Hamden volunteer fire company, from which more than two dozen members
joined the career department, celebrated its 100th anniversary with a Centennial Dinner at the
Elks' Lodge on Friday evening, November 11th.
The organizational meeting
of the Mt. Carmel Volunteer Fire Co. was held on Monday, November 8,
1911 at St. Mary's Hall on Whitney Avenue, which stood near the present site of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church.
The company's first
president was Arthur E. Woodfruff, Hamden's First Selectman from 1907 to
1908; Recording Secretary was the current Hamden Town Clerk, Almon J.
Deane, who would serve twenty-four more years as Town Clerk.
those Mt. Carmel alumni who joined the "paid department" were former
Chiefs V. Paul Leddy (1941-1984) and John Tramontano (1959-93); Fire
Marshal Al Purce (1926-68); Deputy Chiefs Walt Macdowall (1965-91) and
Clark Hurlburt (1980-2010); and Batt. Chiefs. James W. Strain (1942-73),
Francis Leddy (1946-86), Gilbert Spencer (1957-92), and Tom Doherty
St. Mary's Hall on Whitney Avenue (Photo courtesy of the Hamden Historical Society)
Gil Spencer provided this interesting photo of members of the Hamden Contingent to the 1929 Connecticut State Firemen's Assn. Convention Parade in East Hartford.
L-R in front are Dick Leonard, F. Bergeron, J. Milum, John DeAngelo, A. DeAngelo, H. Clouse, W. Mueller, Harold Spencer, Tom Callahan, and R.K. Spencer. L-R in back are L. Choulifaux, T. Bossoli, James Strain, Al Purce (in front of Strain), A. Miller, J. Donahue, C. Crosby, T. Milum, J. Mason, C. Bossoli, H. Bargard, Emil Strain, Sam White, and E. Mason.
The photo is dated 1929. The group is facing east in what is now the driveway of Station 5. The cameraman is facing Whitney Avenue. The building in the background across Whitney Avenue still stands today and houses various businesses.
One present and four future career guys in this 1954 photo.
1990 - Chief John Tramontano (far left) and former Chief V. Paul Leddy (far right) help celebrate the mortgage burning for the Station 5 annex with Mayor John Carusone, former Mayor Lucien DiMeo and Co. 5 Captain Karl Olson.
1911 - 2011 Co. 5 to Celebrate Centennial
Hamden's longest continuously active volunteer fire company will celebrate 100 years in 2011. The Mt. Carmel Volunteer Fire Co., which has contributed nearly 10% of all Hamden career firefighters since 1925, was organized November 8, 1911. Several Hamden retirees, all alumni of Co. 5, are helping with the year-long observance, starting with a Member Reunion on April 26th. Details (and lots of history) on Co. 5's new website - just CLICK on the photo at right.
100 Years Ago!
Bill Bossoli, Joe Rahl and Richie Lostritto (CLICK to read the story)
Co. 5 Begins Centennial Celebration
The Mt. Carmel Volunteer Fire Company kicked off its Centennial Celebration on April 26th with a reunion of past and present members, many of whom went on to careers on the Hamden Fire Department. Several non-members who were assigned to Station 5 during the 1950s, 60s and 70s were also invited. The gathering took place at the Hamden Elks Lodge.
Mt. Carmel, organized in November 1911, is the longest continuously serving Hamden volunteer fire company. Ten percent of all career firefighters who have served on the Hamden Fire Department since 1925 began their fire service careers as volunteers at Mt. Carmel, including Chief V. Paul Leddy (1960-84) and Chief John Tramontano (1984-93).
The Hamden Fire Department was created in 1925, when all seven volunteer companies in existence at the time came under the authority of the Board of Fire Commissioners and volunteer officers. By 1926, the Highwood, Humphrey, Whitneyville, Centerville, Mt. Carmel and Merritt Street fire companies all had paid drivers - the earliest Hamden career fire personnel (see 1927 roster below).
