By Eric Bourque
When he went to work Monday morning, Jan. 13, Loran Penney knew it would be his last shift as a Yarmouth firefighter. What he didn’t know was that later in the day a special event would be held in his honour, a gathering of colleagues, family and friends who were there to offer Penney congratulations for his career in the fire service and to wish him well in his retirement.
“I didn’t have a clue,” Penney said, referring to his surprise when he learned what had been organized for him. There was cake, balloons and, of course, plenty of handshakes for Penney.
Taking a few minutes to talk about his firefighting career, he recalled joining the local fire service in November 1968 as a volunteer.
“I worked (at) the cotton mill … with Colie Atkins, Bruce Hopkins, John Murphy,” Penney said. “They were all in the volunteer fire department and they talked me into joining, so I joined Bruce Hopkins, his company, company number two, and then this position come up in 1971 and I put in for it an got it and I’ve been here ever since.”
It was early spring of ’71 when he joined the paid staff of the Yarmouth Fire Department, so his retirement comes just a bit shy of what would have been his 43rd anniversary as a professional firefighter.
Looking back, he said it has been a great career.
“I really enjoyed the camaraderie and getting to serve the community,” he said.
He has seen many changes, particularly with equipment, which he says is greatly improved, but also in terms of what’s required of firefighters.
“You’ve got to have lots of training now compared to when I first joined,” he said. In those days, he said, “You pretty well just came off the street and you trained on the job.”
His career spanned different fire stations too. He recalls being based in Milton when he first joined, then moving to Alma Street in the early seventies and to the Pleasant Street facility in the mid-seventies.
He also has seen many faces come and go.
“There was turnover in the volunteers, a few different chiefs … different town councillors, different mayors,” he said.
Asked what he will remember most about his firefighting career, Penney said it will be the people he worked with and the friends he made.
He acknowledged having mixed feelings about leaving but said it’s time to move on. He said it might take a little while for the reality of retirement to hit him.
“It’s going to sink in probably in a couple of weeks,” he said.