The town whistle at the Bremen Light & Water Plant by Shadyside Park has been refurbished by Paul Shelton of Michigan City and is being blown again. Listen for it.
It is an unusually large whistle made by Lunkenheimer Company in Cincinnati, Ohio. It is their “Improved Combination or Fire Alarm Whistle” from 1906. It was moved to the current building when it was constructed in 1937.
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Originally, the whistle was blown during the summer to signal when the street sprinkler would water the streets to keep the dust down. But its primary purpose was always to alert the fire brigade.
An 1899 incident illustrates how the original whistle was situated on the roof of the original building, which sat right next to the bridge on Center street.
It should be noted that the “quick run” made by the fire brigade was literally a run. The men physically pulled the hose cart in those days; they didn’t even use horses.
Owing to incidents like this, the original whistle was somewhat unreliable, and it was replaced in 1906 with the current one.
A 1911 article relates a fire alarm during church and gives details about the whistle code. Here is the excerpted details…
Walt Buescher (1914-2009), in his memoir of Bremen, relates a different code:
As a kid, I was a ﬁre nut. When the oeoeeoeeeoee ﬁre whistle blew, with the first blast I was out of bed and had my pants on. l waited for the toots that told where the ﬁre was located…one toot for the southwest end of town, two for the big northwest, three for the northeast, four for the southeast where we lived. Five toots if the ﬁre was across the B&O tracks. Often I arrived on the run as soon as some of the volunteer ﬁremen got there.
The whistle has a slide-whistle sort of design and was even used to play music once: Armistice Day, 1918 — the end of World War 1, as remembered during the next war….
Videos of the songs mentioned: