35th Annual National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend: October 8-9, 2016
Every October, the Foundation sponsors the official national tribute to all firefighters who died in the line of duty during the previous year. Thousands attend the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend.
Two injured in Engine 4 crash as Hurricane Belle headed our way
Future Hamden fire chief Lieut. John Tramontano suffered a severe knee injury when Engine 4 slid into the utility pole at the corner of Whitney and Washington while responding to a car fire at that location. Box 19, damaged in the collision, can be seen in this New Haven Register photo taken by John Mongillo, Jr.
The New Haven Register, Wednesday, August 11, 1976 (Courtesy of Chan Brainard)
Back at Station 3 - (Doug Yocher photo)
As Hurricane Belle was closing in on the northeast in the late afternoon of Monday, August 9, 1976, Engine 4 was dispatched to a car fire at the Tulsa service station, where Washington and Whitney Avenues converge. Firefighter Joe Rahl was the driver and Lieut. John Tramontano the officer. Firefighter Ralph Dievert was in the right jump seat.
The National Weather Service was reporting that the hurricane was nearing Connecticut and rain had already made the streets slippery. Mayor Lucien DiMeo, Chief V. Paul Leddy and several other department heads were already holed up in Hamden's Emergency Command Center in the old Council chambers in the basement of town hall.
Engine 4 was a 1973 Maxim 1000 GPM pumper that had been delivered only 30 months earlier. As Engine 4 approached the scene, Ff. Rahl applied the brakes. For a yet unknown reason the brakes locked up, preventing any further control of the truck, which then skidded on the wet pavement into a utility pole. Ff. Dievert in the jump seat was uninjured and Ff. Rahl's injuries were minor. Lieut. Tramontano, in the passenger seat, sustained a knee injury that kept him out of commission for several months.
Ten Years Later
Engine 4 remained stored at Station 3 for several weeks until it was transported to be repaired at Maxim Motors in Middleboro, Massachuetts. Engine 6, the spare 1959 Maxim cab-forward, ran as Engine 4 until repairs were completed.
The 1973 Maxim was reassigned to Station 9 in 1985. Later that year it was refurbished by Pierce in Appleton, Wisconsin. The photo at left was taken exactly ten years after the August 1976 accident. The pumper remained in service as Engine 9 until the mid-2000s.
This was the most serious accident involving Hamden fire apparatus since December 1927, when Centerville Co. 4 volunteer Firefighter Edward Meegan was fatally injured after Engine 4, a 1925 Seagrave Suburbanite, flipped over on Whitney Avenue due to a raised trolley rail. In March 1941, the department's 1926 ladder truck was totalled when struck by a trolley car at Dixwell and Mather, but fortunately the driver was uninjured.
We often take the here and now for granted, but let fifty years intervene and those of us who remember "what was" will often shake our heads and wistfully remember "what is no longer." Such is the case of two Centerville landmarks that were in local news fifty years ago. One is "no longer" and the other simply moved across the street.
Sterling Beverage, 2972 Dixwell Ave.
The Centerville section of Hamden underwent a couple of significant changes in September 1966, changes that are brought to mind this September fifty years later.
In the early 1930s the Sterling Beverage Company built a warehouse on Dixwell Avenue right behind the ancient wood-frame building that had started out as the Sackett Hotel before the Civil War. (The Brown Stone House was built there in 1949, eight years after the old hotel building burned down.)
By 1937, the Sterling warehouse was home to the Imperial Beverage Co. Listed as "vacant" in the 1957 city directory, by the early 1960s the site was a used car lot, where for only $800 you could buy a suped-up 1940 Ford coupe with a LaSalle transmission - cool!
In early 1966, the Town of Hamden purchased the property to make it Hamden's first municipal parking lot. The walls came tumbling down during the last week of September 1966. Gone, and forgotten.
The New Haven Register, Thursday, September 28, 1966 (Gil Spencer)
Hamden's First Municipal Parking Lot, September 30, 2016
In the above photo of the municipal parking lot taken today, the seven-story Whitney Tower in the background is a combination apartment and office building at 2405 Whitney Avenue, situated on the corner of School Street. It was erected in 1973 on a portion of the site of another warehouse for soft drinks, the Pepsi Cola bottling plant.
The c. 1945 aerial photo below shows the Sterling Beverage warehouse and the Pepsi plant in context with each other and Hamden Fire Headquarters. It also shows some of the enormous number of changes to Centerville during the last 70 years.
Photo courtesy of the Hamden Historical Society
Also in 1966, the Town of Hamden purchased the Dixwell Avenue property on which the Grace Episcopal Church once stood, right beside the town hall on the north side of Dixwell Avenue, and moved the church directly across the street to its present location.
Being moved in September 1966 (I.A. Sneiderman photo courtesy of Kris Beirne)
Until recently the space formerly occupied by Grace Church provided parking for the town hall. Several years ago a new headquarters for the Hamden Police Department was erected onto the west end of Hamden's Memorial Town Hall.
The website has temporary custody of a large cache of photo negatives from former Hamden resident and HFRA Honorary Member Chan Brainard of Signal Hill, California. We found this gem from the 1954 Connecticut Firemen's Association Convention held in West Haven. The owner of this city service ladder truck is unknown, but the solid rubber tires suggest it was still in use well into the 20th century.