When was the school bell just a school bell? In the case of the school bell atop Central School in Riverside, it also served as a signal to sound there was a fire in town and for all firemen to get to the firehouse.

This interesting bit of history came from Riverside Fire Department Deputy Chief Bill Sherman, who has become an unofficial historian of the department following its 100th anniversary in 1998. A lifelong resident of Riverside, Sherman is a wealth of knowledge. The story of the bell was discovered when members of the fire department were on the roof of Central School and saw the writing on the bell which was still visible: “Public School 1897.” Further investigation and research of old newspaper clippings told more of the story. When a fire occurred, some member of the department would run and sound the bell to alert the volunteers and then run to the fire station.

The department was formally established in 1901, and in 1996 it was changed to become the Riverside Department of Fire/Rescue and Emergency Services.

Members of the department live close, with many of them being residents. Sherman and Fire Chief Matt Buckley are lifelong residents. It was interesting to learn how the department has evolved and about its service to the residents and neighboring communities. Many of the stories come from newspaper articles that appeared in the Riverside News, the first local paper to serve the area, owned by the late Herb Bassman.

The date has been set for the Person of the Year Dinner, sponsored by the Riverside Township Lions Club. The event, honoring Joe Ballerine, is to be held on Wednesday, Sept. 20, at the Riverside Golf Club, located at 2300 Desplaines Ave. in North Riverside. Cocktails (cash bar) will begin at 6 p.m., and dinner will be served at 7 p.m. Tickets are priced at $45 and will be available after Labor Day at Riverside Bank and Riverside Public Library. Reservations and tickets must be paid for in advance. No tickets will be available at the door.

Reservations are due by Sept. 14. For further information, call JoAnne Kosey (that’s me!) at 447-5219. Join Joe’s many friends to honor and thank him for his years of continuing service to the community. The Lions Club is pleased to add his name to the list of those who have been recognized as Person of the Year.