Radnor Fire Company: responds to trolley & train crashes, 1951-1952 report, Radnor High School boys training to fill spots of firemen gone to WWII

The report of Edwin J. Clark, chief of the Radnor Fire Company for the year extending from April 1, 1951 to April 1, 1952, shows that in that period of time 608 calls were answered by the Company. Of these, 279 were fire calls and 329 were those for the ambulance.

The fire trucks travelled a total of 2,907 miles answering calls, that in variety ran all the way from the Ryan and Christie fire in Bryn Mawr to a “cat in the tree” and “birds in the chimney” as these last two calls are listed in the report.

The men went out in all sorts of weather, including 24 rainstorms and eight snowstorms. And while 201 of these calls came in form 6 A. M. to 6 P. M., 78 of them came between 6 P. M. to 6 A. M. Average hours of service were 217 1/2 for each fireman. With the exception off one full time employee who lives at the Fire House to receive incoming calls, none of the active firemen receives any compensation.

Responding to the multiple fire alarm for the Ryan and Christie fire, Radnor men and apparatus arrived in Bryn Mawr at 8:00 o’clock on Wednesday evening, February 28, 1951, and remained through the bitter cold of that winter night on until 11:00 o’clock Thursday morning. Dense smoke, with little flame, made the work of the firemen difficult from the beginning. Some 30 men from the various companies were overcome by smoke, while one Bryn Mawr fireman died a few days later as a result of the injuries he sustained. Throughout the night and early morning fire ambulances, including Radnor’s, stood by, ready for any emergency that would necessitate a run to nearby Bryn Mawr Hospital.

Two disastrous accidents in 1951 brought out the Radnor Fire Company, the first on April 26, when an East-bound and a West-bound trolley met in a head-on collision just west of Wayne-St. Davids trolley station. The second occurred on May 16, when the “Red Arrow” train of the Pennsylvania Railroad plowed intuit he Philadelphia Night Express west of Bryn Mawr station. Radnor firemen, arriving without delay on the scene of the first accident, freed the seven seriously injured passengers from the wreckage and within half an hour’s time had all of them in Bryn Mawr Hospital by way of their own ambulance and those from Berwyn and Paoli.

At the Pennsylvania Railroad wreck, which resulted in the death of eight persons and the injury of 60 more, three Radnor fire trucks with the ambulance were on duty for hours, the former assisting with the work of rescue and the latter with the transportation of injured to the Bryn Mawr Hospital. They were but one of many such groups that responded to the emergency call. Thus far in 1952, the two most serious fires to which Radnor has been called have been that at Dr. McFarland’s Paoli home, which resulted in a loss of about $25,000, and the Smith warehouse fire in West Chester, with a loss of $100,000 or more.

In discussing the matter of training volunteers for their important work of firefighting and rescue, Mr. Clark says that not only does he have no difficulty in obtaining these men, but that usually there is a waiting list for any possible vacancies that may occur. Once admitted to the Fire Company, there is a six months’ period of probation before final acceptance. Also, for three months no new fireman is permitted to go into a fire unless accompanied by an old-timer.

In the meantime, there are fire drills for new and old firemen alike. From April 1 until October 1 these are of weekly occurrence, while from October 1 until April 1 they are held monthly. Much of the technique of the newest methods of fire fighting is acquired at the Fire School held in Lewistown each year by the Pennsylvania Department of PublicInstruction. Radnor Fire Company endeavors to send one or more representatives to each session, Chief Clark himself rarely missing one.

At the local fire drills  not only these newest techniques are taught but amateur firemen learn all ladder practices, including the proper raising, carrying and climbing of ladders. From discarded lumber a two story house has been erected on the old sewage plant on Ivan avenue. Here firemen are taught the putting out of blazes by fog methods, and techniques of rescue.

For the latter a smudge fire is usually started in the frame building, and somewhere in the depths of it, most often on the second floor, a dummy is hidden. Wearing masks and carrying a litter, firemen are trained to find and to rescue this dummy, just as they may be called upon to rescue persons overcome by smoke. Other fire drills, pertaining to the proper use of ladders, have been held on the outside of the Wayne Primary School building from time to time.

First Aid training is also given though a great deal of the knowledge comes through actual experience on the ambulance. Those who attend the Fire School in Lewistown receive courses in advanced first aid.

Due to the fact that several of the active firemen were called into the service following America’s entry into World War II in December, 1941, a number of High School boys were trained as active firemen to take their places. Well does the writer remember the pride her own son took in this assignment, the discipline and the training, which were to serve him in such good stead less than a year later when he, too, entered the service.

The first group of boys to be trained consisted of Malcolm Murphy, Davis Washburn, Joe Young, Carter Lippincott, Jack Fogarty, George Ott, Tom Mell, Bill Clark and Bill Patterson. There have been many others since then, each in turn considering it a great honor to be chosen. At present the group is limited each year to six senior class boys, who must have special releases from the school as well as written permission from parents. While they are firemen, they are not allowed to participate in any school sports. They may leave any and all classes at the first sound of the siren, and run to the Fire House, which conveniently adjoins the High School. They have, according to Chief Clark, proved of invaluable assistance, especially for daytime fires.

Exclusive of these six school boys, the total crew numbers 33 men, headed by “Eddie” Clark, who has been Fire Chief for the past 20 years. Leslie D. Wilkins, who is not only the chief engineer, but the secretary of the company, has served in the latter capacity for 17 years. Both men are sons of charter members of the company.

Assistant Chiefs are James Kane, Wells Walker and Edward Gallagher, Jason L. Fenimore is president of the Company; William M. Zimmermann, Jr., vice-president; Arthur T. Stillwell, treasurer. Directors are Hon. Benjamin F. James, Ralph Robson, Harry Simes, Grover Lengel, Rocco A. Odorisio, Harry Campbell, Jr., and John Ferguson.

The Fire Company’s budget is met each year by a certain amount derived from taxes, by contribution from the Township Board of Commissioners and yearly dues varying from three dollars for annual membership to $25 for sustaining members. The company has recently been the recipient of funds derived from the Wayne Rotary Basketball Tournament, and the Lions Main Line Charity Ball, to be held on Friday evening, April 18, will be for their benefit. These funds will be used for maintenance expenses. Among the most needed pieces of new equipment are a smoke ejector, two 500-gallon capacity fog nozzles, new ladders, two “walkie-talkie” radio sets and additional radio equipment. Other desirable additions would be two more portable oxygen units and a modern and a portable pump unit which would make it possible to draw water from a distance of 500 feet, at the rate of 250-300 gallons each minute.

