Seventy-Five Years of History
The history of the Jamison Road Vol. Fire Company is like the town it serves, one of need, because of growth. Late in the year of 1856 the committee of Divisions of Towns created, from the existing Towns of Lancaster and Aurora, the Town of Elma.
As the population grew in the Township the concern for fire protection was on the minds of the residents. Fire companies followed the population growth in the Town of Elma.
First the Blossom Fire Company was established in 1872. Then in 1913, Springbrook Fire Company, Inc. was established. In the fall of 1936 the hamlet of Elma Village on Bowen Road became the home of the Elma Fire Company, Inc., which was incorporated on April 13, 1937.
These three departments served the residents of the township for many years. As more and more people moved into the southeastern corner of Elma, an area known as East Elma bordering Marilla and Aurora, a need for fire protection more central to the residents became apparent.
On the eve of America’s entry into Second World War, several residents of the area bordered by the towns of Marilla and Aurora to the east and south, Rice Road on the north and a line near Bowen Road on the west, gathered to establish a fire company-the year was 1940.
By the spring of 1941 the ground work was finished, and on May 5, 1941 a certificate of Incorporation for the Jamison Road Volunteer Fire Company was completed by Lester E. Hopper, Thomas McCubbin, Claude McCubbin, Ernest F. Bleeck and Herman Walter after witnessing by Harry R. Hennessey, Town of Aurora, and approved in Supreme Court of New York, Eighth Judicial District.
As set forth by the corporation papers, the purposes were to acquire and own fire apparatus for the protection of persons and property from injury, loss, damage and destruction by fire. Claude McCubbin was the first company’s president, Elia Nicoloff became Jamison first fire chief. A used fire engine was purchased from Snyder Fire Co. Amherst and housed in a building loaned by Ernest Bleeck. The engine was a Ahrens-Fox open cab, right- hand side drive with a front mounted pump.
Many years following the purchase of a fire truck in 1941, a contract was entered into between Jamison Road Volunteer Fire Company and Buffalo Fire Appliance of Buffalo, New York for the purchase of a new engine in 1947.
The new truck was a 500 G.P.M pumper with 300 gallons of water and cost $6,750. Now the department had two pieces of equipment and a training program was instituted on every other Tuesday at 7:30 PM. It was noted that both trucks should log at least 10 miles per week. Jamison Road Fire Company now had two engines.
In the spring of 1950, after many months of painting and repairing, a used tanker (JRVFC #2) was placed in service. This tanker would replace the old Ahrens-Fox. The tanker carried 2400 gallons of water and was mounted on an early 1940’s GMC tandem axled chassis. The body was very streamline and been made originally as an oil/ gas tanker for the Socony Vacuum Company. The Jamison Road Fire Company purchased the unit for one dollar.
It was also recorded in the minutes of the meeting of September 5, 1950 that two land proposals were presented. One was to buy seven acres from Roland Martin on Maple Road and the other was to buy land from Ernest Bleeck, but all of Bleeck’s land would have to be bought. The vote was to purchase the Martin land and Mr. Bleeck gave the members 24 hours to remove the fire company’s equipment from his property. This momentary distraction/disagreement was to pass and the company stayed at Jamison and Maple Roads.
Company meetings continued at Mr. Bleeck’s Restaurant until the meeting room was ready at the new hall. That happened on February 2, 1954 as noted in the secretary’s minutes of that date as “President Warren Bleekman called the meeting to order” and no mention was made of “at Bleeck’s Restaurant,” as the body voted in January 1954 to meet next to the fire hall.
More land was needed as picnics were money makers and property for “just a hall” was not enough. In the winter of 1953 Misters Schoenthal and Nicholoff reported to the company on “our deal in buying the fire company grounds for $15,000 from E. Bleeck” Mr. Bleeck reported he would carry the mortgage at 4% interest with $4,000 as down payment. The proposal carried 14 to 3 standing vote. One hundred dollars was put down at this meeting and papers were to be drawn up.
In the fall of 1953 the department officially marked the donation of the GMC tanker, as no bill of sale existed, only a receipt for $1.00 from Socony Vacuum Company to Jamison Road Fire Company. Once this was complete and officially in the company records, the fire chief was given permission to fix up the tanker as he would like.
This large tanker seemed a problem almost from day one. Put in service in the Spring of 1950, it received a new motor in October of the same year. In December of 1953 the tanker needed more work, rumors abound (no written records) of a tank problem.
