75th Anniversary 1954-1979
Parading has always been a popular pastime for members of fire companies. Not only does it instill a healthy dose of competition in each company, but parades have also always been a pleasant way to pass a sunny afternoon. During the early years of the fire company, it was not uncommon to attend six or seven parades a year in various locations. A potential problem existed, however, if too many companies were out of the township at one time—fire protection for Abington Township’s citizens might be compromised. Therefore, in early 1955, the Abington Township Firemen’s Association decided that only two township fire companies would be allowed out of the township at one time for parades. Weldon obliged but went on record stating it felt any company that leaves the township should make proper arrangements for fire protection. The Company also learned that the relief association would cover deaths of natural causes.
In March, 1955 the new Seagrave pumper responded to its first alarm. The Company also voted to establish a Fire Police Unit and allotted $175 for startup and to equip all its members. Progress was reported on the drill tower, but it would not be completed as soon as the township companies had hoped. In November, 1955, Weldon’s jurisdiction extended to 20 yards passed Florey Lane.
1956 began with a change in the by-laws to make members eligible for life membership after 15 years. This would later be changed back to 20 years. The year would be fairly busy for the fire company. While the predominance of alarms the Company received during these years were for brush fires, 1956 was quite a year for structure fires—it aided in the rectory fire at Our Lady Help of Christians, responded to a garage fire on Wharton Road, another structure fire on Abington Avenue, a garage fire on Ardsley Avenue, a basement fire on Geneva Ave., a house fire at 740 Castlewood and a Christmas day dwelling fire on Melody Lane. The Company would respond twice to Mooney’s Furniture Storage on Mt. Carmel Ave. It also responded to two dump fires at the VFW on Jenkintown Road—a regular trouble spot. There was also a fatal vehicle accident at Easton Road and Pleasant Avenue that year.
The company would spend a total of seven hours and forty minutes in one 24 hour period and two separate calls at the VFW located on Jenkintown Road. The site of many fires through the years, this fire required a total of 1250 feet of 2.5-inch hose and 300 ft. of 1½ -inch hose to extinguish. Both times the cause of the fire was burning rubbish. D. Maier and J. Marks drove and operated the engines at the first fire, with D. Maier and L. Taylor driving and operating at the second alarm. Ken Clark Sr. was in command of both fires.
The Company also responded to two fires within weeks of each other at Mooney’s Storage located on Mount Carmel Avenue. The first fire, on September 22, took 350 feet of 2.5-inch line, 400 feet of booster line, and 200 feet of 1½-inch line to extinguish. Claude Mobley and Ted Brown drove and operated Weldon’s apparatus at the fire. The company was in service for one hour, 45 minutes at this fire caused by burning brush.
The second fire, on October 18, was relatively minor with the company in service just 30 minutes. One hundred fifty feet of booster line was used to extinguish the fire caused by a seven year old boy playing with matches.
1957 began quietly on all fronts, but by April, things got very busy for Weldon Fire Company. I April, a special meeting was called to discuss purchasing the property adjoining the firehouse on the North side. At the time, a gas station inhabited the property. By May, 1957 the Company purchased the gas station with plans to lease it for a time
Also in May, Weldon responded to an accident at Jenkintown Road and Kelly Lane—a location it would respond to many, many times over the years for alarms of the same nature. Weldon removed the a victim from the automobile in the accident—a hint of what Weldon’s specialty would eventually become. And indeed, in August of 1957 the Company discussed the possibility of forming a rescue unit and purchasing a truck for same using civilian defense funds.
Finally, in December, 1957 the Company received word that the new township drill tower was now complete.
Talk of members using blue lights in their vehicles when responding to the firehouse to answer an alarm first began in early 1958. The new drill tower was scheduled to be dedicated on May 10. The Company also decided to erect a siren in the Gardens section of Glenside to help members residing in this section to be notified of an alarm. The four-bottle manifold system and gauge for air packs arrived, and the Company decided to purchase its first portable two-way radio.
July, 1958 was the month set aside to discuss building expansion plans. At the meeting, a committee was entrusted to research a one- or two-bay addition to the existing firehouse with a six month time limit for sketches and a $40,000 budget to have the work done. By September the air cascade was in the firehouse and the five other companies helped pay for it and associated equipment. In November, new code numbers were developed for the short wave radios.
In February 1959, permission was received for the second siren to be erected in the Gardens section of Glenside. The siren would ultimately be erected on Cross Road. Routine business was conducted throughout the remainder of 1959 with plans developing for the new addition to the firehouse.
As 1960 began, a truck committee was appointed to investigate purchasing a utility truck. In May, a motion was made, seconded, and carried to build the addition to the firehouse. Plans were ready in June plans with bids to open in July. The budget was increased to meet the requirements of Allen Reeves to whom the contract was ultimately awarded.
