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A gala for firemen

I have enjoyed reading the articles about the Red Light Ball and hats off to Bill Drown for organizing it. I just wondered if anyone had told you about the “Social Event of the Year” for many years, “A Benefit for the Grass Valley Fire Department,” which took place for more than 100 years ago.

It was held on the Saturday in February closest to Washington’s birthday. The 100th anniversary was in 1976. The original benefits were held in the Grass Valley Elks Building, and when the Veteran’s Building was built, it was moved there. The last one was held in 1998.

Everyone came home for this big occasion. All the firemen’s ladies would spend weeks shopping for a gown, making trips to Marysville and Sacramento to find a dress different from all the others. There was standing-room only and many of the spectators would take a picnic.



A program of local talent proceeded the Grand March. The Grand March was led by two little children, aged 4-6. The little boy was dressed in a firemen’s dress uniform and the little girl would be dressed in a long formal, usually like the fire chief’s wife’s dress. The firemen and their ladies would perform the Grand March. Later in the evening, dinner would be served in the dining room. Everyone supported the firemen. Even if they didn’t attend the benefit, they would buy tickets or make a donation.

I’m sure there are many residents that aren’t aware of this event, and I don’t want the memories of it to disappear. I am sure that I am the oldest firemen’s widow at 92 years old.




Melba J. Polglase

Grass Valley


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