Following up on an invitation sent to all former and retired career members of the Hamden Fire Department for whom we had addresses, the organizational meeting for what would become the Hamden Fire Retirees Association, Inc was held ten years ago on May 11, 2009 at the Liberty Community Church in North Haven. Below is an abridged version of the first meeting minutes.
May 11, 2009 - Minutes of First Meeting (some portions "redacted" [word of the month])
At the second meeting in June, the members authorized an association website, which inspired many retired and active department members to donate dozens of photos and newspaper articles about past fires and other department activities for the association's archives. A few months later, Mr. Chan Brainard of Signal Hill, California, a fire apparatus buff since his childhood in Hamden, donated literally hundreds of newspaper articles from the late-1940s to the 80s.
After the first three meetings in the Liberty Community Church, the HFRA met for the first time at the Elks Hall on School Street in November 2009. Starting January 2010, the members opted to hold meetings quarterly during the months of January, April, July and October.
On September 30, 2013, HFRA Trustees Bob Mordecai, Gil Spencer and Jim Leddy presented retiring HFRA President Mark Barletta with the gavel he used to preside at meetings. Bob Mordecai was elected to serve as the Association's second (and current) president at the October 2013 meeting.
An official mission statement and a set of by-laws were drawn up by a committee of members in late 2010 and adopted at the January 2011 meeting. Retired Fire Marshal Mark Barletta, who had chaired all previous meetings, was elected the association's first president.
In September 2012, the Hamden Fire Retirees Association was incorporated in the State of Connecticut and was given 501(c)(7) non-profit status by the IRS in 2018.
In November 2010, the Association presented a memorial plaque to Mary Critchett, honoring her late husband, retired Lieut. Frank Critchett, who had passed away the previous month. Beginning in October 2014, the Association began its annual presentation of memorial plaques to the families of our deceased members to honor their service in the Hamden Fire Department.
The retired firefighters who signed the organizational meeting invitation letter in April 2009 were not sure the idea of a retirees' association would ever succeed. But the overwhelming response from their former colleagues in the first few months was almost universally positive. And after ten years, the Hamden Fire Retirees Association, Inc. continues to keep our retired and former career department members connected socially and fraternally, while celebrating and preserving the history of the Hamden Fire Department.
Mayor Curt Balzano-Leng has named eighteen-year department veteran, Lieut. Charles Lubowicki Jr., to be the department's next Assistant Fire Chief, succeeding Chief Gary Merwede, who was appointed fire chief last fall. Lubowicki's appointment was confirmed last Monday at the regular meeting of the Hamden Legislatuive Council.
A Hamden native, Lubowicki joined the department in October 2000, was promoted to lieutenant in September 2007 and has been serving as the department's training officer since March 2017. In that capacity he has conducted extensive training with department personnel, most recently arranging and organizing a Hamden-North Haven mutual-aid "interoperability" training exercise at High Meadows on Hartford Turnpike. He says he looks forward to helping the department continue to modernize and move forward in the years to come.
Asst. Chief Lubowicki, son of retired veteran Hamden police officer, Charles Lubowicki Sr., is expected to be officially sworn in at Memorial Town Hall sometime late next week. Members of the HFRA will be notified of the exact date and time by email.
The HFRA membership wishes Assistant Chief Lubowicki Jr. all the very best in his new and challenging department role.
The Website notes with much gratitude the department's restoration of the title "Assistant Chief," recommended by Chief Merwede and approved recently by the Civil Service Commission.
"Assistant Chief," the traditional fire service title for a department's four-trumpet second-in-command, was how the position was titled when it was created for the Hamden Fire Department in 1984. However, to conform with the same position in the police department, sometime in the early 1990s political pressure forced a change to "Deputy Chief," the former title for Hamden's shift commanders beforethattitle was changed to "Commander" in 1984 - again, because of political pressure from outside the department that there were "too many chiefs."
Oct. 10, 1961 New Haven Register article excerpt about the previous night's fire commission meeting
Indeed, some in Hamden's political arena at the time were complaining that the fire department had "too many chiefs" compared with the police department. They were blissfully unaware that those "chief" titles are traditional fire service ranks. Just as a navy captain is not the same rank as an army captain, Hamden police and fire deputy chiefs were also entirely different ranks.
Conferring inappropriate misnomers upon command level fire officers did not change the department's organizational structure, they only confused it - and, to some, demeaned it.