In August, Weldon went on record as supporting a three-company response for a fire in a commercial building instead of a general alarm. A special meeting was also held that month to discuss the new truck. The truck committee recommended a Ford C-600 tilt cab for the chassis, with Morrisville Company building the truck. Another special meeting was held just a few days later to discuss a building permit problem. Some creative maneuvering was required to secure the permit including trading land with W. Rich Norman’s family who owned the land behind the firehouse. In October, the Company responded to a fatal vehicle accident at Jenkintown Road and Sylvania Avenue. This stretch of road between Linden Avenue and Kelly Lane on Jenkintown Road would be the scene for many serious vehicle accidents through the years
On January 9, 1961, it was reported that the new truck was ready whenever the Company was ready. It was placed in service on February 23. Originally a utility truck that carried several firefighters, this truck was an early precursor to the company’s current heavy rescue truck known as Rescue 300. Slowly but surely, basic rescue tools were added to this truck as it became more than just a utility truck.
Maintaining the Fire Company’s means of communication had become a priority over the years as Weldon members were responsible for making repairs to any of the radio equipment it held. Several years prior, a Communications Officer had been appointed to oversee the Company’s base stations and truck radios. The importance of this position was such that the Company voted to make the Communications Officer a line officer in April, 1961. In October the new building addition would be dedicated.
On September 9, 1963 the five township fire companies were to stand on review at Alverthorpe Park for the township commissioners to inspect the members and apparatus. In December a motion was made, seconded, and carried to set aside a page in the minutes for John F. Kennedy.
The Company took a major step forward in alarm notification in 1964 when it purchased its first Home Alarm systems. Taken for granted by today’s firemen who are alerted by pagers to respond to the firehouse, this technology at the time was in its infancy, and the Company had to make a significant investment to place these devices in service. A tone generator was purchased for $200, and each home alarm cost $130.00. At this time the company purchased the encoder and five home alarm systems. It would continue to purchase home alarm sets as needed for several years hence until the next evolution of alerting members would arrive. The first five home alarms went to the line officers. Even after these units would arrive, it would take some time to place them in service
It was also in 1964 that the Company decided to upgrade its fire detection system in the firehouse, and by May the system was completed.
At the end of 1964, the Company resolved to store flags for the Greater Glenside Patriotic Association and to put up the flags on Memorial Day, Independence Day, Flag Day, and Veterans Day. To this day, Company members still rise early on Memorial Day and Independence Day to put flags up and down Easton Road and Keswick Avenue.
In 1965, the Abington Township Firemen’s Association announced plans to look at a pension fund for members of the five fire companies. While nothing official ever came of these plans, the five township companies are again looking into such a plan. Much like when the companies created the Abington Township Relief Association, the five companies were looking out for each other and the betterment of retired members.
During 1965, a truck committee was hard at work creating a list of specifications for a new pumper to replace the 1951 Ward La France pumper. In January, 1966, a special meeting was called to receive the truck committee’s official recommendation. After hearing the list of bids and the pros and cons of each truck, the Company voted to purchase an American La France pumper. The pumper would be put into service on April 27, 1967. Just 63 years after the company’s inception, it’s dedication to improving its equipment to better serve its community was realized with the most sophisticated apparatus owned by the Company to date.
September 21, 1966 was the date of the fire at the Hilltop Inn – Edge Hill House located at Easton Road and Edge Hill Road, the present site of a Burger King. This fire almost turned tragic for Weldon when John Schuyler became trapped under fallen debris. Were it not for the heroic efforts of Chief Charles Gerhard, Jr., Schuyler likely could have perished. Luckily Schuyler was treated at Abington Memorial Hospital for smoke inhalation and released. The company was in service for three hours, nine minutes. The fire was extinguished using 200 feet of booster line and 600 feet of 1½-inch line, with 1,000 feet of 2½-inch line for supply line. Ken Norman, Warren Hope, and Walt Maupay were the drivers/operators of Weldon’s apparatus at this fire. Firefighter Ed Refsnyder was also injured at this fire and was treated and released from Abington Memorial Hospital.
1967 also saw one of the more memorable floods in the Keswick section of the district. The monthly meeting for July had to be postponed twice because the crew was working on flooded basements. DPT shots were recommended for the members who participated in the flood work.
Bids were not hard to come by for the two trucks the Company put up for sale in anticipation of purchasing another new truck soon. Ultimately the 1951 Ward La France went to Newton Fire Company for $5,000.
Demand for home alarms among the membership grew more quickly than was financially viable to purchase them. Therefore, in November, a policy was enacted for home alarms requiring that a member serve on the active crew for one year prior to receiving one.
The 1967 truck committee was empowered to investigate purchasing a snorkel for the fire company as well as a pumper. After investigating the options, the truck committee returned with a recommendation that the company purchase another American La France pumper. This motion was made in May of 1968 and carried to purchase a new American La France engine.
In January 1969, the General Dynamics Corp. Electric Boat Division, CT, purchased the 1956 Seagrave engine for $8300. In the beginning of October the new American La France arrived and was placed in limited service. At the end of the month, rioting would strike Abington Township and the company would respond to Roslyn to assist with the Geppert Lumber fire on mischief night. The riots were bad enough that the fire police unit requested hard hats after that night.
