Written June 6, 1998
To compile a history of the early days of this fire company is a rather difficult task, due to the loss of most of the earliest records, especially those covering 1948 to 1955. Few people ever realize that history is being written every day and should be preserved. So I have used those records, which have survived, along with county land and mortgage records. I have mauled them with the personal observations and recollections of those persons, who were there when these events took place. This is their history:
Back in 1948, a number of residents, seeing the need for fire protection, decided to organize a fire company. These dedicated individuals were our Charter Members. This history would be incomplete if their names were not recorded, for they were our pioneers;
Herbert Bergen, Michael Borshowsky, Arthur Brown, William Brown, Jr., Leonard Brown, Robert Brown, Harry Deacon, Sydney Deacon, Kenneth Dubrovsky, Gerald Galex, Irving Galex, Irving Galex, Charles Goff, Frank Pszczola, Marion Pszczola, Mark Weisgold, Edward Wilburn, Herman Wilburn.
In the humble surroundings of Harry Deacon's welding garage on the old Greenville to Allenwood Road, the organizational meeting was held. Mark Weisgold was elected as the first president and first fire chief of the new company. Deacon's garage was at that time, the official fife house. According to Chief Weisgold' s personal recollections, there was supposedly a group living in the area of the Patterson farm, which "worshipped" a sign or symbol of a ram. This would be the area know today as David Lane, in Scribner Village This was opposite the Weisgold thrill Chief Weisgold stated; that at the organizational meeting, he made a motion, mostly as a joke, to name the company Ramtown, after this supposed group. The formal name was to be Ramtown Howell Fire Company No.2. Unknown to them at this time, it was to be the only other Fire Company in town, to incorporate the township's name into theirs, the first one being the Howell Township Fire Company #1, better known as "Adelphia". The motion passed, and the area gradually became know as Ramtown. Eventually the road became know as Ramtown - Greenville Road, 19-4 present day designation.
Ramtown's first piece of equipment was a 1932 Plymouth 4 door sedan, which was donated by Chief Weisgold. He and Ex-Chiefs William Brown and Frank Pszczola recalled the members cutting the back off it and installing a 275-gallon water tank. And a pump. Lakewood donated their first hoses. Their first radio equipment was a military surplus receiver from a U.S. Army tank., and the first turn out gear consisted of surplus air warden helmets and U.S. Navy deck coats. Even their first siren was a military surplus unit! It came from England, and was purchased at a surplus store in Newark, N.J..
No one can say that these men did not “point with pride", when the purchased their first real fire truck. For the vast sum of$150.00, they bought a 1927 Larrabee from the Englishtown Fire Department. On June 28,1949, they were forwarded the bill of sale for their first engine, in a letter signed by Theodore Narozanick., then Secretary of the Englishtown Fire Department, and currently a member of the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders.
Both of these pieces of equipment were housed at Harry's Garage, and it soon became known that this was the place to call, in case of fire. Edna Deacon or other members of the family answered telephone calls for help. The information was noted and the fire sirens were sounded. Members would then rush to Deacon's to respond to the call.
But the men and ladies of this infant organization were not going to sit still and let progress pass them by. They organized a drive for fluids and plans were set forth to purchase land and build a real firehouse.
In 1950, the men were able to erect the first real firehouse on Ramtown Greenville Road, on 0.13 acres of land purchased on July 25, 1950 from Harry and Edna Deacon, for $1.00. This structure still survives as the present day Howell Elks Lodge. The members of the Ladies Auxiliary, which had been organized the year before, assisted them in this project. of course this was not a simple task. A mortgage for $4,000.00 was secured on September 19, 1950 from Samuel and Isidore Shapiro. There were collections door to door and many other money making affairs to plan. Meanwhile, the fire protection needs of the community were being met. This mortgage was satisfied on November 13, 1961.
This truck is currently in the possession of Freehold Township Independent Fire Company. It was one of their first units, when they organized in the early 1960's. Our minutes reflect it being sold to them in October 1963 for $525.00, following the delivery of a new truck for Ramtown. The '38 Chevy was followed with the acquisition of a 1941 Ford tanker, from a used car dealer. This '41 Ford tanker was also purchased from the company, by the board of fire commissioners, in June of 1961, for the token sum of $1.00. It remained in service until around 1966, when it was scrapped at Osborn's Auto Wreckers, Herbertsville Road.
