Town hall rotunda very active three times this past week . . .
Fine Old HFD Tradition Makes a Comeback After 25 Years
When the Hamden Fire Department was reorganized in 1942 with the appointment of career fire officers, each firefighter was issued a numbered badge corresponding to his seniority on the department. The lower the badge number, the greater the firefighter's seniority.
The most senior firefighter on the department was the proud holder of Badge No. 1. Hamden Firefighter Joseph ("Joe Marks") Marchitto was the first. Firefighter John O"Hare, who retired twenty-five years ago this month, was the last. Nine firefighters in between were also the proud holders of HFD Badge No. 1.
By the early 1980s there were well over 100 numbered firefighters' badges. As department members retired, the numbered badges were reissued to the remaining active firefighters according to their seniority. Chief Leddy would come around, collect your old badge, then hand you another one with an even lower number that reflected your new seniority ranking.
Since the beginning, only eleven firefighters wore Badge No. 1. When the department discontinued numbered badges around 1990, the final holder of Badge No. 1, John O'Hare, was allowed to keep it.
So, what happened to end that tradition? Around the time of O'Hare's retirement, department brass decided to do away with all of the department's firefighters' numbered badges. A tradition had died - until this week.
Last Tuesday, department staff and most of the on-duty Platoon 1 personnel assembled in the town hall rotunda for a surprise presentation. Chief David Berardesca pinned a brand new Badge #1 on 35-year veteran HFD Firefighter Maurice "Jay" Connolly, Hamden's most senior firefighter since Bob Anthony retired on November 30, 2005. Moreover, Jay has been the most senior department member since early last year when B/C Don LaBanca retired.
Ff. Maurice "Jay" Connolly, serving since January 1981.
Pinning it on
No. 1 Badge Holders
Joseph Marchitto (Beginning - c. 1945)
Frank Nolan (c. 1945 - 1959)
Clem Kammerer (1959)
Walt Thomas (1959 - 1967)
Mario "Bucky" Serafino (1967 - 1973)
Wilbur Baker (1973 - 1977)
Art Smith (1977)
Fred Fletcher (1977 - 1980)
David Howe (1980 - 1984)
Hugh McLean (1984 - 1987)
John O'Hare (1987 - 1991)
They would have had Badge #1
Art Heriot (1991 - 1993)
Harry Cubbellotti (1993)
George Patten (1993 - 1995)
Harold Mangler (1995 - 2005)
Rich "Rambo" Maybury (2005)
Bob Anthony (2005)
Jay Connolly (2005 - )*
*The most senior firefighter since December 2005,
Jay is now the first holder of a new Badge #1.
A sampler of some of the numbered badges that were retired in 1991. They went as high as 114, maybe higher.
Jay is the last active department member to have served under Chief V. Paul Leddy and has been senior firefighter on the department during the entire tenure of Chief Berardesca. Jay recalled on Tuesday that when he started on the job he was Badge No. 114.
Doherty and Connolly on Tuesday morning
Several HFD retirees also attended the badge presentation. Among them was a genuine HFD legend, Tom Doherty, who conducted all recruit training for Jay and seven fellow recruits.
In January 1981, Tom was the captain on Platoon 3. The department's training officer, D/C Ken Harrington, had retired a few months earlier and his successor had yet to be appointed. Chief Leddy asked Tom if he'd be willing to provide recruit training for eight new men.
Like many departments at the time, Hamden did its own inhouse recruit training. In preparing for his eight new recruits, Tom contacted the training divisions of neighboring departments in order to assemble a comprehensive training program.
In addition to Jay, the Class of January 1981 included Tim O'Flynn, Bob Stacy, Harold Prescher, John Longo, Bob Surprise, Paul Wetmore and John O'Dea.
CLICK to enlarge
Ff. Brian Leddy, B/C Tom Doherty (Ret.), B/C John Spencer, Ff. Kevin Shields, Ff. Mike Deline, Sr., Capt. Ed Evers, Lt. Dan Such, Ff. Tim Doyle, Lt. Jeff Naples, D/C Gary Merwede, Ff. Jaime Bonet, Ff. Jay Connolly, Ff. Jason Davis, Chief David Berardesca, Ff. Larry Bowden, Lt. Daryl Osiecki, Ff. Alan Sedlak, Capt. Bernie Amatrudo, A/Supt. Glen Tricarico, Ff. Matt Kellick, Ff. Russell Quick, Ff. Steve Sorentino, "Bob, the traffic guy," Lt. Jay Matthews, Supt. Jim LaFond, Ff. Mike Sperl, Ff. William Heiney and Training Officer Capt. John Grasso
NOTE: The above article now contains newly acquired information regarding the
history of the numbered badges and those firefighters who were issued Badge No. 1.
One of the first structure fires to hit Hamden after the closing of the Highwood fire station occurred sixty-five years ago when a large barn was destroyed on Hubbard Place off Ridge Road. This was just over three weeks after Engine 1 and the Ladder Truck were reassigned to the Humphrey fire station to be quartered with Engine 2.
Arrivng firefighters directed efforts at protecting exposures that had already sustained damage from flying brands. The four responding companies were most likely Engine 6, Engine 3, the Emergency Squad and the Ladder Truck.
* New Haven Evening Register, Wednesday, October 24, 1951
* Remains of the barn.
The Hamden Chronicle, Thursday, October 25, 1951 (Courtesy of the Hamden Historical Society)
Last Wednesday evening, the Hamden Board of Fire Commissioners selected Ff. Dave Wood to fill the vacany of Lieutenant C.J. Hedges, who retired in August.
An eleven year veteran of the department, Lieut. Wood was sworn in Thursday morning in the town hall rotunda before dozens of department members and friends.
In remarks before the gathering, Chief David Berardesca noted Lt. Wood's impressive educational background, which includes two bachelor degrees (simultaneously) from the University of New Haven, one in Fire Administration and the other in Arson Investigation. He is a CFA pump and aerial operator and a Fire Service Instructor I.
Lieut. Wood will be assigned to Platoon 2 at Station 2.
Dozens of department members, several retirees and fire personnel from other departments were on hand last Monday morning as two new recruits were sworn in at the town hall rotunda.
Recruit Firefighter/Paramedic William Heiney (left) comes from the East Haven Fire Department. Recruit Firefighter/Paramedic Alan Sedlak (right) comes to the HFD from AMR, after putting himself through the Connecticut Fire Academy.
The members of the Hamden Fire Retirees Association wish both of these gentlemen long, fulfilling and safe careers with the Hamden Fire Department.
Ff/Paramedic William Heiney, Chief Berardesca and Ff/Paramedic Alan Sedlak
Hamden can boast of many distinctions: The home to world-famous author and playwright Thornton Wilder, the birthplace of Eli Whitney's interchangable parts for firearms, and the place where Charles Goodyear first vulcanized rubber, among other things. But how many folks out there know that Hamden was also home to a very well-known artist, George Wildman, who drew Popeye for decades?
After Platoon 3 quickly extinguished a fire at Mr. Wildman's home on October 21, 1995, the Department received a unique message of appreciation from the world's most famous vegan.
Hamden Fire Department and HFRA chaplain, Rev. Owen ("the Rev") Sanderson will receive a special recognition award from the Knights of St. Patrick at their 41st annual Public Safety Dinner next Friday, October 28th at the Grand Hall of the Knights of St. Patrick, 1533 State Street from 6 until 9 p.m. $40 - Buffet - Open Bar