After more than 60 years total service to the Hamden Fire Department, Supt. of Apparatus Don Buechele and Fire Marshal Dennis Harrison will both say goodbye at the end of November, their retirements being approved at last Wednesday's meeting of the Hamden Retirement Board.
Supt. Buechele began his fire service career as a volunteer firefighter in East Haven and was appointed to the HFD in February 1982, at which time he was assigned to Platoon 4 at Station 4. Don has served as the Department's Superintendent of Apparatus since 2006, when his predecessor, Harold Mangler, retired.
Marshal Dennis Harrison
Marshal Harrison began his fire service career as a volunteer firefighter and officer in North Branford. He was appointed to the HFD as a Firefighter/Paramedic in February 1987. Dennis was promoted to lieutenant exactly ten years to the day later, and eight years later - same date - he was promoted to captain. Dennis was appointed as Hamden's sixth fulltime fire marshal in 2012.
The HFRA thanks Supt. Buechele and Marshal Harrison for their dedicated service to the HFD and the residents of the Town of Hamden and wish them both a long, happy and healthy retirement.
Hamden fire personnel were kept very busy over the long Veterans Day weekend of 1957. The biggie was a general alarm fire that leveled much of the Eastern Atlantic Lumber Company, located at the corner of Circular and Gorham Avenues, where the Paier School of Art now stands. Years ago, the late Deputy Chief Ken Harrington related how he was sitting at the watch desk at Station 2 when a passer-by reported smoke coming from the lumber yard, located less than a block from the firehouse. The fire was later determined to be arson.
According to an article that appeared in The Suburban Spokesman (1957-58), a short-lived regional replacement for The Hamden Chronicle, news photographer Tom McCarthy hurried from his Malcolm Street home to get to the scene of the fire in order to rescue much of his equipment and business records stored in an adjacent building that was threatened by flames from the lumber yard blaze.
Mr. McCarthy reported flames shooting 75 feet in the air and counted at least nine fire engines. "I think there were even more," he added. It was Hamden's first general alarm blaze in several years. McCarthy went on to praise fire personnel, "They did a wonderful job in getting the fire under control, and later in the night they did a terrific job helping us clean up the debris and mess which had been created. I can't say enough in praise of the firemen."
New Haven Register, November 12, 1957 (Courtesy of Sid Trower)
The two aftermath photos below by I.A. Sneiderman are
from the HFRA collection. The houses in the background are on Helen Street.
This is now the site of the Paier School of Art.
A Tale of Two Hats
"Hey! Was that a cop or a firemen?"
The "Eight-Pointer" and the "Bell Cap"
A curious situation arose after fire department work uniforms changed from khaki to blue in late 1972. The public frequently mistook Hamden Fire Department personnel for police officers. The confusion is easily understood when you consider that Hamden cops and firefighters both wore blue uniforms with badges, and their hats looked almost the same. As a result, the police chief often forwarded thank-you notes to the fire chief from grateful citizens praising assistance provided byfirefighters they thought were cops.
QUESTION: How can Hamden firefighters establish a "look" that will not confuse folks into thinking the firefighter is a cop (not that there's anything wrong with that)? One way might be to change the hat from one that looks like a "cop's" hat to something that looks more like a "fireman's" hat.
That's what many of us thought back in the 1970s. But nothing ever happened to change the status quo. No one tried to do anything about it - until 1976. That's when two rookies had the audacity to take the idea one step further. They circulated a petition. If a majority of the guys sign in favor of bell caps, they thought, then maybe the chief would consider the change.
In July 1976 the two rookies put together a roughly worded petition and hit all the firehouses. All four captains, eight lieutenants and 100 firefighters were polled. The fire marshal, training officer and four shift commanders were not included because they were "management" in those days.
The 1976 Petition (CLICK to enlarge)
When the canvassing of all the fire stations on all four shifts was done, an overwhelming 63% of all rank-and-file personnel favored dumping the eight pointers in favor of the bell caps. How could the chief refuse, they thought? (Isn't it amazing how idealism is directly proportional to naivety?)
