Los Angeles Fire Department
Historical Archive


    For the support I received as Chief Engineer, I thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    For the Department you have built, I thank you and I am sure the citizens of Los Angeles do also.

    For all the kindness shown me since retirement, not the least of which has been the beautiful car presented;  I will be forever grateful.

    For your present Chief Engineer, I earnestly urge your support and loyalty.

Chief Engineer Retired 


Chief Alderson's Retirement

A Memorable Evening


    As always, all good things must come an end and the inevitable happened.

    Probably the most popular man ever to have served on the Los Angeles Fire Department, and definitely a man who has done more over-all good for the firemen and the fire service than any other, retired on December 29, 1955.

    To many, Chief John H. Alderson's announcement of retirement came as a complete surprise, but to some it had been expected for many months.  However, to most of the members on the Department his retirement was a big loss to the greatest Fire Department in the nation.

    The popularity of Chief Alderson was exemplified at his retirement dinner by the spontaneous applause that burst upon him as he walked into a dining hall filled with the usual conversation, merriment, and laughter of the men present who were not yet seated at the Rodger Young Auditorium on March 27, 1956.  This ovation lasted a full two minutes with every one of the 600 firemen present participating.  One could feel the warm comradeship that Chief Alderson had created during his reign in office, and this feeling continued to grow throughout this particular evening.

    Chief Hoffmann, our Department Chaplain, offered the invocation.  Then a dinner fit for a king was served.  The serving was personally supervised by Mr. Kalman L. Loeb, owner and host at Rodger Young.  The entree consisted of prime ribs of beef au jus done to please each man's palate.

    Before we had finished our delectable dinner, a group of three firemen from Engine 44-B (Gus Daniels, Leonard Jacobson, and John Gilmore) kept the fast moving evening going by furnishing some lively music which everyone enjoyed.  Gus and Leonard played banjos while Gilmore furnished the beat on what is affectionately known as the old doghouse.

    Suave Ray L. Straeter, the polished and accomplished toastmaster for the evening, picked up this spirit and carried it throughout the speaking part of the program.

    At this point a Hawaiian lei, signifying friendship, was presented by a Hawaiian fireman, Wally Kawachi, with the shortest speech of the evening--"To Chief Alderson . . . 'The number one Fireman'!"

    Speakers were limited to Chief Engineer William L. Miller, John Alderson's son, and the president of each organization represented throughout the Fire Department.

    Chief Engineer Miller was the first speaker introduced.  "We've known Chief Alderson for many years, but there's one thing about him I didn't know until lately.  I was amazed at the size of his feet.  I found out their size when I tired to fill his shoes."  The Chief continued, "Many chiefs come and go and there are a few great ones, but probably the greatest of them all is Chief John H. Alderson."

    Owen Held, President of the Fire and Police Protective League, said he could not begin to state, in the short time allotted to him, the privileges and benefits firemen and policemen enjoy as a result of the personal efforts of Chief Alderson.  Owen expressed a feeling which is not only local, but nation-wide.  Policemen and firemen alike owe a debt of gratitude to Chief Alderson--all we can say is "Thank, you, Chief."

    Harry Curry, President of the Professional Fire Fighters' Local 748, presented Chief Alderson with a life membership in the union on behalf of firemen throughout the United States and Canada--a token recognition of his huge contribution to the fire services.

    Throughout the program telegrams were received and read by emcee Ray L. Straeter.  All of them wished Chief Alderson the best and expressed regrets that the senders could not be present.  Good wishes from firemen on duty, assemblymen, and councilmen were received.

    Ray Straeter then introduced the "Supreme Commander" of our athletic program, Dick Ernest.  According to Ray, Dick is the kind of guy who, when told about the man who beat his wife to death with a golf club, asked--"How many strokes did it take?"  Capt. Ernest retaliate with, "Ray said he wasn't a comedian.  That's what I believe.  Seriously though, a good share of the privileges we enjoy are due to Chief Alderson.  He has given more than we realize.  We offer him our undying gratitude and an invitation to join in our sports activities."

    Captain Mike Haguewood, Vice President of the Los Angeles Firemen's Credit Union, pointed out the Credit Union has made possible a fuller life for all of us and our families.  This could not have been possible without the support given by Chief Alderson.

    At this point Ray said, "You know--I'm like the man who jumped from the top of the Empire State Building and as he passed the tenth floor said, . . . 'So far so good'.  (Maybe Ernie was right?)

    From the American Legion, Harold Hilf, adjutant of the Fire Fighters' American Legion Post No. 102, presented a Citation of Meritorious Service to the Chief.

    Bob Donnelly, representing the Los Angeles Fire Department's Sportsmen's Club, presented a life membership in the club and extended a sincere invitation for the Chief to participate in the club's activities any time--for free!

    Bill McGowan, Vice President of the Relief Association, as he pinned the gold retirement badge on Alderson's lapel said, " . . . to the greatest fireman in the world!"

    Ray Straeter then introduced the honored guest of the evening, John H. Alderson, by stating, "He did have one fault, but we too have one fault.  His is that he came on the job too soon; ours is that we came on too late."

