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Special Thank You

This website is dedicated to its founder Tad Dillon


Weston Volunteer Fire Department

History Report

Presented by: Joe Spetly

May 10, 2010

This evening, instead of the regular report, I go to 1965, a year that has personal significance for two department members and historical meaning for the town itself.  In March of that year an article about the Weston Volunteer Fire Department and First Aid Squad appeared in The Town Crier, a local Westport paper, which included an appeal for new volunteers. 

To give some picture of Weston and the Fire Department in 1965, here is a little history:

There was no police department.  The town was protected by one resident state trooper (required to live here) and eight part time constables.  There were no police cars. The constables used their own vehicles to patrol, and supplied their own gas, weapon, ammunition and uniforms from their hourly pay.

The school system included grades K through 9, after which the students moved on to Staples High School in Westport.  With the main Hurlbutt elementary building not yet rebuilt from the 1963 fire, the 5th and 6th grades were housed in classrooms provided by the Temple Israel, on Coleytown Road in Westport.

The fire department was equipped with two early 1960s American La France pumpers and two 1952, 800 gallon Chevy tankers, one of each located at Norfield and at Lyons Plains.  There was also a 1955 International pick-up truck outfitted for grass fires—memorable for its non-synchromesh transmission.  And of course the old Mack was still in regular service, then used for carrying hose.

New members were issued a fire coat and boots.  The dress hat, shirt and slacks came later.  Helmets, for the most part, were carried on the sides of the Mack—when responding to a fire you took one off the truck and returned it before leaving the scene.  Membership dues were two dollars annually and the contribution for refreshments after a meeting was twenty-five cents.

The ambulance was a “no frills” 1961 International Carry-All converted to hold a litter and basic first aid supplies in the back.  It provided for many interesting trips to the hospital.  To qualify for service on the ambulance you needed to complete advanced first aid training through the American Red Cross and learn to administer oxygen.   Believe it or not, you wore nothing to identify who you were or what organization you represented—funds for caps and jackets (not to mention a new ambulance, communications center, and much more!) were raised at a later date.  But that’s another story.

All emergency fire calls from Weston went to the Westport Fire Department dispatcher, who would notify pre-designated “first alert” members by telephone.  The first person to receive the call would “activate” a phone chain that was set up among the members and their wives.  The dispatcher would then blow the siren in Weston—three times for a fire.  If you heard the siren you could either call the Westport dispatcher or someone on the phone chain for the location and nature of the fire.

Calls for the ambulance went to an answering service in Westport run by Sylvia Miller.   At night and on weekends, Sylvia would call the persons on duty and possibly one other who might be closest to the scene.  On weekdays, when no one was scheduled, she would place calls to personnel who worked in town and also to locations where she might find someone—for example, the lunch counter at the Weston Center Pharmacy, which was a favorite gathering spot.  If she couldn’t reach anyone by phone, she would notify the Westport dispatcher to blow Westons’s siren—one time.  As a last resort she would call the Norwalk Hospital to send an ambulance.

In response to the 1965 Town Crier article, that month, five men: Paul Deysenroth, Dave Geismar, Joe Spetly, Gill Thirkield and Richard Reifschneider applied for membership in the fire department and the first aid squad.  All were accepted.  You may not recognize every name but each one of my colleagues went on to provide valued service to the community.

And now a milestone that means very much to me!  Who would have guessed back then that in May 2010, Paul Deysenroth and I would be sitting here, having completed 45 years of continuous active service with the fire department, and Paul also serving 45 years with the Emergency Medical Services.  Amazing, isn’t it!

For myself, It has been an honor and my great pleasure to be a part of this distinguished company.  My work here in various capacities over these 45 years has added immeasurably to my life experience, and I look forward to more years ahead.

Before concluding, I want to thank Julia Studwell for providing some of the information presented here.

More to follow…

Joe Spetly