This story was submitted by Chief Harold Schapelhouman of the Menlo Park Fire Protection District.
When retired Fire Captain Tom Carter rides on the Menlo Park Fire Protection District's 1899 horse-drawn Hose Wagon No. 1 on Saturday, May 21, at 10 a.m. up Santa Cruz Avenue in downtown Menlo Park, it will not only be special because it's the fire district's 100th anniversary celebration and parade. It will also be the first time since 1938 that he has ridden on the historic hose wagon.
Tom grew up in Menlo Park, his father, George Carter, started as a firefighter with the fire district in the 1930s and eventually became the fire chief in 1955, and served in that post until his retirement in 1972. Tom followed in his father's footsteps, becoming a firefighter with the district in 1953 and retiring in 1987 as a captain.
Tom grew up around the main fire station, literally living next door to the old Merrill Street fire station long before it was bulldozed to make way for Menlo Center, the current home of Kepler's bookstore. Born in 1935, he now lives in Redwood City with his wife Sharyl but is still active with the fire district and the Menlo Park Historical Society.
Tom has been very involved with Team 100, a group of active duty, retired, legacy and civilian members who have been actively planning the fire district's 100th anniversary activities for over a year. He and former board member Jack Nelson took on the parade planning months ago.
"Tom's been our go-to guy," Fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman said. "The other day at our final parade planning meeting, he leans over and looks me in the eye and asks for permission to ride on our Horse Drawn Hose Wagon because it would mean a lot to him. He references he once rode on the wagon as a boy and that he has a picture of it, so I ask him to send it to me and we end the meeting."
A few hours later Tom brought in a photo of him sitting next to his father in the Fourth of July parade some 78 years ago.
"As soon as I saw it later that day, I immediately understood why this parade was so special to Tom," Chief Schapelhouman said. "We really value tradition, history and respect in the fire service. This picture says and has it all. It really is a heartwarming story and a fantastic picture with his dad and the historic Hose Wagon."
In an e-mail further explaining the photo, Tom Carter, now 80 years old, writes, "Although I never envisioned this opportunity during my lifetime, I see this as a chance to complete a circle, or close the loop, so to speak."
Please join us on Tom's and the fire district's special day!
Related story: Saturday: Fire district centennial parade in downtown Menlo Park.