It was a sad day when the bell tolled for Polly

Polly lived at the old George Street fire hall, which was on the north side of George near the intersection of Victoria Street. Built in 1859 it was razed for parking when the East Street fire hall opened in 1965. Photo courtesy, Sarnia Historical Society

Phil Egan

It was a death that would rock the Sarnia Fire Department.

Back in 1933, the department was seven years shy of its 100th anniversary. Over that time, Sarnia firefighters had saved countless lives, rescuing many from a terrible death.

But on this day they might have actually caused one.

Polly the Parrot had been a faithful mascot to the firefighters for more than four years. Captured long before in South America by a Petrolia man, she perched in a cage in the old George Street fire hall. She was a delightful attraction to area children and those who arrived at the fire hall on school tours.

Her favourite expression was, “Polly wants a cracker,” followed by raucous, screeching laughter that often got on the nerves of the firemen.

Despite Polly’s noisy behaviour she was a faithful friend. In warm weather she left her cage and flew freely around the neighbourhood, but always came home to the fire hall.

Trucks had replaced fire horses about a decade earlier. In late February of 1933, some of the firefighters spent hours working on the engine of a vehicle.

Polly becoming listless and disoriented and as the hours passed, grew quiet, apparently a victim of engine fumes.

The startled firemen summoned a veterinary surgeon and Polly seemed to rally. But on March 2 she drew her last breath.

The firehouse was distraught.

In announcing their mascot’s passing, firefighters noted that Polly was survived by her mate, Bob – a more recent addition at the hall who apparently had hardier lungs than Polly.

There would be no inquest, the guilty firefighters hurriedly announced.

In the wake that followed Polly’s untimely demise the firemen recalled many of her adventures. On one memorable occasion, she had managed to fly into the chief’s car as firefighters responded to an alarm, alighting at the scene to witness the excitement.

The mourning firefighters acknowledged they would miss Polly, despite her screeching, but consoled themselves with the knowledge she’d enjoyed a more exciting life than most parrots.

She had travelled a great distance from the jungles of South America to Canada, entertained a city full of appreciative children, and even responded to a fire alarm.

Nevertheless, Polly’s loss left a gloom that lasted for days at the George Street fire hall.