It has often been said partly in jest, partly in earnest, that “you don’t have to be half crazy to be a volunteer fireman, but it helps an awful lot.” Residents of Radnor township, however, like better the definition of a volunteer fireman as given by Judge MacDade, when he described the former as “one who lives as close to the Ten Commandments as any human being can . . . for who else would get up in the middle of a cold winter’s night to help his neighbor?”


Radnor Fire Company: building history, equipment, members, ambulances

The present building which houses the Radnor Fire Company looks very different from that first small one built in 1890 by the Wayne Public Safety Association, although, as a matter of fact, the latter is incorporated in the former. This original fire house is the square, two story northeastern section of the building which has the caretaker’s quarters downstairs and the assembly room upstairs. When it housed the horse drawn engine it had an entrance both onto Audubon avenue and onto the open field in the back. Each doorway was wide enough for the firemen to drive the fire engines through.

Soon after the acquisition of the two automobile engines in the early nineteen hundreds, the first building was moved backward on the lot and a front section added, retaining, however, the tower which still remains on top of the building. Then in 1936, another addition and some further improvements were made, including alterations to the front which made possible the small upstairs balcony and changed the appearance of the front of the building. In the course of various improvements, the original frame part was encased in brick, making for greater uniformity of appearance.

When the ambulance was purchased in 1947, it was at first crowded into this building as it was at that time. However, in 1948, the addition to the south was built as a means of more adequately accommodating the ambulance, as well as one of the five fire engines now in use by the Radnor Fire Company.

The front upstairs room is used for recreational purposes while the back room is used for the monthly meeting of the Fire Company. Close inspection of the fioor shows marks where desks were once screwed down when this room was used some fifty years or more ago as one of the class rooms for the Radnor Public Schools. The gavel on the long table in the present room is in the shape of a wooden block on the side of which is a silver plate inscribed with the names of the various presidents from that of William W. Hearne, who took office, down to Jason L. Fenimore, the present incumbent.

Mr. Hearne, who held office until 1911, was succeeded by Eugene C. Bonniwell whose term extended until 1914, when Mr. Hearne again took office until 1917. Jonathan D. Lengel was president from 1917 to 1921; Charles E. Clark from 1921 to 1925; Charles M. Wilkins from 1925 to 1928; Ira V. Hale from 1928 to 1930; David H. Henderson from 1930 to 1947 and John J. McGovern from 1947 to 1951, when Mr. Fenimore took office. Meetings are called to order by striking the bell now hanging on the wall, originally the one which clanged its way to all fires from the front of company’s first motorized fire engine. Incidentally, this first engine was smashed on its way to a fire, Charles Clark tells your columnist, instead of rusting away on the vacant lot back of Lienhardt’s as stated in this column. However, the second engine did meet this fate when instead it might have been preserved by the Waterous Company who wished to put it on exhibition in their St. Paul plant.

Leslie D. Wilkins, secretary of the Fire Company for a number of years past, as well as its chief engineer, tells us that the present system of sirens was installed in the early 1920’s. During the first years of the original fire company, a big iron rim from a locomotive wheel had its permanent place in front of the fire house. This rim was struck by a hammer when a fire alarm came in. The noise was so resounding that it could be heard pretty well around the town, thus calling the firemen into action. Even as far back as 1906, the Fire Company kept a man on 24 hour duty, one of the first of these watchers being “Old Dad Watson”, a tall colored man still remembered by many people in Wayne. There was always a telephone in the firehouse and the telephone operator called the firemen at their homes.

Prior to the time of the installation of the present siren system, the loud whistle on the top of the steam heat plant gave the signal for firemen to assemble. In summer when the plant shut down it was necessary for a time to ring a bell. Mr. Wilkins well remembers the small auxiliary bell at the side of his father’s house on Aberdeen avenue which notified all the firemen in that neighborhood of any fire. Eventually a group of women in the town got together and planned for a “Tag Day”, when they stood on street corners and sold tags with small whistles attached, thus starting the fund for the purchase of a siren. After the permanent discontinuation of the steam heat plant a few years ago, it became necessary to depend entirely on the present siren system, although up to that time the siren at the plant was always used in winter for serious fires.

One of the most unusual undertakings of the Radnor Fire Company was their trip to Louisville, Ky., in February, 1937, to aid in relief work made necessary by the flooding of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers, following heavy rains. Those who went were Charles E. Clark and his son, Edwin J. Clark, the present fire chief, James Kain and James Conway. With Louisville as their ultimate destination, they went as far as Harrisburg in the fire engine which they were taking from Wayne. Then a special train was provided for all the equipment which had been volunteered from various sections as well as the firemen to man these engines. They entered the flooded area at Indianapolis, from which point on the going was tedious and difficult.

Once arrived in LouIsville they found themselves installed in a warehouse of the American Tobacco Company where, along with all the rest of the volunteer firemen from Pennsylvania they were under the able direction of Chief Deen, of the Lancaster (Pa.) Fire Department. Of these volunteers, the men from Radnor were the only ones from a district smaller than a third class city. Conditions everywhere were bad with many buildings afloat and many people trapped by fire and water. Among the many strange sights was that of a huge Ohio River steamboat stranded in the center of a golf course.

(To be concluded)

Opera House (Lyceum Hall) fire, Post Master Milton J. Porter, Welsh & Parks Hardware Store, more fires, The George Clay Fire Company

In the early morning hours of December 30, 1914, Wayne experienced its worst fire since the one that in March, 1900, burned the Bellevue Hotel to the ground. This time the conflagration was in another of Wayne’s early landmarks, the Opera House, built in the early 1870’s on ground donated by Henry Askin, one of the founders of this suburban community.

The building known as Lyceum Hall, when it was first erected, was originally used for lectures, debates and amateur theatricals. In 1889 the Wayne Estate enlarged the small stage, adding a new proscenium and scene shifts. At about this same time the third floor was renovated to serve as quarters for Wayne Lodge No. 581, F. and A. Masons, which was instituted there in 1890.

Then again in 1903 the building itself was remodeled and enlarged, provision being made at that time for the housing of the Wayne Post Office. Thereafter, it became the center of community activities for Wayne with the Euterpean concerts and other events of sociaJ and musical interest being given there. And not long before the time of the fire, the Messrs. Allen began to show their moving pictures at the Opera House, that being the flrst motion picture theater in Wayne.

