1927 Line of Duty Death Commemorated by Department
(All photos of the ceremony by Bob Mordecai)
About eighty members of the Hamden Fire Department, past and present, career and volunteer, turned out last Monday, December 10th, to honor Hamden volunteer firefighter Edward D. Meegan on the 85th anniversary of the tragic accident that took his life.
In a brief ceremony at the Hamden Government Center, commencing at the same hour of Meegan's last alarm 85 years earlier, Mayor Scott D. Jackson issued a proclamation naming December 10, 2012 as "Edward D. Meegan Day in the Town of Hamden." The Mayor presented his proclamation to Mr. Meegan's goddaughter, Inez Meegan Shea of Mt. Carmel, who attended with her husband Phillip and son, Phillip, Jr. Mrs. Shea's father, William H. Meegan, was Firefighter Meegan's older brother.
Shortly after 11 on the morning of December 10, 1927, Edward Meegan, a volunteer firefighter with Centerville Co. 4, responded to a call with six others on Engine 4. As it was crossing a bridge over Lake Whitney, the 1925 Seagrave pumper contacted a raised trolley rail, spun out of control and struck a utility pole. Ff. Meegan sustained severe injuries and died the following day. (Scroll down for Nov. 30th article.)
Addressing an audience of past and present career and volunteer officers and firefighters, Fire Chief David Berardesca noted, "The foundation of our department was built on individuals such as Edward Meegan - they made us what we are today . . . I am certain that our first fire chief in town, Charles Loller, was proud to serve with Edward, just as we are proud to serve his memory."
Department Chaplain, Rev. Owen Sanderson, read from a verse that is etched on a firefighters' memorial in Colorado. Retired HFD Capt. Dave Johnson, secretary and historian for the Hamden Fire Retirees Association, thanked all who attended and held up Mr. Meegan's badge, which Mrs. Shea donated to the Association for its archives and eventual display in a Hamden fire museum. Johnson said that the badge "will be treasured." He then introduced Mrs. Shea, who smiled and thanked everyone for the tribute to her uncle.
An honor guard comprised of five members of the Hamden Professional Firefighters Association, Local 2687, IAFF, stood at attention at the front of the room throughout the ceremony, which concluded with Capt. Ed Evers' moving rendition of "Amazing Grace" on the bagpipes.
The HFRA hopes to purchase a memorial plaque for Station 4 to permanently recognize Firefighter Meegan and his sacrifice in the line of duty. The Department will submit Firefighter Meegan's name for inclusion on the Connecticut State Firefighter's Memorial at Windsor Locks and the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial at Emmitsburg.
Mayor Jackson greets the Shea Family before the start of the ceremony
Mayor's Proclamation - CLICK to enlarge
Honor Guard (L-R) - Supt. Don Buechele, Capt. Ron Desroches, Ff. Craig Smart, Capt. Brion Tierney and Ff. Dave Beaton. Dept. Chaplain, Rev. Owen Sanderson in foreground. (Photos by Bob Mordecai)
The HFRA Memorial video has been revised.
CLICK on the image at left.
c. 1975 - Ace Callahan dispatching at Station 4
This photo of Robert "Ace" Callahan was taken about 1975 in the Alarm Room at Station 4, when Ace was the dispatcher on Platoon 4. Note the Gamewell tape take-up reel, time stamp and tape register in the upper left. The black "house phone" right below was a Stromberg-Carlson desk telephone that was connected on a private circuit to all stations.
To dispatch a call, the dispatcher pushed a button on the console to open all alarm circuits for one hit of the Gamewell alert bells in each station. This was followed a tone signal lasting several seconds over loud speakers in all stations, which also broadcast anything spoken on the house phone for all to hear. When the tone alert stopped, each station watchman replied in succession on his station's house phone. Once all stations acknowledged, the dispatcher announced the apparatus on the response followed by the nature of the call. New dispatch procedures added cross streets and map numbers when fire dispatch went to Central.
The alarm room had several different configurations during its forty years at Station 4. This was the way it looked when it closed in November 1981. (Photo courtesy of Joe Rahl)
1971 - Ralph Tortora and John Reynolds at Station 2 when the '65 Mack was Engine 2. (Photo courtesy of John Reynolds)
Hamden Fire Department Training Officer, Capt. John O'Dea, retired at the end of November after nearly 32 years on the job. John came to the HFD after serving as a police officer with the Cheshire Police Department.
John was one of eight new recruits hired in January 1981, a group that included Firefighter Jay Connolly and Dep. Chief Bob Surprise, both of whom are still on the job. Others in that Class of January 1981 included John Longo, Harold Prescher, Tim O'Flynn, Bob Stacy and Paul Wetmore, Jr.
