A gentleman named John Allen from Kearney, NE contacted Liberal Fire Chief Kelly Kirk to inquire about the history of a fire bell that he had in his possession. He believed that the bell may have been taken from one of the City of Liberal's retired fire apparatus.
Chief Kirk put Mr. Allen in contact with retired Fire Chief Milton Rice, who he believed would have a better knowledge of the history and origin of the bell.
Mr. Allen related that his father, Bill Allen was a firefighter in Liberal and used the bell to call his children to dinner. The bell was passed on to John who continued the tradition of using the bell to call his children to dinner as well.
John Allen, who is a hospital administrator, is retiring with the intent of moving to Michigan. He related that he would like to donate the bell back to the City of Liberal Fire Department if the city were interested, and if arrangements could be made to pick it up before he moved to his retirement home.
Milton Rice, worked with Mr. Allen to make the necessary arrangements. Milton Rice's son, Guy Rice and Liberal firefighter Tyson Rice own and operate Just 4 U Services here in Liberal. Guy Rice had deliveries scheduled in Colby Kansas last Thursday. He agreed to make the trip from Colby KS to Kearney NE to pick up the bell from Mr. John Allen and return it to the city. The trip from Colby to Kearney is 360 miles round trip, and due to the blizzard conditions in the NW part of Kansas last Wednesday & Thursday it required an overnight stay to get the bell and make the delivery.
The bell was delivered to the LFD last Thursday evening.
After some research and viewing past photos, city fire officials feel sure that the bell is most likely the one pictured on a 1916 photo of Liberal's 1st fire engine, a 1916 Brockway Motor Truck - chemical pumper.
The bell was donated with the following dedication:
"In Memory of our dad Bill Allen"
"Donated by John W. Allen & Pam (Allen) Spry"
"This bell from a 'retired' Liberal, Kansas Fire Truck served two generations of our family as a 'dinner bell'.
"When we heard the bell we came home for a family meal."
W.R. "Bill" Allen was a firefighter in Liberal from 1939 to 1974.
Liberals Fire Department is very appreciative of the Allen family considering the department to be the final home and caretakers of the bell which was such an important part of their family for so many years. The city will now begin the process of making arrangements to have the bell mounted to some sort of decorative stand or platform engraved with this dedication. The bell could possibly be incorporated into any ceremonies or significant events involving the fire department. This has turned out to be an opportunity to regain a very important part of the history of our city. One which we will care for and display proudly.