The fire of December, 1914, started in the second story of the Gas Company’s office next door to the Opera House at about 1:30 in the morning. A call to the Radnor Police Department brought a quick response by the two engines of the Radnor Fire Company. Otis Hunsicker recalls that the first fire engine to be built by the Hale Company was in the shop, complete except for paint. So dire was the need for it that it was called into use just as it was, soon after the onset of the fire. In addition, a hurry call was sent to Berwyn, Devon, Bryn Mawr and Merion No. 1, aIthough the latter did not actually get into service.

At one time eight streams of water were playing on the fire, which soon worked its way up under the eaves of the Opera House, where it could not effectively be reached by the firemen because of the height of the building. Indeed, a number of firemen had a narrow escape from death on the top floor of the building when the “back draft” so much dreaded by all fire fighters, exploded. Dense clouds of smoke nearly asphyxiated these men before they could reach the steps.

Milton J. Porter, who was postmaster at that time, with the help of his employees and of volunteers, saved not only all the moveable furniture in the post office section of the Opera House, but also all mail, stamps and records. Miss H. Ada Detterline, of the post office force, had a miraculous escape from death when she was struck by a falling cornice and severely injured as she was assisting in the removal of these records. Temporary quarters were immediately set up in the Wayne Title and Trust building, and by 11:00 o’clock the following morning the outgoing mail was gotten off.

Practically the entire stock of the Welsh and Park Hardware Store was ruined by water. Less than two hours after the onset of the fire, Mr. Welsh had leased a vacant store in Union Hall and by noon had given an order to the Supplee-Biddle Company in Philadelphia for new stock, the first load of which was brought out by Herbert George in his truck that evening.

The Allens moved their motion pictures to St. Katharine’s Hall, where they were shown for some time thereafter. Their screen and piano were burned up in the fire, although the motion picture machine was saved. Andrew J. Martin, of the Wayne Plumbing and Heating Company, estimated their loss at about $3,000, with a large quantity of tools destroyed and the main office and cellar flooded by water. In the Gas Company’s office all the papers and records of John L. Mather were destroyed. These records covered his entire term of service with the Electric Light Company and the Wayne Steam Heat Company, as well as with the U. G. I. However, books of the company were in the fireproof safe.

Wendell and Treat estimated their loss at about $30,000, while the Wayne Lodge suffered a loss of some $2,000 in the way of furniture and fixtures. That the office of the Wayne Estate was saved was due to the good work of Charles R. Kennedy and of Otis Hunsicker.

According to the account of this spectacular fire as given in “The Suburban” of January 1, 1915, “nearly everyone in Wayne and St. Davids was there. . . all fire companies did fine service with especial credit due to the Hale Motor Company engine in charge of Charles J. Young.” The slate roof of the Presbyterian Church next door to the Opera House was probably the only thing that saved it from destruction since a continuous shower of sparks swept that way. Indeed, that anything in the general vicinity was saved seems miraculous in view of the limited fire fighting facilities of Wayne and its neighboring communities in 1914 as compared to those of the present.

Among the smaller, but yet important fires of the period when Wayne had but the two fire engines, was that on the G. L. Warner place, a short distance from Martin’s Dam, when in March, 1913, the barn was completely destroyed although all the horses and cattle were saved. When the alarm was sounded Chief Wilkins with Guy Hallowell., E. J. Wendell and Otis Hunsicker made a quick run in Mr. Wendell’s automobile.

When they found the barn a complete mass of fiames on their arrival they immediately set to work to save the rest of the buildings. The first step in this direction was to build a dam across a small creek that ran near the barn, using fence ralls, stones and sod in its construction. When the rest of the firemen got there they found plenty of water for their pump. in this dam. For three hours Chief Wilkins with 15 of his men worked successfully to save the surrounding buildings.

The first big residential fire after the acquisition of the two automobile engines was that of the Edward A. Schmidt residence at Radnor in September, 1909. The nearest water was from a lily pond about 900 feet from the house. When the pumps had exhausted that supply their chemical apparatus was brought into play, putting the fire under control after two or three hours’ time.

On the way to the Isaac H. Clothier, Jr. estate in the bitter cold weather of November, 1917, both of the Radnor engines broke down. However, they eventually joined the Bryn Mawr Fire Company, the Merion Fire Company, and the George W. Clay Company from Conshohocken at the scene of the destruction of the old fashioned stable where the flames spread so quickly that a number of prize winning hunters and a pony belonging to the Clothier children perished in the flames.

A few months later, in May, 1918, I the Radnor Fire Company was called to the J. J Kearsley Mitchell place on Spring Mill road, where the garage, which also housed the chauffeur’s family, was already a mass of flames when they arrived. Despite their most valiant efforts the 16-months-old baby of the chauffeur was burned to death in sight of several of the Wayne firemen, who got ladders up to the I room in which the crib stood, only to be beaten back by the violence of the flames. Together the George Clay Fire Company and the Radnor Fire Company pieced out 2000 feet of hose to stretch to a pond from which they pumped water in relays in order to save several greenhouses and other buildings, since there was no other water on the hilltop on which these buildings were located.

(To Be Continued)

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.

1911 Fifth Annual Convention of the Delaware County Firemen’s Association and parade

If the weather on Memorial Day, 1908, was so wet that many of the plans for gala housing festivities for Wayne’s two first motor driven fire engines had to be abandoned, the weather on Friday and Saturday, June 9 and 10, 1911, more than made up for it.

These were the dates chosen long in advance for the Fifth Annual Convention of the Delaware County Firemen’s Association, to be held in Wayne, with the Radnor Fire Company as hosts. As far in advance as February 24, “The Suburban” announced community plans for “the greatest demonstration of firemen and equipment that has been seen in this county for many years.”

By May 26 plans had developed to such an extent that the paper announced that “the eyes of Eastern Pennsylvania are now on Wayne, for the coming parade promises to eclipse anything heretofore held in this part of the sate, excepting in Philadelphia.” And with the cooperation of other Delaware County fire companies, as well as of many other neighboring companies, this promise was more than fulfilled when both Friday and Saturday dawned clear and bright.

When the first convention of the Delaware County Firemen’s Association was held in 1907, there were but nine companies represented. Four years later membership in the Association had increased to 29 out of a potential 35 throughout Delaware County. The Association was at that time the largest one-county organization not only in Pennsylvania, but in the entire United States. Charles S. Salin, of Ridley Park, was the president.

