Cady Price

Duration: 1hr: 3Mins
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Interview with: Cady P. Price
Interviewed by:
Date: October 18, 1974
Archive Number: 142.1 & 142.2 (combined)

Interviewer
0:00:06.1 (start of audio #142_02) Mr. Price, when did you first join the fire department?

Cady Price
I joined the fire department around November 21, 1928.

Interviewer
And when did you retire?

Cady Price
I retired August 1, 1974.

Interviewer
What positions did you hold while you served at the fire department?

Cady Price
Well, the first job I had I was a driver which they used to call them ‘chauffeurs’ at that time. I drove the chief’s car for, oh, about 15 years. I was (unintelligible) up ‘til that time. Then before the civil service training, of course, we had this spoils system which we was in with the administration. With that you had no opportunity to make your promotions. But then in 1947, I believe I’m correct, was when our civil service went into effect, and then the examinations were competitive—before each other—they couldn’t. After that time, after we had the competitive examinations, we’d have to wait 10-15 days before we knew how we stood on the examinations. That didn’t work because politics came back into it. So, we went back to the legislature and put into our civil service law that the examinations had to be graded before each individual, each man and at the time you’d take the examination, which we knew right then and there. They couldn’t say well, this guy made more than you did and whether you come out top on the list, why then it’d all depend on your political affiliations at that time with the (unintelligible) politicians. From then on, civil service—we had the spoils system here for many years and if you woke up in the morning after an election if your name was in the papers you was in the right club. If it wasn’t, why, you was gone, and I remember all this other times there were 47-75 men that were let out because of politics. That was the reason why we went to the state and got the civil service in, because a man didn’t have any guarantee of his job. If he was a dedicated man here, why then, after that he knew he had a job and he could—well, effectively he could go to court, to the civil service union first and if you didn’t, if you weren’t satisfied you could take it to district court and the appellate court and on to the Supreme Court. Then that’s when we began to be organized. You know for many, many years, the firemen, we worked 84 hours a week with no time off. We got actually about 10 days’ vacation a year and that was calendar days. Then we went back and got our vacation time. Now, we get 15 working days a year.

Interviewer
0:04:04.7 In what period did you work 84 hours a week?

Cady Price
Oh, from the time when I went in in ’28 up ‘til about maybe ’35, somewheres in that direction. Then we had a representative by the name of Spears from San Antonio, and we had the ‘Spear Day’ and then there was another representative by the name of Kelly that fought for us and we got another day which we called ‘Kelly Day’ that was 2 days. Then we went back and then got down to 72 hours, and then we got them to cut it to 56 hours a week which we work at the present time. Excuse me.

Interviewer
No, go ahead.

Cady Price
Then that’s what we’re working on, the current conditions now of 3 shifts and 56 hours a week. 10 hours at night and 14 hours in the day. We work 3 days and then we work 3 nights and we’re off 3 days. Well, we’re in hopes that one of these days—which I tried to get them when I was president of the union, too, to go to the legislature and have the hours cut an hour a week. After about 10 years we been working on 40-42 hours a week, 42 hours a week at this time. They didn’t do it, though. The civil service is one of the best pieces of legislations I believe that the firemen have ever enacted in Austin because it gave a man security of his job. Now, I don’t mean this—if a man wasn’t doing his job that the city had a right to come in there and correct it. That wasn’t what civil service was for. It was for the protection of the man’s job but not protect him when he wasn’t doing his job.

Interviewer
0:06:29.9 When you first joined the fire department in ’28, was there any type of organization that firemen could work through for collective action? Was there any firemen’s associations back then?

Cady Price
No, not at that time. I’m giving you this off the cuff. I don’t remember, I didn’t put all these things down, which I should have wrote a diary of it but I didn’t. We had an organization here at one time and those 2-3 men got fired for the organizations and the International, which they worked under a charter. Then we thought the best interests of the men was to pull the charter away, and then therefore we weren’t organized anymore, you know.

Interviewer
This occurred when, approximately?

Cady Price
Oh, back in the real early-30s.

Interviewer
Now, I remember that there were 2 cases in 1920 affecting Dallas and San Antonio in which the municipalities were given the right to dismiss firemen for joining an organization that was affiliated with the AFL-CIO. What effect did this have on Houston firemen?

Cady Price
At that time? Of course, I wasn’t here. I didn’t sign on to the company until ’28, but then the—

Interviewer
But were you affiliated with the AFL-CIO in ’28 when you joined the fire department?

Cady Price
When I joined the fire department?

Interviewer
Yes.

Cady Price
0:08:12.7 We weren’t, no. We didn’t get to that until we got our charter back, and I don’t know exactly what time that was, what year that was.

Interviewer
Approximately ’38 I believe, wasn’t it?

Cady Price
Something around there, yeah.

Interviewer
The charter that you’re speaking of, was that the charter that did associate you with the AFL-CIO?

Cady Price
The charter I speak of affiliated us with the International Association of Firefighters.

Interviewer
And were they associated with AFL-CIO?

Cady Price
Oh, they always have been, yeah. Always have been. Which to me, organization is one of the greatest things. I don’t mean that the firemen—for many years, the public weren’t so apt to accept municipal employees, more or less firemen and policemen, joining union organizations because it felt like that they didn’t belong, but I’ve always felt like united you stand, divided you fall. It’s not because of what they could do; it was unifying them all over the United States and Canada. That’s what we were trying to do, get this thing where it would get it out of the spoils system. For many years, we took this upon ourselves, we used to years ago—firemen had a pretty bad name with the public. They were more or less treated like peons and your salary was so low. I was making $95 a month when I went to work in the department. They tried to keep that down all those years and anybody could get in the department that was warm that knew a politician back in those days, and it was just the type of people that we were getting. After civil service, of course, we raised the standards from time to time. Where a man had to come up to standards as far as physically and morally and character, and then we began to get good men in here, upstanding people that the public would be proud of. They never did want us to make the public feel that we were professionals, which we are professionals. So, as we went along the public began to recognize the firemen as part of the community, part of the churches and part of everything and part of these public safety matters and profiting for people. We used to, years ago when I first come in here, if you went to a house on fire over there, why, they’d mess it all up and just leave it like it was and leave it, see. Part of our program was we got together with somebody, and we got to do something about this; that we’d give the public a better taste, and so we began to clean the houses up. You know what I mean? Sweep it out, take all the debris out and clean it up the best we could. Mop the floors and leave it in a very good condition. That began to tell. The public began to look at—the Chamber of Commerce began to respect us more and for the job that we were trying to do for the people. The insurance companies I think took note. I think everybody took note of the things that we were trying to do to build our image with the people. That’s been a very successful thing.

