Twenty-one members attended the first meeting of the Hamden Fire Retirees Association for 2018. The Executive Board of the association invited Chief David Berardesca, who announced that he has $50,000 in the department's capital improvements account for the purpose of rehabilitating the one-room schoolhouse that served as quarters for the West Woods Volunteer Fire Company from 1957 to 1988. In the 1990s and 2000s it was also headquarters for the fire department.
Chief Berardesca told the group that he wants the association to decide how the building will be utilized, perhaps for a meeting place and/or fire museum. The HFRA established a committee to investigate the possible acquisition of the building for those purposes back in 2015. The idea was met favorably by both the Mayor's office and the Hamden Historical Society, but there has been little activity since. The HFRA committee, consisting of Tom Doherty, Gil Spencer, Dave Johnson and Bob Mordecai, hopes to meet soon with Chief Berardesca to discuss possible improvements to the building, which was erected in 1909 and served as Hamden's last one-room schoolhouse until it was closed in 1954.
Members present decided to meet next on Wednesday, April 11th at noon. As a change of pace, the association will send out for pizza. We'll keep everyone posted.
L to R: Chief Berardesca, Dave Johnson, Ray Ramelli, Jim Dunlop, Tom Doherty, Bob Mordecai, Doug Yocher, Sam DeBurra, Bobby Viglione, Jim Leddy, Chick Manware, Paul Frodel, Dave Strawhince, John O’Dea, Bill Fitzmaurice, Brian Forsyth, Augie Williams, Harold Mangler, and Carl Backus. (Photo by Vic Mitchell.)
The Hamden Paid Firemen's Sick Benefit Association (AKA the "Sick Benefit Association" or "SBA"), was organized April 21, 1948 by career members of the Hamden Fire Department to assist members when injury or illness resulted in lost wages. Later on, the SBA provided a modest retirement benefit to its members and a death benefit to the families of deceased members.
Before laws permitting collective bargaining by Connecticut public employees were enacted in 1965, the SBA was the legal "bargaining unit" for non-management department personnel, which included all firefighters, lieutenants, captains, and Shop personnel. The Chief, shift commanders, training officer, and the fire marshal were considered management.*
When this photo was taken in 1963, the SBA was permitted to petition the Board of Fire Commissioners periodcally for raises and benefits, but there was no "negotiating." Whatever the Board decided to give the employees, if they gave them anything at all, was final. Collective bargaining changed that.
This newspaper article, dated January 15, 1963, is courtesy of Chan Brainard
The SBA continued as the non-management employees' bargaining unit after collective bargaining was allowed in 1965, only they now could negotiate with the town for raises and benefits for its members.
The SBA was replaced as bargaining unit in 1978 by the short-lived Hamden Firefighters Association, precursor to the Hamden Professional Firefighters Association, Local 2687 of the I.A.F.F., which was organized the following year.
The Hamden Paid Firemen's Sick Benefit Association was legally dissolved in late 1995, its assests of $15,484.50 being donated to Connecticut Hospice.
*In 1982, all shift commanders, the training officer, and fire marshal successfully petitioned the state of Connecticut to be admitted into Local 2687, leaving the Chief as the sole management member of the department. A second management position, that of Assistant Chief (now "Deputy Chief,"), was created the following year.
Firefighters John O'Hare and Bill Davin (Photo by Joe Rahl)
Every morning "before coffee," the guys in all the stations and on all the shifts were expected to maintain their cleaning stations. In this mid-1970s photo taken by Joe Rahl, Platoon 4 Firefighters John O'Hare and Bill Davin are taking care of the apparatus floor at Station 3.
Having turned 93 last October, Joe Rahl is now our oldest retiree, followed by Jackie Laffin. O'Hare, a mere youngster, is only 91. Bill Davin passed away a year ago this week and was among those honored at last October's meeting.
Half of the twelve members of the Mt. Carmel Volunteer Fire Co. who can be identified in the newspaper photo below either were or would become career members (*) of the department.
1. Bob Verneris, 2. Tom Doherty*, 3. Charlie Esposito*, 4. Anders Pedersen, 5. Oscar Krischtschun, 6. Bill McAvoy, 7. Bill Farrell, 8. Russ Smith*, 9. Gil Spencer*, 10. Bill Scott*, 11. Fred Fletcher*, and 12. Raymond K. Spencer.
Bill Scott and Russell Smith would serve on the department during the mid-1960s. Charlie Esposito, appointed in 1963 and one of the department's first paramedics, would serve as the department's EMS officer from 1989 until his retirement in 1993. Tom Doherty and Gil Spencer would advance through the ranks to retire in the 1990s as shift commanders. Fred Fletcher was one of the first veterans hired after WWII. He retired in 1980. Raymond K. Spencer (1904-92), who joined the company in 1925, would serve as company president until the mid-1980s
The appointment of five recruits in December 1947 allowed the department to reduce the firefighters' workweek from 84 to 67.1 hours. This permitted firefighters one day off following four 10-hour day shifts, and two days off following four 14-hour night shifts.
Nearly three years later, at the tail end of 1950, an additional day off between the day and night shifts gave firefighters a 56-hour workweek, which remained in effect until 1970.
The last active fire department employee to work the department's 84-hour work week, Fire Marshal Bob "Bubby" O'Donnell, retired in 1987 after 40 years on the job.