In charge of local arrangements for the 1911 convention were Charles M. Wilkins, chairman; Martin Mulhall, treasurer; Charles E. Clark, secretary; with George Lentz, Nathan P. Pechin and David Henderson serving on the committee. Eugene C. Bonniwell–now a Philadelphia jurist–was president of the Radnor Fire Company and Fred H. Treat, treasurer, while Charles E. Clark was the Fire Chief.

Early in May a mass meeting, presided over by Mr. Bonniwell, was held in the Saturday Club, to lay tentative plans for the Convention before the community and to enlist interest and support, financial and otherwise. It was estimated at this time that about $2,000 would be needed to made the affair a success.

With the convention lasting two days, it was necessary also to provide for the entertainment of some of the firemen as the guests of the well-known “Main Line Millionaire Fire Company” as Wayne’s group was often called, though the Bryn Mawr Company had originally been so named. Not only was it necessary to plan for the entertainment of the firemen, but also for the members of the Ladies Auxiliaries, who in many cases would accompany them. This responsibility was assumed by the members of the Saturday Club.

Although the parade was not scheduled to take place until Saturday afternoon, the convention opened on Friday night at the Wayne Opera House, with Mr. Salin presiding at the business meeting. Following an invocation by Rev. Joseph F. O’Keefe, rector of St. Katharine’s Church, Mr. Bonniwell gave the welcoming address, followed by the presentation of a handsome floral key to President Salin. The main speaker of the evening was President Judge Isaac Johnson, of the Delaware County Courts.

In his talk on “Civic Duties of a Citizen Fireman”, Judge Johnson compared the work of the volunteer fireman to that of the soldier, since both risk their health and their lives for the preservation of the lives and property of other people. The former even do so, he stated, without any thought of pay or remuneration of any kind. Exercises closed with a prayer by the Rev. H. E. Walhey, of the Wayne Methodist Church.

Both by night and by day Wayne proclaimed its welcome to its visitors by its gala appearance. By night thousands of colored electric lights glowed in the business section and at the arches at the Railroad Station and on the grounds of Dr. Robert P. Elmer’s home opposite the fire house, where a court of honor had been built.

Places of business and residences throughout the town were decorated with flags and bunting for the five-mile march of 1500 firemen and musicians “over the broad, beautifully shaded avenues of Wayne and St. Davids”. The community was “one mass of light and night as well as color by day.”

Members of visiting fire companies began to arrive in Wayne by 9:30 on that bright Saturday morning. They continued to arrive steadily until 2:30 o’clock, when the three special trains chartered from the Pennsylvania Railroad came into Wayne station. All day mounted aides met each company, not only at this station, but at the Wayne-St. Davids station of the Philadelphia & Western. Upon arrival each company was escorted to its place of formation in the parade.

At four o’clock, to the music of many bands, the parade got under way with Captain Leonard Haskett, of the Radnor Township Police Department, riding at its head. With Captain Haskett were six of his own men as well as four members of the State constabulary, from the Wyoming Station at Wilkes Barre. Next in line was President Salin of the Delaware County Firemen’s Association. Immediately behind him rode and marched those visiting firemen who were not in the Delaware County district. First of these were 65 volunteers from the Malvern Fire Company in their gray uniforms, drawing the hose cart of their company and accompanied by their 27 piece band.

Next in line were the firemen from Haverford, with their Fife and Drum Corps of 17 pieces, followed by the Bryn Mawr Company, at whose head marched their handsome Chief, Israel H. Supplee, who had previously taken several prizes in other parades as the “largest and best appearing fireman”.

The Bryn Mawr contingent included 62 men in their blue uniforms, with their handsome steamer and combination truck. Then came the Autocar Company of Ardmore, “few in number, but mighty in action”. Merion Number 1 with their auto truck and hook and ladder also sent 20 men from Ardmore. berwyn Fire Company, 30 strong, with the Morstein Fife and Drum Corps of 15 pieces, was also in line.

Among the most interesting pieces of fire apparatus in this First Division of the parade was the “Darby Ram”, said to be the oldest piece of fire fighting apparatus in existence anywhere. With it was an old hand engine and leather hose of many generations past. In contrast to this was the new $7,000 auto truck of the Montgomery Hose and Steam Fire Engine Company of Norristown, which made its first public appearance at this parade, and which formed the last unit in the First Division, the Second being made up of Delaware County Fire Companies.

(To be Continued)

Radnor Fire Company: 1908 Memorial Day Parade, Union Hall festivities

Memorial Day, which feel on Saturday in 1906, was chosen by the Radnor Fire Company for the housing of their first two automobile fire engines, pictures of which were shown in this column last week. This was soon after the purchase of the Knox Waterous gas engine of the two cylinder, air-cooled type. The first piece was the Knox combined automobile and hose wagon, purchased in 1906.

By this time Wayne was very much in the public eye in the entire Philadelphia area because of its pioneering in the field of gasoline driven fire-fighting apparatus. Up to 1906 fire engines throughout the entire United States were horsedrawn. The purchase of that first small Knox hose wagon by Wayne marked the initial step in the transition from horsedrawn apparatus to gasoline-propelled fire engines throughout the country. Small wonder that some 25 engine companies, some from as far away as Delaware, responded with eagerness to invitations sent them by the Radnor Fire Company to join in the celebration of the housing of these two automobile fire engines.

Only the month before, Chief McLaughlin, of the Philadelphia Electrical Bureau, accompanied by William T. Brown, Jr., electrical engineer of the Bureau, and two officials from the Fire Department of Woodbury, N. J., had come to Wayne to inspect the newly-purchased fire equipment. There they had been met by Chief Charles M. Wilkins, who gave them full opportunity to examine the engines. At the suggestion of the Philadelphia representative this apparatus “was subjected to every test and met every requirement”, according to “The Suburban” of April 10, 1908, in an article which goes on to quote Chief McLaughlin as saying:

“After that inspection I am convinced we are away behind in the equipment of our Fire Department. I saw that apparatus send a stream of water an inch thick through 300 feet of hose 125 feet in the air. The pressure from the main was 45 lbs. to the square inch, which the pumps increased by 115 lbs. The engine was of 45 horsepower and was got under way in 90 seconds. It was the most remarkable demonstration I have ever seen.

“We went to inspect the apparatus at the request of Director Clay, who wishes to provide better fire protection for the outlying districts of Philadelphia. With apparatus such as we saw at Wayne located at Germantown, Kensington, Chestnut Hill, Frankford, Tacony and Manayunk, I feel those sections would be well protected, and I shall make such a recommendation tot he Director. The initial cost of $4500 for each truck with its contents. The gasoline costs about $2 a month, according to Chief Wilkins at Wayne, and it seems to me the whole thing is a much more efficient and economical system than the one we now have in Philadelphia.” (Mr. Andrew Fritz tells your columnist that gasoline was then 9 cents a gallon!)