0:12:16.4 As far as my job classifications with the department, I drove for about 15 years. From there, after the comparative examinations come in I went into the service for 2 years, Coast Guard, and then come back and I was a lieutenant when I left. I was appointed to that job, and then I took an examination for junior captain and then senior captain and then deputy chief. I was a deputy chief for about 22 years before I left, which, that covered everything west of Main Street which is about 31 stations and approximately 380 men in my jurisdiction. I was very proud of my promotions and things. Being here as long as I have, you know, and building these things and I’ve held every job and I worked in the fire department building for a year or so and I worked on the fireboat—captain on the fireboat when we had it. I even drove a supply wagon. In fact, I expect that I’m one of the only men that have held every position in the department. All except in fire prevention, of course, I wasn’t in suppression. Then I was elected president of our local in ’50, I believe or ’51 for 2 years.

Interviewer
Let me take you back through the years just for a moment and clarify what year the (unintelligible) dealing with the charter that was taken back in approximately 1933-34—

Cady Price
Somewheres in there, yes.
Interviewer
Before that time, what local organization existed for firemen to join?

Cady Price
Nothing. We had this little welfare deal here that got together, but that didn’t amount to anything. You see, the cities put the firemen into politics. There wasn’t any question about that, but we never did too much to affiliate ourselves with city politics because it was strictly against the city ordinance for firemen to (unintelligible) out and stuff like that. But we did go to the legislature and get part of that into the bills where we could politick for state offices and legislative. Then we began to go to the legislature. Herman Dietz(???) who was one of our fine men and Tom Pinkney(???)I think was our greatest legislative agent. We had the respect of both by then, and I knew them both and I loved them both. I was present for those 10 years, which before that I went to the legislature, I guess 12 or 14 sessions, in helping out and getting some of these—helping with these bills. They forced us into politics, and we didn’t ask for anything that was unreasonable. We had statesmen, we had politicians. I go back to Criss Cole our fine judge here. Then, Kocher(???) was one our greatest I want to say, statesman (unintelligible) and we would get together and write our bills. We’d go up and take them to these people, and they’d study them. Well, we didn’t want them to pass our bill just because we were a group of firemen, where I know they feel like we was a special people, and if they thought that the bill was good for us, then they passed it and if they didn’t, why, we didn’t get mad at them. We had the respect of the conservative group as well as we did the liberal group people up there.

0:17:20.1 We didn’t take any sides with labor’s policy exception because we just felt like we shouldn’t do it. We never did do it as far as my term in there. We’d all just talk, now, if you think it’s good for us, and we think it’s good for us and good for the people and we’re trying to build ourselves, and then they’d take it from there. Of course, we done lots of individual work and you know that everything is scrutinized. These people take them out to lunch, and we never had lots of money to work with up there because a fireman doesn’t make a lot of money, but they believed in our honesty and our legislation. We didn’t in this lifetime paint anything that we ever told one of those senators or house members up there. They didn’t have to write it down because it was a truth and that’s why he was so successful. Herman Dietz was the same way. He died on the floor of the senate up there working on one of our bills. He run down from upstairs and died when he was talking to our senator there.

Interviewer
0:18:30.8 Wasn’t the fire department betrayed at the time that Chief Dietz(???) had died? There was a bill that was supposed to go through the legislature and some of the supporters of it suddenly backed off?

Cady Price
Yeah, I think it was. Now, I can’t remember that far, but it was—I forget exactly what bill it was. It might have been on one of our hours bills or something similar to that. He was a dedicated man. He was a Christian man. The other time that we went to the court he said, “You boys walk on,” he says, “I got somebody to talk to,” and there’s a statue there on the capital grounds of a firemen there, and he’d get on his knees and pray about this thing before he’d come up. That’s the type of man he was; a real good fella. Everybody in the state loved him, and they could believe in him, but he fought them like the tiger. They said he was a man that was so persistent with things and then they began to see the light in our league. We had very, very good relations with the legislators and the governors of the state were always our friend and good to us. If they was going to veto a bill, they’d call us in and tell us why they was doing it or if the league (unintelligible) a bill they’d give us an ordinance with it.

Interviewer
The Municipal League you’re speaking of?

Cady Price
That’s the league. The governor would hear their thought and he’d hear our thought. We always had the respect of the governors. Really, my governor, who was Allan Shivers, I don’t know whether you’re acquainted with him or not, but to me he was—I liked him as a man and I liked him as a governor. He was a fine fellow, a gentleman. I think now he’s the president of the United States Chamber of Commerce or something. We've always had very, very good relations with our people. Of course, like I said, we never had money to put in these campaigns, but the firemen done lots of legwork. I mean putting out literature and going house to house for them and getting them elected. They’d sit down with us and we’d say, “This is it,” and they’d say, “Well, if this is the way it is, why, we’ll see about it when we got elected and see what we can do to help you with it.”

Interviewer
0:21:20.6 From the information that’s available of the public servants, the firemen were the first to really recognize the benefit of organization. They had a union as early as 1902.

Cady Price
Yeah, yeah, we were. You know, we were.

Interviewer
What do you believe is the reason for those?