In 1954 on December 8th Art Schoenthal proposed getting another fire truck. Two proposals were suggested. First to purchase a 1946 Brockway with a 2000 gallon tank for $1,100 or a new 1000 gallon pumper tanker for $10,000. The decision, left to Mr. Schoenthal to do what he saw fit in the matter, was the used 1939 (not “46”) Brock- way VIN 17250 with a 1946 engine. Mr. Schoenthal was elected chief at this meeting-unopposed. In the early 1950’s the Fire Company began first aid training, a single air pack was purchased. The fire reports began to appear in the secretary’s log at this time.
Of interest as the chiefs report for 1955 as recorded at the January 4, 1956 meeting: “We answered 25 calls, 16 grass fires, 3 barn fires and 1 tractor”. Five alarms are unaccounted for.
Later that year on June 6, 1956 the company moved and seconded “We have a telephone installed at the police station in East Aurora with a number to call in case of a fire.
In 1957 on April 3rd it is noted that Jamison Fire Company took part in the Elma Centennial at the picnic grounds with each of the four companies getting 20% of the profits from the refreshment stand they operated together.
A third fire engine was added to the fire company in the mid 1950’s. A 1936 Ford flatbed was donated by Frey Concrete Company. The truck was made into a tanker with a hose bed at the rear of the truck body.
In 1959 another fire engine was placed in service at the Jamison Road Fire Company. As mentioned earlier, the GMC tanker was replaced when a 2000 gallon, 1939 Brockway tanker was put in service. Now the company went to look at another used truck at Frey Con- crete.
At a special meeting on January 23, 1959 the membership approved the purchase of a used Federal (year unknown) truck chassis and to install a 2000 gallon tank manufactured by Lancaster Tank of Lancaster, NY (the new tank cost the company $1,050, installed).
The membership voted in February 1959 to sell the Ford tanker to Blossom Fire Company for $1.00. An interesting motion was made at the November 1959 meeting. Chief Walszyk had spoken at the last B
oard of Directors meeting on the necessity of all men having blue lights on their cars. As a result, at the regular meeting, the following motion was passed ‘That each man who wants a new blue light, buy them himself” (A treasurer’s motion-if there was ever was one- a dollar saved is a dollar earned – editor’s note).
At the December, 1960 meeting, Howard Walczyk reported that the state was going to look into the possibility of having a light put on Jamison road in front of the fire hall. (Note: Since then it has been mentioned several times in minutes-it refers to a traffic light and to date, there is no light).
At the same meeting, a committee was formed to begin efforts to build a new building. (The present truck garage less recreation hall). In January 1961, the problem of water came up. East Aurora had been charging Jamison Road for water hauled and Bob McCubbin was to look into future water for the department. By march of 1961 a pond was brought closer to reality to be used for fire-fighting, while the earth that was removed was to be used as fill for the new building. A building fund was instituted at the meeting.
By April 1961 the pond and building were closer to reality as the soil in the pond area was found to be excellent and the cost would only be about $450 to $500 if done by the Conservation Department. The pond would be 4/10ths of an acre and hold 847,000 gallons of water with a 1000 gallon septic tank and a dry hydrant for the east drafting of water.
At the May 1961 meeting, Frank Hill submitted his drawings and blueprints for a new building and explained them in detail. At the same meeting, membership accepted, his personal loan at 6% interest to build the new fire hall. The estimated cost, including electric, heat and plumbing was $15,429. At a special meeting on May 31,1961, all financial problems were worked out when a $13,000.00 mortgage was decided on.
By September 1961, all was complete. At the monthly meeting of September 6, 1961, Chief Walczyk reported the pond was complete and the new building would be dedicated on September 24th. By October 1961, all was in operation and the July Chicken Barbecue had a profit of $222.00.
In late 1962 the company decided to replace the 1939 Brockway. Since water had not reached the southwest corner of the township, another tanker was ordered. At the January 2, 1963 meeting the min- utes report an order for a 1962 REO that would arrive January 15th and Nelson Schoenthal loan the necessary funds to the company on a promissory note of $6,541.00. The new truck arrived at the Jamison Road Volunteer Fire Company on February 9,1963. As in earlier minutes of the Company, records show a gradual payoff of the personal loan debts.
In April, 1964 the Company was to make one payment each to Otto Bove and Nelson Schoenthal on outstanding loans to the fire company and to pay $2,080 for a front mount pump for the 1963 REO tanker. It was stated that the kicking shut of compartments on the tankers must stop now as it scratches and the damage is showing.
