The first image to catch my eye in the Dayton Canady Collection was #11746 (left). I stared at the image intently, looking for clues as to who these people were. Why were they doing gymnastics in what appeared to be a dormitory?
I looked farther back into the collection and learned that these men were probably Oklahoma City Firemen. The Dayton Canady Collection starts with image #11707 which shows off the Fire Department’s Horse Drawn Equipment in front of the Santa Fe Depot during a parade in the early 1900’s. Even though these are interesting images, the story of the “acrobats” starts with image #11741. Men are sleeping peacefully. The uniforms do not look familiar, but the boots remind me of the “jump-in” boots I’ve seen while touring fire stations with my children. I continue searching for more clues through the next few images until I come to image #11744 which shows the men jumping into their boots and one man who is already dressed is sliding down….a fireman’s pole! So yes, these men appear to be firemen.
The acrobats start with image #11745 and by #11747 I’m wondering, “Is this training? Exercise? Practice for a charity event? My curiosity is tingling. Image #11755 shows men hanging from a wire like laundry from a clothesline. How do I label these images? After asking others in our area about the images, I describe them as best I can and hope that someone may have answers to share with us.
A few months after I had processed these images, Jan Davis from the Oklahoma Department of Libraries asked some of us if we’d ran into any interesting photos in the collections. A co-worker and I immediately thought about the acrobats and mentioned them. When Jan saw the photos, she thought they would be great for ODL ARCHIVES WEEK. So we started to search for more information.
The first information I found showed that Dayton W. Canady of Missouri had donated the collection in June of 1968. The images are identified as “Oklahoma City Fire Department”. I remembered that I have seen a Firefighters Museum in OKC. Phone calls and emails began to fly as we began to work together to track down the story. Finally, Jan received this reply:
“In 1908 Oklahoma City Fire Department (OCFD) hired a young 24 year old named John J. Lynn… John was hired because he was with a circus and in show business as a horse trainer… Since the OCFD had started using horse to pull their fire equipment they needed firefighters that had skills working with horses… John Lynn had friends in the circus that he talked into joining the OCFD… These Circus performers would practice their acrobatic techniques on top of the fire station while they were on duty…
Later, the OCFD hired the Oklahoma City University baseball team… The fire department sought out athletic people like this because firefighters have to be in great shape to fight fires for hours and hours…
Mike Billingsley, Manager
Oklahoma State Firefighters
Museum & Gift Shop
2716 N.E. 50th Street
Oklahoma City, OK 73111
So, that’s “The Rest of the Story” about the IMAGES OF OKLAHOMA Archives Week poster. You may check their website www.odl.state.ok.us/archives-week to find out more or see all of the Dayton Canady images in the archives section of the OHS online catalog. Enter “Canady” as a keyword.