In 1956 the 1927 Larrabbe was sold to Pete Granazio, who had a wrecking yard on County Line Road in Jackson. It is rumored to have been sold to someone in the "Trenton-Allentown" area. An investigation continues in 1998, to try and locate it.
After the Fire Company took up residence in their new firehouse. A telephone answering service was hired, to relieve Edna Deacon from the responsibility for “dispatching" calls. People would dial the answering service, in Point Pleasant, who would then sound the sirens. Upon arrival at the firehouse, the first member would pick up a direct line" phone to the service, and get the type of call and location. This would be written on a blackboard and placed outside the bay door to inform other responding members about the call. In July of I 962, the Board of Fire Commissioners authorized continuance of this system, using phone number Twinbrook 9-2706 (899-2706). Still in Point Pleasant.
This dispatch system remained in service until roughly 1969. When, the Fire Commissioners purchased the first home alerting receivers from Federal Signal. They were the Model 10-10. These units coincided with the establishment of the Howell Police Department, who took over the responsibility for emergency dispatching. Persons in need dialed 938-4111 and the police dispatcher would "Tone" out the alarm, which was then received in each fire fighter's home. The 10-10's. where phased out in 1974-75 with replacement units made by Plectron, who also made our first four personal paging units, which arrived in 1981. Those pagers were followed by a company wide issue of Motorola Minitor I pagers, which have since been updated with Motorola's Minitor II. All dispatching of alarms is currently handled through either Howell Police or Monmouth County Fire Radio. Dispatching is also possible from the base station radio in our house.
With the increase in the number of pieces of apparatus available and a spurt of growth in the community being served by Ramtown, it became necessary to purchase another piece of equipment. With a more specialized need in mind. On July 9, 1960 a 1944 Chevrolet X376, 1.500 ton truck was purchased from the Freehold Boro Fire Department for $1,200.00. It had 4-wheel drive and was to be used for fighting brush and forest fires. This truck was sold to the district on January 9, 1962 for $400.00. It remained in district operations until June 11, 1974, when, according to district records, it was donated to the Roosevelt Fire Company.
By now, you have noticed several references to a Board of Fire Commissioners. The early 1960's saw the creation of the 5 Boards of Fire Commissioners, to oversee the operations of the newly organized fire district through out Howell Township. The members of the Fire Company sought election to these positions and continued to administer to the fire protection needs of the community.
The Organizational Meeting of Fire District #4-Ramtown was held on March 9, 1960, at which Herbert Bergen was elected the first Chairman. Simeon Galex. Clerk, and Morris Ratner; Treasurer. Edward Skolkin and Joseph Cividanes also served as board members. According to the minutes of this meeting, their budget for 1960 was the outstanding sum of $2,000.00! The minutes of their April 1960 meeting reflect the cost for the operation of the Ramtown Fire Company for 1959 was $2,378.73. Substantially less than our costs in 1998!!
Obviously. These were very difficult times. Financially. Their records indicate, that in October 1960. The commissioners asked the Fire Company to loan them $100.00, to cover district operations until other finances were received. At this meeting, they also established the budget for 1961 which was to be $6,225.00 Later, at their last meeting for 1960, they voted to pay each commissioner $50.00 as their annual salary.
As years went by, the firehouse became the center of communal activity. Elections, meetings. Parties. dances, and other activities took place there. At one time, the firehouse was even used to hold school classes for the Howell Township Board of Education. Classes were held in the "new" hall, which was constructed by the members, in 1961. This was after the property was enlarged by another "purchase" of 0.83 acres from Harry and Edina Deacon, again for the token amount of $l.00. The acquisition of this land allowed the company to add the hall and kitchen area, after securing another mortgage for $11,000.00 from the Peoples Bank in Lakewood. This debt was carried to its' payoff on December 15, 1967. The Fire Company, together with the Board of Fire Commissioners. recognized the need for modern, efficient fire fighting equipment. Expansion of the old building was again planned, but faced height modifications, to meet the needs of the new equipment being planned.
The first new piece of fire fighting apparatus was purchased by the commissioners on December 11.1962, from Trautweins (T.A. S.C.) for the sum of $21,997.00. Previously. at their meeting of November 13, 1962, the board voted to issue bonds totaling $22,000.00 to cover the cost of this new 1963 G.M.C. 1,000 gal., 750 g.p.m. pumper. It was titled to the district on August 2, 1963, and remains in service today, as engine 476. This piece of equipment ushered Ramtown into the modem age. On June 20. 1964, this truck and the newly reconstructed firehouse were dedicated. Through the years, with the taxpayers help, the company and the district have continued to grow and move forward.
