Wolcott Historical Society News - February 2012
By Florence Goodman
This month I will continue with the chronological historical development of the three companies of the Wolcott Volunteer Fire Department, Inc. As a quick review, Company 1 was established in 1934, Company 2 in 1939 and Company 3 in 1950. In these early years, members of these companies spent their own money, mortgaged their homes, or held fundraisers to build their firehouses and purchase all fire equipment and apparatus.
Last month's article concluded with Company 3 building a firehouse and shortly after purchasing a 1942 truck and fitting it with a 750-gpm pump and an 850-gallon booster tank. In that same year, 1952, Company 2 also purchased a new Ford chassis and mounted the tank from the old White truck onto the new chassis. The new truck was then fitted with a new Super structure and body. This resulted in a first line truck with a 500-gpm pump, 750-gallon tank, and hose body.
In 1953 Paul Spooner took over as Deputy Chief at Company 2 replacing Joseph Lewandowski who was unable to complete his full term. In October of 1953, Les Aliano Sr. was elected to that position which he held until 1955.
In the spring of 1954 Company 1 held it's first annual-fundraiser dinners, which consisted of roast beef and strawberry shortcake in the spring, and ham and peach shortcake the fall. This tradition of two fundraiser dinners continued until 1984. Company 1 also purchased another new White chassis and install a 500-gpm pump and 1000-gallon booster tank on it; while Company 2 removed the oil tank from the Ford chassis and had a 500-gallon per minute pump and a 750-gallon booster tank installed on that truck. Lastly in that year, The Town of Wolcott purchased two-way radios that were installed in all fire apparatus at all three companies.
Paul Spooner (1955-58) again went in as Deputy Chief at Company 2 in 1955. On August 19 of that year, the worst flood of the century hit our state and the Wolcott Volunteer Fire Department was there to help the cities of Bristol and Waterbury by sending fire apparatus and crews into those cities. Bristol's equipment was stationed on the other side of the river so our men located their equipment on this side of the river to help Bristol residents. In Waterbury, our crew and a 1000-gallon tanker were stationed for a week at Waterbury's East Main Street station handing out fresh water to its residents.
Toward the end of 1955, Company 3 began construction on an addition to their existing structure, which would add a kitchen and an office. The members would purchase cinder blocks with whatever money was available and then buy the cement at $.80/bag with their own money. The addition was completed in early 1957, but money for kitchen appliances was not available so that had to wait until a later date.
In May of 1957 the town installed an answering service in the town office building, which gave service to the Fire Department, Police Department, Town Officials and Civil Defense. The sirens that were placed on the three fire stations were operated from a switchboard at the answering service.
In 1958 the town purchased three 105 Plectron radios for each of the fire companies to be used as fire alarms. This state of the art alerting system was available to only a few volunteer fire departments in the state. In October of 1958 Howard Hoadley (1958-60) became Deputy Chief of Company 2, while Jack Sathory continued as Deputy Chief of Company 1. By the end of that year, Company 3 was able to add the kitchen appliances to their kitchen addition, which was finally complete and now they could concentrate on purchasing additional apparatus to their fleet.
Thus in 1959 the Wolcott Volunteer Fire Department, Inc. consisted of three fire stations, with six pieces of fire apparatus and about 100 men who received no compensation for their work. The men at each Company owned the fire station, apparatus and equipment.
Also in 1959 a truck committee was formed at Company 3 and by December of that year, they voted to purchase a new 1960 Howe Model 7-F truck on a GMC Model BV6011 chassis. This vehicle was equipped with a 750-gpm pump and a 1000-gallon tank for a price of $16,700. They were able to purchase it with fundraising and by taking a mortgage on the firehouse. The new truck was designated W-8.
In the late 1950s the Town began donating $2000 per year to each Company, but even with these donations they were unable to maintain their existing equipment or purchase anything new. This led to major fundraising efforts by each company to help with the increasing costs of providing fire protection to the residents of Wolcott. They held weekly bingo games, firehouse dances, sold wreaths at Christmas, held grinder sales, turkey shoots, beer fests, steak and lobster dinners, Polka Fests, spaghetti dinners, and roast beef dinners.