With this interest on both the part of the Department of Public Safety of Philadelphia and that of the Electrical Bureau, it was natural that Philadelphia should plan to participate in the Memorial Day celebration in Wayne by sending a prized piece of their historical equipment. This was to be one of the oldest hand engines in the United States. Accompanying this historical piece of fire apparatus would be a detail from the old Philadelphia Volunteers.

Among the other early acceptances to the invitation extended by the Radnor Fire Company were those from the Washington and Brandywine Company, of Coatesville, the Old York Road Company, of Ashbourne; the Atlantic City Volunteers, the Minqua’s Fire Company, of Newport, Delaware, and from the Genside, Ardmore, Bryn Mawr, Devon and Berwyn fire companies. In the end some 25 companies from far and near had signified their intention to help celebrate the auspicious occasion in Wayne. The Bryn Mawr Band was engaged in advance and a number of visiting companies agreed to bring their bands with them.

Indeed this parade according to “The Suburban” of May 22, would probably be “the most imposing one ever seen in Wayne”, with nearly 1000 firemen marching in its ranks. For its part Wayne would have its entire equipment in the line, seven pieces in all, including those from the old North Wayne Fire Department. Some of the smaller carts would be drawn by school children.

The parade was to form on Audubon avenue near the former high school building with wings resting on Windermere and Runnymede avenues. Headed by the Radnor Township Mounted Police they would proceed along a route that would eventually cover most of the streets in both South and North Wayne.

The exercises pertaining to the actual housing were to be performed by the neighboring company of Bryn Mawr, with the Old Volunteer Firemen of Philadelphia housing the pumping engine. Luncheon was to be served at Union Hall (now the Masonic Building) with the banquet of the local fire company to be held at the Waynewood apartment house (now the Wayne Hotel).

The festivities were to close with a ball at Union Hall. The ladies of the community were urged to help entertain visitors “in home-like fashion” by sending donations of “cakes, sandwiches, meats or any of the edibles for which the housewives of Wayne are noted” . . . “As for the gentlemen, they may do their part by making small donations of cash for the expenses necessary to be incurred.” Charles E. Clark recalls that Arthur L. Holmes, for many years a resident of Summit avenue, was the first man to make such a donation.

With all plans made for the big occasion, Saturday turned out to be “the very worst day that  the weather man has handed out in many years” according to the story appearing in “The Suburban” the following week. Nevertheless, the engines were housed and the parade was held in spite of the fact that only about seven out of the 25 fire companies who had accepted invitations were able to be present. But when they actually did get under way shortly after 4:00 o’clock in the afternoon, the “Radnor boys and the visiting firemen to the number of almost 300 fell into line and went over an abbreviated line of march. Making up in enthusiasm for lack of numbers, David A. Henderson was grand marshal of the parade, “bearing his honors with becoming dignity”.

At the housing itself the Rev. Samuel M. Thompson, at that time pastor of the Wayne Methodist Church, offered the invocation. Members of the Bryn Mawr Fire Company housed the combination automobile-chemical engine while their band played “The Star Spangled Banner”. Franklin Co. No. 1, of Chester, then ran the auto truck into the engine house to the tune of “Auld Lang Syne”, played by the Upland Band. Riding in the truck as it was placed in the house were William Wood, M. C. Carey and “Cap” Clark. Charles E. Clark, to whose family “Cap” was not related despite the similarity of the names, recalls him as the “champion life-saver of Atlantic City” and a volunteer fireman with many years of service to his credit.

Following the formalities of the housing, W. W. Hearne, president of the Fire Company, introduced another resident of Wayne, Thodore J. Grayson, Esq., who gave an address apropos of the occasion, in which he paid tribute to the men who had handled the old hand drawn engine and hose carriage “with the same spirit that animates the firemen of today”. Mr. Hearne was also toastmaster at the annual banquet at which there were only about 50 diners at the end of that wet day. Since no mention was made in “The Suburban” account of the ball which had been scheduled as the grand finale of this great occasion, it is assumed it did not take place.

(To be continued)

Radnor Fire Company: history, Knox-Waterous fire engine, The Coffee House, local fires


The picture illustrating this week’s column was taken in June, 1911, after the Radnor Fire Company had for several years been the proud possessor of its first two pieces of gasoline-propelled fire fighting equipment.

To the right is their first acquisition, the Knox combined automobile and hose wagon, purchased in 1906, while to the left is the Knox-Waterous automobile gas-engine of the two-cylinder, air-cooled type. The man standing a the side of the latter is a firehouseman, employed by the Radnor Fire Company for a short period to care for the new gas-driven fire engines, the mechanics of which were so little understood at that time. Although with the passing of the years his first name has been forgotten, Charles Clark remembers that his last name was Turnbull.

The man at the right was Jack Clark, remembered as “quite a town character” and no relation to our present fire chief or his family.

In the immediate background of the picture is the original fire house, as it appeared before any of the additions were built. To the right are two buildings that were landmarks in their day, although each is but a memory now. The first is the Coffee House, while next to it is the first Radnor township school building to be erected on the large plot of ground now owned by the School District.

The Coffee House was first built as a meeting place for the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Later it was turned into the Coffee House still remembered by some of the pupils of Wayne School of an earlier era for the excellence of the soup it served. Many others ate there, including Wayne’s business men and drivers of the many horse drawn trucks on Lancaster Pike. The use of the building was given without rent by a well-known local resident, as long as no intoxicating liquors were sold in the township.

Before the Wayne Neighborhood League occupied its present quarters on West Wayne avenue, it was also housed in this building, which was not destroyed until its site was needed for the first unit of the present High School building, erected in 1923.

So much for this quaint old picture, which is all the more valuable now since the two fire engines themselves gradually rusted away on the vacant lot back of Lienhardt’s store. Since the engine purchased in 1906 was the first piece of motorized fire fighting equipment to be put into operation in the United States, it might well have found a permanent place in the Smithsonian Institute, or similar sanctuary, along with its sister engine acquired in 1908.

There is only one relic of Radnor Fire Company’s first engine still in the Company’s possession. That is the bell which was once attached to the front of the old chemical and hose wagon. It now hangs on the upstairs wall of the fire house and is sounded to call meetings to order.

