Former fire chief proud of memorabilia collection

0

Former Auburn Fire Chief Clifton Smith and his wife, Wanda, at their Lewiston home.

With nearly 40 years of service in the Lewiston and Auburn fire departments, retired Chief Clifton Smith has rooms filled with memorabilia.

Remembering the stories behind them is a different matter. Dementia has burned a hole in the memory of the bright-blue-eyed man. While he has retained his signature smile, laugh and happy demeanor, the gripping disease has clouded his memory for the most part. But not always.

Advertisement

There are times when he meets old friends or relatives and can talk clearly. He can recall the story and particulars of a small trinket on the wall or a shelf in the home he and his wife raised their family in on the outskirts of Lewiston. But those days are few and far between now.    

Born on Oak Street in Lewiston, he married his high school sweetheart, Wanda Sienko, after enlisting in the Coast Guard. During his five years of service, he and his crew aboard the cutter Coos Bay rescued 11 men from the icy Atlantic after their ship sank in high seas.  

After his service, he came home to Lewiston, where he followed in the footsteps of his father, a Lewiston Fire Department dispatcher. He worked his way up to deputy chief, and when the Auburn Fire Department was in need of a new chief, they talked him into coming across the river. He led that department for 21 years until his retirement in 2001.

Current Deputy Chief Tim Allen worked under Smith for 13 years, speaking very highly of his former boss.

“Chief Smith worked very hard behind the scenes to make the Auburn Fire Department a progressive agency. He has a lot of respect for the history and tradition of the fire service. During his career, he continued to utilize the lessons of the past to direct the future, so that either the mistakes or inefficient actions from the past would not be repeated,” Allen said. “His love of the tradition of the fire service is shown with his personal collection of firefighting memorabilia.”

Smith amassed a collection of trinkets, pins, buttons — anything and everything to do with firefighting. From custom-made curtains to wallpaper, light switches and a quilt made from T-shirts, the upstairs of their home has become somewhat of a shrine to his career. They bring back vivid memories for Wanda of the days when they were young and active; for Chief Smith, they’re a spark that opens a brief window to his memories.

Shelves overflow with minature firetrucks at the Lewiston home of former Auburn Fire Chief Clifton Smith.

Two of the many license plates collected by former Auburn Fire Chief Clifton Smith are displayed at his home in Lewiston.

Firefighting memorabilia adorn the Lewiston home of former Auburn Fire Chief Clifton Smith and his wife, Wanda.

Fishing poles lean against a wall and a photo of Smith at a fire scene.

A shadow box with the four generations of firefighters.

A piece of memorabilia from the home of Wanda and Clifton Smith.

Wanda Smith straightens out the quilt on the spare bedroom that is made up of T-shirts of her husband, former Auburn Fire Chief Clifton Smith of Lewiston.

A sample of memorabilia from the home of Wanda and Clifton Smith in Lewiston. 

A copper firetruck with a ladder that goes up and down is a favorite of former Fire Chief Clifton Smith.

A sample of memorabilia from the home of Wanda and Clifton Smith in Lewiston.

Custom-made drapes and wallpaper add to the motif of the Lewiston home of former Auburn Fire Chief Clifton Smith and his wife, Wanda.

The turnout gear and helmet of former Lewiston Fire Department firefighter Clifton Smith are cherished keepsakes.

Firefighting memorabilia adorns the home of former Auburn Fire Chief Clifton Smith and his wife, Wanda, of Lewiston.

Wanda Smith looks through the articles and gifts her husband, former Auburn Fire Chief Clifton Smith, has received over the years. The collection adorns their home in Lewiston.

Wanda Smith looks through the articles and gifts her husband, former Auburn Fire Chief Clifton Smith, has received over the years. The collection adorns their home in Lewiston.

Firefighting memorabilia adorns the Lewiston home of former Auburn Fire Chief Clifton Smith and his wife, Wanda.

A light switch at the home of former Auburn Fire Chief Clifton Smith of Lewiston has a firefighter theme.

Advertisement
SHARE