George Larrimer interview conducted by Anthony G. Potoczniak, 2012-08-01
George Larrimer worked the port of Houston for almost 40 years. He started his career in the U.S. Coast Guard. In the mid-1970s he joined the Marine Fire Dept (MFD). He describes the evolution of fire fighting practices at the Port of Houston, the day-to-day operations of the MFD, the first fire and accidents at the Port of Houston, his career trajectory in the MFD, as well as personal hobbies including woodworking inspired by his childhood experiences and work in the maritime industry.
Recorded at the Old River Station, Channelview, Texas, Houston, Texas, August 1, 2012.
Working the port of Houston: Archie Green Fellows Project, 2011-2012 (AFC 2012/006: 00331) Archive of Folk Culture, American Folklife Center, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.
George Larrimer; born on November 26, 1948 in Jefferson City, Missouri, is an assistant chief, marine firefighter at the Port Authority Marine Fire Department at the Port of Houston.
To honor the memory of Archie Green (1917-2009), a fellowship program was established at the American Folklife Center in 2010. Archie Green Fellowships support new research in the contemporary culture and traditions of American workers.
Interviewer's note: A recurring theme throughout the conversation with Assistant Chief George Larrimer was the systematic process of professionalizing the marine fire department [MFD]. The assistant chief recounts this transformational period during his 30+ year tenure at the Port of Houston (minutes 5 - 10), which is punctuated throughout the interview with stories about accidents and events involving the MFD. Larrimer contrasts different earlier approaches to fighting fires with the present: the prevailing philosophy in fire fighting in the 1970s was to "put the wet stuff on the red stuff," or "the solution to pollution was dilution." New firefighting techniques and practices were adopted and often guided by a sensitivity to the environment, which reflected an overall cultural shift at the Port of Houston of being a good steward of the Houston Ship Channel during this time. By offering additional training and certification to its firefighters, the MFD also increased its service capacity to fight different types of fires, such as chemical fires. Assistant Chief Larrimer also embodies the marine firefighting culture by finding creative ways to improve the work environment. For example, he and his colleagues renovated the wheel house of the oldest fireboat in the fleet (the Farnsworth), reconfiguring its instruments and controls to be more ergonomic, and also adding a personal, craftsman's touch to the project that was inspired by his passion for maritime art.