On January 20.1966, the commissioners saw fit to purchase a 1948 Dodge tanker, which replaced the 1941 Ford. This was by no means the last purchase, as the next 9 years would see 3 brand new trucks!
On December 9.1969 the commissioners ordered 2 new trucks from T.A. S.C.. They were to be a new 1970 G.M.C. 1,000 gal., 750g.p.m. pumper and a 1970 G.M.C. 4x4 Brush Truck. Costing $33,475.00 and $9,300.00 respectively. They were titled to the district on May 7.1970 and April 10, 1970, and were numbered 475 and 494. Engine 475 remained in service until being sold for $16,751.00 in November 1991. Truck 494 was removed from service and sold to Osborn's Auto Wreckers on February 14, 1995, for $2,6650.00. Stripped of its' fire service equipment, it was resold to a private individual.
During the late 1960's, the Fire Company secured the balance of the land, west of the firehouse, which now belonged to Edna and Robert Huen. Edna was the widow of Harry Deacon, who had passed away on February 6, 1962. This 3+ acres of land included the Deacon house and Harry's Garage. Fire company records for July 5, 1967 show an asking price of $17,000.00. County records show a mortgage being filed for $22,000.00 at 6% interest, with monthly payments of $245.00. This made the total land held by the fire company 4.4 acres.
December 1969 saw the sale of the old Deacon house and the property west of it, to the Torben and Jytte Klarlund family for $9,800.00. The house survives and is currently owned by the Cameron and Maya Todd family.
In 1971, a new 3 bay 2 story. brick and cedar firehouse was constructed, with the members doing much of the work themselves. with meals and refreshments being taken care of by the Auxiliary. This followed the securing of another $26,000.00 mortgage, at an 8% interest rate, on June 30. 1970. Payments were to be $316.00 a month. It would take the company until October 4. 1976 to pay off this debt. but they did!!
This new firehouse and the two new trucks were all dedicated on June 9, 1973 at a wet down hosted by the company. This date was selected as it also marked our 25th. Anniversary as a Fire Company.
By 1975. It became obvious that the Dodge tanker was obsolete. On July 2, 1975 the board voted to bond or secure a loan for $15.700.00. A 1975 G.M.C. CE6500 2,300 gal. Tanker (currently unit #496) was purchased from General G.M.C. Sales in Lakewood. The total price was $21,000.00, which included $14,700.00 for the truck and $6,300.00 for related work at Cherefko's in Old Bridge. On July 2, 1975, the '48 Dodge was retired and scrapped at Osborn's, per board records.
1976 saw the sale of 2 more parcels of land from the original Deacon tract. On February 4th., 0.27 acres were sold to the Klarlund's. This included Harry's Garage, which has survived to date. In September, the original firehouse was sold to the recently formed Howell Elks for $40,000.00. The Fire Company continues to hold this mortgage until the year 2001.
The late 1970's and early 1980's brought an expansion of our district with the addition of over 750 residences, along with new commercial and industrial development.
The new firehouse's interior remained in a semi-completed stage for most of the 1970's. Following much discussion, a decision was made to finish it off a new mortgage for $14,000.00, at8.50% interest was committed to on January 25, 1978. The members again paid their debts, satisfying this note on March 18, 1988.
Then, on May 17, 1985, through the diligence of David Williams and Robert Kelly from Ramtown, Jay Cheney of New Jersey Natural Gas Company, and Jan Wouters, an attorney in Lakewood, three acres of land on Route 547 were donated to the fire company, from New Jersey Natural Gas! This land is reserved for the future development of a fire fighting sub-station, to better serve the western portion of the district.
Due to the continuing development in the Ramtown area, and the ongoing aging of our fleet, it was decided to again update our apparatus. Over 2 years were spent Developing plans which culminated in the arrival of a 1983 Pierce Arrow, 2,000 gal 1250 g.p.m. pumper/tanker, which was purchased by the Board of Fire Commissioners at A cost of $270,000.00. This engine was dedicated at a wet down on August 26, 1983. This engine is still in district service as Engine 477
July 14, 1987 saw the advent of a Chief's vehicle in Ramtown. The first unit was a 4-door 1979 Ford Fairmont, bought from the Howell Fire Bureau for $1.00. It cost the district about $1,726.00 to paint, letter, and equip this unit. It was put in service in December 1987, with Chief Raymond Equils being the first chief with a district vehicle!
