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Firefighters move into new home

August 09, 1998|By LAURA ERNDE

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - In a centuries-old tradition, community members helped the Rescue Hose Co. No. 1 push their fire trucks into a new $1.3 million fire station Saturday.

A 1741 hand pumper that the company says is the oldest one of its kind in the world had a starring role in the ceremonies.

"There's no money in the world that could buy it. There's no money in the world that can buy the volunteers of the Rescue Hose Co." said Ben Thomas Jr., who served on the 10-member building committee.

Fire and ambulance volunteers wearing blue-shirted uniforms proudly pulled the old-time fire apparatus through the streets from its old home at 48 S. Carlisle St. to its new home at 842 S. Washington St.

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It was the last of the company's equipment to be placed in the massive eight-bay garage.

Thomas asked the children who are the company's future to do the deed.

One by one, Thomas called different community groups to step forward and take part in the honor of "housing" the equipment, which dates back to a time when firefighters raced on foot to fires pulling the apparatus behind them.

The pushing is mostly symbolic, with most of the actual work being done by the fire trucks' engines themselves.

Still, the members tried to stick close to tradition.

"Ritual tells us that the apparatus was housed three times, once for God, once for country and once for the fire company," Thomas said.

The first piece of equipment, an ambulance, was escorted inside by clergy members.

Next, veterans were called to house an engine known as the "war wagon."

Elected officials, members of neighboring fire companies and Rescue Hose Co. members themselves proceeded to push four other pieces of equipment inside, out of the sweltering heat.

About 200 residents watched, some carrying video cameras and taking snapshots of the historic event.

The old-fashioned dedication ceremony capped off Old Home Week, the celebration the town has held every three years since 1902.

"This is a fitting way, I think, to bring Old Home Week to a close," said Antrim Township Supervisor Scott Diffenderfer. "As much as Old Home Week is about our past, it's also about our future."

Members said with the joy of dedicating the building also comes a certain sadness in abandoning the old building where they were for 50 years.

"I didn't want to see them leave," said C.R. Hawbaker, 58, who used to live in an apartment above the old fire station and became a third-generation firefighter.

However, Hawbaker, who was visiting from an Army base near Tokyo where he has lived since 1988, said he realizes the need for the new building to serve a growing community.

Speakers also thanked volunteers for their efforts.

"Your time is not your own because when the call comes in you feel obligated to answer," said Greencastle Mayor Frank Mowen.

Mowen said he has held onto a 1954 letter to the editor of a local newspaper, which he feels tells the story of a volunteer firefighter.

An Upton, Pa., man wrote about the cold, January night that he watched a fire truck go by with firefighters clinging to its sides.

No doubt, the men would rather be in their warm beds. Instead, these "unsung heroes" were doing their best to protect a neighbor's life and property, the letter said.

"We did manage to save the foundation of Daley's Gas Station," said Mowen, who was on the fire truck that night.

Rescue Hose Co. built the new fire station onto the 1955 South Antrim School. Purchased by the fire company for $255,000, it will remain an educational center, training local residents in emergency medical services and firefighting.

Tom Stommel, fire chief of District Heights, Md., watched the event with admiration for his sister company's ability to remain all-volunteer.

"It brings the whole community out and it shows the community they can support the fire company," he said.

His own station, about eight miles from Washington, D.C., is funded by taxpayers.

"That's not the way to do it," he said. "They feel like at that point the fire department owes them something," he said. "The community's got to support the fire company."

During the parade that preceded the ceremony, people came out of their houses, some setting up lawn chairs.

Jane Alexander watched the convoy from the shade of her South Washington Street porch.

"I think it's very nice. But they didn't have the bingo players," she said with a laugh, referring to the ladies who play fire company-sponsored games.

But the procession of fire trucks also brought back painful memories for Alexander.

Her brother John Conrad, who served as fire chief for more than 20 years, was carried to his grave in an antique fire truck in 1992, she said.

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