In May of 1964, a special meeting was called to review the specifica- tions for a new pumper. At the regular May meeting the department voted to sell the Federal tanker with its front mount pump to Sardina Fire Company for $2,300. Delivery of the tanker would coincide with the arrival of the new pumper. The new pumper was to be ordered through Churchville Fire Equipment of Churchville, NY from American Fire Apparatus Company of Michigan. At the June 1964 meeting, the company membership approved the loan from Nelson Schoenthal of $21,112.00 at 5% interest to buy the new pumper.
The Chief reported that to conduct radio checks through East Au- rora, Fire Control would require a button added at control and con- sequently, two buttons would have to be pushed in case of a fire, one for the radios and one for the siren. In the Fall of 1964, using one button for both siren and radio was the best way to go.
In December 1964 it was reported that the new pumper would arrive on February 14, 1965. Also noted, 1964 was the first time officers and Chief were elected and charged with captaining three pieces of fire apparatus.
In February 1965, the Federal tanker left the hall to begin service in Sardinia and until the new engine arrived, a second company was to be alerted as soon as any fire call was received.
In 1965 the first power doors were installed at the hall. In May 1965 the finial payment on the REO Tanker was made. In the mid 1960’s a payment to the Elma Ambulance fund was begun. The profit for the 1965 Chicken Barbecue was $706.00. Also, in 1965, the offices of first and second assistant chiefs were identified.
In 1966, a lawyer was called in to review the company bylaws and by June, 1966, the price for Chicken Barbecue had risen to $1.50 for adults and $1.00 for children.
By the mid 1960’s Erie County Fire Schools had become an essential part of the company’s training. In May, 1966, it was decided to run only one drill per month during county fire schools.
On July 6, 1966, the company voted a steak dinner for the women who helped with the Chicken Barbecue and Howard Walczyk was to chair the dinner. A blackboard was added near the phone to locate alarms, and the year 1966 ended with 42 alarms answered.
In 1974, the State of New York accepted the concept of one emergency number for all 911. Jamison Road went on record as supporting it and its inception at the base station in East Aurora on January 2, 1974. It finally went into service in 1988.
Members enjoyed family picnics and waterball competition during the mid 1970’s. The Family picnics were continued on; however waterball was stopped as an activity after an injury to one of the members.
In the mid 1970’s, along with the other fire companies in town, coverage of Little Loop Football games was begun.
A motion was made, seconded and carried that the outgoing
Company President, Benevolent President and Fire Chief chair the installation dinners.
In late 1975, there was talk of altering the building and readjusting the mortgage payment to make improvements. In 1976, new building plans were made official as a committee was established. In April, 1976, the present back bay was presented. It would be 21’x32’ and cost about $18,000. Building was begun in July, 1976 and completed, except for some wiring, by December 1976.
In March of 1976, one of area’s worst ice storms occurred. Beginning during the day, weather forecasters continually assured nervous residents that temperatures would change and the ice would melt.
After 24 hours of continuous sleet, the area awoke to broken tree branches, snapped power lines and general havoc.
Faced with no electrical power, residents turned to their local fire companies for assistance in pumping basements. Damage was great and calls were many.
Fire personal were aided by southern tier companies and by weeks end semblance of order was restored.
Friday January 28,1977 began with threats of a storm warning. No one was able to predict the fury that was unleashed around 11:30 am that day.
Caught utterly unprepared by the force of the storm-later termed the “Blizzard of “77”, Western New York residents were forced to seek assistance wherever possible.
Chief of Jamison Road was at that time, Gary Schoenthal. Home that day, he watched his barometer dip to the lowest point he’d ever seen. Shortly after that, Jamison Road’s first call was sounded.
A man, on his way to the hospital with his wife-nine months pregnant- was stuck on Bowen Road near West Blood. After much searching, the couple was located and brought to Chief Schoenthal’s home. With Gary’s wife stranded at her workplace, he dried the couples clothes and tried to map out a route to get the woman to the hospital. Gary was assisted by Tom Nolan and first aider, Ron McCabe.
During all this confusion, another woman with two deaf children were also brought to Chief Schoenthal’s home for shelter. They end- ed up spending three days before firefighters could get them home.
A route via Girdle Road was mapped out and the East Aurora Ambulance was able to maneuver its way, with the woman and her husband, back home where Brennan Jeffrey Toy were born.
All in all, Friday proved to be the most active day of the storm as an estimated sixty stranded people spent a welcome night at the fire hall.
