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midst the articles and letters in the June, 2011, Grape- vine Magazine, between the

shots being taken at the gold badges, buried amongst the complaints of brown-outs and company closures, there was a simple note offering a donation to the Widows and Or- phans Fund in the name of Zella Nelson. Like the man who wrote it, the note was short and to the point. It read, “Please accept my do-

nation to the Widows, Orphans, and Disabled Firemen’s Fund in memory of my wife Zella Nelson. Also, thank you for the use of all the medical equipment during my wife’s illness. Sincerely, Allan A. Nelson, Eng 103-A, Retired (2/27/1967) Fallbrook, CA.” The letter and donation were from

my grandfather, Allan Nelson. Grandpa lost his beloved wife Zella in February of 2011 after 74 years of marriage. My father, Roger Curry, was a rookie

at Grandpa’s last assignment. Grandpa was very impressed with Roger, so much so that he invited my mother, Karen Nelson, down to the fi re sta- tion to meet this handsome young rookie. That invitation led to the marriage of my parents, Roger and Karen Curry You probably skipped right by it, but

take a second and do the math: Grandpa has been retired for 45 years! At 97 years old, he is still living in his own home, still takes care of himself and he even drives his SUV around town on er- rands. His drivers’ license was just renewed and he is scheduled for his next exam when he turns 101…

Engineer Al Nelson served the LAFD

from 1940 to 1967. During his time of service, there was no such thing as Scheduled Overtime Duty, Deferred Compensation, or the Deferred Retirement Option Plan. There were no 90% pensions. There was no practical SCBA. I re- member Grandma telling me stories of Grandpa coming home from work and throwing up “black tar” from a fi re that he’d been to the night before. Air Management for fi remen (that’s what they called them back then) meant simply taking a deep breath at the front door and staying as low as you could. Grandpa told me that if it got real bad, you could get a little fresh air if you pursed your lips and pressed them into the nozzle right where the water comes out.

6 • April 2012 Fire-

men rarely called in sick in those days

and family Grandpa there

was no such thing as

illness. simply

worked his 10 shifts a month and spent his days off care of his

taking family.

If he needed a day off, he would trade shifts with


member (and it didn’t matter the rank, captains could work for fi remen, etc). Trades required no paperwork, just a note on the calendar. Captains didn’t care so much who showed up for work or what rank they were, just so long as they had a crew. Grandpa told me a story about a fi reman he worked with whose wife had cancer and was dying. Every day that this fi reman was supposed to work, another fi reman worked in his place so that he could stay home and be with his wife. The fi reman was off for over year before his wife passed, and when he returned he didn’t owe a single trade.

After 27 years with the LAFD, Grand-

pa’s back was so bad that he required surgery to fuse some discs. He felt very strongly that the City didn’t owe him anything for his bad back. Having a bad back was simply part of the job. Instead of fi ling a work comp claim, he took his Service Pension and then waited a few years af- ter he retired to have the discs in his back fused. He utilized his Relief Association insurance and paid the deductible out of his own pocket. After leaving the LAFD, Grandpa and

Grandma moved down to Fallbrook where they loved, laughed, and shared the last 44 years.

My family doesn’t discuss money

openly, but I know that my Grandpa retired on 56% of his engineer’s salary of $10,000/year. Grandma and Grandpa retired on approximately $5,600/year. Pensions weren’t “fl uctuating” back in those days and it wasn’t until Proposition “P” came along a few years later that he even got a cost of living adjustment. Over the years “cost of living raises” have increased the amount of his yearly pension, but I doubt

that fi refi ghter on the

there is a job

today that could live on Grandpa’s yearly sal- ary. However, over the years Grandma


Grandpa have not only lived

very comfort-

ably, they have squir- reled away a substan- tial nest egg.

debt. No mortgage, credit

“Surely your Grandpa must live

in squalor.” Is that what you’re thinking? On the contrary; He wants for nothing. Well, nothing ex- cept for the company of his beloved wife. The home that he and Grandma shared

was their dream home, although, dreams were much simpler back then. They began construc- tion of their little ranch home in Fallbrook a couple of years before Grandpa retired. At 1700 square feet, their home is modest by today’s standards, but it’s very charming and it sits on one full acre of land. Their home is perched on a small hill and they designed it so that the large back deck and master bedroom take full advan- tage of the terrifi c view. Grandma kept their home immaculate

and her little kitchen was perfect for baking some of the most amazing breads. Grandpa continues to do all of the preventative maintenance and only hires help when the job is too big for him. Since retiring, Grandpa has treated

himself to a brand new truck every couple of years, although he switched to an SUV this time around. By the time he turns in his old truck for a new one, there’s only 30,000 to 40,000 miles on the odometer and the truck has never been driven over 50 miles per hour! Grandpa pays cash for his trucks every time.

Grandpa has no cards, open-

end loans, home eq- uity lines of credit, car

loans; nothing.

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