Monday, April 7, 2008

Emerson Carlyle "Corky" Phillips, SFD's Oldest Living Member

Yesterday I went to visit with a very dear friend of mine. Emerson Carlyle Phillips, better know to most of the firefighters in SFD simply as "Corky". I asked Corky to tell me a little about himself and this is what he had to offer.

I was born on May 28, 1918. I was a premature baby and the doctors told my Mother not to get to attached to me "cause I weren't gonna be here long. My Dad died when I was six years old and at about the sixth grade I took over a paper route to help out my mother as this was during the depression. I had to pay 1.5 cents per paper and I sold them for 3 cents apiece. That netted me about a dollar week to give to my mother. I started hanging around the firehouse about the same time and soon I was well known to all the firemen.

After high school I got enrolled at the University of Maryland pharmacy school. I got disgusted there and transferred to the Medical College of Virginia to finish. Just before my senior year there I was called up for the draft. I asked for a one year deferment so I could finish pharmacy school and they were good-hearted enough to grant me that. I had always heard that when some quit school more than half never went back to finish and I wanted to finish. After I graduated I went in the Army and took Basic Training in Abilene Texas. After Basic I got assigned to the Medical Detachment of the Air Force. When the war was I over I moved back to Salisbury.

I applied to join the Fire Department in 1946. At that time they had a committee to investigate you before you got voted in. The meeting night I turned in my application they asked to wait in the hall. A few minutes later they came and said I was accepted that night
and didn't have to wait for an investigation. The reason was everybody knew me all the years I hung around as a boy, and that's how I got into the fire department.

I asked Corky what fire he remembers the most and he said the Civic Center. He remembers that because he had just left Central Drugs where he worked to go to lunch when the horns downtown blew. He went to the station a got a ride to the fire. At about 5 o'clock that evening he went back to the drug store to help close up and then returned to the scene and stayed until 3 o'clock the next morning. Another fire he remember is the "Plim Hinman Hotel" fire in Ocean City. They didn't get to do much fire fighting there because the engine he was on was assigned in a water relay and so they were some distance from the fire. He could tell me however that if the wind had been in the other direction that day the entire boardwalk may have been lost. Much the same scenario as the recent Dough Rollers Fire in the same town. Corky said they stayed in Ocean City until noon the next day.

Corky is also a 60 year member of the local VFW 194 in Salisbury and is a charter member of the "Cooties' with that organization. Corky tells me the cooties are the "fun guys" for the VFW that visit with hospitalized veterans and shut ins. About three years ago the VFW and the SFD took Corky to a Shorebirds ball game. He arrived in style riding aboard Salisbury's 1916 American LaFrance fire engine. Corky had the honors of throwing out the first pitch that night and it's a memory he cherishes. Just recently he donated that ball to the SFD at the the last meeting to be held in the old Station 16. I feel sure a place of honor will be found for that ball in the new station.

He is also very proud of his 60 year membership in Wicomico Lodge # 91 AF&AM, Masonic Lodge in Salisbury.

I asked him how he got the name "Corky" and he really couldn't say. He did tell me over the years he has had more nicknames then he can remember. "Little Man", "Half-pint", "Squirt" are names from his childhood. Chief Kido Disharoon called him "Jimmy" one day because that was his fathers name and "Jimmy" stuck for years. In the Army and around the VFW he is known simply has "Doc".

The above photos are of Corky when he finished basic training for the Army in 1942 and of him today. Corky resides at the John B. Parsons home in Salisbury and when I was there he nothing but praise for the staff.

Thank you Emerson Carlyle "Corky" Phillips for your service to our country and our community. We look forward to you leading us in the move to the new Station 16 later this month

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Bunker Britches said...

A wonderful tribute to a great individual who gave much to Salisbury and the residents over the years

straight shooter said...

I was told recently that Mr. Phillips is the oldest surviving member of the SFD. Is that true?

Manyblessings46 said...

When my mom was a resident at JBP-we would all sit on the front porch and he would share stories. I had always known him as Doc. He is without a doubt one of the sweetest people I have ever met.
Thanks Joe for the story-it was great!!

Soapbox said...


Yes. Corky is the oldest living member of the SFD. He has been a member for 60 years.

You are right, he is a delightful man. Quite a character to listen to and he has some wonderful stories. Even at 90 years old his memory is incredible

straight shooter said...

Oh Gosh, I said survivor didn't I? Like he was on the Titantic. Living member is better...sorry.

Anonymous said...

Some of my fondest memories of Corky are of his firefighting prowess. I recall humping hose lines through buildings so thick with smoke you could hardly see. We would have on self-contained breathing apparatus, Nomex hoods, gloves - the works. You would be so hot and blinded by the smoke that you wanted to just get outside. Then you would look up and there was Corky, standing tall, with no breathing apparatus, no hood, and a look like 'you young wippersnapper - suck it up and lets go!' A wonderful, dedicated man.

Soapbox said...

Now Now Shooter--settle down.

We all have "Those moments" oncee in a while. LOL

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