The World War II Years

In August 1941, Mayor Arthur Prestine instructed the fire and water committee, to inspect the Cayuga Hose Company’s truck, which was reported to be in very bad shape. A policy had been established earlier that, the apparatus was not to be used when it was found to be in bad shape. The fire and water committee must have verified that the Cayuga’s truck was indeed in bad shape and in need of replacement.

On August 18, 1941, Trustees Walter Szyperski and John Bauer, of the fire and water committee resolved that the village clerk advertise for bids and with the village attorney, prepare a sale of bonds to purchase a new fire engine for the Cayuga Hose Company.

On September 2nd, the purchase of a new truck was delayed to a later date and in the mean time; the village was to contact Congressman Alfred F. Beiter in regard to renting fire apparatus for the Cayuga’s.

At the following board meeting, a delegation from the Cayuga Hose Company appeared before the village board and pressured the board to begin the process of acquiring the new fire truck for the company.

The resolutions to advertise for bids on the truck and the bond issue, which had previously been held over for action on September 2nd, were acted on following the presentation made by the members of the Cayuga Hose Company. Sealed proposals were to be received on September 19th for (1) 500 G.P.M. pumper, fully equipped as per specifications, which had been developed. The bond issue to borrow $4,250 in order to make the purchase was adopted on September 15, 1941, the bonds to be sold on September 26th.

The bids were received on September 19th, at a special meeting of the board and the contract was awarded to the Buffalo Fire Appliance Corporation in the amount of $4,250. The truck to be built on a 1942 G.M.C. chassis, with a 500 G.P.M. centrifugal pump and a hose bed. This rig was basically a duplicate of the trucks that had been purchased from Buffalo Fire Appliance for the Hose Company Number One and Central Hose Company Number Four.

On January 19, 1942, the Office of Production Management notified the Village of Depew, that the request made in September for a pumper for the Cayuga Hose Company, had been denied.

On May 18th, the village clerk was instructed to check with the truck manufacturer on the progress being made in building the Cayuga’s truck. Several weeks later, the truck was thought to be ready for inspection, but this was found not to be true. By early July, Trustee Bauer of the fire and water committee, reported that the village board and the Cayuga’s truck committee were to travel to the Buffalo Fire Appliance facility to make an inspection but this visit was delayed until July 22nd when the Cayuga Hose Company truck committee consisting of Chief Frank Wendel, Ernest Gainey, Raymond Prestine, Neal Bauer and Henry Young, Jr. The truck was inspected and accepted by the committee and delivery was to be made in three weeks.

In preparation for the delivery of the new pumper, a new door had to be installed on the firehouse and a new driveway constructed.

Finally, on August 17th, Trustee Bauer reported to the village board that the new fire truck had been delivered to the Village of Depew several days earlier and a special meeting was called in order that the village board could inspect and accept the new fire engine. The new fire engine was accepted after certification of testing by the Board of Fire Underwriters was provided by Buffalo Fire Appliance Corporation. The Cayuga’s at the annual fire department inspection on August 22nd proudly displayed the new rig.

The purchase of the Cayuga’s fire truck was the last purchase of any fire apparatus for the Depew Fire Department for the next nine years. During World War II, various attempts were made to increase the fire departments resources by trying to secure additional equipment thru the National Defense Program. Fire Chief Frank Wendel had attended a meeting of the National Defense program in the City of Buffalo and learned that a portable skid pump could be mounted on a pickup truck and used as an auxiliary fire pump in the case of an emergency.

In July 1943, Walter Winter, Area Director of the National Defense program in the Town of Lancaster said, that Village of Depew could put into service the defense materials that were stored in the village hall garage including hose, pumps and other items.

The following month, the village board ordered the purchase of a used pickup truck for the fire department to be used in the civil defense program, at a price not to exceed $130. A skid pump was mounted on the newly acquired pickup truck and used as an auxiliary pump.

Other precautions which were taken for the duration of the war, that all of the chrome on the fire engines was painted black, sirens were removed from use on the engines and only bells were used as warning devices. The various railroads, which ran through the village, were all concerned about the availability of gas masks for the firemen since they were all shipping various gases on their railroads that passed through the village.

The 1950's

It wasn’t until September 5, 1950 when the Aetna Hose Company sent a letter to the village board requesting the purchase of a new fire truck for the company. This request was referred to the entire board for further study. In early December, a similar request was presented to the village board and this time the request was referred to the fire and water committee for study.

Finally on February 24, 1951, as a village election was fast approaching, Trustees Casimer Pawlicki and Harry Shone sponsored a resolution to have the village clerk advertise for bids on a truck chassis and for a new concept in firefighting to be mounted on the chassis. The new concept was a high-pressure pump, which had been developed after the war based on a concept introduced by the U.S. Navy.

Bids were received and opened on March 16, 1951.The truck was bid in two parts. Brownie’s Garage and Service Station submitted the first bid of $2,984.93 for a two ton Standard make 1951 G.M.C. Model two wheel drive motor truck chassis for fire engine purposes.

The second bid was for fire apparatus and equipment to be mounted on the above chassis. John Bean Division of Lansing, Michigan submitted a bid in the amount of $8,474 and the General Fire Truck Company of Detroit, Michigan submitted a second bid in the amount of $9,577.59. The bids were tabled for review by the village board and the fire chief.

After a study of the bids received, the village board awarded the bid for the chassis to Brownie’s Garage and Service Station for (1) two and one half ton G.M.C. Model HCV 453 chassis to be purchased and delivered to the John Bean Division, Lansing, Michigan at the expense of the Village of Depew.

