The population of Marin County in 1963 was roughly 150,000, and the main part of the Marin County Civic Center had been completed only a year prior. Martin Luther King had delivered his famous “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington by civil rights groups a few months prior, and the Vietnam War was escalating. The English musical group “The Beatles” has exploded in popularity in the U.K., having released their first album earlier in the year. It would be another few months before their first trip to America.
Most Marin fire departments still had a strong dependence on volunteer firemen – the name “firefighter” would not become the norm for several decades. Many departments were also hiring more paid firemen through the decade as the population grew. Following several years of planning, the first Fire Science class was offered at College of Marin in the fall of 1963; “Introduction to Fire Science.”
While two-way radio systems were in use, portables and personal paging systems like Plectrons were only beginning to be used. Early Plectron models were expensive, starting at about $110 dollars, or over $800 dollars each in 2015 dollars. So, most departments still used fire horns to summon volunteers, including Kentfield.
On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. A little over three weeks later, the College of Marin Gymnasium would burn down, starting in the late afternoon of December 16. Read about this fire in our Major Fires section, and see some great photos shared by photographer Paul Penna.
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