Community Fire Company
A Brief History
In the early years of 1922 a meeting of the Ocean View Property Owners Association was held to decide whether a second fire company was needed in Leonardo. President of the association at this time was Mr. Edward Corbet. Mr. Corbet went on to be the last surviving charter member of the Community Fire Company.
Although valiant services have been rendered by the Brevent Park & Leonardo Fire Company, the lack of fire hydrants the fact that only booster tanks were available to fight fires and because most of the time the apparatus was hand drawn. All were contributory factors in the decision to form another fire company. The name Leonardo Fire Company was too much of an infringement on the already serving Brevent Park & Leonardo Fire Company. The name Ocean View Fire Company was not inclusive of the other sections of town such as Mardean. It was decided to name the new company, Community Fire Company, this choice was to prove very suitable. For as we all see the company was to become a very community minded fire company.
The Ocean View Property Owners Association sponsored the operation and appointed an operations committee to help with a fund drive. Four teams, two men each, covered the Ocean View and Mardean sections of Leonardo for contributions. The Ladies Auxiliary held a fair on the Community Field House grounds (the old Leonardo Field Club) at Monmouth & Ridgewood Avenues. The money raised helped purchase a 1922 1½ ton Ford Motor Company Fire truck from O.J. Child Company of Utica N.Y. The price was $2050.00, and that included a self-starter. Ed Corbet and Chris Bang were appointed to a committee to purchase the truck, which was delivered in the latter months of 1922. This began a long- standing Community tradition that continues today of raising funds for new apparatus from our fund drive.
The company was organized in the summer months of 1922, some of the pre charter members were Ed Corbet, John Ambos, Jim MacPhee, Chris Bang, William Rall, Huey Bennett, Tom Koehler, E. Schoellneer, F. Logal, H. Myers, T. Brennan, P. Peters, H. Nowells, J. Schroeder, and M. O’Keefe. The officers were John Ambrose Chief, Chris Bang Treasurer, Ed Corbet Secretary, and Ed Nowells Financial Secretary.
A certificate of incorporation dated September 9, 1922 bearing the official name of “Community Fire Company of Leonardo” was filed in the Monmouth county Clerks Office on September 18th 1922. At the 1st regular business meeting after being incorporated held on Saturday September 16th 1922 a constitution and by-laws were adopted. The following officers were elected Robert Banfield Chief, Otto Krause Asst. Chief, H. Myers Captain, James Black Lieutenant, Tom Koehler Secretary, and Chris Bang Treasurer.
On September 30th 1922, the Ladies Auxiliary of the Community Fire Company was formed by Mrs. Ida Bang, Mrs. Anna Bergman, Mrs. Margaret Corbet, Mrs. J. MacPhee, and Mrs. F. Krebbs. The Ladies Auxiliary has served the Community fire company well over the past 80 Years; they have always stood ready to assist the company in all our endeavors. The Auxiliary has always been there with hot coffee or soup on a cold night and cold water on a hot day. Their dedication to the Community Fire Company is greatly appreciated by all the members.
On September 16th 1924 it was agreed to purchase the lots on the southwest corner of Appleton and Highland Avenues from Joseph Kennedy of Belford for $1000.00. Then on March 24th 1925 a contract was awarded to James MacPhee to construct a two-story building for $5384.00 plus $942.00 to Henry Meyer for plumbing. The corner stone of this building was laid on May 31st 1925; at the ceremony the young daughter of company President Ed Corbet Miss Lisette Corbet had the honor of unveiling the corner stone. Upon the buildings completion the apparatus and all equipment was moved from the rear of the Community Field House to our new home. This building remained a part of the firehouse until the new construction of our present building in 1991.
At a special meeting of the company on March 21st 1927 it was voted to purchase a new Sanford Fire Engine for $6250.00. This 500 G.P.M. pumper served the company until 1952.
In the summer of 1928 a meeting was held in our firehouse of the representatives of the other fire companies in Middletown Township. At this meeting the foundation was laid for the formation of the Middletown Township Fire Department, as we know it today. One of our members James MacPhee was chosen to be the Chief of the Middletown Township Fire Department until an election could be held later in the year.
Our company, like the country saw some lean years during the depression. Money was scarce, and sometimes members would have to spend their own money to keep the company going. It was during these hard times that we really began to become a “Community” Fire Company. Families could gather at the firehouse for community suppers and socials, food was something pooled and shared by all. Such were the humble beginnings of our “pot luck” dinners and “covered dish” suppers that have been so popular with our members through the years.
In the fall of 1945, the company saw a flurry of activity. Regular members were returning from WWII, and expansion was on the horizon. In October the company purchased from Lillian Rall, 75 feet of land joining the firehouse. In November, a Chevrolet pumper was purchased from the War Assets Administration. This pumper performed fire duty until the mid-1960’s when the members converted it into a flatbed utility truck. In early 1952, a light truck was purchased from the Atlantic Highlands Fire Department. During the summer of 1952, our Sanford engine finally gave out. To replace it our company decided to purchase a new engine. On August 19th 1952 we ordered a new 750-gallon per minute triple combination Oren pumper for $15,750.00. This engine was the pride and joy of our company; it was our front line engine until 1969. After that it remained in service as our second out engine until 1979. The Oren helped fill our trophy cases with dozens of field day trophies and prizes. When the company phased out the Oren, it was donated to the Middletown Fire Academy where it lived on as a training engine until 1985.
