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Posted on: September 12, 2022

Clayton Fire Department Celebrates Lifelong Resident's 100th Birthday

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Lifelong Clayton resident, Aldine Parrish, celebrated her 100th birthday on Saturday, Sept. 10, surrounded by family, friends, and firefighters.   

Mrs. Parrish was born on Sept. 13, 1922, and throughout the last century, she has collected a wealth of stories worth sharing. In 1943, she married Bo Parrish and said "I do" to a lifetime of memories and an enduring bond with the Clayton Fire Department.   

Earlier this month, Mrs. Parrish sat down with Fire Chief Lee Barbee and Deputy Fire Chief Matt Sutphin to share a glimpse into the history of the Clayton Fire Department and reflect on how some traditions never change.  

“I’ve said this, and it will always be true. The Clayton Fire Department is a stick-together family-type thing, and I thank God for the family-like connections we share here in Clayton. Bo loved Clayton, and he loved the Fire Department. We had a good life together,” said Mrs. Parrish.  

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Aldine Parrish celebrates her 100th birthday with the Clayton Fire Department. Pictured left to right: Captain Ken Evans, Captain Anthony Venero, Engineer Brandon Messina, Representative Donna White, Fire Chief Lee Barbee, Aldine Parrish, Firefighter Blake Grandy, Retired Firefighter Duke Hockaday, and Firefighter Antwan Hardy.

Bo Parrish served the Town of Clayton as a volunteer firefighter for over 20 years. According to a newspaper clipping Mrs. Parrish referenced, her husband joined Clayton Fire Department in 1956 when the department consisted of only 16 volunteer firefighters.   

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1980s newspaper clipping featuring Bo Parrish in front of the 1947 Fire Engine No. 1. 

Mrs. Parrish reminisces on the early years of the Clayton Fire Department and applauds the progress and improvements made since then to the department’s firefighting equipment, uniforms, and technology.   

Before cell phones and pagers existed, a loud, centralized siren would ring throughout the town to signify an emergency.   

On July 23, 1954, the fire siren rang throughout Clayton, and Mr. Parrish responded to one of the largest fires in the history of Clayton. Armed with only one fire truck, Clayton Fire Department arrived on the scene at Bo Ellis' Store on Main Street, where Manning's Restaurant is today.  

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Photo taken after the 1954 Bo Ellis' Store fire on Main Street. 

“That fire burnt for three days and three nights, and Clayton Fire Department fought around the clock. This happened during the summer, and it was so hot and unbelievably smokey,” said Mrs. Parrish.  

Mr. Parrish also shared a story about the Bo Ellis' Store fire in a newspaper article from the 1980s that Mrs. Parrish provided. He references the first uniform worn by Clayton firefighters, a yellow raincoat and tall, black rubber boots.   

“It was rough back then,” said Mr. Parrish. “The thing (yellow raincoat) was rubber, and before I left there (the scene of the fire), I had to take off the suit and the clothes under it,” he chuckled. “It had melted to me.”  

bo parrish quote

Mrs. Parrish vividly remembers Mr. Parrish’s black firefighter boots and how they found a home beside her doorstep.   

“Spring, summer, fall, and winter, the boots were beside the door. Bo was always ready to help others, no matter what the situation was. I have always been proud of that,” said Mrs. Parrish.  

Mrs. Parrish’s favorite stories are her memories of the Clayton Fire Department helping others, caring for the community, or gathering as a family to share a meal and enjoy each other's company.    

Mr. and Mrs. Parrish would never miss a Clayton Fire Department Christmas Dinner, a New Year's Eve meal of black-eyed peas and hog head, or the Thanksgiving food drive.   

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1986 newspaper clipping featuring a photo from the Clayton Volunteer Fire Department 1960 Christmas Party. 

At Mrs. Parrish’s 100th birthday party, the Clayton Fire Department made a surprise appearance and invited her to take a ride in the 1947 Fire Engine No. 1. Once again, she had the opportunity to make an unforgettable memory with her Clayton Fire Department family.   

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Aldine Parrish waves to her party guests while riding in the 1947 Fire Engine No. 1 with Captain Ken Evans.

Do you or someone you know have interesting, heartwarming, or unheard stories to tell about the history of Clayton? We encourage you to share your stories, photos, and news articles and help us celebrate and honor Clayton’s history.  

Please email info@townofclaytonnc.org if you have stories to share or if you would like to get in touch. 

 

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