In April 1942, the Hamden Fire Department was reorganized under a paid chief, Raymond C. Spencer; two captains, Joseph Hromadka and Albert Purce; and two lieutenants, Everett Doherty and Roland Ruwet. The Highwood company disbanded in 1951 when Engine 1 and Hook & Ladder No. 1 were moved to the Humphrey station and their quarters at Dixwell and Morse were sold to a private buyer.
The Humphrey, Whitneyville, Centerville and Merritt Street volunteers were still active following the Second World War. But within the next decade these companies became inactive, having become social clubs. Humphrey volunteers turned their building over to the Town in August 1949, but continued meet as a social association on the second floor of Station 2. Whitneyville sold its Putnam Avenue station to the Town in 1950 for $16,000, on the condition that they retain their meeting quarters upstairs. The Merritt Street and Whitneyville stations were sold to private buyers after new Station 3 was opened in 1970.
The Mix District Co. 7 and Dunbar Hill Co. 8 volunteers have remained continuously active since they were organized in 1924 and 1926, respectively. The West Woods Volunteer Fire Association (Co. 9), established in 1956, went inactive in the late 1980s.
Additional Co. 5 Centennial observances this year include a family field day on June 5th at Brooksvale Park and a Centennial Dinner at the Elks on Friday, November 11th.
Mayor Lucien DiMeo addressing the gathering at the Sept. 4, 1975 dedication of the Mt. Carmel fire station annex. (Photo by Jack Harriet)
September 4, 1975 - Mt. Carmel Fire Station Annex Dedication
Nearly forty years ago, the annex of Station 5 in Mt. Carmel was officially dedicated in a ceremony that featured Mayor Lucien DiMeo, Chief V. Paul Leddy, and department chaplain Rev. Owen Sanderson as the featured speaker.
Two unrelated facts about the event stand out four decades later. First, it was the last time a completely new structure was built for the purpose of housing Hamden fire apparatus. And second, the event was videotaped at a time when home video was still years in the future.
CLICK on the photo at the left to view a YouTube presentation of remarks by Chief Leddy, Mayor DiMeo and Rev. Sanderson. Several past and present members of the paid department (in 1975!) were introduced by Chief Leddy.
1930 - Mt. Carmel Station 5 - 1930 Maxim 600 GPM Pumper and 1921 Packard Twin-6 "Fire Patrol" Wagon (Photo courtesy of Gilbert Spencer)
c. 1930 photo shows the brand new 1930 Maxim 600 GPM pumper clearly marked "MOUNT CARMEL" on tank beneath front seats. (Photo courtesy of Gilbert Spencer)
1930 - Mt. Carmel's "Fire Patrol" Wagon on a 1921 Packard Chassis (Photo courtesy of Gilbert Spencer)
Co. 5's Fire Patrol Wagon
This photo, courtesy of Gilbert Spencer, is of a truly unique piece. Built on a 1921 Packard Twin-6 chassis, this "Fire Patrol" wagon carried an ample supply of soda acid extinguishers and had plenty of room for personnel in the back.
Not everyone had an automobile in the early 1930's - very few people did. And alerting volunteers by radio was still decades off. Whenever Engine 5 was dispatched to a call, the paid driver first pulled the roof siren to alert the volunteers before responding to the fire on Engine 5. As the volunteers arrived at the fire station they boarded the patrol wagon, which would then transport them to the fire.
The patrol wagon was driven only by a Fire Commission approved volunteer who lived or worked near enough the fire station to get there quickly. The driver waited on the ramp a maximum of five minutes for volunteers to arrive. Then it was off to the fire.
According to old department records this piece was still in service as of 1936. What happened to the patrol wagon after that is not known.
September 5, 1951 - Firehouse Becomes Schoolhouse
July 26, 1951 - The Hamden Chronicle
1951 - Station 5 was an annex of the neighboring Mt. Carmel School
Station 5 4th Graders Surprised During CD Drill Was It Early Sex-Ed?
Through the years, a few Hamden fire stations have served as temporary school rooms and even places of worship when the need arose. For several weeks in 1944, the Humphrey station became a temporary schoolhouse after a disastrous mid-winter fire at Church Street School. A quarter of a century earlier, religious services were held in the Humphrey station meeting rooms after fire destroyed the Hamden Plains Methodist Church.
