1911 Fifth Annual Convention of the Delaware County Firemen’s Association and parade, the historic Darby Ram, local fires, local entertainment

The second division of the parade held in Wayne on Saturday, June 10, 1911, to celebrate the Fifth Annual Convention of the Delaware County Firemen’s Association, was made up solely of representatives from the county fire companies. This was in contrast to the first division, as described in this column last week, which was comprised of representatives from Malvern, Berwyn, Haverford, Bryn Mawr, Ardmore and Norristown. In addition to these, the historic Darby Ram had a place of honor as the oldest piece of fire fighting apparatus known to be in existence anywhere.

Darby was also chosen to head the second division of the parade, since its fire company is one of the oldest in this section of the country. Chief Lockert, of Darby Company No.1, was at the head of his 62 men in the line of march. They were followed by 45 blue coated fire fighters from Swarthmore, who were accompanied by a band of 23 pieces from West Philadelphia.

The Darby Township Company of Folcroft marched in tan coats and white helmets, while the Glenolden fire laddies wore their new brown uniforms. The uniforms of the Norwood firemen consisted of long blue coats, dark trousers and helmets; those of Collingdale’s 52 marchers wore white duck trousers with blue shirts topped by blue caps. With their band of 25 pieces “many voted this the best appearing company in the line, always excepting Radnor.”

Clifton Heights had the distinction of having the only ambulance in the parade, this being in addition to a complete complement of I’ apparatus. The ambulance is described as “one made according to the newest design, filled with all I the necessities of immediate attention to the sick or injured.” In it rode a physician and a trained nurse. For the occasion of the Wayne parade, this ambulance was decorated with bunting and with flowers, including a handsome floral bell. Clifton Heights’ display was accompanied by the Garrettford Band.

Among other Delaware County companies in the line of march were those from Lansdowne, Ridley Park, Folsom, Highland Park, Morton, Lester, Sharon Hill, Eddystone and Leiperville. Woxpen of the auxiliaries from Folsom, Morton, Clifton Heights and Garrettsford, riding in gaily decorated buses, added a bit of feminine touch

Last in the line was the Radnor contingent, of 45 men dressed in their green uniforms, black gauntlets and shining black puttees, presenting “the finest appearance of any Company in the long line”, according to “The Suburban” account of June 16. Marching wtth military precision, this group was headed by their president, Eugene C. Bonniwell, Fire Chief Charles E. Clark and Fred H. Treat, treasurer. Following them were the auto-engine, driven by George Lentz and the truck driven by Paul Comins, still so new that Wayne could feel very proud of their shining appearance.

Accompanying the Wayne representation was the Bryn Mawr Band of 30 pieces. This constituted the line-up of that Saturday parade of June 10, 1911, in which “were the brain and brawn of Delaware County’s best citizenship, heroes of a hundred fires, the saviors of thousands of dollars worth of property.” At any rate it was, to date, the largest parade the Delaware County Firemen’s Association had ever assembled.

At the close of march, which covered all the main streets of North and South Wayne, all bands, banners and apparatus were massed for a march from Louella avenue along Lancaster avenue to the Opera House corner, and thence to the school grounds, where the ceremonies ended with the playing of “America” by all the bands present.

After the procession was disbanded, substantial refreshments were served to all of its participants from four tables, each about 350 feet long, which had been especially erected on the school grounds for the occasion. Local entertainment continued throughout the evening in the way of a vaudeville entertainment at the Opera House, dances at Union Hall and at St. Katharine’s Hall and a smoker at the Fire House. So ended one of the biggest days in Wayne’s history, and one of its most colorful.

Among several old timers of the Radnor Fire Department to whom your columnist has talked recently has been Otis G. Hunsicker, who came to Wayne from Conshohocken as a young man in 1906 to drive for the late Herman Wendell. At first he was too youthful and inexperienced to do more than “run with the fire company” and to “help gather up the hose”. However, he eventually drove one of Wayne’s two automobile fire engines to a small fire one day, and that night he was voted into the Fire Company.

Mr. Hunsicker, who now lives on Conestoga road in Wayne, remembers vividly many of the occasions on which these two fire engines were called into action. Usually he rode with the pumper, since he “loved to pump the water.” This second piece of fire fighting apparatus to be used by the Radnor Fire Company was indeed “his baby”, as he stilI affectionately calls it.

One of the first large fires to which he was called was that at Villanova College in January, 1912, while another was the blaze at the W. T. Wright estate the following June, when a woman was burned to death before she could be rescued. Of particular local interest is the Wayne Opera House fire, which occurred in December, 1914. Some of these fires of 40 years ago and more will be described to the readers of this column in next week’s issue.