By Phil Ryan
These three things have been part of my life since my preteen years right up till my retirement from the Buffalo Fire Department.
As a young kid living in South Buffalo, we were always pushing the envelope when it came to having fun. Whether it was as simple as walking to school to Bishop Timon, we had to make it an adventure and sometimes dangerous. If our parents only knew, they would have thought we were crazy. Every year when school started in September we would just wait for Cazenovia Creek to freeze over. By January we would be crossing the creek on the thin ice. It wasn’t like we were in a hurry to get to school. But it was dangerous and sort of like a game of chicken but with a little luck and cold winters back then we all survived.
Then in the summer we would head for Hillery Park to play baseball and basketball. But sometimes we would get bored and we would head for the railroad tracks that ran behind the park. Then we would proceed to jump the trains then jump off into the brush when we wanted off. We also went back to the train trestle and swing on a rope that hung from the bridge and jump into Cazenovia Creek that ran under the bridge.
After graduating from Bishop Timon High School in the '60s, most of my buddies from Seneca Street and I were on to more danger and excitement. I joined the Marine Corps with three of my friends. Our parents were not thrilled with our decision as the Vietnam War was going full bore. But they accepted our decision to go and fight for our country and they stood behind us. Boot camp at Parris Island was a rude awakening but we survived. But it was nothing to what we would endure seven months later in the 'Nam. The next 12 months in Vietnam were life-changing. All three of us experienced death and destruction and were scared to death and cheated death while over there. I was 20 years old when we rotated home after our combat tour was over and moved on.
My final chapter of excitement and adventure was about to begin. My final chapter would last for 32 years and take me into retirement. This chapter was also very rewarding as well as adventurous and sometimes very dangerous. More then once I thought the end was near, but with the grace of God and the great firefighters that I worked alongside, we all made it.
We lived as a family at the firehouse and enjoyed all our families highs and lows. I worked on R-2 for 14 years as a firefighter and boy did we work. Then I was promoted to lieutenant. After six years as lieutenant on R-1 I was in my 50s and I had my fill of the danger and excitement and was starting to think of retirement. I went back to Rhode Island and Chenango on the West Side were I started as a rookie. I retired 6six years later at the age of 62.
My days of excitement, adventure and danger had come to an end. But to this day I wouldn’t trade any one of these days. They were all so meaningful at different stages of my life. They prepared me for the next chapter in my life. So to all adventure seekers out there: follow your dreams and never look back.
Phil Ryan is grateful for a lifetime of adventures.