In discussing the disastrous Wayne fire which really sparked the movement to obtain good fire protection in Radnor township, A. M. Ehart, editor of “The Suburban”, told your columnist of the early morning blaze which totally destroyed his newspaper plant in the early morning hours of Saturday, February 10, 1906.

The building was a pleasant, two-story, yellowish-red brick edifice on the site of the present Allan C. Hale building, and was entirely occupied by “The Suburban”. No one ever really knew the origin of the intense blaze which left nothing standing except a few foundation bricks, as shown in the picture on the front page of “The Suburban” of February 16, 1906. All had been well as far as Wayne’s night watchman knew when he stopped by at 4:00 A. M. to light the gas under the linotype machine. The shrill warning of a Pennsylvania Railroad engine as it went past on the tracks to the rear of the building gave the townspeople the first warning of the blaze.

When Wayne’s horse drawn fire engines arrived on the scene, they found that the fire had gotten a tremendous start in the corner of the building where the linotype machine had stood. Although the Bryn Mawr Fire Company engines were also called into action they arrived late, as they could make but little time over bad roads. The loss was a total one, even tot he files of “The Suburban”, which could never be replaced.

At the same time the “Suburban” building was burning, Frank Heuslein’s harness shop, which stood to the east of it, caught fire, with much loss to the contents of the shop as well as to the living quarters of the Heuslein family. The site of the shop is now occupied by Peter diBlaio, antique dealer.

By the Monday morning following the disastrous Saturday “The Suburban” had resumed operation of its paper from the Downingtown plant, where it continued until 1916, when it occupied the Maguire Building, where it is now located. While the printing was done in Downingtown, the business of the newspaper was carried on in an office formerly occupied by Dr. J. C. Ward, with the still-familiar Wayne 123 (0123) as the telephone number. The Heuslein Harness Shop was also able to resume business shortly after the fire.

This February 16, 1906, edition of “The Suburban”, under the headline of “Steps Being Taken for the Organization of a First Class Fire Company in Wayne–Prominent Men Back of Movement”, tells of a meeting held on the Tuesday evening following the fire, which was attended by many of the foremost citizens of Wayne and St. Davids. The article also goes on to state that “subscriptions were being procured for the purchase of a modern combination chemical and hose truck similar to the one used by the Bryn Mawr Company, plenty of hose and all the equipment needed to fight fires successfully. Stringent rules have been made and enforced.

This then was the actual beginning of our present efficient Radnor Fire Company, in the formation of which “the three Charlies” figured so prominently – Charles Wilkins, Charles Clark and Charles Stewart.

(To be continued)

Early days of Radnor Fire Company (as the North Wayne Hose Company) Andrew L. Fritz

In order to assist your columnist in assembling material for this series of articles on the Radnor Fire Company, Andrew L. Fritz paid a visit to Wayne recently to reminisce about the early days of fire companies in Wayne.

Mr. Fritz, whose name is among the 24 signers of the 1906 charter of the present Fire Company, now lives in Upper Darby, although he was for many years a resident of Wayne.

In telling of the North Wayne Hose Company, which antedates the Wayne Chemical Company by several years, Mr. Fritz recalls that it consisted of a hose reel and little ladder truck, all hand drawn.

George Baker, who lived almost directly across the street from the building which was headquarters for the Hose Company and now known as the Legion House, was always immediately on the scene as soon as an alarm came in, thereby earning his appelation of “chief”. Among his faithful assistants in pulling the truck was Miss Mary Biles, who was later to become Mrs. Andrew Fritz. Another helper was a colored girl named Anna Miller.

As the majority of North Wayne homes were built slightly before those in South Wayne, it was natural that that section should have the first organized fire department.

When the Wayne Chemical Company was formed in South Wayne, its equipment consisted of hose reel and combination chemical wagon, according to Mr. Fritz. Sometimes the hose cart was hitched bak of the chemical wagon. At first hoses for this two-wheeled vehicle were obtained from Lienhardt’s Bakery, in which connection Mr. Fritz recalls that Dr. Lienhardt had great interest in the Fire Company at that time. Later, the horses came from R. H. Johnson’s “not very often the same two horses”, according to Mr. Fritz. Eber Siter, at that time the foreman for Johnson’s often brought the horses down to the fire house from the company’s stables.

Several very disastrous fires occurring in quick succession had much to do with the formation of the present fire company. The Andes home on the Lincoln Highway near Strafford avenue as well as a twin house nearby, was a total loss, as was the building on East Lancaster avenue, then occupied by “The Suburban”, when it caught fire a short time afterwards. The latter was on the site of the present Allan C. Hale Company building. All of these structures could have been saved had there been proper fire protection in the township.

According to Mr. Fritz, there was much casual talk along these lines in the pool room, which was then on the first floor of the Masonic Hall, where the Wayne Red Cross Headquarters is now located.

Charles H. Stewart, who was then secretary of the Board of Commissioners, became very much interested in the project of a well-organized, motorized fire department. Frederick H. Treat, another member of the Board of Commissioners, was equally enthusiastic and he undertook to interest other members of the Board. And so, in 1907 Radnor township acquired its first piece of automobile equipment, to be followed only a year later by a second piece.

This 1907 model was unique in that it was, according to local claims, the first gasoline-pumped and propelled fire engine in the world. Since no factory had blue prints on file for such a piece of fire apparatus, the Radnor Fire Company ordered the different parts to be specially designed before actual construction began. Of this motorized fire engine “The Fireman’s Herald”, under date of August 4, 1908, says:

“The Radnor Fire Company has for some time possessed a Knox combined automobile chemical and hose wagon, which is capable of a speed of 20-miles-an-hour, and carries two 35-gallon chemical tanks, two 3-gallon portable chemical extinguishers, 1,000 feet of 2 1/2 inch hose and minor equipment. It has answered 18 alarms without the loss of a minute by accident or hold-up of any sort.” A picture of this quaint old vehicle, along with that of Radnor’s latest piece of apparatus, illustrated last week’s column.

According to Mr. Fritz, this original Radnor fire engine at first received its full share of ridicule from the townspeople. And even before it was finally accepted by the Fire Company it had to undergo various tests. Mr. Fritz recalls that Mr. Treat designated the old road on the Wright place leading from Brook road to Old St. David’s Church as the final stretch along which the fire truck was to make a successful run. Much of the purchase price of this Knox chemical and hose wagon was raised by door-to-door solicitation of funds, although the Commissioners made a contribution from their treasury, also.

