Meet Bob Buresh, who started as an Edina volunteer firefighter when he was just an 18-year-old high school senior and retired as the city's Public Safety Chief, heading both the police and fire departments.
Not a bad career path for someone who got involved with the Fire Department as a Boy Scout, along with his friend Bill Feck, another Edina boy who became Fire Chief. They both joined the U.S. Air Force together in 1951 but returned to the department as volunteers after the service. Bob took a job as a full-time firefighter in 1957 and then worked his way "up the ladder," so to speak, getting promoted to lieutenant in 1963, to captain in 1967, to assistant fire chief in 1968, and chief in 1975. He retired in 1987.
The history of his career -- and the Edina Fire Department -- is told through these artifacts that Buresh donated last week. The 35 items include firefighting turnout gear, his dress uniform blazer and hat, as well as badges, pins, nametags, photo ID card and Village of Edina business cards.
Here's a closer look at a few of the items. Do you notice that some pins have one horn, while others have two or three? As I learned when creating an exhibit with the police and fire departments a few years ago, the horns indicate rank, with one signifying lieutenant, two for captain, three for assistant chief and four for chief. Bob accumulated quite a collection during his long career.
(Can you see Bob's height on his Village of Edina identification badge? He still stands straight and tall at 6-foot-4.)
Bob wore this hat (decorated with the three horns) when he was assistant chief. The dress blazer also indicates rank, with three stars on one sleeve.
I especially like the turnout gear -- the protective clothing worn while fighting fires. Both the coat and the hat look like they've been through a few battles.
Bob also served as head of the Minnesota Fire Chiefs Association, which worked to get a firefighter's memorial at the Minnesota Capitol. This is replica, the first in a series of 700. The firefighter wears No. 10 on his hat, the same number as Bob's when he was Edina chief.
Several years ago, one of our volunteers Bob Reid did an oral history with Bob Buresh and other fire chiefs to get a history of the department. I think it's time for another interview, this time to focus in on Buresh's childhood. Bob had some great stories to tell about ski jumping as a kid in Edina.
"You mean the one at Hyland Park in Bloomington?" I asked.
Nope, the one off Skyline Drive in Edina in the late 1930s, he said, when the area still was undeveloped countryside.
The news even surprised one of our board members Bob Kojetin, who never heard tales of an Edina ski jump while he was Park and Rec Director, albeit decades later.
(Yes, there are three Bobs in this story, in case you're counting: Bob Reid, Bob Buresh and Bob Kojetin.)
Now that you've met Bob Buresh, I'm sure you'll see more of him as we find out more about these great Edina Fire Department artifacts and hear more stories about growing up in Edina.
Last Friday, the City of Edina announced on its Facebook page the addition of a new ambulance. The shiny red ambulance made me think of Edina's first rescue vehicle, known as the "bread wagon" because it looked more like a bread delivery truck than something that could save lives.
Here is info from our exhibit a few years ago on Edina's Fire and Police Department history.
While the first ambulance may have been less than impressive, Edina quickly became a leader in providing emergency medical care to its citizens. By 1975, Chief Bob Buresh wanted his firefighters cross-trained as paramedics when statewide, most people worked as one or the other but not both. “Edina always seemed to be a progressive fire department,” said Bill Feck, who served under Buresh. “The leadership always appeared to be looking beyond."
Volunteer Bob Reid recorded much of the Fire Department history with his oral history of former Fire Chiefs Ted Paulfranz and Bill Feck. Our collection also includes donations from Feck and records kept by the department's unofficial historian Steve Nelson.
The average response time today is under two minutes, according to the department's web site.
This is how old school photos usually look. Look at the straight lines. The excellent posture. The well-behaved children.
Now look at this 1912 photo (below) at the same building, the Edina School, which was located near the site of today's City Hall. Note the chaos. The goofy faces. The laughter.
I love it. Although most school photos from this era show a somber group of children, this one "is quite fun as there are a lot of antics going on with the group," Carol Hansen noted when she emailed me the photo. I couldn't have put it better myself.
As I zoom in closer it looks like this group is boys only. I can see a couple of girls at the far right, most likely waiting their turn for a photo. Although this photo was taken one hundred years ago, the boys act no different than those today who are asked to pose for a group photo. (Yes, I have a son and three brothers. I know from personal experience.)
The top row (above photo) far right is Phil Bailey, Carol's uncle. Below him in the white hat and scarf is her uncle Harry Hansen. The bottom row (below photo), far right in dark hat and clothes is her father Ernie Hansen.
