As an 8-year-old, Charles Stasny was a familiar sight to firefighters at the corner of East 27th Street in Bryan, where he sold soda water at the first Municipal Fire School.
"My father was one of the first paid firefighters in Bryan," the 87-year-old said Tuesday. "We were living in the basement floor of the fire station, which is now the Children's Museum. He asked me if I wanted to make me a little money, so I got the water cooler, ice and sold bottled soda for 5 cents a pop."
As the oldest living person to see the 1930 fire training school in action, Stasny said he couldn't help but visit the school during its 80th anniversary.
The Texas Engineering Extension Service's annual fire school at Brayton Fire Training Field in College Station started on July 6 and will end Friday.
It is one of the largest training schools in world, attracting more than 80,000 firefighters and emergency responders.
Stasny said a lot has changed at the fire school.
"Back then it was held on the streets around the fire station," Stasny said. "I remember that year the fire department got a new ladder truck and they were learning how to properly raise the ladder and how to do drills and how to lay lines. It was elementary compared to what they do now."
Now, students from as far as Equatorial Guinea are trained in all areas and topics, including fire investigation, compressed air foam systems and aircraft emergencies.
Though Stasny did not become a professional firefighter like his father, John, he served as a volunteer firefighter for about six years and lived in the fire station until 1947.
Stasny is also the basis for a lead character in a children's book. Firegator by Debbie Leland was published in 2002 and is about a boy named Charles who lives in a fire station with his family in Bryan.
The boy finds an alligator that follows him, causing trouble wherever they go, until one night when the alligator wakes the town to an emergency.