1910 NY State Firemen’s Convention and Circus
Firemen from all sections of the state gathered in Watertown the weekend of August 19 for the 1910 NY State Firemen’s convention and parade which was also accompanied by a circus during the middle of the week, drawing nearly 30,000 people to Public Square and the surrounding streets. If you can imagine, a great portion of that traffic traveled by rail road to Watertown’s train station from various points across the entire state.
The grand parade’s route, including an estimated 3,500 participants, passed down Washington Street and by the Flower Monument, around Public Square, down Court to Massey, to Clinton, to Sherman St, to Ten Eyck, to Washington, to Winslow, to Academy, to Washington again and onto Public Square where it was viewed at the Court of Honor in front of Washington Hall (now the location of the YMCA bldg.)
While waiting for the circus parade, which ran a couple of hours late, the Watertown Daily Times reported crowds were entertained by a “Simp” having multi-colored hair who took it upon himself to keep the crowd in good spirits until the parade began. When asked what a “Simp” was, the answer was typically along the lines of “One does not ask what a Simp is, unless he himself is a Simp.”
The Story Of the Wreaths At Roswell P. Flower Monument
The Watertown Daily Times would report in their August 16, 1910 edition of the forming of the parade and gathering to the Flower Monument a quiet as possible due to the grave illness of Mrs. Sara Morse Woodruff Flower, who would pass away 8 days later.
There, Col. Charles S. Rogers, military secretary to Governor Flower during his administration, spoke in memory of Roswell P. Flower—
Mr. President, Brother Firemen and Friends:
It is most fitting that we as firemen should come on this opening day of our convention to the monument of the one who did so much for the firemen of the state, one whose memory we respect and love. He was indeed the friend of the firemen, and it was mainly through his influence that the beautiful home on the banks of the Hudson River, where 80 old firemen are sheltered, was built.
Whenever a measure was introduced it the legislature that would benefit the firemen of the Empire state he always gave the firemen the benefit of the doubt.
Broadminded, kind hearted, he was a firemen himself, and well I recall at the convention held in your city 20 years ago, he, as chairman of the reception committee, marched at the head of every company that came into Watertown.
The firemen’s home was not alone made possible by his generosity, but in the city of New York the hospital known the Flower Hospital as another monument to his charity and love of humanity.
It may well be said of him, ‘That he had love, not love alone for one, but man, as man, thy brothers call, and scatter, like circling sun, thy charities on all.’ You citizens of Watertown respected, loved and honored him, and from over three years of personal association, I know how well he loved you. We as firemen cherish his memory and it with deepest love and gratitude that we today bring our garland of flowers to place on this monument, and should this beautiful marble ever crumble into dust, there will be a monument to his memory in the hearts of the firemen of the state that will last forever–a department of love.”
Earlier in the day, the Rochester exempt firemen placed a “magnificent wreath” upon the Flower monument to express their gratitude. The Watertown Daily Times would note that Governor Flower’s first public service was as a volunteer firemen in this city. In 1891, the year he was elected Governor, he was chairmen of the committee for arrangements and it was said “He thoroughly enjoyed the occasion, and as he stood on the reviewing stand watching the companies pass he was as happy as a little boy.”
Best-Decorative Contest Held
Many of the private and public buildings were dressed with bunting and took place in a best-decorative contest. As reported by the Watertown Re-Union—
The Guilfoyle Block in Stone Street was Wednesday awarded the first prize of $30 for being the best decorated business block during the present state firemen’s convention. The Bushnell Block secured second prize, the Flower Block third prize. The Charlesbois Block, which many had picked to get a prize, secured honorable mention in the same class with the Roth Block, Woodruff, Le Ray, Sherman Block and Union Bank building.
The Black River Valley Club got first prize of $20 for best decorated private residence, while Superintendent Christie’s home in Keyes Avenue looked so good to the committee that it took second prize of $15. W. H. Pollard of upper State Street carried off third prize of $10.
About That “One” Photo…
Several years ago, the following photo was posted on the You Haven’t Lived In Watertown, NY, If–‘s Facebook page. At the time, we said “Your guess is as good as ours, but if you look closely – you’ll notice men dressed in drag in this photo in front of the Flower Memorial Library, most likely taken during the Firemen’s Convention.”
As it turns out, it was indeed from the 1910 Firemen’s Convention. According to the Watertown Daily Times–
The Schenectady crowd was on the job and furnishing lots of fun. Arrayed in Mother Hubbards they paraded the streets and the unique spectacle of a corn cob pipe working overtime, belching out clouds of smoke from beneath a sun bonnet on the head of what was apparently a “nice old lady,” was witnessed frequently.
If there was ever one day to go back in time in Watertown’s history, it very well may be this.
The Schenectady firemen didn’t stop there. They apparently found themselves performing a burlesque on Hamlet upon the steps of City Hall, only to have some hoodlums scare them off. But that didn’t dissuade them for long: they appealed to the cops to keep the hoodlums at bay so they could perform the following evening, having practiced for several days in what the Times would say “they really have a humorous burlesque.”
Even Huckleberry Charlie Attends
Even Huckleberry Charlie, aka Charles Sherman, made the trip from Pines Plains to see what all the fuss was about. The colorful North Country character, once a Watertown Daily Times carrier, would have them write about him–
“Huckleberry Charlie,” fresh from the sand dunes and briar bushes of Pines Plains paid a visit to the city Wednesday to take in the sights and incidentally renew some of his old acquaintances. Early in the evening as the the city fire department was parading through the court of honor Charlie marched at the head of the band and got a round of applause from thousands.
Later Charlie meandered down to the Hardiman House, and after doing some of his usual stunts got on a table and delivered several addresses of welcome to the firemen. Twice the legs of the table were knocked out from under him, but it didn’t feaze Charlie and he was still at it early into the morning. Charlie says he’s going to spend a few days in town and see the “doin’s.”
Odds And Ends In The News
In a bit of a footnote to the 1910 NY State Firemen’s Convention, three women traveling down State Street reportedly fainted from the heat and elephants marching almost caused a panic before control was regained.