Family of Calgary firefighters carries on Christmas tradition for nearly 70 years
The Robb family includes three generations of firefighters. Doug Robb joined the Calgary Fire Department in 1948, his son Gord Robb started in 1989 and grandsons Curtis and Kevin Robb joined up in 2011 and 2017, respectively.
When Doug became a firefighter, he remembers working at Fire Station #1 downtown. Over the holidays, the crew would deliver refurbished used toys to kids in need.
“You had a list that you got from welfare and you would go to that address and there would be a girl or a boy… and [you’d] deliver the toys,” he said.
When he started, firefighters were fixing used toys and later started buying new toys with a firefighter payroll deduction. In 1967, the effort had grown so big they started a party in the Corral the Sunday before Christmas.
Four years after Doug retired in 1985, his son Gord joined the fire department.
“I knew what it meant to my dad so it was just a natural thing to get involved with.
“I was born in this community, raised in this community, so it’s just my way of giving back to the community,” Gord said.
Planning for the party involves a lot of work that starts all the way back in September. Firefighters, along with their family and friends, volunteer to buy toys, collect donations from the public and even wrap all the gifts.
In the Robb family, the younger boys, like Curtis — who joined the fire department in 2011 — remember getting involved as teenagers.
“I’ve been actually going to the party and volunteering since I was 13,” he said. “It’s been 17 years this year and I’ve just gone with mom and dad. For me, Christmas doesn’t really start until the party happens.”
Curtis’ younger brother Kevin was introduced to the family affair 14 years ago and in July of 2017. He became the fourth Robb boy to wear the uniform.
“Seeing dad as a firefighter and my grandpa, going to the Toy Association events as well, it was kind of just a tradition,” Kevin said.
“To some kids, it means everything so you see the difference it makes every year.”
Hearing those sentiments is pretty special for their dad.
“I am pretty proud,” Gord said, “seeing the kids taking over from where I started.”
For his father, who is 92, being able to see a tradition he started carried on for three generations is great.
“It’s fantastic, yeah,” Doug said with a smile. “They’ve taken right over.”
Watch below: An increase in referrals means a record number of kids at the annual Calgary Firefighters Toy Association Christmas party on Sunday. As Carolyn Kury de Castillo reports, even with the expanded guest list, hundreds of families in need had to be turned down.
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