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History puts today's work on hold

November 21, 2005|by ERIN CUNNINGHAM

erinc@herald-mail.com

Larry Iseminger put investigating his family's genealogy on hold to publish a detailed history of Funkstown Volunteer Fire Co.'s 75-year history.

Iseminger, the company president and a 36-year member, spent about one year writing and editing the 431-page book, which went on sale earlier this month.

Home projects were stalled and replaced by piles of fire reports and meeting minutes - his main sources for information. Iseminger also spent time at Washington County Free Library in Hagerstown sifting through newspaper stories.

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Iseminger said he didn't believe there would be a widespread audience for "The History of the Funkstown Volunteer Fire Company." But he did believe past, present and future members, as well as local residents, would benefit from an accurate record of the station's history.

The fire company voted to spend $15,000 to publish 2,000 copies of the book. Many copies were distributed for free to everyone who attended the company's 75th anniversary banquet Nov. 12, and only two have been sold.

Iseminger said he is hoping to break even and if sales do not recoup the cost, he said he will organize additional fundraising events for the station.

"This was a special project for me," he said. "With this, future people will get a better idea of how this was in the old days. We started out with one hand hose reel."

When a mill on the property where the station now stands at 2 S. Westside Ave. burned in 1929, Iseminger said he believes area residents noticed a need for their own fire station. The company formed in May 1930.

Iseminger said he knew some of the company's history and enjoyed documenting the facts.

After World War II, he said, as the station was completing construction on the current building, a fight erupted among the station's building committee and other station leaders. The fire chief and president wanted to inscribe officer names on the cornerstone of the building. The building committee members wanted their names inscribed.

As a result, everyone on the committee and company leaders resigned.

"A week went by and the mayor (of Funkstown) convinced them to come back," Iseminger said. "And if you look at the cornerstone, it says, '1950' and nothing else."

Along with the temporary feud, the station also has a rich history of dedicated members and skilled volunteers.

John Williams was elected fire chief in 1937 and served for 30 years in that position, Iseminger said.

"That's nearly half of the station's history with one leader," he said.

Iseminger said the book was his first - and last - attempt as an author, perhaps a reason the book's final chapter is called, "The Future."

"Based upon the way the call load has increased over the years, it is not unrealistic to expect that the Funkstown Volunteer Fire Co. will be handling 3,000 to 3,500 emergency calls per year in 2030," Iseminger wrote. Members responded to four calls in the company's first year and 1,307 in 2004.

The book is available at the fire station for $22 or by mail for $26. To order by mail, send a request to Funkstown Volunteer Fire Co., P.O. Box 670, Funkstown, MD 21734.

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