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Rocklin's early firefighters held monthly meetings to plan weekly dances

Rocks, Rails and Ranches
By: Daniel DeFoe, Special to the Placer Herald
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Editor’s Note: This is the second in a four-part series on the historic fire of 1914. DeFoe, a history professor at Sierra College, presented the story at the Rocklin Historical Society’s annual installation dinner in January. After the loss of the 26-stall railroad roundhouse and a fire that wiped out 10 Rocklin businesses on Railroad Avenue, Rocklin still boasted a business center along Front Street. Quarrying operations in the wake of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake kept residents busy. And yet, fires were commonplace in towns and cities throughout the Gold Country and elsewhere. The combination of combustible building materials and feed for animals coupled with the inability of available firefighting technology to cope with a quickly spreading fire often made for disaster. A Rocklin Fire Company had been created in 1894. Seventeen men paid an initiation fee of $2 and formed Rocklin Hose Company Number One. According to one source, Rocklin’s early firefighters addressed each other as “comrade” and met for monthly business meetings in the original Rocklin City Hall’s Hose facilities. These volunteer firemen rarely discussed firefighting techniques during such meetings preferring instead to dole out fines of 10 cents for missing a meeting and $1 for missing a fire. Much space in the Fire Association minutes was devoted to the planning of firemen’s balls or dances which were held weekly. The Firemen’s Association became a closely knitted group of well-recognized citizens who both worked and played together. One of those well-known and admired firemen was Sam Renaldi, who became the town’s marshal in 1913 and will figure prominently in the dramatic events of 1914. How much Rocklin residents knew of the larger events occurring beyond the purview of railroads and granite we cannot know. The year 1914 started with a bang when on Jan. 5 Henry Ford astounded the world by announcing he would pay his workers a minimum wage of $5 a day. This was done to head off increasing worker discontent over the heavy demands placed on them by new assembly line production methods. On Feb. 7, Charlie Chaplin debuted his iconic character “The Little Tramp” in the film, “Kid Auto Races at Venice.” If you are interested in Rocklin’s history, attend one of the history series being hosted by the Rocklin Historical Society. The series will be presented on the second and fourth Wednesday of each month at 7 p.m. beginning March 14 at St. Mary’s Chapel, 5251 Front St.