The Vagabond – Gadsden firefighter competitions in early 1900s

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By Danny Crownover

In May of 1900, the City of Gadsden did itself proud by hosting the annual convention of the volunteer firemen from Georgia and Alabama. Companies from Rome, Dalton, Marietta, Calhoun, Cedartown and Anniston were on hand along with their racing teams, queen maids of honor and sponsors. This was Gadsden’s first experience as a member of the association.

All of the races and contests were staged on Broad Street between Sixth and Second streets. Circus seats were erected in front of Kyle’s Opera House (which later housed the Woolworth Store and Hick’s Shoes) to accommodate hundreds of spectators. The biggest part of the crowd jammed the sidewalks along the racecourse.

Louise Ross was sponsor for the Gadsden Fire Department. Her maids of honor were Lola Johnson and Edna Camp. The chaperone was Forney Hughes. Lora Mansfield was sponsor for the Anniston team. Her maid of honor was Ellie Walters. W.O. Ward was the chaperone.

Gadsden Mayor l.L. Herzberg officially welcomed the visitors. The judging stand was located in front of what was later the Belk-Hudson Store.

Hugh Roberts of Cedartown won the foot race, his time for the 100-yard dash being 10.5 seconds. Frank McCutchen of Dalton was second with a time of 10.8 seconds.

Gadsden and Cedartown tied in the ladder climbing contest. Derrick Fleming of Gadsden broke two bones in his foot during the competition. Cedartown won the shoofly contest, with Cartersville in second place. Cedartown also won the hose-reel contest, with Dalton in second place. Cedartown also won the Siamese connection contest and the grab contest.

The most exciting event was the two-horse hose wagon contest between Anniston and Gadsden. Gadsden’s team finished first. The locals got a beautiful start and came down the 200-yard course like a whirlwind, showing water in 47 seconds.

Anniston’s team shot down the course like the wind and made the exact same time. The two contestants agreed to run off the tie. Gadsden won on the third try with 48 seconds. The horses of both teams were pretty well exhausted. The visitors were given a dance at Noccalula Falls.

There was a banquet at the Printup Hotel in honor of the officials of the association. Charles P. Smith was the toastmaster. Hubert T. Davis responded to the toast with, “Our guest.” Professor J.W. Dubose responded to the toast with, “The Queen City of The Coosa.” T.S. Kyle responded to the toast with, “Our Volunteer Fire Company.” N.G. Canning’s responded to the toast with, “The goober grabbler.”

Other speakers at the banquet were U.S. Coleman of Cedartown, Paul Fakin of Cartersville, James Noble of Anniston, J.N. Rudolph of Dalton and C.R. Rankin of Calhoun. J.T. Norris of Cartersville was elected president of the association.

In following years, Talladega, Bessemer and Tuscaloosa competed in the event, which was held annually until motor fire trucks displaced the horse-drawn trucks.

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