So yesterday I stopped by a coffee shop owned by another retired Firefighter my buddy Eric. Eric I don’t think started off wanting to own a coffee shop, he just hated fire house coffee.
Firefighters for the most part are really cheap when it comes to pitching in on shared expenses at the station. So the cost of stuff like coffee, creamer, anything we deem a “staple” is split evenly across all firefighters.
Eric hated cheap coffee and cheap cigars so he began bringing his own coffee to the station many years ago. He was way ahead of his time for his enthusiasm of coffee. I don’t believe there was a Starbucks in Colorado Springs at the time but I could be wrong.
Anyway he was the very first coffee snob I ever knew, he used things like a French Press when no other firefighter even knew what one was. He set out to find the finest coffees he could and if you were lucky he’d share a cup with you in the evening while he smoked a cigar on the ramp outside the station.
Now as a smoker I must admit my palate was rather dull when distinguishing the subtle differences in the coffees he drank. I mean he was like one of those wine maniacs that bore me to death with all their knowledge of wine. Not that Eric bored me with his knowledge of coffee, it wasn’t about the coffee, it was the down time shared with a friend.
So Eric’s love or some might say obsession with coffee turned into an actual coffee roasting business. He opened a little coffee shop and I mean little, it had as I recall three tables. The rest of the space was taken up by an enormous coffee roaster.
A special roaster, I learned most coffee was roasted on a big flat hot plate, where as Eric’s coffee was roasted in a big noisy fire breathing machine that looked more like a clothes dryer than a coffee roaster.
This thing generated two things, first it produced as much noise as a full alarm of fire trucks and second it made great coffee. He began to import his very own beans from all regions of the world and soon word spread.
Many firefighters began buying his coffee me included I love Sumatra; don’t know why I just do, and his little business grew. That was more than eight years ago, his shop has increased in size and in popularity and the huge beast of a machine has been replaced by a newer one, that still makes more noise than coffee, oh well.
From the outset of his coffee business he offered firefighters half price on his beans and once again the thrifty firefighters showed up. Why not when you can buy fresh roasted pea berries for the same price as Folgers? You would be crazy not to do so.
Since I retired his shop has become a regular stop on my daily route, he even hosted my very first book signing at his store and has carried my book there since it was first published.
So yesterday I stopped in as usual and to my surprise he was actually seated at a table having a conversation with a patron, you must understand he is the hardest working business owner I know, he is in constant motion. I mean I feel bad when I stop him to chat, so most days I say hi, shake hands and leave him alone.
So it was amazing to see him sitting down and looking relaxed, then I realized who the customer was, he was a retired lieutenant I had only seen one time in the past 10 or more years.
This lieutenant had been a mentor to Eric and I both we had both learned much from this man, not all of it politically correct. The Colorado Springs fire department had never had what is now known as a “dedicated truck company”, in others words a ladder truck that was staffed only by specially trained firefighters
Before this time the firefighters that road the ladder truck were the guys who got to work first and this, for many was because the ladder truck went to very few calls. So if you wanted to be less busy that day you got on the truck.
With the first dedicated truck that tradition ended. So now on this one truck in the whole city a test program was begun and it was headed up by this lieutenant, Lord knows why, maybe it was because Scott was indeed a rebel and those that followed he became the same.
Truck 8, the Night Owls as they came to be known were the very first of their kind to perform this kind of work for the CSFD, true pioneers that have been long forgotten. But at the time it was pretty heady work, long intense hours of training in many unknown disciplines to the average firefighter.
Now, years later it is a desired position by many firefighters and competition for a spot on a truck is intense. But not back then, it was so much work and with Scott it didn’t end at 5 PM like most other jobs on the FD. No Scott had stuff to do at night as well.
So anyway there sat Scott and Eric, I had to barge in, I had to, I couldn’t help myself and what a treat it was. The longer you are retired, the farther away the memories become and the only way to access them is in a setting like this.
You see what we did has been forgotten by the firefighters working today, but when a few old dogs get together the memories begin to flow, one story leads to the next and the next and the next.
If anyone dared to do the stuff Scotty did as an officer today they would be fired in an instance, but he and Eric were two officers that knew how to lead and that my friends was by example, not by book knowledge, but by standing side by side with the men they worked with, a rare commodity.
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