Cady Price
0:21:45.3 You mean by the rights in the (unintelligible) or the—

Interviewer
The energy that they finally put into organizing. They were the first of the public servants to organize. The police didn’t organize until the 40s.

Cady Price
Yeah, the police and firemen’s association was—

Interviewer
That was in ’45.

Cady Price
Yeah, they don’t dismiss—they’re not affiliated with anything.

Interviewer
No, no.

Cady Price
As far as I recollect in—

Interviewer
They’re not.

Cady Price
The police saw where we were doing what we were doing and they organized and we banded together.

Interviewer
0:22:22.4 When did this begin?

Cady Price
Oh, I don’t know, when our civil service—they fought for our civil service with us, I think that was the beginning of it at that time—the police and firemen civil service bill.

Interviewer
How closely—was there good cooperation between the two?

Cady Price
Oh, very lovely cooperation through the years of our relations with them. In Austin we worked closely together. I was given later to understand that they’re not—there are some things that one party wanted to do with the civil service and one party wanted to do, but when you open the civil service to put an amendment in it, you open the whole deal, you see? That gives the league an opportunity to put something in there and it gives everybody else—because you opened up that bill up to all those things. My time has been a happy one throughout the years, and I feel like I’ve contributed something to the working condition and the welfare with the public and the firemen as well.

Interviewer
Why do you think firemen managed to organize as early as they did?

Cady Price
Well, it’s like I said in the earlier part, the city put us in politics. Then we had to find a way, it’s not to say (unintelligible; jet engine noise) but I feel like any group of people has a right to organize to better their working conditions, regardless. We stopped the—always have—and we put in our civil service bill that we could not strike because I’ve always felt like if we struck here that if 1 person died from the results of that strike and there wasn’t any firemen out there to put out this fire and help those people then we was in bad shape. That was the reason why. They put us in politics and then we was 2-3 sessions getting our civil service law through. That’s how bad they fought us.

Interviewer
How did the affiliation with the AFL-CIO help?

Cady Price
Well, they helped with those people. You see, when you get in you pay a per capita tax to those people, and you’re part of the organization, and they’re bound and dutied to help you if you’re in need. Like I said, we didn’t bother their business up there, but their people whenever any of our bills come up, why then they go through them and say, “Well, now this is a firemen bill and this is a bill we want and I appreciate your help in helping,” and that’s the way it was. It was banding together as a unit of people.

Interviewer
0:25:42.3 How did they really help? I mean, what influence did they exert and how did they do it?

Cady Price
Well, they done it through their help in the cities and during our elections and their help in Austin with their people, their liberal people and things like that. Because of our affiliation and our per capita tax we were all 1 group of people, you see. Like I say, we didn’t mess with the—during my term; we didn’t fool with labor’s legislation in Austin because we just didn’t have any business in it because we didn’t understand that much about it, and we were up there looking for our interests and fighting for our interests. Therefore, we had to concentrate on what we were trying to get, you see, because we had lots of problems. It’s like when we organized our pension bill, we had to get with the volunteer department. Mitch Santefield (???) I believe it was and Arnold Lepkin(???). He was one of the first, and it was 2-3 years getting that into the picture and then we organized our pension system, because the city didn’t have anything in that it could promise you and we didn’t have anything to work for. We started with 1% of our salary going into the pension system. You had to the end of the year before, regardless to how you got hurt or anything, you didn’t get anything out of it for a year. After that, well then it was about $100 a month that you got. Then we got together and raised our contribution to 3%, and the city raised theirs to 3%.

Interviewer
0:27:34.5 What year are we speaking about?

Cady Price
Back in about—I think about end of the 30s. You see, we organized our pension system in 1936 I believe it was. Then it was 2 or 3 years planning with the volunteers.

Interviewer
The volunteers played an important role?

Cady Price
Oh, the volunteers played the biggest role because we organized so much at that time with them. We got in and helped with what little finances we could give and then our legwork with our people, and the legislators thought it was a good deal, you see. We got where our pension is a state pension. It’s operated by—the laws are by the state.

Interviewer
0:28:39.2 How did the volunteer firemen—you said they were organized in what type of organization?

Cady Price
Well, the volunteer firemen were organized all over the state, you see. It became—well, it was just an organization to get together, and each year they’d come together with different ideas, and then they formed the school at A&M where they all go each year. They have a state convention every year, 2nd of June in each year. We’re affiliated with those people.

Interviewer
Did they have much political influence in Austin?

Cady Price
The volunteers? Oh, lord, yeah. They were very, very influenced in politics for many years, because your volunteer people in your small towns are made up mostly of your businesspeople, you see. Of course they had a big stick in Austin, and I think a group of people that’s organized like that, you’re speaking of several hundred-thousand people that control—the businesspeople more or less control the smaller towns, you know, and the people look up to them for their job interests.

Interviewer
Did they take an important role in the passage of the state civil service law?

Cady Price
No, they really didn’t—no. They might’ve been a token in it, but then they didn’t have any interest in it because they’re really strictly volunteer.

Interviewer
0:31:04.5 So, their influence in that area was somewhat limited then?

Cady Price
Yeah, at that time, because we didn’t really call on them too much for those things because we knew that they had their own business up there and they didn’t read it over like we were with the labor legislation up there. They were after legislation that would—for their legislation and labor’s up there for theirs. The laboring people, bless their hearts, they fight for so many different things up there that if we got into it with them, why, we would have messed ourselves up, you see, because we couldn’t go there and say, Well, labor has a bill there which didn’t concern us in any respect. We had our own bills and the people would say you can’t spread yourself too thin. Back in those days we had to fight for what we had. We had to fight our cities because our mayors and the Municipal League, which consists I guess of about 5 cities at that time, they didn’t have too many in there. I’d say about they had $100,000 in their kitty, but now the Municipal League, the way this thing and the fees they charge for these cities to belong to it and so many cities into it now, you see there were some fine people in there. Of course, they were there to protect their interests, and we were there to get our interests as firemen and as people. Of course, we lost some but we won many more because the legislators and our senators up there knew that we had to build ourselves and the only way to do that is give us a token of these things where we could build to and from.

