Looking back through its history Stokes Valley can count itself one of the most fortunate communities in the country. Fifty years ago a handful of residents decided a fire brigade was needed and over the half century since, that brigade has been a steadfast centre around which most of the valley's life and development has revolved.

So many times it was said ''Ask the brigade, they'll fix it.''

As this editorial records, the early brigade developed persuasion to an art form and nearly 40 years ago it was that art that enticed me into my first association, photographing mayoral contest candidates. And as evidenced by this contribution, it never really lets go of you.

Two personal involvements with the brigade are destined for my memoirs.

One Saturday night a gorse wasteland behind our home, now the Richard Gr area, was set alight by comedians and the brigade attacked the blaze through our property. Hospitality was appropriate but all that was in the cupboard was eight-hour-old home brew, flat and sharp.

When the weary firefighters went home around midnight they left behind acres of extinguished embers and two dozen empty home brew bottles.

Many years later they returned the favour.

One Sunday morning I was burning surreptitiously a pile of branches that unexpectedly generated incredible clouds of smoke, so much that an impetuous and slightly distant neighbour rang 111 and told them our house was on fire.

Soon the sirens screamed down the valley. That was embarrassing.

But calamity was the sound of two Lower Hutt sirens angrily racing through the Taita Gorge.

My home-brew-loving firefighter friends were most understanding and were kind enough to persuade the heavyweights from town also to be most understanding.

Even today I owe them for that.

As anyone who lives or has lived on their patch owes them.

We can do no less than wish them a golden jubilee.

Charles Cooper
Te Horo