A truly dedicated firefighter and paramedic, John spent many years of his long career on the rescues. He was the recipient of several commendations, including a Mayor's Award presented to him and three other firefighters in 1983 for saving the life of a retired Hamden police sergeant who was in anaphylactic shock following numerous bee stings.
1983 - Mayor's Award
Following promotions to lieutenant and captain over the past dozen years, John was appointed training officer in 2010, replacing Bill Fitzmaurice on his promotion to battalion chief.
The HFRA wishes John a very long, happy and healthy retirement. Hoping to see him at the HFRA January 8th gathering at the Elks.
(All Nov. 30 photos by Lt. Joe Anderson - 1983 photo courtesy of D/C Bob Surprise)
November 30 - At Station 3 on John 's last day on the job, Ff. Jay Connolly, B/C Don LaBanca and Marshal Dennis Harrison are pictured here with John at one of several firehouse farewells. Jay and John both joined the department on January 12, 1981.
June 1974 - Rappelling off the old Centerville School
Deputy Chief Joe McDermott, Firefighter Ed Charbonneau and other members of Platoon 2 practiced rappelling off the roof of the old Centerville School in June 1974. These photos, taken by Ed Doiron, Sr., show Joe as he stepped off and descended. Joe was joined by Ed Charbonneau, who exited from a second floor window. (Any of the five photos may be enlarged with a CLICK on the image.)
Joe McDermott and Ed Charbonneau
Joe starts his descent
Ed Charbonneau exits window
When the old Centerville School closed in the early 1970s, it became home to various town offices, including those of Chief V. Paul Leddy and Marshal Bob "Bubby" O'Donnell. By 1979 Hamden's fire administrative offices had moved back to the town hall - in the basement near the vault - and the old school underwent extensive (and expensive) renovations, morphing into the present day Miller Library and Thornton Wilder Hall.
Firefighter-Paramedic Edward Charbonneau (1939-82)
Remembering Ed Charbonneau
Thirty years ago, on December 4, 1982, our department was shocked and saddened when Firefighter-Paramedic Edward G. Charbonneau died sudddenly while on weekend exercises with the Connecticut National Guard. He was 43.
Ed, a very dedicated firefighter and paramedic, personified the word "professionalism." He was one of Hamden's first EMTs when the program was established in 1971, and was in the first Advanced Life Support class in 1976, becoming one of Hamden's first paramedics. Click on the photo of the 35-year old newspaper article below to read more about Ed and his contributions to Hamden's early EMS program.
Ed was survived by his wife, Joan Longley Charbonneau, daughter Amy Elizabeth, and sons Edward G., Jr., Peter and David.
CLICK to enlarge
Ed Charbonneau was one of the first members of the department's Mountain Rescue Team. Ed is seen in the photo below with Firefighter Tom Conway (right) carrying a Stokes stretcher down the quarry at Sleeping Giant State Park during a 1981 training session.
About three weeks ago, while researching old newspaper articles for our website, information surfaced about a Hamden volunteer firefighter who was killed in the line of duty, a tragedy that all living retired Hamden firefighters believed our town had never experienced in its 116 years of organized fire service.
According to articles in The New Haven Journal-Courier and The New Haven Evening Register, on Saturday, December 10, 1927, six volunteer firefighters and the paid driver of Centerville Co. 4 responded on Engine 4 to Box 57 in Highwood. At the Whitney Avenue bridge over Lake Whitney, the rear wheels of Co. 4’s Seagrave pumper got stuck in a raised trolley rail. The truck slued sizeways for sixty feet before striking a utility pole, breaking it off at the base. Four of the seven firefighters on board were unhurt and two received minor injuries. The seventh firefighter, Edward D. Meegan, was hurled from the truck and died the next day from massive injuries.
The tragic death of Firefighter Meegan was covered extensively in New Haven newspapers and elsewhere. The town was in a state of mourning and the selectmen ordered flags to half-staff. Hamden town officials and all of Hamden’s fire companies turned out for Meegan’s funeral Mass at Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Church, followed by his burial in St. John’s Cemetery in Middletown.
In subsequent investigations by New Haven Coroner Eli Mix and Hamden Fire Chief Charles Loller, the driver of the pumper was cleared of any wrong-doing in the freak accident. He continued to serve honorably as a Hamden career firefighter until his retirement in the mid-1950s.
Sadly, and for reasons unknown to anyone today, the story of Edward Meegan’s sacrifice seems to have ended in 1927. There is no mention of him in any fire company or department commemorative programs or histories, some of which were published only a few years after the accident. No one alive today, including a 93-year old former Hamden career firefighter who worked with one of the accident’s six survivors twenty-five years later, had ever heard of Edward Meegan.
Just why Firefighter Meegan’s line of duty death was forgotten in our department’s history is a sad and disturbing mystery, but we welcome the opportunity to properly honor him now.
