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The question of forming a fire company was first considered in the summer of 1904 by Mr. Kaltebach and Mr. Montena. A neighborly chat resulted in interesting enough people to call them together in September.
Eighteen men gathered at the Teaneck Chapel, who enrolled themselves in the Volunteer Fire Company and agreed to meet regularly at Selvage's Barn. The first officers elected were as follows: President, M. T. Blessing; Vice-President, James Armstrong; Treasurer, J. N. H. Armstrong; Secretary, E. Knowles; Foreman, Wm. Beaumont.
The first work of the Company was the raising of funds for five alarms and the erection of them in the places they still occupy. Then enough funds were obtained to form a bucket brigade, and with this equipment the men were called upon to fight their first fire on December 8, 1904. This is recorded on the blotter as follows:
"At 4 P.M. an alarm was rung on No. 3 bell, the fire being at the house of Mr. Montana on Teaneck Road. The fire was confined to an outhouse which was put out by buckets in about ten minutes. The following members responded: Fred Biseg, Carl Carlson, .Michael Callahan, August Ewe, Walter Selvage, Ed Gilsenen Peter McMahon and James R. Blessing. Respectfully submitted, Peter F. McMahon, Foreman."
This fire showed the necessity of more complete apparatus, but another occurred before anything was done to get it. After this second fire, Mr. Bodine's house. March 16, 1905, the foreman's report requests that more apparatus be obtained before any other business was transacted. Before the next fire, August 16th, the Company bought two reels with 600 and 500 feet of hose, which apparatus is still in use. Some of us remember the great sacrifice required by the few members to pay for the improvements.
After the new apparatus was received, Mr. Selvage built a firehouse on Teaneck- Road opposite Railroad Avenue, for use of the Company. During their stay in this house the Company purchased a truck from Ridgefield Park and further branched out by. providing entertainment for the people, and, what is more to the point, started drill work. Quoting the Blotter on the first occasion: "Oct. 31, 1906. On the above date, at 8 P.M., a fire drill was held. The fire was supposed to be in a barn on the property of Mr. Blessing on Teaneck Road. Three ladders were raised and water ready for use in ten minutes after leaving headquarters, a distance of over half a mile."
About 1907 there was internal dissension, resulting in the charge of rent and consequently the removal of the Company to temporary quarters in the Town Hall, where, thanks to the courtesy of the Town Committee they stayed for about a year. The apparatus was stored in Mr. McMahon's Barn until a successful attempt was made to place the Company on its feet. Under Mr. Bennett's direction a fair was held in the Town Hall and the funds obtained by the generous support of the people, both in and out of town, used to purchase the present property. The house was originally a barn near Englewood, remodeled to suit the needs of a fire company.
Unfortunately, on the opening night the smoldering dissension broke out again, resulting, in an open rupture which nearly disbanded the Company. Due to the efforts of Mr. Ridley and Mr. Lagerquist, the apparatus was kept in condition until interest was received about a year later. A meeting was held to see what could be done to save the property at the sheriff's sale. One of the members, Mr. J. M. Robinson, came to the front and purchased everything. This generous action on Mr. Robinson's part put the Company on a solid foundation once more, and his continued interest in its affairs and liberal financial support whenever needed has gone far to place the organization in its present most satisfactory condition.
At the reorganization in March, 1909, the Company revised its by-laws to prevent the sale of liquor on the premises, one of the main causes of its previous troubles, and have rigidly adhered to this point ever since. The confidence of the townspeople was slowly regained and their attendance at social affairs held by the Company always all that could be expected. In order to further the loyalty of the members and give more interest to the Company's games, Mr. J. M. Robinson donated the President's Cup. This cup is competed for by members in a 100-yard dash, and must be won three times to become the property of the individual. The first time this cup -was competed for was at a very successful Clambake, Labor Day, 1909. It was won by H. W. Gerrans, with K. V. Ridley second. The 1910 race resulted the same way, but in 1911 a new member, Wm. Guthrie, finished first, with H. W. Gerrans second.
Realizing the necessity for funds to carry, on business, a fair was held. from May 30 to June 4, 1910. Mr. Davison, Chairman of the Entertainment Committee, wisely placed the management in the hands of the ladies, with Mrs. W. D. Boggs as Chairman of the Auxiliary Committee. The work accomplished by the ladies is remembered with gratitude and the success of the fair far beyond what was expected. Old debts were paid to the extent of $772.92 and the following financial statement for the year showed a balance of $231,41.
With this encouragement the membership increased, the Company became more active, and were able to keep before the public by holding more entertainments and dances. In just recognition of the aid and good-will shown by Mrs. Walter Phelps, the Company elected her an Honorary Member and were as much pleased with her friendly acceptance as they have pride in their "Only Honorary Member." As a further expression of appreciation and friendliness, a badge was presented to Mrs. Phelps, which was received in the same kind spirit she has always shown.
The year 1911 was marked by harmonious spirit in the Company and an increased .friendly relationship with the townspeople. The Company had long felt the necessity for uniforms and an entertainment given on May 22d for the purpose of raising funds provided enough money to pay half the cost of uniform coats the members paying the other half. We now have thirty uniformed members. As the house needed many repairs, and particularly a new roof, the members solicited among the townspeople for bundles of shingles. This work, though incomplete, has been very successful. A new feature introduced to obtain more members and give more to interest the present members, was the formation of an Athletic Committee. They featured the Labor Day sports and followed them by an entertainment on September 30th. The novel program proved successful, and part of the funds used to purchase a gymnastic may. A baseball team was formed which had a victorious though short season, and, all evidence points to a revival of athletic interest this Spring.
The Company is now on a firm financial basis, and, what is just as important, becoming more efficient in its duties. Whenever the alarm is rung the men will respond, ready and willing to do their utmost to save either life or property.
Teaneck Public Library
840 Teaneck Road, Teaneck, NJ 07666
Tel.: (201) 837-4171, Fax: (201) 837-0410