Charles Mooney was the star pitcher for the Moylan Field Club in 1922 and the stocky blacksmith, Adam Barr, was the catcher. There is no record of their wins and losses, but their great accomplishment took place after the season was over-when they decided to start a fire company. Up to that time South Media, Moylan, Rose Valley and Wallingford depended on the Media Fire and Hook and Ladder Company in Media Borough. Garden City was protected by the Good Will Fire Company of the City of Chester.
The baseball circle grew. The fire of inspiration did not flicker; the mechanics of organization were straight-way attended to and the number of men attracted to the cause steadily increased. The minutes of the meeting of October 27, 1922 (the earliest to be found) reveal a treasury of $1043.40, a surprisingly large sum even in a period of postwar prosperity. Ground was given by Harry Worrall, and at the meeting of November 9 a motion was carried that the building committee “be given the power to erect the best building possible, spending $2000.00 for material. Labor to be contributed by the members of the company”. The minutes of that meeting also contain the first referance to the Ladies’ Auxiliary, clearly indicating that the Auxiliary was founded at about the same time as the Company itself.
A few meetings took place at the Ormsby home, after which meetings were held in the old South Media schoolhouse on Ronaldson Street. Business relations with the public at large came into being early in December with the decision to raffle off twenty-five turkeys before Christmas.
December 12, 1922 was mild and partly rainy. John Wanamaker died in the morning. Clemenceau had just finished his conference with President Harding. Paderewski and Heifetz were giving recitals in various eastern cities. John McCormick was singing at Town Hall in Philadelphia and John Barrymore was playing Hamlet at the Harris theatre in New York. US Steal was selling at 102 3/4., General Motors at 98 ¼ and AT&T at 124 ¼. Gentleman’s high lace shoes were eight dollars. The price of an Oldsmobile coupe was $1475.00 and a Chevrolet roadster was listed at $490.00. The Ku Klux Klan was propagandizing in public places; war scandals were being probed; moonshiners and bootleggers were establishing a vast industry. George Phann (later coach at Swarthmore College) was named All-Eastern; Tex Hamer was elected captain of the Penn football team and Judge K. M. Landis was distributing the charity funds from the 1922 World Series.
December 12, 1922 was the date of the charter or the South Media Fire Company No. 1, signed by 52 members: Frank H. Anthony, Howard L. Baker, Charles Burroughs, Charles W. Byre, Marshall Byre, Von H. Byre, H. Carl Downing, Albert F. Evans, Thomas E. Flynn, Alexander B. Geary, Joseph L. Geary, Daniel G. Haggerty, William J. Haggerty, Charles A. Higgins, John J. Higgins, Thomas J. Highfield, William B. Highfield, Francis P. Kane, William J. Lavery, George J. Leaver, William J. Lee, Paul M. Major, Michael McCarthy, Matthew McCarthy, Thomas G. McKee, Charles R. Mooney Sr, Edgar O. Moore, J. Rowland Morgan, Lewis W. Morgan, George A. Nittle, Harry B. Ormsby, Joseph H. Palmer, W. S. Parker, Frank H. Pilkington, William S. Rudolph, Harry C. Simcox, Joseph W. Simpson, Benjamin Smith, Dewey Snyder, John Weare, William D. K. Wilson, William N. Wilson, Harry C. Worrall, Horace G. Worrall, Isaac Worrall and Raymond Worrall. The original members of the board of directors were John Higgins, Francis Kane, William Lee, George Nuttle, William Wilson and Raymond Worrall.
In January 1923 the Media Fire and Hook and Ladder Company presented the new company with their horse-drawn steam pumper. The gesture was a symbolic gift of equipment to be placed in the firehouse when completed. It was brought to South Media, stored in Ormsby’s blacksmith shop and moved in the spring to the new firehouse; a solid structure with two bays. The new firehouse was dedicated June 22, 1923. A year and a half later the old steamer was unfortunately dismantled.
After Careful consideration of different makes and advertising for bids, in December 1923 the Company ordered a 1923 American LaFrance four cylinder, rotary gear, 500 gallons per minute pumper at a cost of $9000.00. In the following June the bright red fire engine arrived, complete with its gleaming nickel attachments, wooden-spoked wheels, solid tires, crank starter, chain drive and an un-muffled motor that could be heard as far as its bell and hand-cranked siren. Her record was long and honorable, largely because she was in good hands.
One is tempted to cite names here, but there would inevitably be oversights, too grave an error in respect to the many who gave expert and devoted service over the years and we take this precaution throughout.
During the early years the township contained vast open spaces, farms (clearly within this writer’s memory). Accordingly, there were far more field fires than there are now, and a supply of brooms was kept on the fire engine to beat out brush fires or entire fields, a strenuous job. That period also included the long, hard nights at the Four Horseman, Gleave Hall, the Sharpless Creamery ($300,000.00 loss), the Sachvill Mills, the Mercur Mansion and the Wallingford School.
