fireman's picnic

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kahroba

Senior Member
Persian
Dear freinds
Please tell me what's special there about "fireman's picnic" mentioned in the following context, taken from "Margo Dowling" in "The Big Money" by Dos Passos:
Margo could see right away that he thought Queenie was too old and not refined enough. ... She felt pretty down in the mouth when the train pulled out of the station. Here I am pulling a boner the first thing, she thought. And Queenie was throwing her head back and showing her gold tooth and yelling and shrieking already like she was at a fireman's picnic.
 
  • Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Perhaps firemen are considered to be particularly wild at a party. I think DP is looking for a striking simile here. I'm surprised that fireman is singular; firemen would make more noise at a picnic.

    The big hotel in our town was burned down the night before the Firemen's Ball was due to be held there. I promise.
     

    Ynez

    Senior Member
    Spanish
    Karoba, I don't know if you mean that grammatically it would make more sense if it was "a fireman picnic" or "a firemen's picnic".
     

    kahroba

    Senior Member
    Persian
    Karoba, I don't know if you mean that grammatically it would make more sense if it was "a fireman picnic" or "a firemen's picnic".
    It's just like that in the context: "fireman's picnic". It looked like an idiom to me but apparently it's not.
     

    Lis48

    Senior Member
    English - British
    "The Fireman´s picnic" is another of Walter Lantz´s (1930s) cartoon films ( he made Mutt and Jeff too) so I suppose even then it was known as a time for everyone to get together and let their hair down, a time traditionally when houses burn down! I suppose at that time a village would have just the one fireman that they depended on.
     

    Thomas Tompion

    Senior Member
    English - England
    "The Fireman´s picnic" is another of Walter Lantz´s (1930s) cartoon films ( he made Mutt and Jeff too) so I suppose even then it was known as a time for everyone to get together and let their hair down, a time traditionally when houses burn down! I suppose at that time a village would have just the one fireman that they depended on.
    Unfortunately the dates don't match. The cartoon came out in 1937, a year after The Big Money.

    What the title does suggest perhaps is that A Fireman's Picnic was a well-known AE expression for a shindig or knees-up at the time.
     

    kahroba

    Senior Member
    Persian
    "The Fireman´s picnic" is another of Walter Lantz´s (1930s) cartoon films ( he made Mutt and Jeff too) so I suppose even then it was known as a time for everyone to get together and let their hair down, a time traditionally when houses burn down! I suppose at that time a village would have just the one fireman that they depended on.
    I think the "fireman's picnic" or "fireman's party" is simply when there's a big turmoil in the neighbourhood and a house or houses are burning down.
     
    Last edited:

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Actually, judging from google, it seems to be more of an annual fund-raising event, with stalls and games and entertainment and fireworks and fairground rides.

    We need some more AmE speakers in this thread:D
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Actually, judging from google, it seems to be more of an annual fund-raising event, with stalls and games and entertainment and fireworks and fairground rides.

    We need some more AmE speakers in this thread:D
    This is my understanding of a fireman's picnic. It is very much like a small fair. The proceeds go to the Fire Department. We don't have them where I live now, but I have seen them in other parts of the country. Here we have the Sheriff's Rodeo, the Policeman's Magic Show, and a few other events. They are all fundraisers for the various departments.
     

    Scribblerr

    Senior Member
    English US
    Well, I'm an American AND my father is a fireman! And I've never heard of a "fireman's/firemen's picnic" either as an idiom or as an actual real-life event! (I've head of a firemen's ball and of pancake breakfasts, though.) So I'm no help at all!

    But, yes, In the context of the story, the author clearly means that the woman is using her "outdoor voice" and is behaving even more boisterously than she would at, for example, a church picnic.
     

    teksch

    Senior Member
    English - American
    I think the "fireman's picnic" or "fireman's party" is simply when there's a big turmoil in the neighbourhood and a house or houses are burning down.
    My sense of a fireman’s picnic is an occasion where there was much alcohol available and fights were almost certain to occur. Most of the fire departments in the United States were originally staffed by volunteers – mostly male. High on the priority list for newly formed communities was to establish a fire department. Volunteering for the fire department was considered to be a civic duty for the men in the community – and could be relied on in case of a fire.