    Chief Alderson highlighted his career from the time he was appointed until he requested his well earned pension.  Big John started his talk by contradicting some of the statements made about his hard working career by saying, "I didn't start off as a fireman in any great or effective manner."  He recalled reporting to Engine 35 where he introduced himself to the Acting Captain that September morning in 1923.  The Acting Captain told rookie Alderson to hang his hat on the hook and take it easy, . . . "We don't do any work today;  I'm in charge.  If the bell rings, run and get on the running board and hang on.  When we get to the fire, just keep out of the way."  When 4 p.m. came he asked, "When do we go home?"  The answer was, "At 6 o'clock when the other shift comes on duty, that's only ten hours and next week we get to work 14 hours."  "Not me," said John and walked off.  "A muscular and authoritative fireman followed me to the bus stop across the street and did convincingly show me that I'd be fired if I didn't stay.  Little did I know that after 30 years-and-a-butt that I'd be fired anyhow."

    Chief Miller was again called to the rostrum to present a journal to Chief Alderson.  "There's one thing he required us to do,"  said Miller.  "That is to keep a journal, so we retaliate with sticking him with one . . . 298 pages of well wishes from members of the Department.

    To climax the evening Rex Beaver, President of the Fire Fighters' Association, presented a life membership in the C.S.F.A., and a beautiful silver plaque, commemorating fire fighting action on the Markay Ship fire, to our retired Chief.

    Then, never to a more completely surprised man, a set of solid silver keys was handed to him--fitting a 1956 custom Royal Lancer 4 door hard top convertible Dodge that was parked in the parking lot awaiting its new owner.  The keys were given by Ex-Commissioner Joscelyn, and the automobile (with one year's complete insurance coverage) was a gift from the appreciative members of the Los Angeles Fire Department.

    Chief Alderson was stunned.  "I don't know what to say.  You shouldn't have done it."  As tears came to his  eyes . . . "You know my policy--no gifts!"  regarding the plaque--"Anyone can issue orders, but it takes men to carry them out.  Boat 2 deserves and should have the plague--but let them try and get it!"

    And so ended one of the most inspiring evenings in the history of the Los Angeles Fire Department.


This article appeared in the May 1956 issue of the FIREMEN'S GRAPEVINE.

A Testimonial for "The Chief"


    On Tuesday evening, April 10, 1956, a night of mixed emotions, John H. Alderson retired, was tendered a testimonial dinner.   For all those present and for those who were unable to attend it was a night of sadness and also one of gladness.  All in attendance were happy to see the Chief in splendid health, good spirits, and to hear him speak in sound, firm voice.  Everyone also was aware that the fire service, particularly the Los Angeles Fire Department, had lost one of the city and nation's leading administrators.

    The event was sponsored b the L.A.F.D.  Chief Officers' Group and was held at the Biltmore Ballroom with a capacity crowd.  The V.I.P.'s present were too numerous to mention as they included state officials, city and civic leaders, fire chiefs from all over the country, and a host of friends.  It was because of the many dignitaries present that the words of acknowledgment, praise and accolades were limited to the front table only.  Those speaking and representing a wide range of agencies and groups were as follows:

    Mr. R. C. Stange, National Board of Fire Underwriters.
    Chief William Taylor of Burbank, Director of the I.A.F.C.
    Chief S. H. Edmondson, Pasadena,  President of the
        Inter-Mountain Association of Fire Chiefs.
    Councilman John C. Holland.
    Chief Miller, L.A.F.D.

    The principal speaker of the evening was Rev. James Whitcomb Brougher of the Glendale First Baptist Church.  Certainly, no person at the dinner has ever heard a more informing and entertaining speaker.  His wit and ready humor were beyond comparison and the words of his speech most certainly reflected beautifully the thoughts which were in all our minds.

    Presentations were made to the Chief to commemorate his splendid work and many accomplishments.  President Curry of Local 748, a plaque;  Chief Edmondson, a plague from the Pacific Coast Inter-Mountain Association of Fire Chiefs;  Chief Husted, Vernon Fire Department, two symbolic lamps;  Chief Officers' Group of the San Francisco Fire Department, a huge floral bouquet;  Councilman Holland on behalf of the Los Angeles City Council, a scroll;  George Joe, Honolulu Fire Department, a time honored pheasant-feathered hat band;  Chief Miller, a memory packed leather bound book of pictures of Chief Alderson during his tenure of office;  and last of all, by Chief Miller, a beautiful Chief Officers' ring on behalf of the L.A.F.D. Chief Officers Group.

    The entire program was most ably emceed by our own fire buff and long-time fired, Mr. Stu Wilson.  Stu has been a friend of Chief Alderson's and the department for man years.  The Chief Officers' Group wishes to take this opportunity to thank both Stu Wilson and Dr. Brougher for their well spoken words and manner of entertaining at this affair.

    We also wish to express to Chief Alderson on behalf of the entire Fire Department our heartfelt and sincere thanks for a job well done and to wish him a long, healthy and happy retirement.


This article appeared in the May 1956 issue of the FIREMEN'S GRAPEVINE.

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