By Jeanne Sager
SOUTH FALLSBURG November 14, 2003 If he was a wealthy man, Charles Chick Allan would give money back to his community.
But the retired driver for Fallsburg Gas will tell you his wealth isnt in the bank its in his hometown.
Thats why the 75-year-old is still driving the Fallsburg Fire Departments trucks to the scene of emergencies.
Thats why the lifelong resident has responded to more fires and attended more drills than anyone in the department in the last year.
At 75, most folks are slowing down. Not Allan.
Hes celebrating 51 years on the department, more than half a century of answering the call to duty and jumping on the truck to fight the flames.
All I could give is my time, he said. Its a small community, and everyone gets involved in some way.
Allans way is giving back to the town where he grew up.
Spaghetti dinners, pancake breakfasts, you name it, Ive been there, he said.
He and wife Doris live in the house where he was born, just a mile from the firehouse on Lake Street.
When a call goes out, he need only jump in his Jeep, and in seconds hes ready to throw on his turnout gear and jump in the drivers seat of the departments biggest truck.
Allan remembers when times were different. His first days on the job were spent maneuvering a 1928 Sanford down the streets of South Fallsburg.
The equipment today from what it was when I started is so much different, Allan noted.
The suits were made of real rubber, and God forbid you got close to a fire it would melt to your body, he recalled.
And the hamlet was different then. Allan remembers when Main Street was like 42nd Street in New York City, streaming with people.
He remembers when the fire department had plenty of members these days its harder to get men, or women, to sign up for what can be a second full-time job.
Allan has done his part in recruiting for the department his son Steve is now assistant chief and daughter Darlene is head of fire police. His granddaughter, Stacy Levine, is also in the department (she was the first woman to join), and her husband, Richie Levine, is a lieutenant.
And Allan was the one who started bringing current chief Rick Shaddock, his grandson, to drills when the young man was just a tyke.
Family has always been important to Allan and meetings at the firehouse are a gathering of his family, even with Doris waiting at home.
My wife has been behind me 100 percent, Allan said. I missed a lot of meals over the years, and she bears with me.
His bosses at Fallsburg Gas were equally as supportive, he said, allowing him to head out on a call in the middle of the day, as long as he returned to run his route.
All in all, Allan is happy with the years hes spent in his hometown, working with friends and neighbors.
If I knew then what I know now, I probably wouldnt be here, but Id miss it, he said. My whole life has been spent right here where I was born.
Everybody has always been close, he continued.
And Allan has seen a lot in 75 years from his town changing to the fire department growing.
He and Doris have raised three children. They have five grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.
Hes been a chief of the department and a trustee, named Fireman of the Year two different times, even served in the Fallsburg Fire Chiefs Association. Hes probably the longest-serving active member of the department, and hes currently an assistant chief engineer in charge of training members on the trucks.
Hes served in almost every position in the department, short of commissioner a spot he isnt interested in.
Ive been to many, many fires, Allan said, big fires, small fires, but as long as no one got hurt there were no injuries thats what matters.