Historical Albion Michigan
By Frank Passic

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Any photos not otherwise credited are from the personal collection of Frank Passic, Albion Historian.


Morning Star, January 12, 2020, pg. 2

Imagine having your house on fire, and after calling the fire department, the truck didn't come because they didn't know if you were a member of the fire association! That's what happened to one unfortunate Albion area resident back in 1939: Thomas Kalenchick, Sr.

Kalenchick (1893-1956) was a native of Leskvo, Kiev, Russia, who came to America in 1912. He served in the U.S. Army during World War I and served sixteen months overseas with the 5th Division, Company A of the 60th Infantry. After the War he secured a job with the Albion Malleable Iron Company, living with his wife Stella and family at 1203 Mallory St., and later at 901 Austin Avenue during the 1920s.

In the 1930s the family moved down the road into Sheridan Township, a half mile outside the city limits to 30 acres of land beginning with the northwest corner of U.S.-12 (Austin/Michigan Avenue) and 26 Mile Road. This meant they would no longer receive city services, which included fire protection. Back in those days, the townships didn't have their own taxpayer supported fire departments like we do now which covered everyone.

People who lived out in the country outside the city limits had to subscribe to the Farm Fire Protection Association. That meant you had to pay an annual fee, but if you had a fire, the fire truck would come. The Albion Fire Department was in charge of the truck for this end of the County. On September 7, 1939, a chimney fire began to engulf the Kalenchik home. The sad state of bureaucracy at the time is revealed in this narrative from a 1939 report by George Fassnacht which includes a news article about the fire as follows dated September 8, 1939:

"The farm home of Thomas Kalenchick west of Albion on U.S-12 burned to the ground yesterday afternoon primarily because the Albion Fire Department was unable to ascertain whether Kalenchick was a member of the Farm Fire Protection Association which owns the Albion rural fire truck. Flames were discovered around the chimney of the house at 12:15 o'clock. State Trooper James Cobb of the Jackson post was passing by and volunteered to call the Albion Fire Department.

Fire Chief William Schumacher says that Cobb gave the location of the fire but did not give the name of the property owner and that consequently the firemen could not ascertain whether the owner belonged to the Association. Cobb says he doesn't know whether or not he gave the owner's name when he called the fireman. Assistant Fire Chief John Passick [uncle of yours truly], off duty at the time, went out to the fire. Kalenchick convinced him he belonged to the Association, and Passick called Chief Schumacher to check up. After the check-up, during which it was found that Kalenchick belonged to the Association, the rural truck came to the fire but it was too late to save the house. Furniture on the first floor was saved. The loss was estimated at $2,500, partially covered by insurance." The author of the report concluded with these comments, "Is a fire truck of any value that is bound up in so much red tape?"

From our Historical Notebook this week we present a 1949 photograph of Thomas Kalenchick, who did not receive the timely membership services to which he had subscribed. Today we are fortunate to have in our area the Albion, the Sheridan, and the Parma-Sandstone Townships departments which are taxpayer supported and will go to any fire in their territory, and beyond. How many of our township readers have ever had to call the fire department to your home or land?

1949 photograph of Thomas Kalenchick


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