By 1962 Paul Spooner (1960-63) was again serving as Deputy Chief of Company 2 and they were looking to replace some outdated fire apparatus. In order to achieve this goal five officers of the Company put up their homes as collateral on a ten-year loan to pay for the truck. The truck was put into service in 1963 and served the Company for over 27 years. In its later years it was known as W-10. The ten-year loan was paid off in six years.
In 1963 Company 1 was able to purchase a new fire truck. It was equipped with a 750-gpm pump, 750gallon water tank, 1200 feet of hose and other equipment. This truck was designated W-9 and served as the Company's primary response vehicle as well as its parade vehicle where it earned many trophies in the "Best Commercial Pumper" category.
Walter Lewandowski was elected Deputy Chief of Company 2 in October of 1963 and served in that position until mid 1964 when he was unable to finish his full term. Paul Spooner again took over this position until January 1965 when Jack Kelly (65-70) replaced him so that Paul could become Department Fire Chief. Paul Spooner served as Fire Chief of the Department until 1970, while he also served as Fire Marshall, a position that he held for 19 years.
The men of Wolcott Volunteer Fire Department, Inc. were always looking toward the future and better ways to meet the needs for fighting fires in the town. Controlling brush fires created a challenge for all three companies due to lack of proper equipment. Since their vehicles were unable to leave the road to assist in these fires, the men would fight off the road fires by attaching 5-gallon water tanks to their backs and walking into the woods to fight them. So in March of 1965, once again Company 3 formed a truck committee to purchase a new vehicle specifically for fighting brush fires. It was approved and they purchased a new 4-wheel drive 1966 Dodge Power Wagon that the men equipped with pump, tank, and other equipment specifically to fight brush fires and car fires. This vehicle was put into service in July 1966 and was designated W-12.
In 1968 Jack Sathory retired from the position of Deputy Chief of Company 1 after serving in that position for 18 years. Jack remained an active member of Company 1 for the rest of his life. Robert Hellman Sr. was elected deputy Chief of Company 1 after Jack retired and he served in that position until 1974.
Also in 1968 Company 2 needed to replace their aging fire engines so they formed a truck committee and the end result was a 1969 Ford Pumper truck to replace the 1951 Ford Pumper. In order to achieve this goal the men again had to use their homes as collateral for the loan. This vehicle was not put into service until 1970 and served over 20 years; it was designated W-6. Company 3 was still trying to keep their fleet running and ready, but they were having a constant problem with their 1942 truck so in 1968 another truck committee was formed and later voted to purchase a new truck. It was a 1969 GMC chassis and was equipped with a 1000-gallon tank and a 750-gpm two stage centrifugal midship-mounted pump, and a pre-connected in-line foam inductor proportinator for Hi-Ex foam. The innovative design used in the New England area had a platform mounted pump control panel, which gave the operator full-view and control of the incident and truck. This truck was put into service in August of 1969 and was designated W-7.
In the fall of 1970 William McKinley was elected to replace Paul Spooner as the new Fire Chief of the Wolcott Volunteer Fire Department, a position he would hold for many years. Spooner remained in the position of Fire Marshall and continued to do so until his retirement, thirteen years later.
It is obvious that those who have served and continue to serve in our volunteer fire department are a special group of dedicated of people and I say "THANK YOU" to all of them. We will continue this historical journey next month.
(Information from this article was taken from 25th Anniversary WOLCOTT VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT, INC., 50th ANNIVERSARY, Wolcott Volunteer Fire Department 1934 - 1984, 75th Anniversary WOLCOTT FD 1, 1934-2009, history by Dick Ceplak and Scott Conway, Company #3 History, author unknown, Wolcott Fire Dept. Co. #2, 1939-1989 Years of Remembrance, author unknown, and interview with Dick Ceplak and Scott Conway.)
Our Schoolhouse Museum is open by appointment only; you may visit the Museum by calling Carl Hotkowski 203-592-8237 or Flo Goodman 203-879-9818. Our meetings are held on the first Thursday of each month at the Old Stone School on Nichols Road at 6:30 P.M. Visit our WebPages at (http://www.wolcotthistory.org/).
Answering service installed in 1957.
Company 1 Fire Truck 1950.
Company 3 Fire Truck 1955.
Company 2: Dom Spataro, Leo Duchane, Dick England.
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