The second part of the bid was awarded to the John Bean Division for a 500 G.P.M. front mounted High Pressure pump to be mounted on the chassis supplied by the Village of Depew per the conditions as set forth in the specifications.

On August 20, 1951, Fire Chief Norman Kirchofer reported to the village board that the new Aetna truck was nearing completion and would be ready for delivery to the Village of Depew. At a special meeting of the village board on August 31, 1951, the following members of the Aetna Hose Company namely, Chief Norman Kirchofer, John F. Bauer, Roy Capers and Theodore Stein were granted permission to travel to the John Bean factory in Lansing, Michigan for the purpose of taking a train the trainer course in the operation of the new High Pressure Pump. Upon completion of the training, they were to return to the Village of Depew with the new truck and train the company members in the use of the new pump.

After the new truck was put into service, the village board held a public auction on November 19th in order to sell the 1928 Seagrave pumper now taken out of service. One bid in the amount of $400 was received from the Lewiston Fire Company # 2, Incorporated of Lewiston, New York. The village board accepted the bid as is with no guarantee offered as to the condition or operation of the truck.

Twelve years later in October 1963, James Saia, a member of the Hutchison Hose Company of Williamsville, New York, purchased the 1928 Seagrave pumper from the Lewiston Fire Company, which had de-commissioned the engine on October 1, 1963.

The truck was purchased for Mr. Saia’s personal collection and after thirty-five years of service had only four thousand road miles showing. The truck was considered a rarity in that it was chain driven, right hand drive with cast iron wheels, brass fittings and a hand-cranked engine, which was fired up by a triple spark plug system. The cost of the engine when purchased by Mr. Saia was $450.

In his budget request in 1956, Fire Chief Edward Tetnowski, a member in the Hook and Ladder Company, asked the village board for the approval to purchase an aerial ladder truck for the Hook and Ladder Company and a new pumping engine for Hose Company Number One. The request for a new ladder truck was deferred by the village board, as there was a desperate need to update the pumping capacity of the fire department.

On August 20, 1956, a communication was sent to the village board from Hose Company Number One, requesting purchase of a new fire truck for the company. The request was referred to the committee of the whole. The company was then authorized to form a truck committee to put together a set of specifications for a new engine.

In mid January 1957, the village board was invited to meet with the Number One’s truck committee for a demonstration and inspection of equipment at the Young Fire Equipment Corporation.

By early March 1957, Fire Chief Carl Branden, a member of Hose Company One, reported to the village board that a set of specifications had been prepared and requested the fire and water committee to meet at the Number One’s fire station on March 10th. The meeting yielded no positive results so on May 6, 1957, a delegation of members of Hose Company Number One appeared before the village board, stressing the urgent need to replace the existing 1938 G.M.C. engine.

The arguments presented by the committee must have convinced the village fathers for the need to purchase a new engine. On May 20, 1957, Trustees Edward Wojtkowiak and Henry Wienckowski sponsored a resolution to authorize the necessary bond resolution for purchase of a 750 G.P.M. pumping engine, to be used by the Hose Company Number One of the Depew Fire Department, the cost of which is not to exceed $20,000. At the next meeting, Fire Chief Carl Branden presented the completed set of specifications for a new fire truck, which were accepted by the village board.

On June 24th, the village clerk was directed to advertise in the official newspaper for sealed proposals to be received and opened on July 15, 1957, for (1) new automotive fire apparatus to be used by Hose Company Number One of the Depew Fire Department.

The bid of $19,926.54 by the Ward LaFrance Fire Department Sales Company, Incorporated, to furnish (1) Ward LaFrance Model No. 183-T, 750 G.P.M. Triple Combination Pumper, be accepted as this truck comes closest to meeting the specifications as outlined in the bid. On September 3rd, Mayor John Domino was authorized to sign the contract to furnish the Ward LaFrance Fire Engine.

Also in September, Chief Branden prepared specifications for optional equipment to complement the new truck ordered from Ward LaFrance. On December 16th, an additional bid of $1,183.20 was awarded to Fire Equipment Sales for additional tools, equipment and hose to be mounted on the Number One’s truck at the Ward LaFrance factory in Elmira Heights, New York.

On February 28, 1958, Ward LaFrance delivered the new engine to the Village of Depew and was accepted on March 3rd, pending the running of the three-hour Acceptance Test conducted for the New York Fire Insurance Rating Organization. Village officials and fire department officials witnessed the test at the Symington-Gould Plant by drafting from the plant’s cooling pond. During the test, the engine and pump delivered 1000 G.P.M., far above it’s rated capacity of 750 G.P.M.

On February 14, 1958, Hook and Ladder Company President John Meister appointed a truck committee headed by Ted Oleksy for the purpose of purchasing a new ladder truck. The other members appointed to the truck committee were; Matt Kocialski, Albin Slagor, Past Chief Edward Tetnowski, Edward Polniaszek, Frank Tetnowski, Richard Dombrowski, Past Chief John Meister and Chief John Forys. The village board at this time, while in sympathy with the committee’s plea for a new ladder truck, felt that they were not in a position to purchase one at the time.

It should be noted here that, Mayor John Domino and the village board were in the process of negotiating with the J.W. Clement Company to relocate their printing plant operations from the City of Buffalo to a site on George Urban Boulevard and the decision to purchase a new aerial ladder truck was dependant on the village board’s success in attracting the new manufacturing facility to build in Depew.