Dekalb Walcott Jr. spent more than 30 years as a firefighter for the Chicago Fire Department.
He’s now retired–but his son, Dekalb Walcott III, is following in his dad’s line of work.
They recently sat down for a conversation at StoryCorps.
Dekalb Walcott III also wrote and recorded a song, “It’s a Callin’,” about his career. Listen to it here:
Click here for the transcript.
And, one day, I remember my mother said, “We’re going to go visit your father at work.” I was already in the car before she could finish the sentence. You were about to go on a call. So you said, “You wanna go with me?” And I’m jumping up and down, saying, “Mom, can I go? Can I go?”
Dekalb Walcott Jr. (DWJ): Oh yeah, that’s when you were eight. I was trying to wait until you were ten, but I felt that you could manage.
(DW): You know my eyes got big from the moment the sirens went off. And, ever since then, it was just like, this is the life that I want to live some day.
(DWJ): From a young child up to a teenager, I used to ask you, “How do you feel about yourself today?” Some days they were okay, and some days they were bad. But, when you came on the fire department at 21 years old, I said, “Well how do you feel about yourself now?” And you were grinning from ear to ear, it’s like, “I feel great!”
(DWJ): And, so you know, it’s everything for me to watch you grow. Let me ask you about the worst fire that you’ve been to?
(DW): I’d have to say a early morning fire, about five in the morning. All that heat and steam and everything was coming right back at me. And I went back to quarters, looked in the mirror and realized I saw the skin peeling off my face. And I was like, "This is a lot worse than I thought it was."
(DWJ): But you put the fire out?
(DW): Of course, of course.
(DWJ): I received a phone call that night. “Well your son was at this fire last night,” and I thought, oh, which way is this conversation going to go. And he said, “But he’s okay. And he put it out all by himself. Everybody here was proud of him.” And the word went around, “Who was out there managing that fire? Oh, that’s Walcott! That’s Walcott up there!”
So, you know, moments like that, it’s Heaven on Earth for a dad.
(DW): I’m proudest of being a second generation firefighter. You know, kinda makes me look forward to fatherhood as well. Definitely looking to pass that torch down to my son. And I wouldn’t have it no other way.