The members of the Hamden Fire Retirees Association invite all past and present members of the Hamden Fire Department - career and volunteer - to come together to pay tribute to Edward D. Meegan on the eighty-fifth anniversary of his last alarm, at 11 a.m. on Monday, December 10, 2012.
The ceremony will take place in the 3rd floor conference room in the Hamden Government Center, 2750 Dixwell Avenue. We hope to see many present and past career and volunteer department members.
Within hours, the accident was reported at the top of the front page of the New Haven Evening Register.
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The New Haven Journal-Courier
report of Meegan's death began on
Monday morning's front page.
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New Haven Journal-Courier, Thursday, December 15, 1927 (from the Connecticut State Library microfilm collection)
After investigations were conducted by New Haven Coroner Eli Mix and Hamden Fire Chief Charles Loller, the driver of Engine 4 was exonerated from any wrong-doing in the freak accident. He went on to serve honorably as a Hamden career firefighter for nearly thirty years more before retiring.
1925 - 1982
We remember Firefighter Robert "Ace" Callahan, who died 30 years ago this week. Ace served on the department from 1959 until his retirement in 1980. One helluva nice guy, and a good firefighter, Ace was well respected by his peers, as these photos of his funeral procession attest. CLICK either photo to enlarge.
Photos and news article courtesy of Jim Moore
Ace (far left) is pictured with the rest of the 1960 Annual Ball Committee, John O'Hare, Dick Carney, Gene Maturo and Ray Carofano. Ace and Ray worked together at 5's for years on the old 56-hour shift.
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September 1963 - Bob "Ace" Callahan helps demonstrate a new high-expansion foam application unit for basement fires at an abandoned building located on the Winchester Powder Farm on Putnam Avenue. This is approximately where the Dunbar-Davenport complexes are located today. (Photo by John Mongillo)
Firefighter Robert "Ace" Callahan carries "the colors" on Memorial Day 1969. He is flanked by Firefighters Carmen Amarante and Dave Herrmann, who served as color guards. Ff. Walt Macdowall is marching right behind them. (Photo by Ed Doiron, Sr.)
A WWII Navy veteran, Ace bears the colors again for Memorial Day '75
Fire Photographer Shirley Mangler Preserved History
Shirley Mangler's talent and generosity as an expert photographer have been priceless gifts to the preservation of our history. Wife of our own retiree, 42-year department veteran Harold Mangler, Shirley captured hundreds of images of Department emergencies and related activities during the past three decades. Shirley was eventually assigned a department ID card by the Chief, which named her as an official department photographer. Many of Shirley's fire photos have been published in the local press and even shown on area television news broadcasts.
Twenty-five years ago this coming week - on Saturday, November 28, 1987, to be exact - Shirley documented a live burn training session on Paradise Avenue, conducted by career personnel for the four Hamden volunteer fire companies. CLICK on this photo to view many of the images Shirley captured that day.
In his 29 years on the job, Hamden Firefighter Ed Doiron took hundreds of photographs depicting firehouse life during "alarm readiness," many of which have been shared on the website. During the past week, while exploring a few more of Ed's slide carousels, several dozen more of these images were found - and we are told there are even more slides and negatives on the way. Below are a couple of Ed's Station 4 vignettes from nearly forty years ago. More are promised in the coming weeks and months.
(Above) On a lazy summer afternoon in 1974, Ed Doiron snapped this slide of three of his Platoon 2 colleagues relaxing at the Station 4 watch desk. Left to right are Lt. Gil Spencer with Firefighters Bob Viglione and Steve Hitchcock.
(Below) Ed then aimed his camera through the Alarm Room window to catch Chief Dispatcher and resident curmudgeon, Wilbur Baker, taking a break between emergency calls. Rescue 1, the 1971 Ford "Circus Wagon," is reflected in the window.
October 18, 1962 - A nasty house fire on Mountain Road, one of Hamden's last "unimproved" roads at the time. No Pavement and No Water.
October 18, 1962 (Vaccaro Photo)
The New Haven Register, Wednesday, October 18, 1962 (Chan Brainard)
Over 190 Hamden fire and police retirees have joined the HGSRA as of November 23rd.
The Hamden Fire Retirees Association, Inc. (HFRA), is pleased to provide a page for the Hamden Guardian Services Retirees Association, LLC on this website for informational purposes. See menu tab "HGSRA" Please be sure to check it frequently, particularly during the next few months.
Confidentiality regulations prevent the Town from disclosing addresses of retirees. Does anyone know how we may contact retiree Thomas Hart? We also have a California address for a Roger Sulllivan, but we're not sure he's our retiree. Also looking for Ed Kopjanski and Wayne Lowry. Mail delivered to oldaddresses is often discarded by those presently living there and not returned to the sender.
