Our History

In January of 1935, Mr. Edward L. Baird retired after serving as secretary of the company for 26 years. A gold secretary’s badge was presented to him.

In October of 1936, a committee was appointed for the purpose of raising funds to buy new uniforms. A Turkey Raffle held in November, netted $132.30 toward the fund and from that date on Binge games, raffles, and card games were the order of business till a total of $900.00 was raised, and new uniforms purchased in July of 1938.

In September of 1938, Waiter Gunther reported that he had conditioned the old hand pump and that all that was needed to complete it was a suction hose. The Company moved to purchase a piece of flexible tubing for this purpose. This pump was to be used to pump out cellars and cisterns as requested. It must be noted in passing that this pump was from the original Hook and Ladder truck purchased in 1905. A double acting Piston Pump operated by 4 or 6 men, it was a real man killer, but it sure could pump water.

In April of 1939, the company went on the two-platoon system of recording attendance at fires. This was done to enable more firemen to meet the 60% duty required by the state.

At the October Meeting, the first Honorary members were appointed. These were Waiter Rentsch and C. Fred Westin, both of whom had moved out of the Borough.

Birth of the First Aid Rescue Squad

In February of 1940, a discussion on forming a First Aid Squad was held. No definite action was taken at that time, but a committee was appointed and they were to report back at a later date. In April of that year the committee reported that a meeting had been held at which time 12 men had signified that they would take the standard first aid course. In June, the Fire Department purchased an E&J Resuscitator, at a cost of $453.74, and turned it over to the Squad. In July, regulations governing the Squad were submitted to the Fire Department, accepted by them and became part of the recorded minutes of that meeting. Dr. F. Clyde Bowers was made Medical Advisor to the squad.

In February of 1940 a discussion on forming a First Aid Squad was held. No definite action was taken at that time, but a committee was appointed, and they were to report back at a later date. In April of that year, the committee reported that a meeting had been held at which time 12 men had indicated that they would take the standard first aid course. The 12 men were as follows: Jacob T. Lewis, James Gunther, Charles Moeri, Joseph Ammerman, Floyd Garabrant, William Menagh, Sr., Richard J. Clark, Clinton J. Barnett, Charles Day, Cyril Lounsbury, Francis B. Prior and Orville Garabrant.

Mr. William W. Cordingly donated the First Ambulance to the squad. It was a Ford station wagon, and a good deal of work was done on it leveling the floor, building a rack for the resuscitator, and a compartment for splints and other equipment. All of the expense for this work was paid for by Mr. Cordingly. It may not have been the best looking piece of equipment in the world, but it did a lot of work. During the fall and winter of 1940 and 1941, the squad continued drill and give demonstrations going as far as Whippany and Cec Knells, to stir up first aid enthusiasm in the Morristown Red Cross area In October of 1941, a team composed of Lewis, Gunther, Kagan Garabrant and Clark, entered in the State competition at Sussex Avenue Armory in Newark. Scoring 91.63%, and being thirteenth from the top didn’t make the boys feel too bad as there were over 60 teams entered many of them old timers in that kind of competition.

In January of 1943, the company ordered a service flag for the Firemen who were in the armed service of our country. This flag was proud hung on the wall of the meeting room, for all to see, and pictures of the men were hung along side the flag.

In April, of that same year, a junior fire company was organized. This consisted of boys in the 7th and 8th grades of the local school. Rules were formulated, and the boys were used to help fight grass and woods fires when the Chief felt that his own manpower was too small to cope with these fires.

Early in 1944, a fund was started for the purchase of a new ambulance for the First Aid Squad. The boys of the Squad really worked on this project and it must be said for all of the community, they worked hard, and well, raising a total of $5,775.90 for which they were rewarded with a Cadillac Ambulance.

In October of 1944, a windshield was installed on the Mack Pumper. Some people seemed to think the Firemen were getting soft. Evidently they had never ridden at 35 miles per hour in rain, snow and sub-freezing temperatures without the aid of a windshield.

In November of 1947, a gift of an OCD pumper was given the department by Mr. Cyril Birch. This was put to work pumping cellars, wells, etc., for the townspeople. It was also available as an auxiliary pumper for fire fighting.

In July of 1948, revised bylaws were offered the company for first reading. It is necessary to keep up with the times even in Fire Departments. The September meeting, of that same year was the first meeting held in the new firehouse. This was a project that had held the interest of all the firemen for some time.

In June of 1949, a resolution adopting service stripes for each 5 years of service was passed. Some of our older members may look off balance, slightly because of these stripes, but they have every right to feel proud as the time represented in giving to their community reaches into the hundreds of years.