The second piece of fire-fighting apparatus was acquired in the spring of 1908, a year after the purchase of the first one. A full description of this engine appears in “The Fireman’s Herald” of April 4, 1908, in an article illustrated by a very clear picture of this now quaint vehicle. According to the Herald, “Radnor Fire Co. No. 1, of Wayne, Pa., has just received a fire engine of a new pattern. It is an automobile gasoline machine, and consists of a truck chassis made by the Knox Automobile Co., of Springfield, Mass., with an independent gasoline drive pump manufactured by the Waterous Engine Works Co., at St. Paul, Minn. The automobile engine is of the two-cylinder air-cooled type. The pump is driven by a separate engine constructed by the Waterous Company, and is of the four-six-inch rotary cylinder type. The cooling is accomplished by a pipe from the pump, and the amount of cooling is adjustable so as to be readily adapted to the requirements of service. There are two separate and distinct systems of ignition provided. The pump is connected by clutch directly with the engine shaft, and has a capacity of about 400 gallons a minute”.

The testing of this new engine was an occasion of much interest not only to local firemen, but to many outside the district as “The Fireman’s Herald” indicates in the same article:

“The test was made in the presence of many firemen from that section, and was personally superintended by F. J. Waterous, of the Waterous Company, in charge of Charles M. Wilkins. Draughting from a cistern and playing through 950 feet of hose, and a 1 1/2 inch nozzle, the engine forced a stream 101 feet; with a one-inch nozzle, 125 feet; with 500 feet of hose and a one-ince nozzle, 141 feed, and with a 1-1/8 inch nozzle, 130 feet. With 400 feet of hose a perpendicular stream was tried against a stack 155 feet high. A strong wind was blowing and it was impossible to keep the stream steadily against the stack, but the stream came within 15 feet of the top. With 3/4 and 7/8 inch nozzles two effective perpendicular streams were thrown a distance of 125 feet.

“From a hydrant through 50 feet of hose, and a 1-1/8 inch nozzle, water was thrown 141 feet, amply sufficient for any building in the Township; with an inch nozzle, 160 feet. Measurements were taken of solid drops of water only.”

The “housing” of this Knox-Waterous automobile was an occasion for a parade, a banquet and a ball, all of which will be described in next week’s column.

Radnor Fire Company history & members, Radnor High School, The Coffee House

“Be it known that the subscribers, having associated themselves together for the support of Fire Engine, Hook and Ladder and Hose Company for the control of fire and being desirous of becoming incorporated agreeably to the provision of the act of the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania . . . do hereby declare, set forth and certify that the following are the purposes, objects, articles and conditions of their said association for and upon which they desire to be incorporated.”

So reads, in part, the opening paragraph of the handsomely framed charter of the Radnor Fire Company which still hangs on the second floor of the fire house on South Wayne avenue. It is signed by 24 subscribers, and dated March 15, 1906. Isaac Johnson, President Judge of the Court of Common Pleas of Delaware County, attached his signature to the decree, as did R. J. Baldwin, Recorder of Deeds, and W. I. B. McClenachan, Deputy Recorder.

The first clause of the “articles and conditions of said association” sates that its name shall be “Radnor Fire Company of Wayne”. The second states that its purpose is “for the control of fire”, the third that its place of business is Wayne, Delaware County, Pa., and its fourth that the corporation is “to exist perpetually”.

The fifth clause gives the names of the subscribers while the sixth states that the corporation has no capital stock and is to be managed by a board consisting of seven members. According to the seventh clause, “the early income of the Corporation other than that derived from real estate will not exceed the sum of $25.”

The 24 names of subscribers in the order in which they appear on the charter are: Charles M. Wilkins, Charles E. Clark, L. B. Gault, Edward G. Fritz, Andrew L. Fritz, Nathan P. Pechin, Charles T. Worrall, George Deuber, John S. Detterline, Jr., Albert McAllister, Joseph M. Devereaux, W. H. Gault, John A. Duff, Howard F. Pennell, Richard Leary, A. A. Sellers, Patrick J. Duf, David P. Duff, W. Clarence Lucas, W. W. Gualt, George G. Lentz, J. Herbert Reynolds, Frederick H. Treat, and Charles H. Stewart. With the exception of Mr. Pechin, who lived in Radnor, and Mr. Stewart, who lived in St. Davids, all were residents of Wayne.

Directors for the first year as listed in the charter were the Messrs. Stewart, Worrall, Treat, Pechin, W. H. Gault and John H. Duff, with the president, who was still to be elected at that time, to serve in an ex-officio capacity. W. W. Hearne was later chosen for that office, serving from 1906 until 1917.

It is interesting to note that the first two subscribers to sign the charter have sons who now, some 46 years later, are actively connected with the Radnor Fire Company. “Eddie” Clark has been the popular Fire Chief for some 19 years past, while Leslie D. Wilkins, whose activities have extended over a long period, is the Chief Engineer and Secretary. Both Mr. Clark, Sr., and Mr. Wilkins, Sr., served at various times as chief of the Fire Department. The latter is now deceased, but Charles M. Clark is Fire Co-ordinator for the State Defense Council, he now spends most of his time in Harrisburg.

The first semblance of an organized fire company in Wayne was formed soon after the Civil War with headquarters in what is now the Legion House on Beechtree lane. It was called the North Wayne Hose Company. An organization formed slightly later was the Wayne Chemical Company. Subsequently these companies were sponsored by the North Wayne Protective Association and the Wayne Public Safety Association, which originally took over both police and fire protection for their respective districts.

The charter members of the present fire company, when it was formed in 1906, were drawn from the membership of both these groups. The nucleus of the buildings which are now the fire company’s headquarters on South Wayne avenue was built by the Wayne Public Safety Association sometime in the ’90’s. At that period the fire company’s chief piece of equipment was a chemical wagon pulled by horses hastily obtained from the R. H. Johnson Company, on Conestoga road, whenever the alarm for a fire was sounded. At that time there were both front and back exits through which a horse-drawn fire engine could be drawn. All of the ground back of the small building was an open field. The old Coffee House then stood on the site of the present high school building, while the high school itself was located in the present grammar school before the annex was added.

When the present Radnor Fire Company, as formed in 1906, had been in successful operation for ten years, the small building which it had been occupying since the Wayne Chemical Company had gone out of existence was formally deeded to them by the Wayne Protective Association. This was in 1916, and by then it had become apparent that the Radnor Fire Company needed larger quarters. The original building was placed on rollers and pushed farther back on the property in order to make room for the addition planned by the Radnor Fire Company.