Also during the first decade it was not uncommon for the Company to respond to calls well beyond the limits of the township; to Gradyville and to Concordville for example. The general rusticity of the area reflected in the Company’s early records; opposite “Cause of Fire” we read sometimes “overheated oil stove”, “heating tar”, “defective flue” and “spontaneous combustion” appears perhaps more often than was actually the case. For April 4, 1926 the cause of fire was listed as “spark from locomotive”. And as late as January 24, 1933 the report of a field fire was summed up by “beat out”.
The ever-present problem of raising money hung over the membership. There were fairs, suppers, bakes and dances partially to counterbalance the well-to-do benefactors who died during the formative years and also, of course, what was euphemistically called the depression. And yet, the Company continued to grow, but not without many a dark day. Not only incidents of intoxication and arrest, but later in the thirties, the Company was faced with a serious threat to discontinue if some kind of financial help did not come from the township. However, somehow, the Company always rose above its adversities.
In 1939 South Media purchased a 500 gallons per minute American LaFrance centraflow pumper, thoroughly up to date in design. This piece of apparatus served more than a quarter of a century and was kept in the fire station until the winter of 1968, when it was disposed of. The bell that had been on the 1923 LaFrance, and before that on the steamer, is still in the possession of the Company, their oldest relic and is proudly displayed in the station. The original apparatus was traded in, leaving the company with only one fire engine.
Studies on and investigations about a new truck went on through the forties, culminating in the purchase of a Dodge pumper in 1952, equipped with ladders 40, 35, 28, 16 and 10 feet in length. The new fire engine served until September 6, 1969, when it was given to a volunteer fire company in Glasgow, Virginia. The equipment of that company had been destroyed by a hurricane.
In the fifties radio communications were greatly improved, the Auxiliary made substantial contributions to the company, and more young men were going to fire school. It is worthy of note that the Company was the second in the county to be equipped with what was modern radio equipment. To meet the needs of a modern fire station it was necessary to replace the old building. Our good neighbor William Price contributed his professional services with the plans of the building which was dedicated in July 1960.
The Company’s need of more up-to-date rolling equipment was acute by 1960, accounting for the addition of a used Chevrolet service truck(1960), a big LaFrance pumper (1962), the Toyota, replacing an old jeep, known as “Little Squirt” (1967), the second massive American LaFrance (1968) and a Dodge utility truck (1969).
During this period the Ladies’ Auxiliary officially dissolved their organization on March 11, 1969 and presented their liquidated treasury to the Company. It would be difficult indeed to list the manifold services that the members of this devoted, hard-working group of ladies gave to South Media Fire Company, whose members, in turn, remember with gratitude. And let it be recorded that Mrs. Francis P. Kane Sr. kept the Company’s books throughout the first two decades.
The custom-built heavy rescue truck (51-6) was ordered in January 1970, delivered in August 1971 at a cost of $30,000.00 and housed October 23 in a double housing with the Garden City Fire Company. The motor and chassis were made by Ford and the truck proper was constructed by Swab Wagon Company. Equipped with standard articles and resources, it also carried numerous items which were not common to all rescue trucks, some of which was a tool called “the jaws of life”, a 15000 watt generator, a cascade system, hydraulic jacks, saws, air packs and flood lights.
Following a concern quickened by a destructive and life threatening flood, the Company added in 1972 another rescue piece in the form of a 15 foot boat.
On October 21, 1973 members were invited to inspect the museum and miscellaneous equipment of the Philadelphia Fire Department. At a later date our members were guests of the Fire Department of New York, visiting their museum, one of the fire boats, and the fire proving and training grounds on an island on the upper East River. On a similar excursion members visited the Baltimore Fire Department with its elaborate centrally located, computer-operated station for locating and dispatching.
As late as 1955 the Company’s Constitution and By-Laws read: “A person to be eligible for membership in this company must be a white, male citizen…” (article xv, s5). Also at that time a primitive system of electing applicants to membership was still in effect, a system formerly common among secret societies whereby the presence of two black balls dropped in the box excluded the applicant. In the 1969 edition of the by-laws, however, the earlier reference to race and sex was eliminated. The first woman elected to membership was Peggy Stanley in November 1974; also the earlier system of voting on candidates for membership was abandoned in favor of democratic voting. The role of women in the company became especially pronounced when Pamela Sullivan was named “Firefighter of the Year” by vote of the members in December 1986. She was also an officer of the company.
In order to stabilize the somewhat vague qualifications for membership, the directors instituted in 1973 more specific matters concerning prospective members, such as school performance and attitude, police records, affiliation with fraternal organizations and other fire companies, military service and type of discharge when applicable, recent employment record, physical disabilities and defects when applicable, and driver’s license. By 1979 the membership committee was limited to investigating applicant’s police record, school record, membership in other fire companies, and serious medical matters.
The once rustic appearance of firefighters in action was ended in 1974 with the requirement for members to be in full gear before mounting the apparatus, basically a practical regulation for protection. Likewise, the requirement for members to be finger printed (1979) constituted another mature move away from the comparative psychological informality of the past toward seriousness in public service.
