A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006. Now a Popeyes fast food restaurant on Google Maps.

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Entry from July 21, 2004
Smoke-Eater; Smoke-Chewer
"Smoke-eaters" are firefighters, also known as New York's "Bravest." "Smoke-chewer" isn't used today, but the 1884 citation below is interesting. "Smoke-eater" goes back just over 100 years.

25 October 1884, Fireman's Journal, pg. 337, col. 1:
In the afternoon a game of baseball was played by a nine from the Easton Fire Department and the New York Fire Department nine, which was part of the visiting New Yorkers. The game resulted in victory for the New York "smoke chewers" by a score of twenty to five.
2 November 1903, New York Times, pg. 3:
The smoke was so dense that they couldn't even see the flames from the front. Several of the best "smoke-eaters" in Truck 10 and Engine 6 worked the relay, but the intense heat from the flames that were raging in the cellar made them beat a hasty retreat.

25 March 1905, New York Times, pg. RB178:
"THE Smoke-Eaters," by Harvey J. O'Higgins, is one of those rare treats that fall to the reviewer's lot just about often enough to prevent him from becoming a full-fledged pessimist. In it there is enough humor and pathos of a grim and rugged sort, enough tense life and excitement and thrilling heroism to make a dozen, more or less, of the ordinary run of books, and it is all told with a straightforward simplicity that well accords with the single-hearted devotion to duty of the men who, in their own parlance, "eat smoke and spit black buttons"--in other words, the New York City firemen.
Posted by Barry Popik
Workers/People • (0) Comments • Wednesday, July 21, 2004 • Permalink