Pictures of the original building show that its front door, which faced West, is identically the same door by which voters enter the polls after turning to the let when they first go into the fire house on the High School side. The present stairway, as well as the upstairs room and the room underneath, belonged to the original small building.

After this first addition was made in 1916, further enlargements came in 1936 and 1948. The ambulance, purchased in 1947, then found permanent quarters in the one-story annex tot he South of the older building.

For subsequent articles in this series much interesting material on the early days of the Radnor Fire Company, obtained from several of the Charter members of the organization, will be presented to our readers.

(To be continued)

Radnor Fire Company acquires new Mack 1000 gallon pump truck, fire fighting history, plane crashes

It was an eventful day for the community when the big shiny new Mack 1000-gallon pumper, equipped with the latest in fire-fighting apparatus, arrived in Wayne last August. As it stood outside the Fire House in all the glory of the American LaFrance “fire engine red” paint, the eyes of all passers-by were on it. Many of the grownups joined the admiring group of youngsters as the latter clustered around it.

Its trial spin around the streets of Wayne attracted still wider attention. All of Radnor township felt a justifiable pride in this latest addition to one of the best equipped fire companies in the State of Pennsylvania.

This was, indeed, a far cry from the days when a three-foot fire horn, such as was owned by each Wayne householder in the 1880’s, sounded to call out the neighbors to fight any fire that might occur in the community. One of these horns is now among the most interesting exhibits at the headquarters of the Radnor Historical Society on Beechtree lane.

Old records show that even in the early days of Wayne, fire protection was considered very essential. Householders took nightly turns in patrolling their neighborhoods. So serious was the matter of the blowing of these three-foot horns that any unwarranted use of one called for a fine of five dollars.

A bucket of water stood behind the front door of each home in the township. The use of this was a first aid measure while the young men of the community rushed out to “man the pumper.” This was a 500-gallon hogshead of water on two wheels with a hand pump attached. While some of the volunteers pulled the ropes tied to the tongue of the pumper, others pushed from the rear. Down-hill, or even on the level, the method of locomotion was not too difficult. For uphill runs it was well-nigh impossible. Usually, there was little salvage after a fire had really gotten some headway.

The present fire company, formed in 1906 by a group of 21 residents of the community, has seen such steady growth in the intervening years that the handsome new Mack pumper so recently acquired is but one of the fleet of five pieces of fire-fighting apparatus, each piece capable of handling a fire by itself. Any one of the five may be sent to a fire to combat or to control it. In addition tot his array of fire trucks there is the handsome and well-equipped ambulance, which alone answered 329 calls in the period between April 1, 1950 and April 1, 1951. During this same time there were 279 fire calls, making a total of 608 calls, which the Radnor Fire Company had answered in the course of one year’s time.

The new Mack truck features the high pressure fog system, the most recently developed technique for putting out fires with the least amount of damage possible. It carries 300 gallons of water and approximately 1000 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose. Before the acquisition of this truck the newest piece of apparatus was the 750-gallon Mack pumper acquired in 1948. It carries 1400 feet of hose, a fact very reassuring to the property owner whose home is located at a distance from the nearest fire hydrant.

Other trucks include the Chevrolet, purchased in 1940, with its 200 gallon pump, its 150 gallons of “booster” water and its 500 feet of 1 1/2 inch hose; the Ford, bought in 1939, with its 100-gallon pump and the Autocar “quad” (quadruple combination) which was acquired in 1937. The latter has a 600 gallon pump; 1100 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose; two 65-foot ladders and other different types, varying from eight-foot collapsible to 50-foot extension. The different types of ladder operated by the Radnor Fire Company are extension, wall and roof ladders.

In enumerating the engines and equipment of the Radnor Fire Company, Chief Edwin J. Clark tells your columnist that there is only one possible thing which a large city company might have that is lacking Wayne–this is an aerial ladder. Among the many interesting and up-to-the-minute pieces of equipment which they do possess is a portable cutting tool in the form of an acetylene torch that would be capable of cutting an automobile in half, should this be necessary. Other equipment, of which the community may well be proud, is the fire company’s emergency lighting system, to be used at night at the scene of a fire; the foam generator for gasoline fires and the newest equipment for both high and low pressure fog. And then there is the radio inter-communication equipment, by which all the trucks may keep in contact with each other, as well as with the fire house headquarters. Incidentally, Radnor was one of the first fire companies to be radio-equipped, having acquired its set even before Philadelphia.

Among other accessory possessions are several asbestos suits that enable firemen to go right into a blaze without too much danger; masks of various kinds; many types of forcible entry tools; salvage covers to protect furniture and roof covers that effectively keep out the weather until repairs can be made.

Much of the technique of the newest methods of fire-fighting is acquired at the Fire School held in Lewistown, Pa., each year. Radnor Fire Company attempts to send several representatives to each session of this school, which is run by the Pennsylvania Department of Public Instruction.

Chief Clark himself seldom misses a session. On one occasion the question was propouned as to what methods to —— out a fire in a gasoline or ——- on the road. Of the 72 fire chiefs present, Mr. Clark was the only one who had actual experience along this line, the occasion being the well-remembered fire of this kind on Spring Mill road several years ago.

“Eddie” stated that his men had put out the fire with low velocity fog. The others attending the School said this could not be done, whereupon the Session adjourned to the proving field, where the actual experiment was tried by putting gasoline in a tank and scattering more around it. The effectiveness of low-velocity fog was proved, just as Wayne’s Fire Chief had stated.

Following this question came another concerning the best methods of extinguishing fire in an airplane accident. And again “Eddie” was the only fire chief present with actual experience in this direction.

Although no other fire chief present had had experience with airplane fires, Mr. Clark had two on which to report. The first was the crash of an Army Air Force P-38, on the rear of a property on Waterloo road, Devon. The plane was on its way to Aberdeen Proving Grounds, Md., but went off its course in a heavy rainstorm. Radnor Fire Company extinguished the flames and immediately afterwards the State Police and Army representatives took over.

The second plane accident occurred in Radnor township itself on June 15, 1949, when a private plane took of after having made a forced landing on County line road, Villanova. Neighbors called the fire company, which reached the scene in seven minutes with four pumpers, ladder truck and ambulance. The fire was put out with the fog apparatus.

Pilot rescue was impossible from the beginning–all that the fire company could do was release the body form the safety belt after extinguishing the flames. The plane apparently came into contact with high power lines of the Pennsylvania Railroad immediately after take-off.

(To be Continued)