In 1955, we expanded the firehouse into the lot next door with the addition of a three bay apparatus room. The original section of the firehouse was turned into our company meeting room. The upstairs was used by our members for social gatherings, and for a time was used to house 1st graders squeezed out of Leonardo Grade School by the post war baby boom.
The kitchen at the old firehouse was constructed by the members in 1962; out of this kitchen we ran countless Mother’s Day breakfasts, spaghetti dinners, and corn beef & cabbage suppers to help raise funds. In this old kitchen we had an enormous butcher-block table. No matter what kind of an event we held at the firehouse we always seemed to end up at that table. Ask one of the older members of the company and it’s a safe bet he’ll have a story to tell about something that happened at that table.
In 1963, we resumed our annual Fireman’s Fair. After not operating the fair for many years the company got back into it by moving the fair grounds to the lot on Hwy 36 & Appleton Avenue. One of the reasons for restarting our fair was a look into the future. We could see that the time was coming when we would have to be in the market for a new apparatus. The old war surplus Chevy was showing its age, so we replaced it by purchasing a 1939 Mack pumper from Smithtown, N.Y. Fire Department. The engine was serviceable as a second out pumper, but we could see that the time was rapidly approaching when a new truck would be needed. A truck committee was formed in 1966. After extensive planning, the committee recommended in 1968 that we accept the bid of Maxim Inc. of $52,000.00 for a 1250 G.P.M. pumper. The Maxim was powered by a diesel motor with an automatic transmission. This engine began a Community tradition of innovation by becoming the Middletown Township Fire Departments first diesel pumper, and its first 1250 G.P.M. pumper. Designated as engine 140, the Maxim arrived in May of 1969. This engine served as our 1st engine out until 1992. Now through the “Community” spirit of the company the Maxim has been donated to the Maury County (T.N.) Rural Fire Department, where it will continue to serve the public.
In 1971 the company participated in a three-way transaction that afforded us the opportunity to acquire the property on Hwy 36 where we have been holding our fair. Now that the land belonged to us, we were able to expand our fair into the highly profitable venture that it has become. Many members can recall night’s ion the late 70’s & 80’s when it was hard to maneuver around the crowded fairgrounds. The revenue from the expanded fair allowed us to look even further into the future. In 1979 we took delivery of a Hamerly 1000 G.P.M. pumper designated as engine 141, this unit allowed us to retire the Oren. The Hamerly was a serviceable engine for us, until we sold it in 1996. In 1988, we again saw the need to purchase a new engine. Once again a committee was formed to design our company a new fire engine. The committee following a long company tradition spent almost three years gathering information and comparing apparatus. In 1991, the committee recommended that the company accept the bid of Emergency One Inc. for a 1500 G.P.M. Hush pumper. This engine, designated as engine 142 carried on our tradition of innovation by becoming the Middletown Township Fire Departments first apparatus with a rear mounted motor and a ten-man cab.
With the coming arrival of engine 142 the company realized that the old building has outlived its time. We decided to utilize our property at Hwy 36 & Appleton Avenue. In November 1991 we broke ground for a new modern four bay firehouse. This new building houses an upstairs rental hall, downstairs meeting room, and a member’s room. True to form, it is the first firehouse in Middletown to be fully sprinkled. The construction of this building and the arrival of engine 142 were celebrated by the company on May 2, 1992. At this time the company was pleased to have Mrs. Lisette Whitman on hand to unveil the cornerstone just as she had done 67 years before.
In 1996, the company saw a need for a brush truck. So we put engine 141 up for sale, purchased a 1985 1-ton Chevy 4x4 can and chassis from a military surplus for $5,000.00. We sold engine 141, and the membership started construction of our new brush truck. Soon after we started we blew the pump on engine 140 and had to stop construction of the brush truck. It took $5,000.00 in pump parts to repair the pump on 140. All the work was done by members of the Community Fire Company in our firehouse. Soon after engine 140 was back in service, so it was back to work on the brush truck. After about two months of nights and weekends and a total of $13,000.00 we placed our new brush truck 141 in service.
In 1998 the company appointed a new truck committee. The eight man committee was asked to design a new engine to replace our aging 1969 Maxim. Now after 117 committee meetings, and over 2300 ma-hours of comparisons the committee recommended an American La France 8-man cab, 2000 G.P.M. pumper. The engine carries an A.M.P.S. 20 KW hydraulic generator, 15 foot 9000 watt light tower, 20 gallon foam tank, 750 gallon water tank, 1450 feet of 1 ¾ hose, 1000 feet of 3 inch hose, 1600 feet of 5 inch hose. The recommendation to purchase this engine was accepted unanimously by the company. This engine designated as engine 143 was placed in service in late august 2002.
As the Community Fire Company completes its 80th years we wonder what some of our founders would say if they could see us now. We certainly have come a long way from back of the Field Club. We have had many memorable moments in our 80 years, we have battled many memorable fires, and we have had many memorable people occupy a place in our company. We can look in our trophy cases and see dozens of field day, parade, wet down, bowling, and softball trophies. We have much to be proud of; we have much to look back on; and we have a great deal to look forward to. That is the direction that we have always seen the clearest, we have truly lived up to our founder’s choice of names. Yes, we have been a Community Fire Company. Many of our current members are second and third generation community families, and as we look around today we can see the children of members who will take our place tomorrow. It’s the way it has been, it’s the way it will always be.
On behalf of all the members of Community Fire Company, past present, and future, we would like to take this opportunity to thank all of those who have helped us along in our journey since 1922. Please accept our gratitude, and please accept our apology for any names we may have omitted in this brief history.
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