Frederica Fire Company welcomed a new member in 1949. Just shy of 18 years young, Frank Beebe was excited to join the ranks of his father and community members he respected.
Seventy years later in May 2019, he was honored with a plaque, legislative recognitions, a pin and challenge coin for his lifetime of service to the organization.
Mr. Beebe has served as the president, treasurer and everything in between during his time serving the fire department.
“Over the years, serving as treasurer, fire recorder, director, vice president, assistant chief, president and many committees, Frank H. Beebe has been a part of making Station 49 what it is today,” a Kent County Levy Court Tribute to Mr. Beebe reads. “Joining the Frederica Volunteer Fire Company in May of 1949, Frank H. Beebe has participated in historic events such as building the last addition to the fire house; retiring the old 49-2 and 49-0, and ladder 49; as well as, restoring the 1936 REO, which he takes care of with great pride. Given his longstanding involvement with the Frederica Volunteer Fire Company, it is easy to assert that Frank H. Beebe is invaluable to Station 49’s history.”
He chuckled when thinking about his volunteer service, saying, “I’m a past everything. I’ve been about everything in the company. I’ve been president a couple of times, treasurer. . . Whatever it is, I’ve done it. I just go to the meetings now and that’s it. I can pass judgement and vote on everything they’re doing.”
For Mr. Beebe, fire service runs in the family. His own father was involved with the company far before Mr. Beebe was old enough to join, but he recalls many days spent inside the fire hall while his father was on duty.
“Father was a fireman, my two brothers were and my son was the chief for years, but, of course after I got there. The family was there,” he said. “I always hung around the fire house because it was the big thing. I watched the older guys and they watched us younger guys. They would say, ‘You’re not even a member, you ought to be glad we even let you in here.’”
At the time, children like Mr. Beebe would watch the firemen play cards, checkers, or checkies as he fondly recalls one firefighter calling it, or they would spend time cleaning the department by mopping, sweeping or other needs.
“I just grew up with it,” Mr. Beebe said. “The thing at that time, though, too, is it was more about a helping your neighbor kind of thing. If you were a fireman, you had some kind of insurance. Some people were farmers. Some were firemen.”
After graduating from Caesar Rodney School District in 1949, Mr. Beebe worked as a plumber alongside his father, eventually earning awards for his work and community service.
He also worked as a taxicab driver, truck driver hauling oysters and other small jobs to support his family.
“I learned I didn’t want to be a truck driver,” he laughed. “I did anything to make a dollar.”
Saving a buck was important, too, especially while starting a family of his own.
“I built my house myself. I was working with my father when we got married,” he said. “I told my dad I want to build a house. You couldn’t rent a decent house back then. He said, ‘Son, you never built a house.’ And I said, ‘I never flew a jet either, but if I want to, I will.’”
His father still had his doubts, though, and knew his son could make a great plumber – building a house, however, was a much larger project.
“We were working hand in hand. He said, ‘What are you going to do? Build your house? Get your house built?’ I said, ‘No, I’m going to build it.’ My father said, ‘Son, don’t do that, you don’t know what you’re doing.’ And finally, I said, ‘Look dad, if it’s not fit to live in, I’ll put chickens in it.’ He didn’t talk to me for weeks. Well, anyways, I built the house. I even dug the cellar. Someone else did the blocks. But it’s still standing. It’s been paid for for years, so that’s good.”
Three children and an iron collection later, the house that raised the Beebe’s continues to serve the family just as Mr. Beebe continues to serve the Frederica community with the same fervor he started with 70 years ago.
“I wouldn’t change a thing,” he said, adding to his experiences with a piece of advice for the younger generations: “I would like for everybody to recognize one another and work it out together and work it out together whatever the problem is. Not in separate bunches but work together. Plan your work, work your plan. Look at one another. Work together no matter what the project is. That’s the way we got things done really.”
Reach staff writer Jennifer Antonik at firstname.lastname@example.org