Many had to be rescued from cars buried under feet of snow. Mod- ern Elma residents never lived through such a storm. Saturday was spent getting people to their homes but the hall remained “open” as firemen and auxiliary personal manned the building in case anyone else needed assistance. Wives of the Jamison Road Fire Company firemen also assisted the firemen.
Cots and air mattresses were set up and by Sunday night, weary volunteers prepared to simply be there since it was still difficult to get anywhere quickly or easily.
Special runs were made for residents who required medicine and staples to “weather” out the storm.
On a sadder note, Jamison was dispatched in its “bread-wagon” rescue vehicle in mutual aid with Marilla on a distress call on Winchester Dr. in Marilla.
Both companies slowly made their way only to find the woman had passed away. The story took on human touch as Jamison’s volunteers worked to get undertaker Larry Howe through on a snowmobile who in turn, gently held his precious cargo until both could be transferred to a more stable vehicle.
On the way back from the call, the “Bread-wagon” became wedged between the snowbanks in front of Bakers farm on Jamison Road as the road became impassible. Walt’s Tree Service contracted by Erie County to open up roads, used a high lift to preform a rescue of its own even though the driver was long overdue to be off duty. Tuesday, February 2nd found most volunteers returning to their homes.
Old timers talked of storms of old-like the Blizzard of ‘77. But for the most of the volunteers and those caught on a day when one was truly “stuck” it was places like Jamison Road and the people like Gary Schoenthal that proved the difference between disaster and rescue.
In May of 1977, the Company moved one step closer to their own ambulance service as a committee was established to consider the purchase of Elma’s old ambulance. One month later, the company embraced the new venture entering into a contract to buy Elma’s 1973 Cadillac. The rig would be call “Rescue 7” and would not be used as an ambulance for a trial period of one year. It would only be used to transport after all available ambulances were in use. The old # 7 became Rescue 7-1.
By 1977, the Chicken Barbecue price had risen to $2.75. In the spring of 1977, a truck committee was formed to look into future truck purchases- the Buffalo was now thirty years old.
In may, 1978, it was moved and seconded that the company get rid of Engine # 1 (Buffalo) Rescue # 7 (‘73 ambulance) and 7-1 (1967 Rescue Van) and purchase a mini pumper and a new rescue vehicle.
At a special meeting in July, 1978, the company voted to buy a 1978 Chevrolet Module ambulance which would replace both # 7 and # 7-1. Rescue number 7-1 was sold to the Attica Volunteer Fire Com- pany, Wyoming County.
It was suggested that Engine Number 1 could bring between $500 and $7000 if sold. In the spring of 1980, a new Engine #1 was pur- chased. It was a 1980 Ford/Pierce. This unit would replace the 1947 Buffalo-now in its 33rd year of service.
Old Engine #1 was put up for sale for $4,000 or best offer. In De- cember of 1980, the Buffalo sold for $1,500.
In 1983, the company added a Rescue truck after selling the 1965 Ford/American (old engine #3) to Harris Corners Volunteer Fire Company, Wyoming County.
In the 80’s The company made two moves to better serve their fire district. The first, a chief ’s car, entered service with the purchase of Elma’s used chief car which was later replaced with a new ford Bronco in 1988. The second, in 1989 the company placed in service a new concept in firefighting apparatus when they replaced the 1970 Ford/American with a custom pumper able to carry six firefighters inside a closed cab sporting a 55’ aerial ladder as well as being a regular pumping engine. Also in the 1980’s a new 1986 ambulance was put in service.
In 1990, the 1980 Ford/Pierce was replaced with a 1750 GPM pumper with a 1000’ reel-in the rear. The unit, a 1982 Sanford, was purchased used from a department in New Jersey.
Entering its 76th year, the Jamison Road Fire Company can proudly boast the following; after simple beginnings in an old repair shop. the Jamison road Garage, a used fire truck was bought. The membership met in a local hotel before building the present fire hall. A new pumper was bought, three used tankers as well as a new one purchased and two new pumpers were added.
A new rescue truck, a used ambulance followed by two new ambulances were added to the fire house. In addition, two new pumpers, one used pumper and two chief ’s cars became part of Jamison’s new look.
Over the years the membership has agreed and disagreed-argued and fought-but always one action was maintained and that was to serve the community. The goals for the future remain unchanged and that is to serve, protect and provide assistance to the residents and their property whether it be from fire or accident or natural disaster. This is clear and undeniable as written in our charter signed in 1941.
While changes in the Fire Company and its structure have been extensive and great; the goal of unselfish service remains constant.