Early Wayne residential fires, sports – NWPA, WPSA

Since writing in last week’s column of fire protection in Wayne in the early days of our community, further information on the subject has come to me from George W. Schultz, of Reading, Pa., though his daughter, Mrs. Robert W. A. Wood. In telling of the formation of Protective Associations “on both sides of the village,” Mr. Schultz describes organized fire fighting as one of their chief objects. As Wayne’s population began to increase in the late eighties, these Associations became necessary in the absence of any municipal government. They were supported by dues paid by property owners and had several noteworthy purposes in addition to fire protection. These included the improvement and beautification of properties, the maintenance of street lights and of sidewalks and the guarding of public health and safety. Among their manifold duties were those to provide for the collection of ashes and of garbage and to remove snow from the pavements in the winter.

The North Wayne Protective Association, formed in 1885 by seven residents of North Wayne and the Wayne Public Safety Association organized in 1890, have both functioned continuously since their inception, each, at this time, with a large membership still interested in all civic problems.

Mr. Schultz describes in amusing fashion two of his own youthful experiences as a volunteer fireman. “When my parents settled on Walnut avenue, North Wayne,” he writes, “a committee called and announced that in event of emergency, all young men were expected to turn out and act as volunteer firemen.

“Sure enough, it was not long before my brothers and I were awakened one night by ‘Fritz’ Hallowell’s ringing a dinner bell. Tumbling out in the dark, we followed some running forms to John P. Wood’s stable where we were ordered to ‘man the pumper!’ We had never seen the machine nor had any drills. It was a 500 gallon hogshead of water on two wheels and a hand pump attached. Some grabbed the ropes tied to the tongue of the ‘engine’ and others pushed. It ran all right down hill, but the fire being located by glare in the sky as up on a steep hill on Chamounix road, St. Davids, it was a strenuous effort to get the apparatus to the scene, egged on by raucous yells of the fire chief.

The house appeared to be vacant in the late fall and the blaze was, of course, stimulated by the amateur fire fighters breaking the rear windows with axes. A brave fireman climbed the porch and the helpers worked hard on the lever. The only result was a garden hose –am squirted into a second story broken window. The house burned to the ground!

Next year we were called out again in the night to operate on a fire on middle Walnut avenue. One of the young men rushed around battering in doors and with smoke rolling out, dashed upstairs and threw out of windows mirrors, –ures, pitchers, bowls and any other loose articles, all of which were smashed on the lawn. Charley Gleason, and Tony peterson emerged triumphantly bearing two piano legs that had been chopped off instead of being unscrewed. The loss was total!”

Mr. Schultz is an authority, too, on the sports and recreations of early Wayne. He tells of an organization, first called “The Merivale Club” and later “The Radnor Cricket Club.” It was housed in a frame building near the railroad in North Wayne, which later burned down. In its early days it had a baseball diamond and a board backstop, surmounted by a pavilion reached by stairs from the rear. The Club had two tennis courts, billiards and bowling. Among the young men who were members were Robert Hare Powel, Henry Baring Powel, Jack Claghorn, Morris Wetherill, Frank Howley and George and William Schultz. Some of this group later started a golf club on the Francis Fenimore land in St. Davids.

In addition to sports on their own grounds and to their Club house, some of the Merrivale Club members took to early Sunday morning hikes, the group eventually being known as “The Walkers.” Among them were David Knickerbacker Boyd, the architect; Billy Brown, son of the then publisher of the Wayne Times; Charles Gleason, Lee Harrison, Bill Everly and the Schultz brothers. the rambles of these hikers took them cross country towards King of Prussia, a section that was mostly woods and farms then. If unobserved, they were not above taking a little refreshment from stone spring houses in the way of “a dipper of rich cream off a crock in the cold spring water!”

After the Cricket Club came the Swimming Club, located at the famous Kelly’s Dam in North Wayne. Then there was the Bicycle Club, with its Club House located on the pike north of the post office and later still there was the organization which was to develop into the St. Davids Golf Club.

From time to time all of these sports groups of Wayne’s early days will be described in this column.