By Ross Schipper and Linda Brooks
The project to restore Burleith's five historic fire call boxes began in March 2013 during a meeting of the Burleith History Group. After cost estimates were obtained, the funding effort was kicked off in November 2014. The project reached its peak during 2015, and by the end of the year the restoration of four of the five call boxes was complete. On the afternoon of January 31, 2016, the last call box was finished.
This was the "famous" call box affectionately called "Shorty," which sits on the northwest corner of 37th and R. Shorty required more repair than any of the others.
Like the other restored call boxes, Shorty got a plaque. The theme of Shorty's plaque is "Patriotism and Espionage"—patriotism because the Western High School Cadets marched past the call box on their way to Western High School Stadium (now called Ellington Field) and espionage because the call box is situated across 37th Street from the mailbox used by Aldrich Ames, an American convicted in 1994 of spying for the Russians. The plaque wording was authored by Burleith residents Edgar Russell III and Dwane Starlin. The call box contains a wonderful bas-relief sculpture designed, sculpted, and produced by Burleith artist Jeannette Murphy that depicts the Western High School Cadets and the spy Aldrich Ames.
Both the bas-relief and the plaque were glued to the call box on January 31, when for two days it was warm enough for the glue to cure, and then covered in black plastic to protect it from the rain and snow. On Saturday, February 20, in a special completion ceremony attended by call box project donors and Burleith residents, the black plastic was removed from Shorty and the glass globe was placed on top. This concludes the Burleith call box project, funded by 100 residents and friends through the Burleith Community Fund.
The five call boxes and their plaque topics are: