May 14, 2012, Redwood Meadows, Alta. – I recently took my elder son to his first concert – Van Halen at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary. Being a guitar player, watching Eddie Van Halen shred has always been fun for me. My first Van Halen concert was when I was my son’s age, in 1984. Being a part of his first concert experience was a blast . . . a lot better than going to see Ray Price with my dad.
Prior to the reunion tour with David Lee Roth in 2007, the band welcomed a new bassist to the fold. Wolfgang, Eddie’s son, took over the bass-playing role.
Now, you may be wondering where I’m going with this rock ’n’ roll talk, and I don’t blame you. I started thinking about the parallels of this band and my family’s firefighting timeline.
I grew up around the fire department in Erin, Ont., where dad was once chief, and a couple of my uncles were members. I hung around the station, not unlike many kids of firefighters, and wished one day that I would be able to respond on the trucks. We moved to Calgary in 1983 and my dream of being on the hometown fire department was dashed. I continued to follow the department with my uncle Glenn and cousin Dave being members at that time. I tried to stay informed on what was going on, but it wasn’t the same. I wanted to be on the department with my dad, uncle and cousin.
It wasn’t until 1992 that I found a volunteer department to join after taking pictures of the crews fighting a brush fire. I convinced my dad to join and in 1993 we were both members of Redwood Meadows Emergency Services (RMES). Our first call together didn’t come until the spring of 1994, however, and I’ll never forget it. I’m hoping that is how my son will feel about this first concert experience and I’m sure it was similar for the Van Halens that first time they took to the stage together.
It was a brush fire that my father and I hit hard and stopped before it took hold of a forested area across the highway, and it was a definite rush. My dad spent a number of years with RMES and received his exemplary service medal and bar for 38 years of service while with my department. He has seen me rise through the ranks and was the first to congratulate me at council when I was appointed chief in March. It was a little difficult to choke back the tears but I held it together. It felt very much like taking over the family business, as I’m sure Wolfgang will do while following his dad’s footsteps.
My son turns 15 on May 16 and I’m hoping that in three years he will become a member of RMES and join me and his mom (a captain/EMT) and go on his first call with the two of us. I can’t wait to open that set in our lives. Fire fighting can be an incredible ride and the soundtrack can be what you make it. For us, I think it will continue to include a little rock ’n’ roll.