    When these departments held their annual picnic it was seen as a time to become intoxicated, dance, and to generally have a good time. A fireman’s picnic would be quite different from the picnic held by the local church in that the expectations of what was considered proper behavior was different.

    I don’t have a sense that houses were burning while the picnic was being held. The term that I am more familiar with is a Fireman’s Ball. The ball (dance) was similar to the picnic described above with the obvious difference being that it was usually held at night and dancing rather than games was the main attraction.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    I agree with teksch: the thought here is of a annual picnic of the sort that would be held by a volunteer fire company. It is not too much of an exaggeration to say that many volunteer fire companies were (and still are) working men's social and drinking clubs that had a secondary hobby of fighting fires. In the part of rural Pennsylvania where I spend my weekends, volunteer firehouses are still commonly equipped with a social hall and a bar, and more alcohol is bought, served, and drunk daily at the firehouse than at the local tavern.
     

    languageGuy

    Senior Member
    USA and English
    Well, I agree with gwb and teksch, and I am surprised that people had other ideas of what a fireman's picnic was. I guess it is a regional concept. I would add that this quote evoked a certain kind of woman that attends these events. With all the semi-drunk, semi-naked firemen running around, women looking for a husband or just fun would show up and make a lot of noise to draw attention to themselves.
     

    Loob

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I'm now quite confused: a fireman's picnic is

    - an annual fundraiser, like a small fair
    - a drunken orgy

    Can anyone elucidate?
     

    languageGuy

    Senior Member
    USA and English
    I'm now quite confused: a fireman's picnic is

    - an annual fundraiser, like a small fair
    - a drunken orgy

    Can anyone elucidate?
    I have never seen anyone having sex at a fireman's picnic. There is lots of drinking. I assume funds were raised, but I was never privy to a financial statement. To me, it's more about outdoor games -- frisbee, football, three-legged race -- firemen all trying to compete and impress. I don't remember if there were fair booths or stalls.
     

    GreenWhiteBlue

    Senior Member
    USA - English
    I'm now quite confused: a fireman's picnic is

    - an annual fundraiser, like a small fair
    - a drunken orgy

    Can anyone elucidate?
    You see a conflict here? :D

    Seriously, I think the picnics tend to be social events more than fundraisers, but that does not preclude raffles and drawings being among the activities. I also would not call them orgies, but happy working men who are out enjoying a hot summer day with their friends, where everyone is full in equal measure of beer and high spirits, will not behave the way you would behave in the Duchess of Gatherum's drawing room.
     

    JamesM

    Senior Member
    Here are a few references to fireman's picnics. I agree with GWB's understanding of them. (Most of the references I found spell it "fireman's picnic").

    http://books.google.com/books?id=euz4fbCDlLYC&pg=PA93&lpg=PA93&dq=%22Annual+Fireman's+Picnic%22&source=web&ots=EspuYuZO1T&sig=2HmokJOd-eHIpCreLLp6i401bdk&hl=en&sa=X&oi=book_result&resnum=6&ct=result

    The big doin's in Freisburg is the annual Fireman's Picnic on the second weekend in June. A fund-raiser, it also is an enjoyable look at a small, still very German community in the heart of Texas.



    http://pherrmann.com/family_select.htm

    When I was just a little boy (many years ago), I remember helping my dad pack up the station wagon with charcoal, toys, food, games and all the other picnic related gear. We would all pile in the car, and take off for the annual fireman's picnic. This was an event I looked forward to every summer. This picnic had everything; 3-legged races, ice cream, hot dogs and baseball!

    http://www.gmtoday.com/tabs/2008/wash_visguide/html/27/css/27.htm


    (June) 6-8 Newburg Annual Fireman's Picnic - 6pm Friday to 6pm Sunday evening - Annual Fundraiser, livemusic, carnival and big parade noon on Sunday
     
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