The helmet hangs on the wall in my office. I look at it daily, as I sit at my desk, doing paperwork, paying bills, or similar office type work. It’s an old Cairns, which likely dates from the late 1950’s. There’s nothing unusual about it, other than the friction loss tables taped inside; not something most guys, then or now, would do.
It’s mainly a soot stained white. Close observation quickly reveals it wasn’t always that color. It’s not like many helmets today where the color is injection molded into the shell. You can see the yellow below through some chips in the white paint; and the black beneath the yellow. It has definitely seen a fair amount of fire.
Back in the day, when a fire fighter made Lieutenant, they didn’t get a new helmet. They kept their old one and painted it yellow. A new shield with the title would be attached to the front. Moving up to Captain wouldn’t change the color, but a new fronts piece would come.
When the owner made Assistant Chief, the helmet was repainted again, this time white. The owner wore it for a number of years while in that position until it was ultimately replaced with a “modern” helmet. Safer, more impact resistant, the new helmet was definitely an improvement over the old from a fire ground perspective. It didn’t have the same character, though.
The old helmet, if you found it in a flea market today, would probably run you five bucks. It’s nothing special, except to me.
It was my Dad’s.