1970 found the Fire Company investigating the replacement of the Ford utility truck. By 1971 the truck committee began referring to its replacement as a rescue truck, and by early 1972 specifications were received. In March, chemical handbooks were placed in all the trucks in case of a HazMat response.
Also in March, the company took another step forward in alerting its members of fire alarms when the Chief Charles Gerhard, Jr. requested five GE pocket pagers that would carry Weldon’s frequency. These devices would also be rechargeable. Like the home alarms before them, these pagers would prove their importance quickly and the Company again would begin purchasing these devices at regular intervals.
In April, on motion the company contracted with Brumbaugh Body Co., Inc., manufacturer of Bruco products, to construct the new rescue truck on a GMC chassis.
It was November 1973 when the new rescue truck arrived and was placed in service. This truck would be equipped with the most modern rescue equipment at the time including HURST hydraulic tools, “Jimmy Jacks”, high-lift jacks, bottle jacks, and other stabilization equipment. The truck would also carry manpower to fire calls inside the truck—a critical feature once the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) would disallow “riding the back step” to fires citing safety issues. The Ford utility truck would be sold to Warminster Fire Company for $5500. It was also around this time that the last major addition to the firehouse was proposed—an addition to the back of the firehouse to feature an enlarged engineers’ room, chief and executive offices, and a modern training room.
In 1974 a bid was accepted for the back end addition. In October, 1974, an Open Pocket Billiard Marathon for Musclular Dystrophy was held at the fire house to last 100 hours. This marathon would raise $1429.77 with the Company donating $70.23 to bring the amount to an even $1500.
In 1976, recognizing the quick approach of Weldon’s 75th anniversary, a committee was appointed In July, at the committee’s recommendation, the Company decided on a parade in 1979 to celebrate the 75th anniversary.
In November, it was announced that for the year ending October 31 the company had experienced a record breaking year for fire calls at 267. The record breaking would not stop there. At the Company’s December meeting it was reported that Abington Township received 177 alarms in November, 1976, an average of six alarms per day, exceeding the record set in February, 1968 of 96 and the old record for the month of November set in 1973 at 89 alarms. Weldon responded to 58 of these alarms (42 of which were leaves on fire). The Company used 6,000 feet of booster line that month, and for 1976 total amount of booster line used was 14,310 feet.
Also announced at the December meeting was township commissioners cited Ed Lambert of Abington Fire Company and Captain Ken Clark of Weldon for heroism at a fire in Crestmont.
The Chief Dave Schramm was empowered to begin looking for a new truck to replace one of the American La Frances. The Company also decided to adopt the Scott Pack recommendations for grooming.
In 1977 the energy crisis gripped the nation. In March of that year, a new air system to be shared by the five companies was announced. Driver Training was at an all time high that year, and in 1977, the Company had 89 members of which 73 were active. Alverthorpe Park was also made available to the township fire companies for training on drafting water. It was also reported that in addition to 34 Thursday night fire schools, 54 members attended 350 hours of training in 1977.
February 1978 found Chief Schramm commending the crew for several reasons: its performance at a train vs. car rescue; cellar pumping details, hydrant details; and members standing by—all during and after a snow storm hit the area. Weldon also went on record as supporting a three mill fire tax.
In June, Chief Schramm would report that the new air system discussed earlier would be a vehicle with a mounted compressor. The vehicle was to be housed at Weldon. It was also at this time that Weldon entered into a mutual aid rescue agreement with Glenside Fire Company—Weldon’s specialty was beginning to be recognized.
The next month, Weldon agreed to accept the title for the new air unit and one fifth of the operating costs. The township would sign a contract for the air truck in 1979.
In 1979 it was reported that for 1978 Weldon had 89 members of which 68 were active. 1979 was also the year that Weldon’s rescue truck, then known as 305, would become the rescue vehicle for the entire township. A police order stipulated that in instances where people were trapped in a vehicle, 305 would be dispatched immediately along with the fire company in whose district the incident occurred. Weldon would make vehicle rescue as well as myriad other types of specialized rescue its forte during the next 25 years, garnering certifications for its own members as well as the rescue truck along the way.
On May 12, shortly after the 75th anniversary of Weldon’s founding, it celebrated by holding a parade and inviting numerous fire companies from throughout the area. Awards were given to companies who were judged in various categories. Looking back on the preceding 75 years, members at the time were proud of their heritage and eager to discover what new challenges the future would present. In fact, it would be during these next 25 years that the company would respond to some of its most challenging structure fires, and would see the number of calls to which it would respond increase to a record breaking 487 in 2003.
By July the new air unit was in the firehouse and members from all five companies would later be qualified to operate the truck. A Breathing Air and Safety Committee was created to keep up with the maintenance of the air truck and also to maintain and upgrade the Company’s air packs as necessary.
In September, Chief Schramm proposed replacing both existing pumpers with delivery dates of six months apart. Apparatus pricing wasn’t the same as when the fire company purchase its $110 but careful financial planning throughout the years made this proposal plausible, and ultimately both current pumpers would be replaced at about the same time.
In October, the company would order its first Humat Valve.