an open windowed vehicle and the temperatures last night were a little low.  Many of the group were shivering while the winds blew through the truck. 
It was on October 8th, 1871 that the Chicago Fire broke out on Mrs. O'Leary's farm.  It has always been told that the cow kicked over the lantern and that started the fire.  Although it is a story that has swept through generations, it is just a story.  The fire indeed started at the O'Leary's farm.  It seems as though it may have been caused by a human.  Speculatively someone who was smoking and left a cigarette unattended.  The fire swept through this wooden city quickly.  It didn't help that the fire dept. was given the wrong address and that delayed their arrival.  The funny thing was that one of the things that did survive all the disaster, was the O'Leary home due to the direction that the winds were blowing. Nearly 300 Chicagoans were dead, 90,000 were homeless and 17,450 buildings were destroyed, with damages totally $200 million. It damaged nearly 4 square miles of the city of Chicago.   
As we were driving along, it was interesting to know that the remnants of the fire were burned below the grounds that we were now driving over. 
At the end of the tour, Captain George pulled out fire hats and axes for us to take pictures with.  Even Brady joined in on the photo shoot.  What a great kick off to the summer.   A day to remember not only those who had fallen during the war, but also a chance to learn and pay homage to those who have lost their lives during fires and saving lives.  So, if you are ever in the city and want to enjoy a piece of history...give the O'Leary Tour a call.  Talk to Captain George about a trip on the fire truck he bought.  Ask him to bring Brady along and just enjoy a trip down memory lane.   

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