By 1951, Hamden's postwar population expansion was felt most heavily in Mt. Carmel, where the school population had exceeded the capacity of the Mt. Carmel School on Woodruff Street. As a result, some classes were held upstairs in Station 5 during the 1951-52 school year.
When school was in session, the paid men and volunteers at Mt. Carmel were relegated to the firehouse basement. And, of course, the basement decor echoed that of the two upstairs bedrooms, which were off-limits to the students.
Bill Farrell, who still lives in Mt. Carmel, was a fourth grader at Station 5 that year. Bill recently recalled when he and his young classmates got an unexpected lesson from Station 5 paid men during an unscheduled civil defense drill.
As the drill got underway, 4th grade teacher Miss
Margaret Fitzgerald carefully shepherded her 10-year old students from
the second floor of the firehouse to the safety of the basement. The
paid men were unaware of the drill and were definitely not
When Miss Fitzgerald and her kiddies arrived safely
in the basement, they got an eyeful: Impressive displays of trophies, banners and other fire company memorabilia lined the walls. But the most memorable display, according to Bill Farrell, were the numerous photos of young ladies in various states of (un)dress.
Whoops! (A memo from the Chief followed, no doubt.)
Miss Margaret Fitzgerald taught fourth grade at Station 5 during the 1951-52 school year (your web editor had her for third grade four years later). Former Station 5 career firefighter, Bill Bossoli, fondly remembered Miss Fitzgerald as a very nice lady. Indeed, she was. A Hamden native, Miss Fitzgerald taught at Mt. Carmel School until 1958, when she joined the faculty of the new Sleeping Giant Junior High School as an Art teacher. She retired in the 1970s.
The Station 5 schoolhouse experiment lasted only the one school year. Starting in 1952, Mt. Carmel School went on double sessions for all grades except 7 and 8. Normal class times returned in October 1954, when a new addition to the school opened. DGJ
1942 Diamond-T 600 GPM pumper at Station 5 in 1953. (Photo courtesy of Tom Doherty)
This 1942 Diamond-T 600 GPM pumper was purchased new by Hamden for $4,375, and was placed in service on April 6, 1942 as Engine 1 at the Highwood station. It was transferred briefly to Station 3 in October 1951, and then to Station 5 the following year. It remained at Station 5 until 1959.
1953 - Fred Fletcher, Jack Laffin and Joe Rahl. The 1942 Diamond-T 600 GPM pumper was assigned to Station 5 the previous year. (Photo courtesy of Gil Spencer)
1954 - Future career men preparing for a parade. The fellow on the extreme left is believed to be Dick Pleines. And the rest of the guys (L-R) are: Tom Doherty, Jack Laffin (a "paid man" at 5's at the time), Gil Spencer, Paul Reutenauer, Ray Bantz and Jack Barnes. The fellow in the chair is identified as Teddy Anderson. (Photo courtesy of Tom Doherty)
1961 - Station 5
Car 55 in June 1978
Car 55 was placed in service at Station 5 on Friday, August 22, 1969. The 1960 GMC three-quarter ton four-wheel-drive pickup truck was purchased by the volunteers earlier that year from the Town of Woodbridge Parks Department for $800.00.
Equipped with an assortment of Indian tanks, brooms, a 100' booster reel, a portable two-cycle pump and a 150 gallon tank, this "brush truck" was ideal for fighting ground cover fires where conventional apparatus could not go, especially in those areas that were accessible from the tower trail on Sleeping Giant. When the truck was being readied for service, the "G" was removed from the "GMC" logo inside the grille, leaving only the "M" and "C" (for Mount Carmel) straddling the license plate.
Don Steele drove Car 55 on its first run on February 28, 1970 - a brush fire in Brooksvale Park. Later designated as "Brush 5," the 1960 GMC brush truck remained in service well into the 1980s. This truck is presently owned by retired Dep. Chief Clark Hurlburt and is in the process of restoration.