On June 20, 1950, the First meeting of the Ladies Auxiliary was held. The male gender of the human species has no business attempting a chronology of female doings. Let it be said that in ways unknown to man, she is able to do things termed impossible without batting an eye. Flags, dishes, floor coverings and two-way radio equipment come out of our pockets as if by magic.

Who else but women could accomplish these things? In October, of this same year, the Fire department undertook the job of running the Halloween party for the school children. Here again the help of the Auxiliary made possible a smoothly run, successful event.

In November of 1950, the Department decided to put a windshield on the old ladder truck. A Jeep windshield was acquired and with the help of a welder and a plumber, it was installed—further evidence that the Department was getting “soft”.

In February of 1951, a new resuscitator was purchased for the First Aid Squad. This was of course a new design, having breathing apparatus for two people at one time, together with other refinements.

Board of Trustees

In October of 1951, the Board of Trustees was changed by resolution. The Chief and all active Ex-Chiefs becoming members of this board. This was done to insure the Department of a guiding hand in the auditing of books, laying out of budgets, helping formulate rules as they may be necessary and in general giving of the knowledge they have gained over the years as officers of the Department.

In October of 1952, agitation for a new Fire Truck started. During the next few months the Engineers traveled over the surrounding territory inspecting various Fire Trucks, Apparatus and in general, gathering information pertinent to the needs of Mendham. In June 1953, specifications for a QUAD were submitted to the Borough Council, together with the recommendation that they, the Borough of Mendham, purchase it. Chief J.T. Lewis, Fire Coordinator for C.D. in Morris County, made arrangements for matching funds from the Government. In July, the Fire Department passed a motion giving the Borough $4,000.00 from its sinking fund toward the purchase of said QUAD.

civil-defense-logoIn June of 1953, a committee was formed to purchase a “Quad”. Ahrens Fox was awarded the contract but due to financial problems, they were unable to complete the truck. On June 19th of that year, the Department developed the specifications for a new 750 gallon per minute Oren pumper, and in June of 1955, the new engine was delivered in time for the 50th anniversary parade. The purchase was made in equal parts with money from the Borough, the Department and—through the efforts of Chief J.T. Lewis, Fire Coordinator for the Morris County Civil Defense Corps. In July, the Fire Department passed a motion giving the Borough $4,000.00 from its sinking fund toward the purchase of said “Quad”. (We are proud to report that that vehicle has been reacquired by the Department and has been lovingly restored and will be retained as a reminder of the Department’s noble past.)

In November of 1953, the Firemen were called to a fire in the rear of the Lambert Building. It is probable that very few of them knew or realized that the building destroyed that evening was the Shed that was built by Mr. Hoffman, in May of 1906, to house the First Hook and Ladder Truck.

50th Anniversary

Plans for a 50th Anniversary of the Department were started in 1951 with the appointment of a new truck committee. The interest at the time was for a quad and the Ahrens Fox was the talked of manufacturer. Plans and specifications were drawn up and a trip to Cincinnati was made by a couple of committee members to inspect the kind of shop and material of the Ahrens Fox people. Everything looked fine at the time and a contract was issued for a quad. It soon became apparent that Ahrens Fox was in financial troubles and the contract was passed to a truck builder, the Beck Company. Evidently Beck was not equipped to handle as large a job as we wanted and the finish date was put forward every time we asked them about it. Finally the contract was voided and a new truck committee appointed. This committee called a meeting of the Department on Sunday, June 19 to go over the specifications of a new 750 G.P.M. Oren Pumper, which would be available to us before the parade. A general discussion followed the reading of the specs and we found out that the State Rating Bureau would not allow credit for a quad and recommend that we buy a regular pumper anyway. We did our part; signed a contract that would get us the truck but would not hold us to pay for the truck until we had a chance to look it over, drive it, etc. The supplier did his part, delivered the truck at our door at 8:25 p.m. Friday night before the parade, June 25, 1955. We later did our part by accepting the truck and we have had wonderful service from it since. The Ladies Auxiliary also helped by donating a check of $1,100.00 for radios for it. Final Report—that our 50th Anniversary Celebration was an outstanding success is a fact that we may all look back upon with pride and pleasure. We feel that a few facts should be recorded for future reference. Preparation for the celebration started on June 1, 1954 with the appointment of the General Chairman at a regular fire meeting. From that date on, till our celebration on June 25, 1955, there was an activity on the part of each and every member of the Mendham Fire Department such as had not been seen before. The members of the General Committee, in particular, were a busy group. Their names are recorded in our 50th Anniversary Souvenir Book. Our parade and the program following were most successful. It has been determined that some 8,000 persons attended our celebration. Over eighty Fire Departments, Organizations and Bands participated. Over 7500 sandwiches, 50 half kegs of beer, 150 cases of soda, 21 gallons of pickles and two gallons of mustard were served. The Women’s Auxiliary sold 2,000 plastic cups and we sold or gave away 2,000 of our Souvenir and Directory Books. The entire program was radio controlled and all activities proceeded in their proper sequence, with precision, as planned. The trophies presented by us to the parading units and contest winners were beautiful and will be long cherished and kept by those fortunate enough to have won them. Each committee did a wonderful and outstanding job under the leadership of their able Chairmen. The Treasurers Report tells its own story. To all of the Chairmen and to each and every member of the department, the General Chairman again wants to say “Thanks and well done.” Conclusion: It is with a great deal of pride that we turn over, herewith, our 50th Anniversary check, to the amount of Two Thousand, Nine Hundred, Thirty-Seven Dollars and three cents ($2,937.03) our cash balance after all bills and outstanding obligations were paid in full. Our job is done—we ask that the Treasurer and General Chairman, and any other members of the General Committee not previously dismissed, be dismissed and that the 50th Anniversary Celebration and Program be terminated and from henceforth be a part of the history of the Mendham Fire Department.

