Volunteer Fire Department
Presented by: Joe Spetly
May 10, 2010
This evening, instead of the
regular report, I go to 1965, a year that has personal
significance for two department members and historical meaning
for the town itself. In March of that year an article about the
Weston Volunteer Fire Department and First Aid Squad appeared in
The Town Crier, a local Westport paper, which
included an appeal for new volunteers.
To give some picture of Weston and
the Fire Department in 1965, here is a little history:
There was no police department.
The town was protected by one resident state trooper (required
to live here) and eight part time constables. There were no
police cars. The constables used their own vehicles to patrol,
and supplied their own gas, weapon, ammunition and uniforms from
their hourly pay.
The school system included grades
K through 9, after which the students moved on to Staples High
School in Westport. With the main Hurlbutt elementary building
not yet rebuilt from the 1963 fire, the 5th and 6th
grades were housed in classrooms provided by the Temple Israel,
on Coleytown Road in Westport.
The fire department was equipped
with two early 1960s American La France pumpers and two 1952,
800 gallon Chevy tankers, one of each located at Norfield and at
Lyons Plains. There was also a 1955 International pick-up truck
outfitted for grass fires—memorable for its non-synchromesh
transmission. And of course the old Mack was still in regular
service, then used for carrying hose.
New members were issued a fire
coat and boots. The dress hat, shirt and slacks came later.
Helmets, for the most part, were carried on the sides of the
Mack—when responding to a fire you took one off the truck and
returned it before leaving the scene. Membership dues were two
dollars annually and the contribution for refreshments after a
meeting was twenty-five cents.
The ambulance was a “no frills”
1961 International Carry-All converted to hold a litter and
basic first aid supplies in the back. It provided for many
interesting trips to the hospital. To qualify for service on
the ambulance you needed to complete advanced first aid training
through the American Red Cross and learn to administer oxygen.
Believe it or not, you wore nothing to identify who you were or
what organization you represented—funds for caps and jackets
(not to mention a new ambulance, communications center, and much
more!) were raised at a later date. But that’s another story.
All emergency fire calls from
Weston went to the Westport Fire Department dispatcher, who
would notify pre-designated “first alert” members by telephone.
The first person to receive the call would “activate” a phone
chain that was set up among the members and their wives. The
dispatcher would then blow the siren in Weston—three times for a
fire. If you heard the siren you could either call the Westport
dispatcher or someone on the phone chain for the location and
nature of the fire.
Calls for the ambulance went to an
answering service in Westport run by Sylvia Miller. At night
and on weekends, Sylvia would call the persons on duty and
possibly one other who might be closest to the scene. On
weekdays, when no one was scheduled, she would place calls to
personnel who worked in town and also to locations where she
might find someone—for example, the lunch counter at the Weston
Center Pharmacy, which was a favorite gathering spot. If she
couldn’t reach anyone by phone, she would notify the Westport
dispatcher to blow Westons’s siren—one time. As a last resort
she would call the Norwalk Hospital to send an ambulance.
In response to the 1965 Town
Crier article, that month, five men: Paul Deysenroth,
Dave Geismar, Joe Spetly, Gill Thirkield and Richard
Reifschneider applied for membership in the fire department and
the first aid squad. All were accepted. You may not recognize
every name but each one of my colleagues went on to provide
valued service to the community.
And now a milestone that means
very much to me! Who would have guessed back then that in May
2010, Paul Deysenroth and I would be sitting here, having
completed 45 years of continuous active service with the fire
department, and Paul also serving 45 years with the Emergency
Medical Services. Amazing, isn’t it!
For myself, It has been an honor
and my great pleasure to be a part of this distinguished
company. My work here in various capacities over these 45 years
has added immeasurably to my life experience, and I look forward
to more years ahead.
Before concluding, I want to thank
Julia Studwell for providing some of the information presented
More to follow…