Memorial Day 1978 - Great photo of Lt. Walt Macdowall on Rescue 2 giving the photographer a big smile, as the 1978 Memorial Day Parade concluded by the high school. Dep. Chief George Reutenauer (Platoon 3) and future fire chief, Lt. John Tramontano (Platoon 4), can be seen in the background. (Olson photo)
Those Department Rosters Help Tell the Story
(The website thanks Lt. Gary Merwede for inspiring this feature, when he posted an old department roster on FB last week.)
Over the past couple of years, several retirees have donated old department personnel rosters to the archives. The earliest department roster is from 1953, although we do have lists of department members going back as far as the 1920s.
Those old department personnel rosters should be of particular interest to retired and active HFD personnel alike. Who was on the job when? Where were they working at a particular time, and with whom? And in their own unique way, these rosters also help to tell the story of the Hamden Fire Department.
We've identified certain "milestone" rosters that help to illustrate the evolution of the department since the earliest days following its formation in 1925. Different rosters, with commentary and back stories, will be posted here with each Friday update.
Scanned images of old Hamden Fire Department rosters are welcome and would be appreciated (send to email@example.com). Retirees are encouraged to submit their own comments and recollections, too. (Keep it clean.)
CLICK to enlarge - NOTE: Staff personnel were usually not included on department rosters until later. Not listed on this roster - Chief V. Paul Leddy, Fire Marshal Robert O'Donnell, Dep. Chief Training Officer John Tramontano, Supt. Richard Lostritto and Asst. Supt. Paul Wetmore, Sr.
March 5, 1982
Two new firefighters were hired in February 1982, bringing the department up to full manning of 30 men per platoon. Each platoon consisted of one deputy chief, one captain, two lieutenants and 26 firefighters. At 120 line personnel, it would be the last time the department was that large. (NOTE: During the two months leading up to the implementation of the 42-hour work week in 1970, two of the three platoons had 37 personnel and one had 38. After the 42-hour schedule started, each platoon had 28 men.)
Incredibly, about two weeks after these recruit firefighters were hired, the mayor was looking to lay them off as a "cost-saving" measure. The union strenuously objected, pointing out that these men had just been hired. To lay them off would make no sense. The mayor then took aim at the fire department's management positions. In a New York minute the fire marshal and the five deputy chiefs flew to their typewriters and requested that their positions be included in the union. The state agreed, and soon the marshal and five deputies were on the other side of the negotiating table. This left only Chief Leddy in management, and his job was not negotiable. A second management position of Assistant Fire Chief was created in 1983.
Although there were 30 personnel on each platoon, the minimum manning in 1982 was twenty-five per shift. Over the next several years, through normal attrition, the town reduced the ranks of the department's four platoons to the required minimum number of 25. Instead of hiring additional new personnel, for whom they would also pay benefits, the town opted to fill temporary vacancies due to injuries, vacations and illness with off-duty personnel working at straight time.
In the years that followed, the town saved a bundle by eliminating twenty firefighter positions. But they also complained about the straight-time overtime that resulted from those reductions and savings. The next group of new firefighters was not hired until February 1987. Through negotiations, the minimum manning per platoon was reduced to twenty-three in 1993 and eight more firefighter positions were eliminated.
One of the more annoying problems for Hamden's firefighters in the 1950s was the old Arch Street "dump," vestiges of which still exist on the south side of Arch Street between Fitch and Pine Rock. In 1951, teenager Chan Brainard snapped this really nice photo of the 1938 Seagrave that was Engine 2.
The "old-timers" to us new old-timers used to tell us about the hours they spent down at the Arch Street Dump putting out fires. A similar annoyance for the 1970-80s era firefighters was the Wintergreen Avenue Dump, er, "Disposal Area" (as we were admonished to call it). Ah, let me count the hours.
Watering down the daisies
All in a Day's Work
July 18, 1998 - On this hot July afternoon fourteen years ago, the crew of Engine 2 on Platoon 3 was asked to provide irrigation to some newly planted local flora near the corner of Dixwell and Putnam Avenues. "Red Ralph" Purificato, working extra that day with Dave, Gary and Joe, handled the chore . . . well . . . quite handily.
Engine 2 was brand new that year and is still in service at Station 2. It is scheduled to be replaced later this year.
July 18, 1998 - Dixwell near Putnam
1963 - In this photo of Station 4, Milner Benham and Wilbur Baker can be made out (with a magnifying glass). The occasion may have been an open house, possibly in connection with Fire Prevention Week. Rescue 2, the white 1960 International Travel-al, always occupied the south bay. It was replaced in 1971 by a new modular unit on a Ford chassis, which was designated as Rescue 1. (Photo by Gil Spencer)