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William Francis "Doc" Roach


MSS 71

A web version of an unpublished  guide originally prepared  by Don P. Haacke in 1986.

To the right: Peasley Warehouse fire, Boise, 1948.
(Photo 174)


with Scope and Contents Note

On April 7th, 1985, Lorraine Schubach gave a small collection of memorabilia to the Boise State University Library which had belonged to her great uncle, William Frank Roach (1891-1973). W.F. Roach had worked for the Boise City Fire Department for many years as a fireman and later became the fire marshal. The collection (Mss. 71) is a reflection of his many years with the department. He collected photographs which show the men, the equipment, the major fires, and fire prevention education in Boise. The photographs were, however, somewhat old and difficult to store. Ms. Schubach decided that they would serve a broader audience if transferred to the University Library’ Special Collection Department.

The collection, though small, is a treasure trove of photographs documenting the history of Boise, Idaho’s City Fire Department from 1911-1965. During that time Boise grew from a small town to a city. Photographs portray some of Boise’s memorable fires, evolving fire equipment, firemen and efforts to educate the public about fire prevention. Most of the photos were taken in the downtown area. Many of the buildings shown have since disappeared under the onslaught of urban renewal. A few letters and newspaper clippings and narrative detail to Roach’s career and to the history of the fire department.

William Frank Roach known to friends and co-workers as ‘Doc’ started with the Boise fire department in 1911. A fireman’s hours were unbelievably long at that time – 21 hours a day for fifteen days before one got a day off. In addition to being a fireman Doc trained and drove a team of fire horses. A number of anecdotes about those horses are found in the papers. After six years as a fireman he became an alarm dispatcher in 1917 and worked at this job for twenty five years. Promotion to Fire Prevention Captain came in 1947. Finally in 1951 he became Boise’s first Fire Marshal a post he held until retirement in 1965. At the time of his retirement Doc Roach was one of the very few surviving old time firemen who had known the days of horse-drawn fire engines as well as the more modern gasoline pump trucks.

As Fire Prevention Captain Doc Roach conducted an annual fire prevention week and enrolled help from thousands of Boise school children. Lectures, school assemblies, parades, and clean up campaigns were conducted under his supervision. Photographs of these public relations efforts highlight his efforts and document the flavor of small town life in Boise during the first half of the twentieth century.

Doc traveled throughout the west during vacations. He visited Butte, Montana where he had grown up a number of times. During these travels and vacations he collected ball point and fountain pens. Many of them were designed to advertise the business firms who gave them away. The pens are not part of the collection but were loaned to BSU for a special display during the summer of 1985.

Many of the photographs in the Roach collection were used in a book on the history of fire departments in Idaho by Arthur Hart and Merle Wells [Fighting Fire on the Frontier, 1976].

Collection number: MSS 71
Inclusive dates:  1894-1965
Collection size:  ca. 500 items (in 2 boxes)
Processed by:  Don P. Haacke, 1986


Box 1

File 1Biography: “This Is Your Life”,  misc. newspaper clippings, etc.  26 items.

File 2The Butte Fire Department, 1894 (illustrated pamphlet).  1 item

File 3The Boise Fire Department, 1911 (illustrated pamphlet).  1 item

File 4Boise City Fire Dept.   -   Equipment.    27 photos.

File 5“        “      “      “       -   Fire Chiefs.  8 photos.

File 6“        “      “      “       -   Firemen.  8 photos.

File 7“        “      “      “       -   Groups.  12 photos.

File 8“        “      “      “       -   Horses & dogs.  7 photos.

File 9“        “      “      “       -   Stations.  17 photos.

File 10Career photographs.  25 photos.

File 11Fire Fighting Demonstrations.   27 photos.

File 12Fires (undated).   8 photos.

File 13Fires (unidentified).  12 photos.

File 14Fires. 1911-1912.   4 photos.

File 15Fires. 1945.   6 photos.

File 16Fires. 1946.   3 photos.

File 17Fires. 1947.   10 photos.

File 18Fires. 1948.    6 photos.

File 19Fires. 1950.    2 photos.

File 20Fires. 1951.    19 photos.

File 21Fires. 1952.    3 photos.

File 22Fires. Sprouse Ritz.    27 photos.

File 23Fire Prevention Week. (undated).   54 photos.

File 24Fire Prevention Week. 1947.  1 photo.

File 25Fire Prevention Week. 1948.  18 photos.

File 26Fire Prevention Week. 1950.   20 photos.

File 27Fire Prevention Week. 1951.   3 photos.

File 28Fire Prevention Week. 1957.   22 photos.

File 29Fire Prevention Week. 1958.   12 photos.

File 30Fire Prevention Week. 1960.    5 photos.

File 31Idaho State Fire School. 1951-1953.   8 photos.

File 32Miss Flame Contest.  11 photos.

File 33Parades.  16 photos.

File 34Retirement photos.  7 photos.

Box 2

File 1Letters. 1948-1965.   23 cards & letters.

File 2Postcards. ‘On the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad.’  13 cards.

File 3Postcards. Butte, Montana.   18 cards.

File 4 Postcards. Boise, Idaho.     8 cards.

File 5Postcards. Idaho.  8 cards.

File 6Postcards. Various states.  10 cards.

File 7Oversize photographs of Boise fires, firemen, and firestations.  12 photos.

File 8“A Salute to the Boise Fire Department” by J.R.Cunningham. Boise Mirror (Aug. 12, 1957), pp. 12-13.
          1 item.

File 9Firemen’s ribbons, badges and insignia.  1 box.

This page created: 7 February 2007

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