The Stuarts Draft Fire Volunteer Fire Company now had two 1939 Chevrolet Fire Trucks and they
needed a place to put them, so with lots of volunteer community help a fire station was constructed
on property donated by the Cohron family on Main street (Now Draft Ave) in Stuarts Draft. A large
air alert siren was obtained from military surplus and installed on top of the building to alert
members of a fire call. The local hatchery (Weaver Hatchery) had employees on duty 24 hours
a day so the emergency phone was located there as well as in several homes of members and
when a call came in someone would go to the fire house and sound the siren to alert all members
of a fire. It was amazing how this siren could awaken you from a deep sleep in the middle of the
night. All firefighters had to report to the station to get directions as to where the fire was located,
or you just followed the fire truck to the fire. A lot of local businessmen were members of the fire
company and the story is told that a parts salesman when calling at Cliff's Garage told his boss,
who was traveling with him that day, to be sure and get out of the way if he heard the siren sound
because he would get run over if he didn't. Many times a local business was left unattended while
the owner and employees responded to the fire call.
As with any fire company there is always a need for funds, so the company started holding a Lawn Party
annually to raise much needed money. This started a tradition that has continued until today. This Lawn
Party has been the primary fund generator of the company since 1951. During this time there were a
number of young men and women that were the children or relatives of the firefighters that were members
of the local high school band. These students wanted a way to use their talents in the summer so the fire
company organized its own Band and participated in numerous parades in our area in addition to
performing in our own Fireman's parade held in conjunction with the annual Lawn Party.
Fighting fires was of course our major objective and there are numerous stories
humorous and otherwise that tell of the early days of the fire company. One such incident
occurred one cold winter night when the Waynesboro Nursery barn burned and the pumps on one of the trucks froze up going to the fire (These 1939 trucks had front mounted pumps). One of the firemen took a scoop of hot coals and threw them on the pump to thaw it out, luckily the pump thawed and the hot coals did not get pulled into the radiator and cause major damage. Another incident related to me by my father (Leroy Almarode) was when we assisted Waynesboro on the Corner Hardware fire. Dad said he was told by uncle Johnny (Johnny Forbes) to keep the trucks running that night and for every 5 gallons of gas he put in to add a quart of oil to the engine. It was reported that these trucks ran all night pumping water and at times had to be told to drop the pressure back because they were over shooting the building. But one of the new American Le France trucks recently purchased by the city of Waynesboro quit pumping about 2:00 a.m.. All firemen in Stuarts Draft felt especially proud of those 39 Chevy's that night.
I'm not sure whether it was before this fire or afterwards that in responding to a mutual aid
call in Waynesboro, firefighter Raymond Arrington asked Johnny Forbes who was driving
one of the '39 Chevy fire trucks if he had it wide open. Johnny responded that he wasn't
sure, but Raymond said when he shined his flashlight on Johnny's right foot that his toes
were pointing back up at him so he assumed it was wide open.
With the community growing the company saw the need for newer and better methods
of fighting fire. On April 19, 1954 a fund drive for $12,000 was started to purchase a new
1954 GMC chassis with a John Beam high pressure fog pump. It was reported in the
newspaper on Tuesday June 22, 1954 that $2,000 was
needed to reach the goal. A special
committee of J.H. Weaver Jr., John W. Brown, Nelson Cohron, John W. Forbes, II and
Ralph Weaver were appointed to determine how to get the funds needed by Friday
when they would leave to go get the truck. On Thursday June 24, 1954 at 10:10 p.m. the
fire siren on top of the building was sounded to announce to the community that the
had been reached. On Friday June 25, 1954, O.R. Engleman, John W. Forbes, II,
Jerrel D. Suter and Charles W. Harris left for Lansing, Michigan to pick up the new truck
and participate in two days of training on the new equipment. Upon arriving back in Stuarts
Draft after picking up the truck the community welcomed them home with a parade
and refreshments at the Fire House.
Of course not everyone felt Stuarts Draft needed additional equipment and one family
during the course of knocking on doors asking for funds for the new truck expressed this
view to the fireman asking for funds. Well be careful what you say because you never
know when you might have to eat your words. It wasn't long after that until this family
experienced a chimney fire and they certainly were grateful to have a fire company
present and in addition a gift was made to the volunteers for their effort in extinguishing
the fire that night.
As the fifties were coming to a close the fire company saw a need for additional fire
fighting equipment and in 1959 it purchased a 1956 Ford pumper that had been wrecked in
West Virginia. This truck was literally brought into Stuarts Draft in pieces but with lots of
volunteer help it was rebuilt and placed in service in the community.
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