PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) — You’d never know it was there unless the friendly owner of a unique collection gave you a tour, which he probably would.
But tucked away in Donnie Palumbo’s Pawtucket basement, covering the walls are thousands of pieces of memorabilia that represent police and fire departments from across the country, and even around the world.
“More than 7,000,” Palumbo said. “I’d like to get to 10,000.”
There are several badges given to Palumbo by retired officers, including one dated 1960 given to him by a Boston cop.
There are also license plates.
“I’m not sure what police department,” said Palumbo, pointing to a black and white Rhode Island police plate marked “1951.”
Palumbo is a 23-year civilian employee with the Providence Police Department, who at one point aspired to become an officer when he was a police explorer.
One of the pieces in his collection reflects on why that career of service crossed his mind.
“This is my father’s helmet,” he said, holding the yellow and red artifact. “From when he retired from the Cranston Fire Department That was his lieutenant’s hat.”
His respect for police and firefighters is obvious.
“This is a tribute to them,” Palumbo said. “What [they] do daily, what they see, what they go through. They deserve our respect. Some people don’t get that.”
The bread and butter of his collection involves the patches that officers wear on their uniforms. One of the first that Palumbo collected was from the Hianloland Fire Department, which – in case you didn’t know – is in West Greenwich.
Since he lives in the shadows of where the PawSox play, the patch from the fire station there was an easy get.
“That’s Engine 3 at McCoy Stadium,” he said. “Shaped like McCoy.”
Hanging up, about a thousand patches away, there’s one that wasn’t so easy.
“[It’s from] New South Wales.”
Palumbo isn’t sure if he has the largest collection of its kind in the world, but he suspects it might be. He’s not sure why anyone else would collect patches and other police- and fire-related memorabilia, but he knows why he does it.
“They work hard, they put their lives on the line. And they don’t get half the respect they should get. And this is a tribute to them.”Email Walt at email@example.com with you story ideas and follow us on Twitter:@StreetStories12 and @wbuteau.