It’s like I say, our civil service was a great thing, it was our job security and our competitive examinations. Well, then a man goes up there now, takes an examination, he walks through the line, they grade it right in front of him. There’s no waiting 10 days on the hopes to see whether you come out or not or are put into File 13. They won’t do that (unintelligible; chair creaking). In our city politics we tried to—when you go to negotiating with the legislative groups, such as your cities and your municipalities and things, of course they always give you a hard luck story about we don’t have the money and we don’t have this and we don’t have that, and the firemen really was getting less than your laborers and departments. Your hours—as far as hours you put in—now, you put in 56 hours a week and take the fireman whose top pay is about $800 a month. We fought for the hours bill up there; we fought for minimum salary bill. We got all those for those small towns and some of these smaller towns, weren’t making but $120-$150 a month. You take dedicated people, I think they ought to be compensated for their efforts. We’ve got some of the greatest fire departments in the country down here in the state of Texas. Bar none. Because the biggest part of them are dedicated. Now, you get a man, of course, that hasn’t been here long enough to really understand what all this was fought for and put here for them now. They can’t understand that. They think the biggest part of the thing is well, this is the way it was and the city just give us that. Well, the city didn’t give us that. We had to fight for everything that we got. We had to fight for our pension system and to grow up on it. We had to fight for our hours bill, and it costs us money of our own but it’s like I say, the legislators and those people knew that we done a yeoman’s job for the public and for the insurance people and therefore we should be compensated by being benefited.

Interviewer
0:36:40.4 Which legislators were more likely to support the legislation, such as the state civil service law?

Cady Price
Well, we had this—oh, groups of them did. In fact, all of them were our friends. If we found one that the league thought was pretty bad, I wanna tell you something, we had to go through the people here. (inaudible; speaking simultaneously). See, they was (unintelligible) and we went from door to door knocking on these doors and asking the people to come out and vote for them. That’s how we earned it here.

Interviewer
It was a large-scale campaign?

Cady Price
Oh, yes. Yes, sir. Every fireman that worked in the fire department, we had campaigning and we had gone door to door and talked to these people and stores and everything.

Interviewer
Like pamphlets and this type of thing?

Cady Price
Yes, we had pamphlets, showing them our working conditions and our job security, and the people felt like we was entitled to it. A man put 10-12 years in this business, as many as 15 years, and if some politician thought he didn’t like him, he talked about him, why, he’d fire him.

Interviewer
0:37:56.2 Did you get much help from the police department at this time?

Cady Price
Yes, we did. The police were very friendly to us throughout the years, for many years, and of course, we had good relations with them.

Interviewer
I find it rather strange in one way that police usually have the image of being conservative while the firemen are more liberal with regard to organization and labor. How do you explain the validity to the two? Is this true, do you think?

Cady Price
I think it was true for many years. They thought that the firemen were—oh, I don’t know, I can’t explain it. Some of them back in those days, the mayors of your cities and your councilmen—we used to have a council form of government, your district form of government—and the firemen were the first ones that stepped up to organize to better their working condition. Then the police saw where we were making headway with the public and they helped us tote along. Then they organized, and then we got our things together up there and we worked together. Because, after all, we’ve always been on the same pay grade for many, many years, and we were all underpaid for many years, and we were struggling to make a living and, of course, we have parity here now where the police makes more than the firemen, which we fought for many years but then they had it, so let’s do this (unintelligible). I could never see where there was any difference in my job and the policeman’s job other than he carries a gun and I wear a helmet and a big coat and put out fires. I've got many, many good friends in the police department. Earl Moffner(???) and Squires and a few of the other men in the Houston Department was a great asset to their group and assets to our group up there working in Austin, because we knew the thing we were working for was togetherness and the understanding of the things that would help both departments out.

Interviewer
0:40:40.8 Who were some of the main officers who cooperated with the fire department in ’46, ’47 with the passage of the state civil service law?

Cady Price
Oh, I had Montener(???) and a few of those, I can’t think of all of them. Montener and Squires stand out in my mind because they were the legislative group there. We worked very closely together. At that time we had sick times brought up, and to show you how the cities do, they knocked all our sick time out that we had built up prior to that, and then we had to start over after the civil service bill passed. See, you get 15 days, a day and a quarter a month which is 15 days a year. It took a man about 6 years to build his 90 days up. Then, we went after a while back to the legislature and got unlimited sick time put in there. Then, when we retire or anything, while they paid you for 90, but you could use that unlimited sick time which some of the men had as much as 360-370 days at the present time. On a Saturday there was (unintelligible) of course, when a man needed it. The way we was thinking of it was it would keep a man on the job and give him something to work to and save, you see, because each sick day you saved and you weren’t sick a lot of the period of time (unintelligible; jet engine noise). That was the thing that we tried to build in these people that whenever you saved a sick day, you saved it’s going to be better money, you see (unintelligible; jet engine noise). But now we have a number of young fellows that use it every day that they accumulate a day. Well, they’re not dedicated people as far as I’m concerned. They’re not dedicated to the—all the old people here have got a considerable amount of sick time, because I know I went to work when I didn’t feel like it, shouldn’t have gone. In my life and in the department I never had 1 day I dreaded going to work. It has always been a pleasure to go to work. We worked 84 hours a week and then for many years we didn’t have firefighting clothes. All you had was what you could wreck up and a little felt hat and things.

Interviewer
0:43:30.3 The city didn’t provide you with these things?

Cady Price
No, they didn’t provide us with anything up until about 4 years ago. The firemen had to buy his own firefighting clothes.

Interviewer
How much money did this cost individual firemen?

