Videographer: Independent/Taylor K. Vecsey
Norman Price, looking sharp and sporting his face mask, walked down the hill from his family house in Southampton toward the road to the sound of fire trucks passing. There was nothing ablaze, but the Southampton Fire Department were there to pay Price a special visit for his 90th birthday.
The newly turned nonagenarian is a former volunteer firefighter and captain who gave 60 years of service before retiring about a decade ago. While he is surrounded by family, the novel coronavirus made any real party impossible.
A long procession of fire trucks, led by Chief Anthony Stevens, rode by the Price family home with the full complement of lights and sirens and plenty of extra horns honking. Some carried large signs made specially for the occasion, and members young and old yelled birthday wishes as they drove.
“It was certainly a prize and much appreciated . . . He enjoyed it. He was quite surprised,” his nephew David Price said afterwards. He could tell his uncle was taken aback by the turnout, and perhaps overwhelmed. “I could see it in his eyes.”
The Price family’s history in the Southampton Fire Department is long. There have been four generations that have given 100 years of continuous service to the department, David Price, who is also a member and former chief, said. Norman’s father, George Price, was the chief from 1943 to 1946, and even before Norman became a member, he was answering calls with his father. Norman and his brother, Harry, 92, both retired from active fire service at the same time.
“They exemplify what Southampton used to be,” Chief Stevens said of the Price family. When Eric Halsey, a firefighter, approached him about organizing a parade for Norman’s birthday, he said it was a no brainer. “It was a nice honor,” he said, adding, “Norman is something else. He’s still driving. He walked down the hill to see everything.”
The firefighters brought out some of the department’s antique trucks to celebrate Price’s birthday. His nephew Bob Price, also a firefighter, drove a 1915 Model T, which was given to the Southampton Fire Department from the old auto museum when it closed. There was also a 1912 American LaFrance ladder truck, original to the Fire Department and one of only three left in the country, members said. A 1941 white Mack pumper, also original to the department, was also part of the parade.
David Price added his own antique, a Model A Ford pickup truck from 1929 — “a year older than Norman,” he said — which he pulled into the driveway to show his uncle the sign on the side that said, “Happy 90th Birthday Norman!”
Price, a former potato farmer who then went into the gas service business, was invaluable in the fire service, David Price said, because of his knowledge of natural gas service.
Price remains active. “He still gets out and mows his own grass and does his gardening,” his nephew said. He also still gets out on the water and remains active in the Bull Head Yacht Club, a small community boat club at the end of West Neck Road, of which he and his brother are the last of four founding members. They purchased a bankrupt boatyard back in the mid-1950s and formed the club and corporation. “It’s his and my dad’s legacy,” David Price said.
While Price was surrounded by his family, his son and two grandchildren could not make it down from Massachusetts to be with him Thursday, but other family members FaceTimed them during the parade so they could be a part of the celebration.
The family hopes to celebrate in the near future with a clam bake. “We’ll have a big cookout,” David Price said.