KEESEVILLE — When they were boys, Jim King and Charlie Cobb were fascinated by the fire department.
Now, they have been Keeseville firefighters for 50 years.
“When I was a young lad growing up in the village, I lived two blocks from the fire station,” King said. “Every time the whistle blew, I jumped on my bike and rode to the station to see which way the trucks were going.”
The first in his family to join the ranks, King decided to apply once he was old enough.
For Charlie Cobb, on the other hand, firefighting was a family tradition.
“My father put 38 years in before he died.”
As soon as he got his driver’s license, Cobb began driving his father to the fires. Eventually, he applied to join the department himself.
But both Cobb and King were denied admission based on a vote — “black-balled,” King called it, a term referring to the white or black balls that firefighters would use to indicate yes or no votes.
At that time, he said, “you never got in on the first try.”
When they applied again, they were accepted.
HUGE HOTEL FIRE
One of the first fires they fought also proved to be one of their most memorable experiences. The Adirondack Hotel, a four-story structure located where the Keeseville Post Office now stands, was aflame. King and Cobb were on the first engine to arrive.
They went in through the back entrances, hose at the ready, and found themselves in a room filled with paint and flammable materials.
The next thing they knew, King said, “the thing blew us out into the street. We picked ourselves up and said, ‘What happened?’”
The fire spread in two directions, and mutual aid was called in. Firefighters finally stopped it at one end, while on the other, it hit the road and burned out.