Cady Price
Individual firemen would come in and it would cost them in excess of about $75 for his boots and his coat and his other gear that he had. Of course, the city furnished your helmet, but then if you lost the helmet, why then you had to pay them for it, you see. That’s the only thing that they furnished us until it got to about 3 years ago is when they went—4 years ago when they bought the firemen some clothes, firefighter clothes. Then at that time, they couldn’t make you wear a big coat. They couldn’t make you do anything, but whereby they furnished the uniform, they can demand that you wear that uniform because it’s the uniform of your department. It’s for safety. The safety clothes are to protect you going to a fire. As far as I’m concerned, at a fire you’re going to get wet because that’s what you do. But the apparatus turns over, you have an accident, you fall, well then you’ve got that protective coat to save yourself and we fought for that, too. Lots of the cities of course give a clothing allowance. They furnish the clothes here. If a man’s coat wears out or gets burned up or anything all he has to do is take it up and then they get another one. For many years we tried to get that through the legislature.

0:45:21.2 I think the Welch administration come in. Louie Welch was a big league man for many years, but he understood the firemen’s problems. He was a rather difficult man to deal with but he knew about as much about the fire department as I did in all the years because he studied the department. He gave good raises, and this is not getting into the local part of it, but I’ll just tell you the good ones, and he had moderated this clothing allowance and so many different things. Because the fire (unintelligible) administration—you go forward, but if you get one in there—it’s like I say, if you get a politician in there that looks to the (unintelligible), your department’s going to go down, then it takes you 20 years to catch it up again.

Interviewer
Now, Holcombe was mayor for a long time. What kind of a relationship did the department have with Oscar Holcombe?

Cady Price
Oscar Holcombe was mayor. He was mayor when I went in there. I think for about 22 years all together he was mayor on and off. They called him ‘The Fox.’ They didn’t call him The Fox for nothing because he was a great man and a great builder of Houston. He was a carpenter for many years for contractors, and then he got elected mayor. To me, I say Holcombe and Louie Welch were 2 of the most smartest politicians. The smartest men we’ve ever had in city hall.

Interviewer
0:47:02.0 Holcombe opposed the passage of the state civil service bill, though, didn’t he?

Cady Price
Oh, yeah. He opposed this bill. He didn’t never want to give us too much. We had to fight for it and he’s get mad at us, but then it was politics. He really had an iron-hand or thought he did. But then, you know, people get tired of just being down, down, down all the time and everybody else going up and your image is—you don’t have—we built our image and the respect of the people and our profession as a professional man, and, of course, Mr. Holcombe was a good man but he didn’t want to give you much. Then, we got more through the administration of Mr. Welch as far as equipment is concerned and as far as hours is concerned and things like that, and as far as our pension. He didn’t fight our pension bill in Austin because he knew that we needed those things.

Interviewer
How does the city finance—is the city involved in the pension system?

Cady Price
The city—the firemen themselves put in 9% and the city put in 18% and then after our pension bill you’d retire on 20 years with a certain percentage and then on up like that, 60% after you’re there I think a lot of years to retire on 60% of your salary. That’s what the city puts in is 18% and we’ve always had to fight them for the percentage that they put in there. But 2 or 3 times we went to the legislature and we’d get these things organized and get it out there written up in black and white, you know the people have got to see it in black and white, and they all really got along. Very, very cooperative with our legislators and the people here.

Interviewer
It’s in the state’s control, though, is that right?

 

Cady Price
Oh yeah, yeah. The state operates it. We have a state fire commissioner, which was Marie Hudson for many, many years and then this boy out of Dallas, Earl—I forget his name, but he was secretary at the time.

0:49:52.2 (end of audio #142_02)

0:00:03.3 (start of audio #142_01)

Interviewer
When you were talking about the state control of the pension system, and you said there was a state fire commission?

Cady Price
State pension commission.

Interviewer
State—yes.

Cady Price
Yeah. Yeah. State pension commission, which was organized way back there when this thing was organized, Mr. Weeks (???) was our first one, I believe. Then we had Marie Hudson, which was his secretary at the time when he passed on, well then she took it over, then which she was very good, very good. Then we have this ex-state and county fire marshal, Ballas (???) is pension commissioner now. You see there’s a—when they select these, there’s 5 names that are submitted to the governor, and they don’t—they never put a paid man on; there’s always been a volunteer there. That’s why I say they still want it to be big deal in it. That’s all right, they work very good and all our statistics and all our records are up there and they’ve got to correspond here. When they send a pension here, well then they have records of that. I enter it in and everything and it works fine. It’s like I say, I’m proud of the part that I’ve played in the welfare of the department of Houston. When I first come in here, I think we had about, oh, around 300,000 people here, about 275 men to speak of, and I was the oldest man when I retired, in service and age, but we’ve come a long way.

Interviewer
When you first joined the department back in ’28, what type of training did you receive?

Cady Price
0:02:17.5 You’d go to a station at the capital where “you just do what I tell you to do.” I wanted to get back to that, too, and so after a few years I asked to be (unintelligible) and then they built a drill tower down the back of Preston Street, back of the fire station there, and the firemen had to go on their own time. If you worked 15 hours tonight, you had to go down there at 8 o’clock in the morning or 8:30 by the time you got off work, and then when you got through there, you went to work that night. We had to grease fireplugs in Houston for many years—cut grass from around them. You see, that’s when we thought, well, now we got to do something about this thing, and that’s when civil service began to be born because they were putting too many things on you. You take a man—he didn’t get any time off to go onto the drill tower. He didn’t do anything. He just went, and everybody had to do it. You put 8 hours on that thing downtown at that time because they had no mercy on you, because the chief said you just had to do it, and you had to do it, and if you had about 2-3 fires that night, you was just dead on your feet the next day, and you had to go back down. Then we’d have these fire inspections each year that looked behind all the meters in the house, see that they didn’t have pennies behind them and all that stuff, and that took 3 or 4 days of your time. When you got off, you had to dress up in your uniform and make house-to-house fire inspections.

Interviewer
When did formal training begin?