Kudos to Chief Merwede and the Civil Service Commission. Making the department's second-in-command the more appropriate "Assistant Chief" once again is a giant step in the right direction.
Perhaps the next step ought to be restoration of the title "Deputy Chief" to the department's four shift commanders, now called "Battalion Chief." As the venerable Chief V. Paul Leddy once observed, "We don't have battalions on this department."
(Note the October 10, 1961 New Haven Register article at right, especially the last paragraph.)
113 Goodyear Street, New Haven Friday, May 10, 1985 - 4 AM
Hamden firefighters responded when a Hamden neighbor of this New Haven house, located at 113 Goodyear Street on the city line, notified Hamden Central Communications. Hamden fire personnel arrived first to
find it well involved. New Haven firefighters arrived shortly
thereafter and together the two departments extinguished the blaze.
Retired Deputy Fire Chief Clark Hurlburt recently commented on this fire:
"I was working for Captain
[Robert] Chadwick at Station 2 for the blaze. One point of interest is that one of the guys in our crew
lost his hearing aids. We went back the next day and crawled through the
rubble for hours looking for them. Just as we gave up hope and were packing up, a
squeal came from one of the Scott packs where the aids had lodged in the mask
and were on the rig the whole time.
"While we were there, an excited neighbor got
Chadwick's ear, telling him all about the fire (that we were at) with flames 100
feet high. 'Even Hamden was here,' he reported, obviously not being able to read
the name on the engine."
This 1949 aerial view of Centerville is profoundly different from the way the center of Hamden looks today. CLICK to enlarge the photo. Chief Raymond C. Spencer's 1946 Pontiac can be easily seen on the ramp in front of Fire Headquarters, as it was known in those days. And there's more. Check the numbered landmarks.
Courtesy of the Hamden Historical Society (Abrams photo, dated 1949) CLICK to enlarge
(1) The last few panels of Hamden's World War II Honor Roll, on the future site of the Miller Memorial Library (1951).
2) Grace Episcopal Church in its original location. It was moved directly across the street in September 1966.
(3) Colonial Drive was just being developed. #48 and #54 are under construction.
(4) The Savoy Restaurant is on the corner of School Street, in the same building that Reilly's occupied fifteen years later when it was totally destroyed by fire on Christmas Day 1964.
(5) A rambling home that once stood at the corner of Whitney Avenue and Colonial Drive. In the 1980s it was moved around the corner, (6) where it is now #42 Colonial Drive.
(7) Future site of the Brown Stone House, built later in '49. The large wood-frame building that previously occupied the property burned down in February 1941.
(8) The one and only Charlie Crook's Drug Store. Originally the home of Leverett Candee (c. 1852) "who obtained from Charles Goodyear the first license to use Goodyear's patent for producing rubber shoes."‡ The building was razed in 1981. ‡From Historic Hamden; A Guide (1976: Hamden Bicentennial Commission)
The Memorial Day Parade in Hamden will take place on Monday, May 27th. Traditionally, Memorial Day is observed on the last Monday in May to honor the men and women who died while serving in the United States Military.
All HFD members, both active and retired, are invited to voluntarily participate in the 2019 parade in Class A uniform. On duty personnel assigned to Engine 2, Engine 3, Engine 5, Engine 9, Tower 1, and Car 3 should expect to participate in the formation. Squad 1 and the Rescues will remain centrally located in town and provide emergency coverage during the parade. On duty members may be reassigned to non-parade positions according to the needs of the department.
Any off-duty career member or retiree wishing to participate in Class A uniform should report to the South side parking are of Hamden High School at 0930 hrs. Apparatus will stage in the traditional position on Connolly Parkway to merge with and directly follow the personnel marching in formation.
HFD Parade Formation:
Parade Dress for Career Members: HFD Class A, with white gloves.
·Fire Chief, Asst. Chief
·HFD Honor Guard
·Career Fire Officers (Active and Retired)
·Career Firefighters (Active and Retired)
·Hamden Volunteer Firefighters
No sunglasses are to be worn by career or volunteer members, unless required for medical reasons and with permission of the Fire Chief.
The Padanaram Volunteer Hose Co. 3 of Danbury was represented in the 1954 Connecticut State Firemen's Association Convention Parade at West Haven with this late model Series 700 American LaFrance 750 GPM pumper with a closed 5-man cab. The photo was taken on Campbell Avenue by then-16-year old Chan Brainard. The long-gone building in the background is approximately where the I-95 overpass is today.