1989 saw the company sell a development easement across the rear of its' property for $25,000.00. This helped to allow for the construction of the Quail Creek Mall, which occupies the "old Minnisohn property"
1989-90 saw the board and its' truck committee develop plans to buy a another Pierce engine, this time a Lance, 1,000 gal. 1250 g.p.m. pumper, at a cost of $238,000.00. It was titled to the district on July 11, 1991, and it remains in service as Engine 478. During this same time, an Assistant Chiefs vehicle was added. On October 5, 1990 the district bought a 1984 2 door Ford Crown Victoria, again from the Howell Fire Bureau at a cost of $1.00. It was numbered 467, and remained in service until April 13, 1995.
1991 was a year of major expansion at Ramtown, with the start of a large addition to the existing firehouse. At a cost of almost $400,000.00, a 40' x 60' rear bay area was added. Also198 added were commissioner and company offices, a lounge. And several closets. The second floor meeting room and bathroom were also remodeled.
July 16, 1992 saw an expansion of the district's fleet, with the arrival of unit 486. A 1979 Chevrolet Utility Truck, originally owned by the Ramtown First Aid Squad. AND, on July 24, 1992, the district took ownership of a new Chiefs vehicle. a 1992 Chevrolet Blazer. After the Blazer was put in service. the '79 Ford Fairmont was sold on December 8, 1992 to Edward Lang from Squankum Fire Company, Howell for $276.00.
On June 10, 1994, the 1970 brush truck was replaced with a new Ford F350 4x4 Brush/urban Interface Truck,, fabricated by G & S Fabricators, Tuckerton. This truck cost the district $58,000.00. It was reassigned the old brush trucks' number. 494.
A new 1995 Chevrolet Caprice was purchased for $16,908.00 on April from Warnock Fleet, E. Hanover. The old '84 Ford Crown Victoria chief’s vehicle was used as a trade in on this purchase. This Caprice was titled on April 26 th.
Three actions were taken during 1997, which further expanded the equipment used b~ the Fire Company to serve the district. On March 26fli the commissioners took possession of a large 1989 Chevrolet van, which was another donation by New Jersey Natural Gas, through the combined efforts of Jay Cheney and David Williams. This vehicle is currently undergoing modifications, for utilization by the Fire Company. Later, on June 9 the board took possession of a 1989 Jeep Cherokee Wagon, from the Howell Fire Bureau. The Captain of Fire Police, Unit 499' currently uses this unit.
Then on Thursday, April 10, 1997, the Board of Fire Commissioners awarded a bid in the amount of $3 10,879.00, to S & S Fire Apparatus, in Indiana, for the fabrication of the new tanker, unit 495, which is being dedicated today. This new 4,O00-gallon Peterbuilt tanker cost the taxpayers of Fire District #4, a total of $3 18.376.00. It is believed to be the largest capacity truck (of this elliptical tank type) fabricated to date.
As we traveled this past 50 years, we have covered much ground and involved many, many dedicated men and women, whose interest were grounded in serving this Fire Company, and through it, their community. We have seen the company grow from a small group of untrained but involved people, into the professional organization it is today. "Ramtown" has witnessed a rate of growth, which could never have been foreseen.
We have seen our fire district ratable base develop from $7,175,550.00 in 1962 to $323,347,373.00 in 1998 ! We have seen our district's budget grow from it's first 2,000.00 in 1960, to $326,650.00 this year !
We have witnessed our fire company grow from a $4,000.00 home to it's present firehouse, valued over $750,00.00 !!
And Thankfully, we possess the most up to date apparatus for the protection of our residents. This new $318,376.00 Peter built tanker is certainly a far cry from our first $150.00 Larrabee truck !!
We can point with pride, to the progress we have made, both as a volunteer fire company, and , as an elected Board of Fire Commissioners. But, we must never loose sight of how we got there. We arrived at this celebration of our first 50 years, only because we were blessed with a constant supply of dedicated, committed, hard working men and women. People who were willing to labor. People who were determined to persevere. people who would make certain, that this would be a company you would be proud to belong to !
We salute those who have gone before us, and we pledge to honor their memory. For, if we forget their struggles: or disregard what these men and women stood for: or ignore their traditions; then we will be as unrooted as the wind. If we forget our past, then we will not know where we stand in the present. Nor will we be able to plan for our future. the closing statement in our 1983 Dedication Book sums it up most succinctly!
"It is comforting to know, that as time marches on, we members of Ramtown Fire Company will march along with it!
Robert J. Kelly
Secretary / Company Historian