Cady Price
Back to about 1932-33, somewhere there. Chief Ed Coleman. I believe he’s deceased now. He was the first training chief we had, and then G. C. Adams who is deceased. He was there for many, many years, and now we have a mighty fine boy who’s Val Jahnke. He’s our training chief, which is out here. It’s a training tower. It cost about a million and a half dollars. It’s very fine. It’s one of the best in the country, the training center.

Interviewer
Did you help in a direct role as a legislative agent or representative from the department here in Houston?

Cady Price
Yeah, I was a legislative agent for 2 years.

Interviewer
Which period was that? Which years?

Cady Price
You got me on there. I just don’t know exactly whether it was before ’50; it could have been. Something like that, then. So each department had a legislative man that represented their department, and they had biennial conventions every 2 years, and that’s where the legislation was born, see. They get together and “So, now what are we going to go for this time?”

Interviewer
0:05:43.8 You mean the different chapters from the various cities get—

Cady Price
All the cities get together, you see. They send their representative. It’s a convention and then they have separate committees. They have a pension commission, and they used to have all these different committees and such.

Interviewer
This is the Texas State Association of Firefighters?

Cady Price
That’s right.

Interviewer
Okay.

Cady Price
Yeah, and that’s where the legislation comes out. They just do 1 city so we’re all, “We’ll do this and we’ll do that,” but we all got to get together on this thing and say, “Well, now this is it and we’ve all got to work for this purpose.” It may not set with this department and it may not set with this department and that’s why sometimes you go on the population backup of some of your bills, you see. Some of our pension deals on the docket and you (unintelligible) you’re more concerned how it was on the docket (unintelligible) you see. Excuse me. That’s where all this, the new—(unintelligible) (phone ringing)

0:07:05.2 (unintelligible; break in audio) from the cities, and then they take them up there, and they give them to different committees and then it hits and then it comes to the floor. The committee recommends this, if it’s doesn’t recommend it, and stuff like that. Then that’s when they get together and see what they want, what’s best, and then they all work to that end. Then they go back home and they talk to their representatives and then see how they feel about these things. That’s where they used to have seminars once a year, but I think they cut that out. We disaffiliated here in Houston with them about 7 years ago. But the state association, as far as I’m concerned, is one of the—it’s a great organization. We’ve got so many things together, but we’ve had to fight, though. We’ve had to fight like the dickens all these years to get these things that we’ve got, you know.

Interviewer
At these conventions, do police representatives ever attend?

Cady Price
We invite them to come, you know. If we’ve got anything in the service laws that they might want to change then sometimes they come and sometimes they don’t. But you see, sometimes they fight up in Austin. If they don’t want this thing open, why then they’ll get together with their group and they won’t approve of those open to civil service. But that’s their prerogative, you know. They’re paid to—you open up the rest of them, and they’re jumping at it with something else. They had some, like I say, getting back to the political part of it, when Mr. Welch was with the league and so dedicated to it, and I was president of the state association. I was dedicated to my group. We’ve had a lot of pledges and arguments and such things, but whichever won, why, we’d congratulate the other one on our business and that’s business, you know what I mean. Among people, that you fight for what you think’s right, and they fight for what—well, they just don’t want it. It costs the city money, you see. We’ve had some good relations with the people all over the state, and it’s like I say, we have some politicians, we have some statesmen, and I believe that Criss Cole was a great man, is a great man.

Interviewer
What role did he play now in the—?

Cady Price
He was a legislator, and then he was a senator, a state senator from here which was—he had lots of respect of the people for his handicap and for his ability to go as a man with the handicap he had, you know, with his blindness. But, they respected him. He didn’t tell them a story or anything about anything. When he got up on the floor about a bill, ordinarily they listened to him, and that’s why we had asked him to do a study on our bill. It was good, and he appreciated it was a good cause. Nine times out of 10 it was—because we didn’t ask for anything that wasn’t—would be a detriment to any city, and we asked for the things that would be an asset to the fire department and the city itself. We’ve come a long ways from way back those days, and it was a spoils system, and I hope that we never get the spoils system back. Because we did it and the other cities will fight you on your civil service, especially here. We have to—they want to fight everything in civil service, and the city has never won a case that we sued them for yet because it’s in the law. It’ll always be there, very long, as long as it is, but of course there are some days that everybody was short of hours. Which they’ve got to because everything else is going short hours, and I don’t know why a fireman has to be any different and working more longer hours, because many years ago, the people said, “Well, all they do is sit down and play cards and dominoes and sleep in the afternoon.” We took that—that’s another thing we got together—we cut all that mess out many years ago about this. They did, they slept in the afternoon because of the long working hours, and they played their dominoes, and they played their cards. But you take an (unintelligible) worth—works in excess of about 65 dollars (unintelligible; jet engine noise) a sack on it and you got to take care of that, and the man has a certain amount of territory in the district they work in, which they are from there, and must learn the territory. Learn where these streets are, these plugs are, and they have their territory examinations about 3 times a week, and they have steady fears about examinations and things, and they work—they were doing something several hours a day out of the time they work in daytime. Now, the day man does the cleaning of the hose, and he cleans his apparatus. The night man doesn’t do that. But whenever you take care of anything that costs that much money, you’ve got to take care of it.

Interviewer
0:13:55.3 Yes.

Cady Price
And let’s don’t pity ourselves because the main purpose they used to teach us years ago for every round that we made, we got underneath that apparatus and cleaned it, is to see that there wasn’t anything dismantled on this particular rod. Because we didn’t have the 2 rear brakes those days, and you take a 20,000-pound piece of equipment without 2 rear brakes, you almost had to have it around, you know. Now, there’s a main purpose—a lot of the main purposes of cleaning up underneath is to check the equipment to see that there wasn’t anything that was broke or anything, busted on the rod. The old rubber-tired truck of course it was a very, very rough-riding piece of equipment back in those days, but then we got the pneumatic tires, oh, in 1932-33 or something, and then they put them on all our apparatuses. That old rubber was about to break our backs. I think I come in, oh, just about 3 years after the horses went out.

