Milwaukee Firemen Scale Musical Heights on Radio

Photo of the broadcast control desk at WJAZ in 1922, consisting of 15 dials, five gauges and other equipment
Milwaukee's Engine Company No. 3 building in the 1920s

Most people associate firemen with music only in connection with those two immortal ditties, "Fireman, Save My Child," and "Oh, for the Life of a Fireman." It's all wrong. The truth is that firemen -- Milwaukee firemen, that is are likely to be known in the future as challengers of the world in the catch-as-catch-can music, no holds barred and the winner to take all the purse.

For they have burst into the radio firmament through the instrumentality of WHAD, the Marquette University-Milwaukee Journal station and are going strong on that station's programs.

Over on Milwaukee's South Side at 217 National Avenue is the headquarters of Engine Company No.3. In the back room of the engine house, where the stables used to be but which is now the kitchen, daily are given concerts which would fairly knock your ear out. Music? Hot diggety dog!

South Side engine house has come to be the rendezvous of all the musical firemen in town when off duty. An old grand piano that has lost its ear but retains the pep of its youth is installed in the music room (otherwise kitchen). The walls are proof against the most violent jazz.

Merritt Ramus, pianist; Tom Saskowski, banjoist, and August Boehm, harmonicist, trombonist; are the nucleus of the present organization. They began by appearing at various entertainments given by and for firemen and before long they were famous. Now they have attracted other stars and the gang is growing. Most of the practicing is held in Engine House No. 3, where Ramus, Saskowski and Boehm are stationed. Capt. Ernest Glander, of Engine Company No.3 , is the manager of the outfit. Chief Steinkellner appointed him to keep the boys from blowing the roof off.

Not all the music offered by the firemen is instrumental. They have a vocal quartet that takes a back seat for nobody and soloists that need no scaling ladder to reach the high ones. Tom Murphy, Engine Company No. 30; Joe Ross, No. 1O; Adolph Ketelholm, No. 16, and Tom Dugan, retired, are the singers. Between them they can make any ballad extant say "Uncle" and when they all get to going at once there is volume, boys, and nothing but. Snappy stuff is their specialty, but songs like "When You and I Were Young, Maggie," and other classics are put over with the tremolo stops wide open and the harmony true as a die.

WHAD is the result of a cooperative arrangement between one of Wisconsin's leading educational institutions, Marquette University, Milwaukee, and Wisconsin's leading newspaper, The Milwaukee Journal. The transmitting station is located in the new Science building of the university and the technical staff of the station is furnished by the university. The Journal organized and mans the remote control stations, arranges programs, and promotes new ventures.

The university and the newspaper joined forces in January last, putting on the air Milwaukee's first 500 watt radio broadcasting station.

From Radio Age, April 1926

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