Sears Provides Unique Fire Training Opportunities 40 Years Later
Sears Arrived in 1954 - Gone by 1994
The Hamden Chronicle, August 19, 1954 (Courtesy of the Hamden Historical Society) - CLICK to enlarge.
40 Years Later - Ready for demolition - SAD!
Until the mid-1950s, suburban folks in Connecticut had to go to the big city to patronize a prominent national department store. That all changed at 9 a.m. on Thursday, August 19, 1954 when the Sears Roebuck and Co. department store opened at 2301 Dixwell Avenue.
The new Hamden Sears replaced the New Haven store on lower Church Street and was the first national chain department store to be located in the bedroom community of a major Connecticut city. The Hamden Sears was also the precursor to the Hamden Plaza, the first suburban shopping plaza in Connecticut, which opened the following year.
By the 1959 opening of the Hamden Mart, the stretch of Dixwell Avenue between Skiff Street and the parkway overpass, once dominated by the Peters Farm and apple orchard, would thereafter be known as the "Magic Mile."
Hamden's Sears store lasted just under 40 years, closing on March 13, 1993, the same day the area was hit with a massive snow storm. In the year and a half that followed, the Hamden Fire Department was permitted to use the building for training purposes. We preserved many images from that time.
Saturday, October 8, 1994 - During a multi-company training session, Battalion Chief Tom Doherty and Ff. John Longo of Tower 1 posed on the roof next to one of Hamden's most recognized signs of the previous 40 years.
October 18, 1994 - Only ten days later, the wrecking crew was moving right along. (Johnson photo)
Bob Slater wrote to remind us that our own Bill Hines worked part time in the Customer Pick-up Department at the Hamden Sears store when he wasn't working days on the department. Bill's widow, Ernestine, told Bob that she thought he worked there from about 1957 until the late 1960s. Bob was part of Bill's crew when he was a lieutenant at old Station 3 on the 56-hour shift. Bob recalled that Bill knew just about all the part numbers of the various Sears appliances.
Lt. Bill Hines, like almost everyone else on the department, worked a part time job to help make ends meet, when even a lieutenant's annual pay was in the mid-four figures. Did any other Hamden firemen work at Sears?
Dolores Fortuna Experienced an Epic Hamden Event in the Sears Building
For a couple of years in the late 1980s, Dolores Fortuna worked in the Sears accounting department, up on the second floor in the front of the building. Dolores is the wife of Tom Fortuna, who, many of us will recall, served as Hamden's 2nd District Councilman for several years in the 1990s.
The Sears building played a significant role in Dolores' memorable "snapshot" moment of an event that was also experienced by tens of thousands of us other Hamdenites one summer afternoon in 1989. Click on her photo for, as Paul Harvey used to say, "the rest of the story."
CLICK for the rest of the story
c. mid-1980s - At an unidentified department event in the Memorial Town Hall auditorium, Fire Commission Chairman Robert LaTorraca, at the podium, is flanked by Assistant Fire Chief Walter T. Macdowall. (Photo courtesy of Jeanine "J-9" Aceto)
ALWAYS ENGINE 3
This is a previously unpublished photo of the fairly new 1973 Maxim Telesqurt at Station 3. This pumper underwent an extensive renovation in 1985 and remained in service until the late 1990s.
Like the 1928 Maxim 750 GPM pumper, which served as Engine 3 from 1928 until 1951, the 1973 Telesqurt was always designated as Engine 3, and never assigned to another company.
The 1973 Maxim is presently privately owned and is stored in North Haven. (Photo courtesy of Chan Brainard)
CLICK to enlarge
CLICK to enlarge
November 18, 1961
This roster was printed in the program for 26th Annual Ball, held on November 18, 1961.
This is the earliest roster listing V. Paul Leddy as Chief of the Department. Chief Leddy had been appointed the year before to replace Chief Spencer, and would serve until his retirement in April 1984.
Chief Leddy's former battalion chief's slot was filled by Capt. James Strain, Strain's captain's slot was filled by Lt. Paul Rosadina, and Rosadina's lieutenant's position was filled by Ff. George Reutenauer.
Shortly after his appointment, Chief Leddy requested that the title "Battalion Chief," held by the three shift commanders and the training officer since the rank was created in 1954, be renamed to the more appropriate designation of "Deputy Chief."
In addition to "the Deputy," as we used to call them, each platoon was staffed by one captain, one lieutenant and 18 firefighters. In December 1963, Firefighters Daniel O'Connell, Kenneth Harrington and Joseph McDermott were promoted to fill one new lieutenant's slot that was added to each platoon. (Courtesy of Chan Brainard)