These boys grew up and stayed in Edina. "All three men were part of the volunteer fire department and eventually part of the Fire Department after it was full time," Carol writes. "I guess it was the family business after farming."
They are somewhere in this group photo of Edina's first volunteer fire department. Don't they still look like a fun group of guys?
If you can help identify anyone in this photo, please email me or comment on this post.
Please note: I know you careful readers will probably have noticed that the first two photos look like they're taken at different buildings. The windows are different, and the first building is brick and the second is stucco. The Edina School, built in 1888, was remodeled several time to accommodate the ever-growing population of the brand-new village. The "yellow brick" school became the gray stucco school, and eventually lost its bell tower. Two new schools -- Morningside and Wooddale -- were built in 1924 to replace the overcrowded Edina School.
Temperatures like today's 100-plus degrees would be perfect for a cooling game of waterball.
You might wonder what "waterball" is. Well, I never heard of it either a few years ago when we put together an exhibit on the police and fire departments.
Waterball, my friends, was good clean fun back in the 1940s through 1960s for the Edina Fire Department.
Fire departments went head to head, shooting water from their fire hoses at a ball strung up on a line overhead. Whoever pushed the ball over to the opponents' side first won. The game gave the fire fighters a chance to practice aiming the sometimes unwieldy hoses and working together as a team.
I think it sounds like fun, don't you? But for some reason, Edina gave up the game, although waterball tournaments still provide entertainment at town festivals and July 4th celebrations in small towns throughout the state.
Unfortunately, we couldn't locate Edina's waterball for our exhibit grand opening events or to put in our collection. These pictures are what remain to tell the tale.
Top left, Edina Fire Department team: (left) Phil Bacon or Bill Feck, Ed Sherman, Bill Hansen, Ken Nelson, Ed Hansen and Bob Buresh, circa 1940s
Bottom left, Edina Fire Department team (left) competes against Long Lake Fire Department. No word on who won.
Some photos are too good to be true. This is one of them. The caption above was written for an exhibit we did a few years ago on the Edina Police and Fire Departments called "To Protect and Serve." I loved how the photo accurately depicted that sentiment, showing our firefighters as they raced off into a fire with smoke billowing ahead of them.
Even at the time, I did wonder how the photographer managed to capture the image. Was he just in the right place at the right time? How did he happen to be at a fire just as the fire department raced to the scene?
As I found out later, the photo was posed for an insurance ad, according to word from firefighters working in the 1950s. I have tried to reach photographer Clark Dean for more information, but haven't had any luck finding him. I would love to have the print advertisement that used this photo.
Although the fire wasn't real, everything else was. Edina firefighters in the photo include Larry Bacon (behind the truck). Bob Buresh (top center) and Ken Nelson (top right) as well as two unidentified men on Edina's American LaFrance fire truck.
Despite the fictional emergency, it's still a great photo that documents the 1950s in Edina.
April 1, 1946 Daily Times photo had a caption that read: Grass Fires Keep ’Em Busy. Warm, dry weather with little moisture in the ground has given Minneapolis and suburban fire departments some busy days fighting grass fires. Grass fires have been reported in almost every area of the city. Here the Edina fire department is battling a grass blaze.
No snow this March means grass fires in April. Today's news cautions residents of the new burning ban imposed because of low-moisture and high temperatures. (For those reading from out of state, Minnesota has had a record March of NO snow and predictions of 70-degree temperatures this week).
That made me think of the equipment used to fight grass fires in Edina in the 1940s: wet burlap bags and brooms, water cans, and stomping feet.
Edina men often were the first at the scene of a fire, even though Minneapolis Fire Department was contracted for services. The closest station was at 43rd Street and Upton Avenue in Linden Hills. Because of distance and poor roads, Minneapolis often could do more than stop the flames from spreading. A resident recalled that a firefighter was killed after being thrown from a truck that got stuck in the mud.
In 1941, the Edina Fire Department formed with volunteers. Because many men were fighting in World War II, even teenage boys were called to help (the figure in the background of the above photo appears to be a boy.)
Edina immediately purchased a Willies Jeep with a 500-gallon water tank for off-road travels. When that tank ran out, firefighters didn't have hydrants out in the country so they often dropped hoses into ponds and creeks. A strainer kept weeds and debris from clogging the lines.
Firefighters also carried five-gallon water canisters on their backs to spray down smoldering land. (Today’s Super Soaker water guns for kids can hold two-gallons!)
Grass fires continued to plague Edina into the 1950s; 109 were reported in 1958 and were the most common type of blaze. But by the 1960s, when most of the grass fields became homes and office buildings, the Jeep was hauled out mainly for parades and finally sold to the city of Motley.
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