Fast forward to 1984: Eight years later we were still wearing the eight-pointers. Thank-you notes from grateful citizens thanking the "policemen" for the emergency medical intervention were still being forwarded to the HFD from the HPD. The new fire chief was in the throes of reorganizing the department. The two erstwhile "rookies," now veterans, tried making the case once again for bell caps. As long as you are revamping the department, Chief, they reasoned, why not give our uniforms a "new look?" Let's go with the bell caps.
The new fire chief shook his head. He was not terribly enthusiastic. He told the two original petitioners that he'd "think about it." That's exactly what the former chief had told the same two guys eight years earlier when nearly two-thirds of the department favored the traditional round firefighter's dress hat. The two petitioners were disappointed. The issue was dead. Well, almost dead.
A few months later the original 1976 petitions were found buried in a file drawer. Lo and behold, while checking the names of those who signed in favor, guess whose signature appeared?
After seeing his signature on the 1976 petition, Chief John Tramontano's jaw dropped. Then he chuckled and announced, "Okay guys, you got me."
The bell caps were introduced thirty years ago this month. We still have 'em. (Oh yes, and the HPD stopped receiving thank-you notes meant for our guys.)
Fooling Around at the Firehouse? Never!
March 1976 - The day shift is OVER! "Heyyyyy!" declared Augie Williams a la "Fonzie" as he approached his luxurious 1966 Plymouth. In the background, Ronnie Altieri headed for home in his 1967 Olds ragtop. Ronnie wasn't waiting around for the surprise he left for "the Aug" . . .
Night shift guy Dick Carney photo bombed "the Aug" just as he discovered the surprise Ronnie left for him under his car door handle. Don't worry, Aug, it was only shaving cream - nothing compared to what Ronnie did to Charlie Carlson a few months earlier with Mark Pratt's lemon meringue pie.
View of Whitney Avenue at Ives Street Mt. Carmel sometime between 1912 and 1925, from a postcard in the collection of Josephine Rosinganna. Two of the buildings in this photo still stand. The building on the far corner of Ives and Whitney dates from the 1870s and presently houses Mt. Carmel Wine and Spirits. An extension of the building on Ives Street, now gone, was the first quarters for the Mt. Carmel Volunteer Fire Company. The house just beyond the main building is now a bank located next to Station 5, which was built in 1925 and is not in this photo.
Fire hydrants came to Mt. Carmel in 1912, right after the formation of the fire company. One of them is pictured in front of the large wood frame building in the foreground, on the south side of Ives Street. The building housed "The Mt. Carmel Cash Store." It was torn down in the late 1940s and was replaced by a small strip of stores that later included the Mt. Carmel post office. That small complex was razed in the mid-1970s for the Route 40 Connector project.
My son is a soldier..... America's Best! Ribbons of honor attached to his chest. His purpose is clear to defend our flag. From radicals who use it as a dirty old rag.
My son is a soldier..... America's Best! Fighting for freedom and stopping unrest. These gallant soldiers are willing to die. So that "OLD GLORY" will forever continue to fly.
My son is a soldier..... America's Best! A penetrating bullet just passed through his vest. Mortally wounded his final words he imparts "Never give up" keep my words in your hearts.
My son is a soldier..... America's Best! He never gave up..... He passed his test. Honor is his, now, and forever. This valiant soldier we will always treasure.
My son "WAS" a soldier..... America's Best. He's now at home being laid to his rest. His coffin is covered with the flag he defended. MY SON, your service is over ----- your duties have ended.
Written for Veterans Day 2014 by retired Hamden Police Officer James Foley, "for all of our military personnel currently serving, having served, and those who were maimed or killed in defense of our liberties and freedom."
An old friend, Rose "Rosie" Pacelli, passed away this week. Many of us remember Rosie fondly from her many years as a Central Communications dispatcher. No one did the job better that Rosie, who started as a dispatcher with the Hamden Police Department and was among the first Central Communications dispatchers when it opened in November 1981. She was 74.