27 June 2004

Frank Tape tells tall tales

Frank Tape and his mother Mary, 1922
(photo courtesy of Jack Kim)

The saga of the Tape family continues.

At the turn of the 20th century, Joseph Tape and his son Frank were active firefighters in the Peralta company of the Berkeley Volunteer Fire Department. The company was stationed on Shattuck Avenue near Russell Street.

In November 1941, Frank Tape was interviewed by columnist Hal Johnson of the Berkeley Daily Gazette. Among other fabulous stories, Frank decribed how, some forty years earlier, he had saved the life of Berkeley’s first fire chief, James Kenney. This story may be perfectly true, but coming at the end of a long chain of tall tales about the Tape family’s noble origins and Frank’s own alleged exploits as a secret service operator, one can’t help but wonder.

The interview may not reveal much accurate information about Berkeley’s early days, but it does make for vastly entertaining reading.

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