ENGINE 11

Segregated from 1919 to 1952, Engine 11 was an all-black fire station located in Philadelphia at 10th and South Street. The firehouse recruits, known as the “leather lungs,” would often work the most dangerous jobs with little or no formal training.


Claude Meets Joe Louis at Engine 11

I met Claude Shrader at a mutual friend's party. After introductions he asked what I do. I told him I collect stories and asked him if he was familiar with Engine 11 in Philadelphia. He laughed and said his father was a fireman who was stationed at Engine 11. I gave him my card that has a photo of Joe Louis visiting Engine 11. There's a young boy at the bottom of the photo and most people ask if I'm the boy in the photo. When Claude saw the card he asked me if I knew who the boy in the photo was, I said no. He said, "That's me."

Walter & Lloyd Tell Their Philadelphia Stories

I spoke with Walter Lindsay and Lloyd Ama At Walter's home in South Jersey. Walter and Lloyd are retired fireman from the Philadelphia Fire Department. They tell us about the street games they played in the '30's growing up in West and South Philadelphia respectively, and some of the places they visited in the city. Engine 11 was a segregated firehouse from 1919 - 1952. Walter and Lloyd are two of five surviving firefighters who worked at Engine 11 before it was desegregated in 1952.

Lloyd Meets Captain Davis

I spoke with Lloyd Edwards at his home in Roxborough. Lloyd entered the Philadelphia Fire Department in 1960 and retired in 1988. When he became a firefighter he had not heard of Engine 11 or Captain Davis. One of his fellow fireman, Walt Johnson, told him a few stories about Captain Davis and Engine 11. He didn't know it at the time, 1962-63, but he was about to have a personal introduction to Battalion Chief James Davis.

Detailed to An All White Engine Company

I spoke with Waldo at his home in West Philadelphia. In his second story Waldo talks about being detailed from Engine 11 to Engine 5 when it was located at 37th & Ludlow Street. From 1919 - 1952 Engine 11 and Fireboat 1 were manned by African-American fireman only. Waltdo is one of five surviving retirees who worked at Engine 11 before the Philadelphia Fire Department was desegregated in 1952.

Desegregation in the Philadelphia Fire Department

Clarence Brogden, 86 years old, was born and raised at 21st & Montgomery Sts. in North Philadelphia. His mother was born on an Indian reservation in South Carolina. She came to Philadelphia as a child. His father was born and raised in South Philadelphia. I spoke with Clarence at the Club Valiants meeting hall in Mount Airy. Shortly after serving in the armed forces during WWII Clarence joined the Philadelphia Fire Department in 1946. He was assigned to Engine 11. In this story he tells us that Engine 11 fireman were beginning to be transferred to formerly all white firehouses. From 1919 - 1952 Engine 11 and Fireboat 1 were manned by African-American fireman only. Clarence is one of five surviving retirees who worked at Engine 11 before the Philadelphia Fire Department was desegregated in 1952.

Meeting the Men of Engine 11

I now realize that the stories I'm collecting from my father's former colleagues have meaning for me and my family. I made this video as part of the Digital Storytelling Workshop held in Philadelphia, September 26 - 28, 2008.

Whites in the Ranks for the First Time

I spoke with Walter Lidsay at his home in South Jersey. Walter Lindsay worked in the Philadelphia Fire Department from 1950 until 1977 when he retired as Battalion Chief. Walter talks about the start of desegregation at Engine 11 in 1952. Engine 11 was a segregated firehouse from 1919 - 1952. Walter is one of five surviving firefighters who worked at Engine 11 before it was desegregated in 1952.

Captain James Davis Was All Fireman

I spoke with Walter Lindsay and Lloyd Ama At Walter's home in South Jersey. Walter and Lloyd are retired fireman from the Philadelphia Fire Department. They talk about Captain James G. Davis who instilled pride and camaraderie among the men at Engine 11 through discipline. Engine 11 was an African American unit only, from 1919 - 1952. Walter and Lloyd are two of five surviving firefighters who worked at Engine 11 before it was desegregated in 1952.

Lloyd Ama is Assigned to Engine 11

I spoke with Lloyd Ama, 90 years old, at his home in West Philadelphia. Lloyd talks about his days as a fireman in the Philadelphia Fire Department. He worked at Engine 11 for 8 years. From 1919 - 1952 Engine 11 and Fireboat 1 were manned by African-American fireman only. Lloyd is one of five surviving retirees who worked at Engine 11 before the Philadelphia Fire Department was desegregated in 1952.

Waldo & His Father Visit Engine 11

I spoke with Waldo at his home in West Philadelphia. In his first story Walter talks about visiting Engine 11 as a child and beginning training as a fireman in Philadelphia on December 1, 1950. The Philadelphia Fire Department was segregated from 1919 - 1952. African-American firemen were assigned to Engine 11 on South Street. Waldo is one of five surviving firefighters who worked at Engine 11 before it was desegregated in 1952.

Alfred Joins the Philadelphia Fire Department

In 1950, on a whim, Alfred Ward joins the Philadelphia Fire Department.

Clarence is Assigned to Engine 11

Clarence Brogden, 86 years old, was born and raised at 21st & Montgomery Sts. in North Philadelphia. His mother was born on an Indian reservation in South Carolina. She came to Philadelphia as a child. His father was born and raised in South Philadelphia. I spoke with Clarence at the Club Valiants meeting hall in Mount Airy. Shortly after serving in the armed forces during WWII Clarence joined the Philadelphia Fire Department in 1946. He was assigned to Engine 11. In this story he talks about his early days in the fire department. From 1919 - 1952 Engine 11 and Fireboat 1 were manned by African-American fireman only. Clarence is one of five surviving retirees who worked at Engine 11 before the Philadelphia Fire Department was desegregated in 1952.