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Historic Pictures Help Rekindle Fire Department Toy Day Drive Of 1930's

Once upon a time, San Antonio firefighters collected toys for children of the city; they even painted and fixed them. They called their drive Toy Day, and gave children who brought toys free movie tickets.

Researchers at the Institute of Texan Cultures found pictures of Toy Day tucked away in archives, and leaders decided to rekindle the old tradition, but give it a new spin. Now in its second year, history has proven to bring back what once was a thriving act of kindness: providing children with happiness.

"We found a number of pictures,” said the Institute’s James Benavides. “You could see firefighters working in the community picking up. There were actually workshops where a bunch of the guys would get together and they'd fix the toys leading into the holidays. It was the 30s; it was the era of the Depression.”

Together with the Institute, firefighters will embrace the spirit of the season, and deliver toys to children.

"Our firefighters will deliver the toys on their fire trucks to the children on the days leading to Christmas, and that's always a special occasion for us to load up these big red fire trucks and to show up to some child's home and deliver those toys,” said Fire Chief Charles Hood. “It's very meaningful and beneficial to all of us."

The pictures showcase the firefighters with children and stuffed animals, dolls and race cars.

"San Antonio as a community has always pulled together and the fire department leading the charge in those days, you can't ask for a better partner, a better representative in the community,” said Benavides.

New memories and pictures will certainly be created with the same mission as before.

"Sometimes firefighters are often the most courageous people you know, but courage isn't always charging into a burning building."

The Fire Department will kick off its toy drive Saturday, Nov. 24 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Wal-Mart stores located at 1604 & 281, and DeZavala and I-10, as well as the HEB at Blanco & 1604. On Dec. 1, the firefighter drive will continue at HEB stores on Blanco & 1604, Bandera & 1604, and Evans & 281.

The Institute is also collecting toys on Dec. 1, and any child under 12 who brings a new, unwrapped toy will receive free admission to the museum. The firefighter drive will conclude on Dec. 8 from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Wal-Mart on Military & Roosevelt, and the HEB stores at Blanco & 1604 and Bandera & 1604.

See a map of collection locations below: (click the pins to see collection days for each location)

View Institute of Texan Cultures and SAFD Toy Day collection locations in a larger map