Ullock, Vincent

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                                         VINCENT ULLOCK
                                       Ready for the call
                                       By Beatrice Jardine

He always went to bed with his ‘bunker gear’ next to his bed, says Vincent Ullock. That way, if the call came saying there was a fire, he was dressed in about five minutes and ready to go. “The only thing you hoped for was the car would start,” he said in an interview.

Ullock was a fireman with the Chatham fire department for about 30 years. He retired Dec. 15 at age 65 after 30 years. The move lets younger men take over, he said.

Joining the fire department wasn’t planned, he always wanted to be an RCMP officer. However, he is so proud of his role in the department he wants to be buried in his captain’s uniform when the time comes, he said as he put on his navy jacket. On it are the medals he received over the years.

The retired plumber from Chatham is proud of being able to serve with fire department and proud of his medals from the Queen and lieutenant governor. Chatham has also given him a marble plaque in recognition of his service.

He is also proud of his brother Alexander, who has received awards for his volunteer work raising money for the hospital in walkathons held each year. Alexander also received a medal for bravery after he pulled a man from a burning vehicle. Vincent saved a man from drowning a few years ago. But the two men just smiled as they talked about helping others. They enjoy doing it, Vincent said.

They love the Miramichi and still live in the family home in Chatham. Vincent went to Alberta for a while to work, but he moved home vowing he would never move away from home again. “It is a nice country, but I will never leave this place again,” he said.

His first job was a cook then an asphalt mixer for a paving company. When he moved back to Chatham he trained as a plumber. “I am a kind of jack of all trades,” he said with a laugh.

But the most important thing he did was join the Chatham fire department, he said. It happened by accident. He was training to be a plumber and every time the man he was working with got a call to go to a fire, Vincent tagged along. He was 16 at the time. In 1960 he officially joined as a volunteer. He went on to become lieutenant then to captain. He retired because of his age and health. “Besides it is time for the younger lads to take it over. I couldn’t climb a ladder and felt I wasn’t doing my job,” Vincent said.

Serving in the fire department is one of joy and sadness. However, the hardest thing about being a fireman was the death. He has seen a few over his years. One was a house fire where an old lady, her friend and a child burned to death. Other incidents were too hard to talk about, he said. “Seeing people burned to death is an awful thing and the worst thing is that most fires happen from carelessness,” Vincent said.

Beepers replace call of fog horn

Vincent Ullock used to hear the fog horn going off and knew there was a fire. That was about 30 years ago when he first joined the Chatham fire department. “But today, the firemen can go anywhere now with those beepers on,” he said.

They had two trucks when Vincent started, now they have four or five and the best of equipment, he said. It is quite a change, but the best thing is the communities working together, he said. “If one department needs help in fighting a fire, every department is happy to help out,” he said.

People are looking after their homes. The fire department stresses education as the key to prevention and it seems to be working.

“We don’t have any big fires like years before. Children are aware of preventing fires through the firemen’s visits to the schools and through the general safety practices of the family,” he said. The fire chief sometimes goes into the school and pulls the alarm to see how long it takes for the children to evacuate. Then he can offer suggestions to speed up the process if necessary.

Years ago when Vincent was in school they had a big bell in the hallway. The bell had a long cord with a wooden handle. “Sometimes the old principal would sneak out and pull the cord, hello for jumping up and running out,” he said.

Another problem he remembers from the past were the grass fires and the burning of cut up tires for fuel. “It was tough times back then, you had no electricity to heat your homes. Mama had no automatic washer, she used to wash clothes on a scrubbing board, boiling her water on the stove, not like today with electricity,” he said.

Their kitchen table was extra long and two benches on each side. “My mama used to make bread by the barrel. And every one of us (17) kids had their own place at the table. Mama would always ask who wanted the next slice,” he said.

Finally, the older children married off and he finally ended up with his own room. One time he heard a little boy asking Santa Claus for his own room. He thought that was funny because it reminded him of his younger days with all of his brothers and sisters around.

Today, things are quiet at the Ullock household and Vincent likes it that way.

And although retired he isn’t taking any chances with a fire. He has a hose hooked up in his basement, four fire extinguishers and four smoke detectors.

Source: Miramichi Leader – January 3, 1991

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