Interviewer
You mentioned you went back several times to politically influence what was in the department throughout the period before the passage of the state civil service law. Were you ever asked or told by your superiors or anyone else in the department or outside to vote a certain way or to campaign for someone or participate in some way or another?

Cady Price
0:15:24.0 Oh yeah, there has always been in my recollection and the department for many years back, they had groups of people, cliques of people. This man who wanted to be chief and this man wanted to be chief and that’s the way that they got those chiefs jobs was the political help that they’d give them, you see. I guess I was always lucky not to interfere with it, and I tried to do my job to the best of my ability. Because if you didn’t—if you got out here and campaigned, they’d come to your home and say, are you gonna vote for this guy and that guy and all of that stuff. They’d put you on the spot, see. It was a very dirty thing. In fact, it was real dirty the way they played politics those days.

Interviewer
How did you manage to stay in so long with—?

Cady Price
Well, I just didn’t fool with it. I just didn’t get mixed up in the thing. Because I was young here, and I didn’t understand about campaigns, and I didn’t want to. I had friends on both sides, and I wanted to keep friends on both sides, and I worked for the one that came in as well as I worked for the one that went out regardless to who was chief. Regardless to who they put up. I respected his uniform, and I might have not liked him, but I respected the position that he had, and all I had was—he has the same role for me to carry out. If the office gave me an order, that wasn’t a problem unless you weren’t (unintelligible). Lots of times I didn’t go along with what they were doing and all of that, but as a subordinate, why, I done my job, and if there was a mistake made, well then they’d clarify it and back up on it.

0:17:48.4 The dirty politics during my lifetime here was dirty and that’s the reason why we fought so hard for civil service. There were many, many good men that had to leave this thing because of those things. The politicians are all—see, you have your water commission, you had your fire commission, you had the street and bridge commission, you had your mayor and all those stuffs. They were voted. It wasn’t like the council form of government we’ve got now, you know. It was a commissioner form in those days. Then you was in bad shape if you got mixed up with any of the fire commissioners, especially because he ran the fire department. The mayor didn’t have anything to do with it in those days. We lost lots of good people because we had lots—we had all of 16 fire chiefs during my period here. Of course, there’s a number of good many years because we stayed out of politicking. We weren’t interested in the (unintelligible; jet engine noise). But those people they had to have it, and there was lots of people that—of course, in those days your budget was 7, 8, maybe 100,000-500,000 a year. But now as Houston has grown, our fire department budget is in excess of 30 million dollars. Of course, they make mistakes in putting people up there. I think you can’t put just any coconut up there running an organization with a 30-million-dollar budget. They’re having problems now with these young fellows in here that think they should be making 1200-1400 dollars a month, but after they’re here a year—which he hadn’t earned that thing because he doesn’t understand the fire department that well, and he’s not a dedicated man when he goes to fussing about the only job he’s had out there for a while, hired at 18 years. You know, some 18-year-old boys are very mature. We have a few, and we have hired a few in there that were pretty good, but then we’ve had problems with some of them that just got out of high school, the first job they ever had. They act like they—most of the time their pension contribution is given to them and their clothing allowance and your sick time and your vacation time, and I think they’re doing pretty good. You see, after he’s here 30 months, he’s eligible for promotion.

In the next few years we’re going to have quite a number of promotions. As Houston grows some more they’re going to build more fire stations. I say again, it’s been an uphill battle all through the years, the last few years, to build the thing where it is. To build it up to where it is. The respect of the public. Firemen can go on the street. Now, I’ve always been proud of my uniform and proud to wear it, but I’m not proud of the way some of them look in their uniform now. Not if you grow this long hair in uniform and all that stuff, because it just don’t fit, as far as I’m concerned. It’s just me, it’s been like that all my damn life, and I just can’t help it, that’s all.

Interviewer
Let me ask you something now about the insurance companies. Have they helped in any way to develop a more effective fire department through their influence?

Cady Price
0:22:34.9 I know we lost too much from trying to enforce it, and I knew Mr. John Banjus (???) who was head of the insurance board in Houston, which was a very active man for many years. He was a volunteer man. I think he’s retired since I haven’t heard from him in a long time. But we had good relations with the insurance companies. We went one time up to try to get about 2% of the insurance intake from our pension fund. We got our ears beat down on that, but they—we do a good job for them here. They—

Interviewer
Do they do a good job for you? Have they helped?

Cady Price
Well, I just don’t know. I’m not up in that position up there to know whether they did or not, but they—

Interviewer
Do they have any influence? Let’s say, during the state civil service fight?

Cady Price
0:23:32.5 No. no, the insurance people didn’t—they—insurance people are kind of funny about those things. I think they look out for their legislation. That’s about all they can do is fight for their unit for what they want and what they want to keep. We have no fight with those people. The chamber of commerce, we have good relations with those people. For many years you didn’t have because the firemen were just like another—we were treated as just a peon, so to speak, you know. So, we just didn’t have respect at all from the public. They’d say, Oh, look at that old fireman going and all that stuff. Then as we got to getting into the civic groups and we got to visit with different organizations and showing them that we were human beings and people that were trying to make a living and our dedication to the citizens. So, we established ourselves as professional people.

Interviewer
When did the struggle for the collective bargaining legislation begin?

Cady Price
Well, I believe that was—I think that was established about 2 sessions ago. The last session I think they finally got the bill passed where it would be all up to the (unintelligible) bill, you see. Yeah. Now they’re going to go to the people here for it, but I don’t know how successful they will be, but—

Interviewer
Do you think it’s needed?

