In the small city I grew up in they blew a whistle every day at noon. (By whistle I mean the same siren that is blown for severe weather or civil defense). I forgot about this until today, I was at my mothers house (she still lives in that town) and at noon the whistle blew. What the…? Why do they do that? This has got to be a throw back to something, but what? If I lived there and worked 3rd shift getting woken up at 12 every day would really tick me off! what gives?
Throwback to the cold war, when they were installed. They’re testing the siren. Most places just do it on Fridays, though.
Hey it could be worse. I live about 2 miles as the crow flies from a Nuclear power plant. The first monday of each month at 2:00pm they test the emergency sirens. What i’d like to know is what the heck happens if the plant melts down at 2:00pm the first monday? Get fried i suppose, eh?
Where I grew up, in western New York, they blew the fire whistle every day at noon. I always found it to be a convenient way to check my watch for accuracy. During the summer, they also blew it at 6 p.m. I suspect it was a way of letting farmers in the fields and children out playing that it was time to come in for lunch (or supper). It was also a way of making sure the whistle was working, in case of a fire. (The volunteer firemen would scramble when the whistle blew more than once and come in from around the town). When my father was growing up (during the Great Depression), his town blew the “Oo-gah” every night at 8 p.m. His parents told him it meant all the children had to be in bed. All the mills in all the old mill towns of New England had whistles to signal the start of shifts. Different whistle patterns might have different meanings. I remember reading that some towns used whistles to announce the cancellation of school due to weather, in the days before radio caught on.
For a number of small towns, this is still the primary reason. As exurbia becomes suburbia and encroaches on the small towns, a lot of the fire companies are moving to pagers and cell phones, but there are still communities far enough out to not have reliable beeper/phone service.
(If the town in the OP has cell service, I’d guess that it’s mostly inertia. “We’ve always blown the whistle at noon.”)
I don’t know, after searching many websites it dates back a long ways. Prior to either World War steam whistles were being used to indicate shift changes and lunch time at mills and mines. There was even a silent movie from 1923 entitled “Noon Whistle” so I’m assuming the practice was quite well spread even then. It has been around for quite some time and I turned up many sites that mourn the loss of the practice.
Well in Larchmont we had (probably still there, but haven’t lived there in a couple years) the “Fire Burp.” This is a giant horn that goes BBWWWAAAAAAAAH at exactly 9am and 5pm every day (presumably for testing) and signals the volunteer fireman if there’s a fire.
In my little Massachusetts home town the whistle blows twice a day at 8:05. It is to test the fire station’s whistle, but instead of being a call to the station for the volunteers, it gives the location of the fire - the place where the volunteers are to go. The list of whistles and locations are published in the paper regularly and everyone has a copy in the house to look at when the whistle blows.
The whistle not only told us kids it was time to go home n the evening, it gave us a darned good chance of getting to a nearby fire before the fire department!
In Edinburgh, Scotland they fire a bloody great howitzer from the castle battlements each day at 1pm. I assume they are firing blanks as there is no evidence of shell craters in Jenners on Princes Street below.
That is soooooooo cool. Artillery in the afternoon – ya’ just can’t beat it. Of course, what do they do if the town gets attacked at 1:00PM? No one would come running since they figure it’s just the 1:00 cannon fire.
I think here, people would complain that the cannon was causing the smog. It couldn’t be all those Suburbans on the highways.
I live near a couple of Civil War Battlefields and after a few visits found that 1. they did not keep track of the guns by number and manufacturer (big duh) and 2. and there were times of year when some of the guns away from the Visiters’ Center were pretty much hidden by tall grass and branches.
I have a truck. I could have moved a small howitzer or a Napoleon, get rid of the coffee table, slap doors up and put it right in the front room. Didn’t do it, not only was I not raised for it, but I kept thinking of the gigantic bilateral hernias…and getting caught with the darned thing half way up the front steps.
So I showed the twerps how to identify their guns and never drive by the battlefields after dark. The park department’s thank you letter is in the front room but doesn’t look anywhere near as good as a howitzer would have.
I could have taken all the Suburbans…no, no, no.
Thanks for reminding me, Ticker and Drum God.
Well, Hell, Jois, why not just order one?
So how the heck are you supposed to know when it’s the real deal?
That’s cool, but they don’t fire. What good is having a cannon if you can’t scare the hell out of the neighbors?
Are Howitzers covered under the Second Amendment? Where does my “right to bear arms” end? I’ve had my eye on a cute little ICBM… If the kid down the block roars by in his truck just ONE MORE TIME!!!
Fair enough, Drum God: here’s the real deal.
Looks like you are entitled to some serious firepower–at least as far as black powder guns go!
If it sounds at sometime other than noon, of course. Naturally, various wags pointed out that if the Soviets ever attacked, they would do so at noon on a Friday.
Seriously, when the siren sounds for real, it went for longer than the test. IIRC, there were also different patterns that the sirens were sounded in to indicate enemy attack or natural disaster, but only Civil Defense people remembered what they were.
Personally, I grew up on air bases including a SAC base, where besides sirens, there were also red lights on various power poles around the base. If you were driving and saw them on, you pulled over. Not pulling over was an offense more serious than not pulling over for an emergency vehicle. The idea was to clear the roads for the airplane crews and other essential personnel. Yes, that left everyone sitting on the side of the road while possible ICBMs were headed towards the base, but in the Air Force’s view, we were all expendable.
Oh, they did test the red lights, just not at the same time as the sirens…
In California, municipalities that use volunteer fire fighting forces are required to have to two ways to alert members.
In the little town of Sierra Madre, all the fire department members get beepers. I think as a backup they’ve received cell phones. In the past, there used to be a whistle and, by law, it had to be tested regularly.
The small town where my Grandparents lived observed this custom (Hazlet, SK pop. 113). They used the local volunteer fire department horn. I remember one time I had the honour of running the horn. It was a big thrill. Don’t forget I was about 8 at the time and it was a town that was so small and dull that that might have been the only thing to happen all day. The only other excitement was going to check on the mail, and counting the dead snakes pressed into the tar road. Ahhhhh, small town living, there ain’t nothing like it
WAG In olden times, pre-Standard time the whistle at the train station blew to let the people know when it was local noon.
Thanks to Rodd Hill and Drum God for the right minded thoughts and sites. Having the gun/howitzer fire (without killing me) would be a good and required thing. I keep the ICBM in the back yard, has to be covered by the Second Ammendment, bought it at one of those government surplus sales, had it delivered to the house, haven’t fired it and the neighbors have never said a word.