For FIRE, Open then Pull Down Hook
While I was in Roanoke, Virginia, shooting the photos for the last day of the Photo Essay Blitz before taking the fruits of my week of travel and pictures back to JMU to process them, I made a rare find – a vintage Gamewell fire alarm street box, still in service. If you recall, I’ve run across fire alarm boxes before – I have seen several in Washington DC. However, system in DC had previously been abandoned, and as such, all of the boxes had been rendered inoperable. However, this one was still in service, fully intact. Today, Gamewell manufactures modern fire alarm systems, but the company also continues to manufacture street boxes as well, which are far fewer in number than they once were.
While casually walking along the street in Roanoke, look what I found! Complete with stand, and decorative topper.
The fire box, when you look at it closely, is actually two fire boxes put together. The side seen at left is the newer side, in one of Gamewell’s more recent styles, whereas the side seen at right is an older style. It is believed that the older side was once a complete fire box, and for some reason or other, the inside was removed and the newer fire box was added onto one side of the old box.
So now let’s explore the front side of the box up close!
At the top is Gamewell’s tested-and-true fire box logo, with the hand grabbing the lightning. This logo is associated so closely with fire boxes, in fact, that when Randix made novelty fire-box-style telephones, they used the lightning-hand logo at the top of their boxes.
In case of fire, pull down the cover, and pull down the hook inside. These shots are the first to give evidence to the fire box having been repainted. On the standard-issue boxes, the “FOR FIRE” is painted in white, and then the “Open then pull down hook” is painted in red.
Inside, everything’s still vintage, if not necessarily clean, and in case of fire, just pull down the hook, and that transmits an alarm to the central station.
This station is #422 in Roanoke’s system. Why the number is on backwards, I don’t know…
Made by, who else… Gamewell, from Newton, Massachusetts.
On the side of the box, in big letters, its purpose is identified – FIRE. And if you’re thinking about pulling it as a prank, don’t. A false alarm may cost a human life, if firefighters are responding to a malicious pull instead of a real fire.
Inside the Gamewell boxes, as seen in this similar box found on an eBay auction, the hook on the outside actually is a dummy hook, that pulls the real hook inside. Turning that hook activates the mechanisms inside, which transmit the alarm to the central station.
On the other side, age is evident.
Besides the older style of design, the effects of numerous repaintings are evident, as the Gamewell lightning-hand logo is almost completely obscured by paint.
One thing that I found odd about this side was a darker-colored stripe along the middle of the box.
Down below, bolts connect the box to the decorative pedestal.