Aug. 17—The London Fire Department's Gala this Saturday will bring back some fond memories of the past.
As the department celebrates its century mark, some flashbacks of the past will inevitably come to light during Saturday's festivities.
A monument bearing the names of the past and present Fire Chiefs stands in front of the building nestled on Dixie Street. While each chief and each firefighter has made sacrifices and contributions, one man's name in particular stands out.
Ernie Clark was a former fire chief who served with diligence and dedication. But his legacy weighed heavily on his son — also his namesake — who tried to avoid the same road his father chose.
But Saturday's Fireman's Ball will be a dejá vu of sorts for Ernie Clark II, who is bringing his band to perform. Clark tried to avoid the career path that his father had planned for him. But ironically enough, he is now paying tribute to the man that influenced his life.
Clark sent a message regarding his return to perform at the Fireman's Ball this weekend, reflecting on the memories of his father as well as his hometown.
"This is the story of a Father and a Son, the fire department and hillbilly rock 'n roll. My name is Ernie Clark. If my name sounds familiar it's because it probably is — I'm THAT Ernie Clark's boy. It's funny, I've spent forty years trying to avoid that designation but here we are.
"My dad was an interesting character who had big plans and left us way too soon in 2006. More than once, though, I'd hear him regaling whoever set foot in his office at the Fire Department about his plans for my future, how I was being groomed and after college when I 'grew up,' I'd return to London and ascend to City Hall as London's mayor. I'd always smile and nod and roll my eyes when he wasn't looking. Typical teenager stuff.
"Funnily enough, I took a detour into public service a few years back and, while serving the community will always be important to me, it's not for me. My skills and talents are better suited elsewhere. Music is, and will always, hold my heart.
Dad knew that and I learned after his passing, that like all things, his plans for me had evolved and changed. When Dad died, he was a few short months from retiring from the State as a state building inspector. He was ready and excited for his next chapter. It's still heartbreaking that he never got to take his last adventure. He had planned to pack me and my guitar up, and like thousands of other hopefuls, take me to Nashville to be the next big country and western superstar. But, as the adage goes, if you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans.
"I ran as far and as fast as I could from London twenty some years ago when I was nineteen trying to escape his shadow. As callous as it may sound, in many ways, my life began at twenty-five only after his ended. Living and working in Michigan since 2008, I stepped away from music to focus on being a husband and a father for close to a decade.
"Until 2017 when I put together Ernie Clark & the Magnificent Bastards, which brings us to today. I'm honored and overwhelmed that Ernie Clark & the Magnificent Bastards have been asked to be part of the London City Fire Department's Centennial celebration and entertain the men and women of the Department during their Firemen's Ball at the London Community Center.
"I'm not a famous musician, and I probably never will be, but I am a very proud son and a very proud Laurel Countian. I know the men who served with him miss him dearly and speak of him often. I'm certain he would be very proud that the Department has asked me back to take part in the Centennial celebration. But this is just the preface of my journey from there to here.
"As I said before this is the story of a Father and a Son, the fire department and hillbilly rock 'n roll and it has some twists and turns and more than a few bumps along the way.
"I'll leave you with a quote I recently posted to my Facebook page, 'What is a legacy? A legacy is planting seeds in a garden you'll never get to see.'
"103's baby boy is coming home, and he'd want everyone in London and Laurel County to know."
The Fireman's Ball will begin at 7 p.m. at the London Community Center. Tickets are $50 per person. For more information, contact the London City Fire Department at (606) 864-2922.