For over eight decades, a sad and tragic event, incredibly among the forgotten stories of the Hamden Fire Department, was never passed down to future generations of Hamden firefighters. We learned of this only by chance, while examining a 1930 letter authored by a former clerk of the Hamden Board of Fire Commissioners. This long-forgotten story will be revealed soon. To those of us who thought we knew a lot about our history, it will be a blockbuster.
Firefighter John O'Hare
Any conversation with John O'Hare is going to be one in which many laughs are exchanged. John has a unique, often humorous way of looking at life.
In a recent phone conversation, John recalled his first day on the job in 1953. He parked his 1948 DeSoto in the parking lot at Statiion 2 and walked in the front door. Seated at the watch desk was veteran firefighter, Art Smith. Looking up at O'Hare, Firefighter Smith asked, "Yes, sir, may I help you?"
When O'Hare told Smith that he was the new man and was supposed to report to Lieutenant Hume, Smith pointed back toward the kitchen and snarled, "He's back there!"
John said that was only time in his 38 years on the job that anyone ever called him "Sir." "They've called me a lot of other things," he chuckled, "but never again did anyone call me 'Sir'!"
Love talking to John!
50 Years Ago
Famous Mt. Carmel Landmark Burns
The New Haven Register, Wednesday, November 7, 1962
The New Haven Register, Thursday, November 9, 1962 - CLICK to enlarge for easier reasing
The New Haven Register, Thursday, November 9, 1962 - CLICK to enlarge for easier reading
1963 - Co. 5's R.K. Spencer Receives Life-Saving Award for RR Fire CLICK to enlarge
Rescued Firefighter Tells His Story
One of the volunteer firefighters from Co. 5 in Mt. Carmel was Bill Scott. A few years later, Bill would become a Hamden career firefighter for a brief time. Bill sent an email to the website last year in which he recounted his experiences as the injured firefighter that night at the railroad station fire.
Late one night, roughly 50 years ago, the old railroad station north of the fire house on Whitney Ave. caught fire. Many volunteers showed up including myself. I ended up on the roof with others to punch holes for ventilation. Unfortunately for me, I was standing beside the old chimney when it decided to fall, which it did, on top of me.
My fellow volunteers rushed to my aid and brought me over to a ladder to get me down. Somehow though, they missed the ladder and dropped me off the roof. At this point I was pretty groggy and didn't argue when I was loaded into the back of an ambulance, driven by the notorious Murrays, John and Pinkey. If I'd had my wits about me, I would have called a cab.
Bobby Feinn, who rode with me, told me later he thought we would both die that night going 90 MPH down Dixwell Avenue.
I stayed a couple of days in the hospital with a concusion. My roommate was a guy being guarded by a cop. He was there because he'd been shot by a blind woman while attempting to steal her chickens.
My recovery was aided by some friends (volunteers of course) who came to visit with a case of beer and pizza. The hospital staff didn't think this was such a good idea and the party ended quickly. My missadventure ended well, but the highlight of that evening I feel is that one volunteers received an award from the state for my rescue even though I bounced a little on the way down.
Typical Hamden Fire Department drawing on calendars that were distributed to businesses during Fire Prevention Week
Every October, Hamden firefighters visited businesses in their first alarm territories to conduct informal inspections and answer questions to help citizens observe and obey basic fire codes. When the inspection was over, the firefighters always presented a calendar from the Department, which offered a sometimes dramatic, sometimes homespun, but largely fictional representation of department life. The Rockwellesque depiction above shows an elderly firefighter entertaining two small kids. Hamden did have a couple of Dalmatian mascots, "Belle" at Putnam Avenue and "Sport" at Headquarters, but we do not recall any active firefighter quite as old as THAT guy. When children visited the fire stations, though, the men on duty were usually quite friendly, letting the kids try on their boots and helmets and sit in the engine. We still do it today.
Notice the alpha-numeric telephone number, CH 8-5521, which was the Department's emergency number. Fifty years ago this month, the Southern New England Telephone Co. was among the first of the Bell-affiliated telephone companies to discontinue these old EXchange names if favor off all-digit telephone numbers. CHestnut 8-5521 became simply 248-5521. Check out more useless, but interesting, information on Hamden Fire Department telephone numbers since the beginning: http://www.hamdenfireretirees.org/hamdenphones.html
Trivia: What major technological emergency (glitch) occurred 47 years ago on November 9th? And what were you doing? (Email the website atHFDBadge102@aol.com.)
Answer (one week later):
On Tuesday afternoon, November 9, 1965, at about 5:15 or so, lights began to flicker throughout the northeast. Then the lights went out entirely. Thus began what became known as the Great Northeast Blackout of 1965. Some news outlets reported a surge in births in the northeast nine months later, but in recent years those reports have been relegated to urban myth status. A similar blackout involving a smaller area of the northeast occurred nearly twelve years later in the summer of 1977.