It all started one day at Fire Station 89 in North Hollywood, California sometime during 1989. Someone came into the station seeking information on how and where to purchase fire department uniforms and helmet shields for an upcoming movie. The problem was solved as far as the uniforms but it seemed that the helmet shields presented another problem. A source was found but it was going to take eight weeks or more for delivery.
Sam Brown was working at 89’s and made a statement that he thought he could make the shields within a week. An order was placed that day for 30 shields. Sam set out to source the leather, make the patterns and proceeded to construct one shield for confirmation. When Sam delivered, he was told that the order was cancelled because they had not gotten the contract to furnish the movie industry with the props they needed.
Now the big question -- what was he going to do with all that red leather? Sam had always wanted to have a shield from the eight stations that he had previously worked for since he started in 1963. This gave him the opportunity to do that.
The first ones he made was a little rough because he used pig skin and he had not yet found a source for cow hide with the right shade of red. Some of the firemen he worked with also wanted to collect shields from the stations they had worked at, so they ordered from Sam. He would cut the leather on the apparatus floor with a stainless steel template that he made himself. He continued to learn and make improvements with each shield he completed.
Sam began to acquire equipment with the profit he made, in fact all the profit went into acquiring better equipment. His locker was the envy of the station (I suppose we should say lockers because he had more than one, set up like a mini workshop). At any rate, with all the supplies he needed and his sewing machine in the electrical room at the back of the Station, he was ready to do business.
While others watched T.V. in the evening Sam was busy sewing shields and was always willing to use his machine to do repairs and sew things for his fellow firefighters.
Word spread and firemen from other departments started calling and ordering shields.
After working for 30 years and retiring in 1993 a big break came when Chief Mailloux of the City of Gardena (now part of L.A. County Fire) placed an order for his department. The Chief was one of the first to recognize the quality of workmanship in Sam’s shields. Because of that sale others heard and sought out information and "Sam Brown Shields" came into being.
Sam has always prided himself in the quality of his workmanship and materials that goes into the production of his shields. He also takes great pride in his ability to fill orders quickly and customer satisfaction is a guarantee.
His shields have been purchased as gifts for some "big names" in California such as President Ronald Reagan, Governor Pete Wilson, Michael Eisner of Disneyland, and Cardinal Mahony of the Los Angeles Diocese.
From that small beginning in the locker room at Fire Station 89’s, and with encouragement from fellow firefighters from LAFD as well as other departments, his business continues to grow.
Sam Brown “Shields” is now the premier manufacturer of Helmet Shields for LAFD, Phenix Fire Helmets, OCFA, CalFire, Los Angeles County Fire, Long Beach, Glendale and many East Coast Fire Departments.
Today, Sam operates out of his home in Nicholasville, KY. Just like his old locker, Sam has quite a set up in his basement. With the help of his family, he is able to produce large orders and have them delivered in record time.
As a member of the Los Angeles Fire Department, Sam was a guy with impeccable work ethic. A man who knew his job well, extremely reliable and trustworthy. Often first to get up and last to go to sleep, and on many occasions he was known to put his Rookies to bed.
In my encounters with the Senior Members of the LAFD, they have referred to Sam Brown as a Fireman’s-Fireman.