Cady Price
0:26:07.5 I think it’s good. I really do, because I think everybody has a right to bargain collectively. You go before the council up there and if they say, “Well, we’ll take it under advisement and let you know in a couple weeks,” and the mayor appoints a committee for things and collective bargaining and those things, I think that if they have the right type of people on it, I think you’ll get away from all of this old politics and things. I think a person has a right to speak for what he thinks is best for his group of people now. Everybody else does. Lots of these cities are winning elections. So, I think they’ll have a struggle here with it; I’m sure they will, but it all depends on how they get out and work for it.

Interviewer
The policemen are opposed to it, right? Is that correct?

Cady Price
I don’t know. I’m not too closely associated with that, but regardless of whether the police are opposed to it, the police are not going to get out and go out there and fight it, understand? The fireman is going to have to go door to door and talk with people, and they’re going to have to get the literature. See, I been in 2 or 3 of these kind of things for the registration of our pay increase and our civil service and other pay increases and things like that, and of course we’ve got more people now. But they’re going to have to—it all depends on what ballot they get it on or whether it comes up in the primary election where lots of people vote. They might have a chance. We used to hit these people, and we dressed nice and talked with people and asked them for their cooperation, and anything worth having is worth asking for. I believe that it would be best for the city; I think it’d be best all around. Because your politicians, you come and go, but your firemen are here to stay, see. When he leaves, why then he doesn’t care. He’s in there. But your fireman, he’s working for something better for his family. I think he has a right to have the things another man has. Of course, some of them would like to have to moonlight. Well, everybody moonlights to a certain extent. These office people moonlight. It’s not only the firemen moonlight.

Interviewer
Do you think moonlighting distracts from their professional status?

Cady Price
0:29:18.3 I think in some respects it does, yes. It does. It takes away something from it. We’ve got quite a few boys in business for their selves and things like that. As long as it didn’t interfere with his firefighting and things like that—why, you see when you’re tired at night, you can’t put out like you could if you wasn’t too tired, you know. They have to moonlight some. I’m sure that of a man has several children, and of course if he wants things, it’s a necessity of life, a good life (unintelligible). We’re going to have a struggle with this in the election, I’m sure. In the meantime, I’m surprised—of course, I don’t think they made too much of an effort behind there because their town is a predominantly lazy town. Those boys got beat down about 2 to 1 in that election. They didn’t make it a concentrated effort, I don’t think. But you have to go to the people. If you go to them, you’ve got to go talk with them and tell them why you need this thing. Because they’re not going to look at the sheet of paper to vote on. They don’t know whether to vote for the thing or not. They’re going to have to go to civic clubs, they’re going to have to go just everywhere.

Interviewer
Looking back over the years what do you see? At what point—what was the crucial turning point with the growth of the profession of firefighting in Houston?

Cady Price
Service records, certainly.

Interviewer
Service records?

Cady Price
Service records, 1946 (unintelligible). The job security is one of the greatest things that we’ve ever put in. Your working conditions, we put those things in. Of course our protection there with all the good things. We have good working conditions now, and it was all through the efforts of the firemen fighting for it. The citizens just don’t open their arms and say, well, you boys deserve this. We fought for all those things. I don’t know how long it’d have been before we’d have been still been working 72 and 84 hours a week. Of course Franklin Spears—his father Mr. Spears from San Antonio—he’s one of the district judges there, and if you know—I don’t know whether you know him or not, but he was in the legislature at the time his father was, and that’s when we got our Spear Day. Then the Kelly Day come along, it gave us 2 days off, which we thought we were in high (unintelligible) to get 2 days a week off. We come along. It was worth all the fight, the experience. We fight, but we come back home all in good spirits and friends again because we won our battle, and the people that voted against us, we didn’t hold that against them in Austin, their legislative. We were their friends because that’s the way they fought, and that’s the way they were meant to be those things. So why fall out with a man if he don’t agree with you?

Interviewer
0:32:34.4 Do you think your affiliation with the AFL-CIO was an important influence in getting the law passed or the state civil service law?

Cady Price
I think, yeah, they helped us considerably. We were all working for the same men, you know, and job security, and that’s what they’re fighting for. You have to have something to dismiss those people on. Companies can’t fire a man just because they don’t like him and those same situations.

Interviewer
At the fire department they had a no-strike clause?

 

Cady Price
Yes, we had a no-strike clause, that’s right. I believe when we had that in there, I think the legislatives got a look at that, too. They knew that we was—all we could do was depend on their generosity as a fellow human being and doing what was right for the future of the city and the fire department as a whole. Like I say, I was going back to your statesmen, now. So, I was happy that all this fight against taking the strike clause out of it, because I knew they don’t want to see the firemen go on strike.

Interviewer
0:34:01.5 Had there been an effort in the past to take it out?

Cady Price
Oh, yes, they’ve—(unintelligible; jet engine noise) I think has been against it, but I don’t know how—I haven’t been in legislation for many, many years. He fought bitterly opposed to it at that time.

Interviewer
This is from all over the country?

Cady Price
All over the United States and Canada, yes. See, all (unintelligible) collective bargaining.

Interviewer
How old is the International? Is it a creation of the—

Cady Price
1918, I believe that’s when it was organized. 1918. You see, it grew and grew and then it began to mushroom out, and I think now we’ve got, oh, in excess of 150,000 members in it now.

Interviewer
But the Houston firemen didn’t join until the 30s, you said earlier.

Cady Price
0:35:15.8 Yeah, they was the one organized this, you see, the international organizing with their charter. You have to have so many men sign the charter. I had always had happy relations with them. They do lots of good work in Washington for the firemen and the public, and we’re very partial to having the organization where we can go to without problems from a standpoint here. It’s been a good experience for me throughout the years. With how these other departments work, and how we had to struggle to maintain our, I’d say dignity and build it up and things like that.

Interviewer
I thank you for the interview. It’s been very useful, and it gives us a perspective on the development of professional firefighters in Houston.

Cady Price
I certainly hope that I’ve contributed something to the future of—

Interviewer
I’m sure you have. Thank you very much.

Cady Price
Thank you.

0:36:42.8 (end of audio #142_01)