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Every night during late 90′s on a random street corner in North Manchester
One youth turns to another and, for the 47th time that night, utters “There’s nothing to do in this town.”
Sometime in December of 1999
Josh and Zach get sick of driving to other towns and paying exorbitant amounts of money for decent live music and decide that North Manchester needs its own community-sponsored, all-ages, free-of-charge live music venue. Well, it wasn’t that easy. Like almost all the other teens in Manchester, Josh and Zach recognized the need for entertainment in Manchester other than the ever-popular “cruising” and “loitering.” Due to the fact that they were sick of their current jobs that left them smelling of coleslaw and beets at the end of the day, they tossed around the idea of seeking a different source of income nearly every time they saw each other. These conversations almost always ended up in far-fetched possibilities like inventing a system of underground tubes for transportation (Zach can hope, can’t he?), getting paid for their good looks, and turning the old fire station building on Main Street into a coffeehouse/live music venue and having REM come play the opening show.
One of these ideas jumped out as being more plausible than the others, but since Josh kept turning down the modeling offers from Abercrombie & Fitch, the two began talking more seriously about the concert venue idea. Zach and Josh brought the idea to Jeff (Zach’s dad), and he said, “Good idea. Let’s make it happen.” Jeff guided Zach and Josh by assisting in grant-writing, approaching town officials, and forging a connection between the forming project and Healthy Communities/Healthy Youth–Wabash County. And so the imagination of the community was beginning to be stirred for its youth.
4.17.00 (Exerpt from email written by Jeff)
“Josh, Let me know when you will next be home in N. Manchester so you and Zach and I can sit down and work through some things with the Fire House. Good news! The Town Council voted to let us use the building (Former Main Street Fire Station)!”
–Notice “Fire House” The format of our name was still undecided at this time–
4.25.00 (Exerpt from email written by Josh to Zach)
“I’ve had some doubts as to the stage being on that one side of the room. Wouldn’t it make more sense to put it closer to the big doors and on the opposite side, kind of tilted towards the back so the noise stream is more facing the business district, instead of the residential district.”
4.25.00 (Exerpt from email written by Zach to Josh)
“I’ve found another bouncer. His name is **Name Omitted**. He goes to my church and I think that he is an RA at the college, so he has training in diffusing a situation and stuff like that. Plus, he is huge.
I’ve sketched out some rough layouts of what the firehouse might look like once we get furniture and a stage in there. You might have a point about the stage. We won’t know for sure until we can get in there again and start moving stuff around. Also, I did a little junking a few days ago and picked up an old drum set shell from spring clean up pile, it will be good decoration.
That’s it for now.
–Note: Zach is still using lingo from the early 90′s–
5.01.00 (Exerpt from email written by Zach to Josh)
“bad news. jackie fly can’t play july 2. don’t worry, I am tapping other resources. I’ll let you know how it goes.”
Important town decision makers hand over The Firehouse to Zach and Josh. Upon entering the building for the first time they see a chalkboard bearing the message “No Smoking. No Alcohol. No Dirty Talk.” The phrase “Dirty Talk” finds its way into the every day vocabulary of most people connected to The Firehouse.
Extensive work is done to clean the building and build a stage. Basically, May and June entailed: bolts, carpet, wood, paint, screws, hammers, nails, sawdust, kelsy the power washer, duct tape, windex, roof cement, staples and fabric, and lots and lots of volunteers. In response to a call for assistance, the community showers The Firehouse with carpet scraps, furniture, and other things. Andrea volunteers her time to decoroate the firehouse (a job which has been admired by visitors ever since).
A HCHY management committee is created to oversee the project for the summer, and a volunteer day is set up for May 25th, 2000. Click here to see pictures of what happened that day. The Firehouse transforms from a bare storage space to a festive gathering place in matters of weeks thanks to community volunteers.
We were also booking bands left and right to fill our summer schedule, which would begin on July 2nd, 3rd, and 4th. James Bond Goes Surfing was the first band we had booked. About mid-june we got a visit from the state fire marshall and he mentioned quite a few things we had to change in order to open. We had 2 weeks to bring the firehouse up to code for an assembly building, and again thanks to volunteers, we were able to meet the deadline. Our max occupancy was set at 182, and we were given our entertainment permit. 1 week prior to July 2, James Bond Goes Surfing broke up. We again had to scurry to fill that spot. Despite all the sudden problems, the opening show was incredible. Local band, The Yard Gnomes opened the evening, and Indiana favorites, The Blue Moon Boys, headlined.
In addition to all this, The Lutheran Foundation, and Wabash Community Foundation accepted our grant proposals for this project. This allowed for complete funding throughout 2000.
Our opening summer was unbelieveable. The format of the summer was: events on thursday, friday and saturday nights. Parts of every show from the summer were documented on video, and a 30 minute promotional film resulted. This comedic film never made it public, but maybe one day. Ha.
A Full Firehouse Management Committee was formed concluding the summer. This committee, made up of youth and some adults put Firehouse shows on once-a-month and maintained the ever-pleasant atmosphere of the Firehouse. They continued to put great shows on throughout the school year.
The original Firehouse website was launched at www.goldendoors.com/firehouse
A different format was tried out for the summer of 2001. We had friday night concert events, and saturday movie nights/theme nights (such as game show night, mystery murder theator, and others). We also had some surprise shows from nationally touring bands throughout the summer. Overall it was another successful summer.
This summer didn’t come as easy as our first, however. We did not get a substantial grant we had applied for, and therefore we got into a sudden financial bind. We came up with the idea of a Talent Show Fundraiser to help raise money to keep the firehouse going. The community responded wonderfully, donating more then 5000 dollars to keep us alive. The Wabash Community Foundation had also once again accepted our grant proposal. The Lutheran Foundation once again helped out as well, paying for all of our bands for the summer.
Zach then became a famous punk rock star in new zealand, and Josh finally accepted that modeling offer from Abercrombie and Fitch (they loved the nose scar).
In July of 2007 heavy rains caused the firehouse roof to collapse. The community and firehouse supporters from all over have worked to raise funds to re-build the firehouse to continue our goals detailed above. Your support and donations during this effort have been greatly appreciated!
Summer 2009 With a new roof and the old stage back in place we were able to have a 2nd Grand Opening! Local band Filth and Majesty started things off and from Los Angeles, CA, Dawes headlined.
December 2009 The very first Firehouse: Live Theatre event took place in the newly added on Black Box Theatre, located in the back of the venue. The first production (Tony Award Winning), The 25th Annual Putnum County Spelling Bee, was directed by Marilyn Mason. The cast was made up of Manchester University students and community members from North Manchester and nearby cities.
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