The need for more space inside and outside necessitated the purchase of the property to the north, listed as 535 Washington Avenue; the date of purchase was December 7, 1973. This addition was referred to as the “new building” for some months as estimates were being considered and discussed. Almost a year later the commissioners agreed to allow the company between $35,000 and $40,000 and approximately equal sum of money to the Garden City Fire Company. According to the agreement, the company turned over to the township the apparatus and retained title to the property, thus making possible the construction of the much-needed addition. But the alliance between the company and township did not become official until the end of 1979.
Mr. Edward T. Hiderliter was engaged as the architect and Mr. Greg Reitze was the builder. Construction proceeded throughout 1975, and the new structure was in use in 1976. The trophies were removed to the new facilities and the original building was demolished in mid-1977.
The Ford-Pierce pumper (51-1) was delivered April 3, 1980 at a cost of $81,676. Motor and chassis by Ford, the body was constructed by Pierce, of Appleton Wisconsin, the makers of the Pierce-Arrow motor car, once the grand old lady of American highways. The pump was manufactured by Waterous; it is a single-stage centrifugal pump with a capacity of 1250 gallons per minute. Other features are its top mount pump panel and a tank which carried 750 gallons of water. The fire engine is equipped with 1600 feet of 4-inch hose, 100 feet of 3-inch, 250 feet of 2 ½-inch hose, 300 feet of 2-inch hose and 250 feet of 1-inch hose; it also carried house ladders and a generator.
Pump outs were long practiced as charitable exercises, later to become professional services. Chimney cleanings, which were matters of private need, took on a more contractual nature. The minutes for September 20, 1971 record congratulations addressed to the chimney crew for the money they brought in from chimney jobs, and on January 17, 1980 the crew expresses a certain anxiety in the words: “…if we can keep up with the demand.” But demand and crew waned simultaneously, and in March 1984 the company discontinued chimney cleanings.
A recent piece of apparatus added to the station was the Pierce pumper (51-2), delivered January 24, 1986. The cost was $171,000. The chassis was constructed by Pierce-Arrow, the motor (a Detroit diesel) by General Motors, and a two stage pump, capable of1750 gallons per minute, by Waterous. It carried 1000 gallons of water and 2000 feet of 4-inch hose on a Hannay reel, 100 feet of 3-inch hose, 300 feet of 2-inch hose, and 275 feet of 1-inch hose. A new Ford pickup (51-8A) was purchased in 1988 to replace the 1969 Dodge. In 1990 the company took delivery of a new Pierce Heavy Rescue Truck (51-6) which carried a full compliment of vehicle rescue tools, air bags, jacks, ropes, and numerous other tools as well as a 300 gallon water tank, a 25 gallon foam tank and a 350 gallon per minute Waterous pump. There were many upgrades on this truck due to the very high traffic flow on the new Blue Route (I-476).
In 1999 the company decided it was time to add a command vehicle to the fleet. A Ford Expedition was then purchased from Odyssey and was fully outfitted as a command post.
In 1995 a new Pierce Engine (51-1) was purchased. This engine had all the newest upgrades such as an electric ladder rack, light tower, and room for 6 firefighters. It carries 750 gallons of water and has a 2000 gallon per minute Waterous 2 stage pump. Hose compliments are 1500 feet of 5-inch hose, 600 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose, 400 feet of 2-inch hose, 150 feel of 1 ½-inch hose, and 200 feet of 1-inch hose. Ladder compliment is 1 24 foot 2 fly extension ladder, 2 14 foot roof ladders and a 10 foot attic ladder.
In 2000 the 1986 engine was replaced with a new Pierce engine (51-2). This engine also has an electric ladder rack, a light tower and carries 6 firefighters. It carries 750 gallons of water and has a 2000 gallon per minute Waterous 2 stage pump. Hose compliments are 1500 feet of 5-inch hose, 600 feet of 2 1/2-inch hose, 400 feet of 2-inch hose, 150 feel of 1 ½-inch hose, and 200 feet of 1-inch hose. Ladder compliment is 1 35 foot 3 fly extension ladder, 2 16 foot roof ladders and a 10 foot attic ladder. A new addition to this engine is a 20 kw AMPS generator. This generator does not need any fuel to run.
In 2004 the company decided it was time to expand once again. A building committee was made and on September 11, 2004 ground was broken for additions to the building. This date had special meaning due to the 343 firefighters that were killed in New York City on September 11, 2001 when the Twin Towers were felled by terrorists.
In 2005 a new Pierce Heavy Rescue truck was bought to replace the 1990. This truck had many new upgrades such as a Paratech rescue strut system which can be used to stabilize vehicles, walls of buildings and can be used in trench rescues. There are also a refrigerator and a microwave oven on this truck for those long cold nights where the firefighters can make hot soup or hot chocolate or even get a cold bottle of water on those very hot days.
On June 14, 2006 the new rescue truck was housed and the new building was dedicated. The building in beautiful earth tone block, highlighted with the company colors of blue and white with a glistening new flagpole stood proudly on the same corner as the original building. A new garden name “Freedom Garden” in tribute to September 11, 2001 stands just outside of the front door. The future of the South Media Fire Company #1 cannot be told but what is sure is that the brave volunteers of this company will strive to be some of the best trained and dedicated men and women in the state.