STACYVILLE | For nearly six decades, Bob Mayer helped the town’s volunteer fire department battle blazes in the community.
“Now, when I hear the fire whistle go off, I still get nervous,” Mayer said.
At the end of 2017, Mayer was honored for his 59 years of service on the fire department, with a wooden plaque, acknowledging his long term commitment to the community.
“On the 59-year wooden plaque, they put my name tag from off my helmet,” Mayer said. The plaque now hangs in the commons of the Stacyville Community Nursing Home, where Mayer currently resides.
Mayer, who was raised on a farm south of Stacyville, has resided in the area most of his life. After eight years of schooling, he worked on his dad’s farm, until his dad sold the farm. In 1951, he married Darlene, and they raised two sons and two daughters. His only departure from the area was for seven years, when he became a machine operator at John Deere’s in Waterloo. He later returned to Stacyville, where he formed his business, Mayer Milk Hauling.
Mayer recalled one of his first adventures with fire, came during his grade school days.
“Stacyville had a fire many years ago, when I was a kid,” Mayer said, “And it burned down a good portion of the town. They used hoses and pumped water from the river. I remember coming to town in a horse and buggy, and we had to convince the horse that it was okay to go across the fire hoses.”
After Mayer’s return from Waterloo in 1958, he joined the volunteer department. “They kind of asked me to be on the fire department, and I didn’t say ‘no.’ Once you joined, you were kind of hooked,” Mayer said.
Mayer said being a volunteer firefighter required more than just showing up at fires.
“We had monthly meetings, and I missed very few of them,” he said. “We also trained every once in a while. After fires we rolled out the used hoses, in front of the station, and washed them off, with a high pressure washer, then put them on racks to dry. We had extra sets of hoses, so we could put them back on the trucks right away.”
He acknowledged there were many changes over the years.
“They kept updating our equipment, over the years, and now we have more safety training,” Mayer said. “I recall getting new suits and new boots about 10 years ago.
“When there was a fire we used to be called at home, now a pager goes off and tells where the fire is, which makes for a much quicker response. We used to just fight fires, but now we are called out for auto accidents to help with traffic control.”
Jeff Adams, who is a 40 year veteran of Stacyville Fire Department, said, “When Bob was younger, he would drive trucks, because he was used to hauling liquids. In later years, he helped fill fire trucks at the station, and we would call him on the radio, from the scene.”
“I think we firemen have a deep bond with each other,” Mayer said. “It kind of makes us family.”
Mayer’s son, Bruce, also serves on the Stacyville Fire Department.
Asked why he stayed with the department so long, Mayer grinned and said, “Why not? The only time they needed me was when the whistle blew.”