While all the anniversary doings were going on, the town fathers were doing their part by increasing the flow of water to the towns people by having a well drilled and a storage tower erected on Bernardsville Road. People in the southern part of the Borough had been having trouble, as the water supply was not sufficient in that area for them. Old piping soon began to show its age by developing leaks.

In February 1956 Ex-Chief Chauncey (Toby) Guerin came back to Mendham. Toby had moved to Arizona because of asthma. He presented his fathers Chief badge to the Company for the trophy case. Erice Zeliff, one of the charter members of the Hose Company, was at this meeting. It was his first meeting in the new firehouse. In May, the Ladies Auxiliary presented a new Flag & Banner to the Department. The Bylaws Committee, having been busy for some months, presented the revised copies for adoption. At the annual Caucus of the Relief Association held in August, Richard Clark was elected to the Executive Committee of the New Jersey State Firemen’s Association from Morris County. This was an honor to him and to our Department. We also had a couple of bowling teams in a bowling league at the Peapack alleys.

Early in 1956 a committee was appointed to look into the need for a new ladder truck for our town. Luther Clark of the Fire Insurance Rating Office F.I.R.O. was contacted and he gave the committee much help in setting up specifications for the truck. Design and specs were soon written and a contract with N.J. Fire Equipment Company signed. The truck was completed and delivered in May of the following year.

In early 1957 we began equipping our department with radios. Some time was taken up before they could be used, as no license had been applied for at the start of the program. In August, a 1957 Cadillac ambulance was received. Our First Aid Rescue Squad was a group of very busy people. There were about 90 first aid calls for the year and they also reported to a total of 29 fires. The Department also acquired a Chevrolet “Pumper-Rescue-Ladder” truck which filled the objectives of the intended “Quad” purchased. The new vehicle was capable of pumping 350 gallons per minute and it contained 163 feet of ground ladders and 1000 feet of 2.5 inch hose. The vehicle carried two “booster” reels and 500 gallons of water and the Department’s first portable generator and lights. The vehicle also carried “state-of-the-art” rescue equipment for use in vehicle extrication and similar tasks.

In 1958 we continued the purchase of radios and by the end of the year we had all our trucks and the ambulance equipped. Although we had extensive training in extinguishing oil fires with fog, we felt foam would probably be better in large outside, unconfined gasoline or oil spills, so new foam equipment was purchased in June. This was the first of our trucks to be supplied with this type of equipment.

In January of 1959, TOT Finders were purchased to place on houses and windows where there were children and/or invalids. The practice of giving families with children or invalids these decal identifiers continues still today. In February, the Dairy Barn of Frank Bockoven on West Main Street, Brookside caught fire. Our Department was called out to assist the Township companies. It was heartbreaking as eighteen cows were either burned to death or had to be destroyed because they were so badly burned. To avoid interference by non-firemen phone calls when the siren blew, it was decided to install a direct phone line from the siren operator to the firehouse. The first fireman into the firehouse would go directly to the phone, get the call and write it on the callboard. At the March meeting, it was decided to ask the Borough Council to move out of the room they were using for Council Meetings and turn it over to the firemen. The firemen had a room about the same size as the Council room for their recreation room. Neither room was large enough for the purpose it was used for but together they would be fine for the firemen. A letter was sent to the Mayor asking for their room. The firemen would do most of the reconstruction work, thus making the cost to the Borough very little, suffice it to say the Council agreed; several of them and the Mayor being firemen. We soon had a nice recreation room. In August, the F.I.R.O. ran a test on our water mains and hydrant pressure. There were plenty of hydrants but water volume was not quite up to required gallonage. This was soon to be corrected when the new tower was completed.