Station 5 - 1973 (Photo courtesy of John O'Hare)
Engine 5 - 1952 Maxim 750 g.p.m. pumper
L-R (standing): John O'Hare, Joe Mulligan, and Co. 5 volunteer Steve Blennerhassett - (on truck): Co. 5 volunteers Bill Chalmers, Paul Moody and Clark Hurlburt
This 1973 photo was taken two years before the building annex was constructed on the north end of the building. In 1976, Truck 1 was relocated to Station 5, and the upstairs was renovated to accommodate the four firefighters who were assigned to Engine 5 and Truck 1.
In 1985, Station 5 became a two-man house once again when Truck 1 was moved to Station 9. Station 5 became a three-man house when an officer was assigned there in the late 1980s.
The old Mt. Carmel School can be seen in the background. It closed the year this photo was taken, and was razed in 1981 to make way for an assisted living housing project.
June 14, 1975 - For the third year in a row, members of Mt. Carmel Volunteer Fire Co. 5 were invited to march in the Southern New York Volunteer Firemen's Convention Parade. The 1975 convention was held at Lynnbrook, LI.
Standing L-R: Bill Chalmers, Dave Johnson, Ed Doiron, Bill Gee, Tony Melillo, George Andrews, Joe Fitzpatrick, Don Kehoe, Karl Olson, Vic Mitchell, Jim Beirne and Tim Steele. Kneeling L-R: Stuart Estra, Steve Fletcher, Tom Stash, Gerry Feinberg, and Ray Latini. (Photo courtesy of Ed Doiron)
1974-75 - Station 5 Annex
Spring 1975 - the walls go up
Summer 1975 - Almost done
By the summer 1974, the 1939 Diamond-T pumper that had been Engine 7 was to be sold by the town. In August 1974, Co. 5's line officers approached Chief V. Paul Leddy. If Co. 5 built a simple storage garage behind Station 5 to accommodate Car 55, would the chief assign them the 1939 Diamond-T pumper?
Chief Leddy agreed, but by then the town's purchasing agent was ready to sell the pumper. The purchasing agent was reluctant to give the pumper back to the fire department, stating that it would bring "at least five hundred bucks" back to the town's treasury. Co. 5's line officers politely pointed out to the purchasing agent that their firefighters had just spent hundreds of man hours over several days assisting the career department fighting a nasty fire involving thousands of old tires on State Street. The purchasing agent had no comeback, and he released the pumper back to the fire department for eventual assignment to Volunteer Co. 5.
This started a chain of events that led to the construction of a building annex for Station 5 during the following year. Station 5's annex, paid for entirely by the volunteers, would be capable of housing Hamden's largest apparatus at the time.
On September 4, 1975, the entire annex dedication ceremony was videotaped on a B&W reel-to-reel videotape recorder. Portions of the recording will be posted on YouTube later this summer to coincide with the 35th anniversary of the dedication.
This article revised 6/25/10
March 18, 1976 - Station 5 - (L-R) 1965 Mack 750 GPM, 1960 GMC brush truck, 1942 Diamond-T 600 GPM
Right after the dedication of the Station 5 annex, the 1965 Mack was transferred from Station 9 to become Engine 5. The 1954 Maxim that had been Engine 5 became Engine 9. The 1942 Diamond-T 600 g.p.m. pumper that had been Engine 5 in the 1950s became Volunteer Co. 5's first full-size pumper in decades, although it was never activated.
On April 9, 1976, less than a month after this photo was taken, Truck 1 was reassigned to the new annex at Station 5. The Mack returned to Station 9, and the 1954 Maxim returned to Station 5 as Engine 5. Car 55 moved back to the south bay. And the 1942 Diamond-T went back into storage at Station 9. The 1939 and 1942 Diamond-T pumpers were both sold to the highest bidder on February 4, 1977.
This 1980 photo shows the 1977 Ford Pierce mini-pumper, which was Engine 5 at the time, and the 1960 GMC pick-up truck that was Car 55 (later "Brush 5").
August 2000 - Engine 5 is now the 1984 Pierce Dash 1000 GPM pumper that was Engine 2 until 1997.