MAYFIELD – Pride. Tradition. Dedication. Service. Community. Friendship. Camaraderie.
All of this and so much more were evident on June 1st when nearly 40 volunteer members, friends, and family members of the William Walker Hose Company (WWHC) gathered to celebrate its 125th anniversary. Joining the festivities were officers from four neighboring fire departments, including the Crystal and Artisan Fire Companies of Jermyn, and Mayfield’s two additional fire companies, Whitmore Fire and Mayfield Hose.
“125 years don’t come around all that often,” said Jim Perry, WWHC President and a 50-year member. “But tonight, we’re honoring and celebrating everything that came before us as we continue to carry on the traditions set in place by our company’s forefathers.” When William Walker Hose was founded on July 27, 1892, 50 men had met at the Mayfield House with the intention of coordinating a fire company to help protect its community. At this meeting, it was decided to name the new organization after the superintendent of the Hillside Coal and Iron Company.
Following Perry’s heartfelt invocation and a buffet dinner with a celebratory cake, Mayfield’s Mayor Alexander Chelik shared his remarks. “The William Walker Hose members have always worked very hard to provide their services to this community,” said Chelik. “125 years of making good decisions have evolved leading up to tonight’s celebration, and everyone should be very proud.”
As Chelik related, today’s fire companies include men and women who play multiple roles. “They’re recognized fire fighters and EMTs who do more than put out fires and rescue folks in distress. They fight brush fires, chemical fires, and house fires. They extricate victims of vehicle accidents and collapsing buildings, provide emergency medical services, and tend to flooded basements. Many fire companies like William Walker are relied upon to be there when needed, continually providing so many different services to their respective community … and to others when called upon.”
Throughout its long history, WWHC has served not only its own and neighboring communities, but in 2012 they were part of the Pennsylvania Department of Health Region 5 Strike Team, deployed to help in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. And two years later, WWHC members again answered the call for assistance beyond its own borders. When the City of Philadelphia’s own forces were stretched to its maximum, WWHC members lent a hand to cover round-the-clock EMS calls during Pope Francis’ four-day visit.
From its original two-horse drawn hose cart purchased in 1894 to today’s vastly updated and much more modern apparatus, “WWHC has always made good decisions with regard to its company’s equipment too,” Chelik continued. As WWHC’s history relates, in order to best serve its community, the company continually upgraded its equipment, gear, and housing through the years. Its dedicated fund-raising members added their first motorized apparatus (a new Stewart pumper) in 1924 and an improved Diamond T pumper nine years later; an American LaFrance pumper complimented their Diamond T in 1947. WWHC began organizing its first medical corps in July 1953 and by October had placed its initial ambulance into service, marking WWHC one of the first ambulance corps in Lackawanna County. A new Dodge Mini-Pumper/Rescue replaced the American LaFrance in 1973, giving the area one of its first rescue apparatus. By 1978, a new modular ambulance filled the building’s bays. And progressively, WWHC grew and expanded its own home base of operations through varying stages, most recently constructing a 4200-sq. ft. addition in 2013.
“Good equipment is very expensive to buy and maintain, but WWHC has again continued to make good decisions in this regard,” reiterated Chelik. To keep everything properly updated and in good working order, and to keep its committed volunteer members properly trained, certified, equipped, and outfitted, “it took a lot of fish dinners, bar-b-ques, corn & slam events, and hoagie sales to keep everything running! But WWHC always made good decisions,” Chelik added again.
“People like those of WWHC spend so much of their time here that it’s like a second home to each of them,” he said. “The members become like a second family to one another, and this kind of operation is hard to imitate in other organizations. My congratulations to everyone at William Walker. You continue to maintain a fine tradition.”
At the conclusion of his remarks, Chelik presented a framed proclamation to Perry, recognizing June 1, 2017 as William Walker Hose Company Day. “To this day,” read Chelik, “the company continues to serve Mayfield and the surrounding communities by protecting life, property, and the environment by providing excellent service through its members, who undergo extensive training and education in order to fulfill their duties as volunteer firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and emergency vehicle operators. I urge all Mayfield citizens and its neighbors to celebrate this quasquicentennial of heroic service to our people.”
Before concluding the evening’s modest celebration, Perry called upon four of its youngest volunteers to distribute a WWHC challenge coin to all attendees. While this tradition originated with soldiers in active combat and served as identifying tokens signifying their membership in an elite unit, a firefighter’s challenge coin is equally special and meaningful. The coins are collected and generally presented by unit commanders in recognition of special achievements, expressing pride and fraternity among one another.
“We all hold these coins with honor,” added Perry, “and we’re all looking forward to celebrating our 150th anniversary!”
WWHC’s next upcoming fundraising event will be held on July 12-15 when they present their annual Corn & Clam Slam Carnival. Food and fun begins at 5:00pm, with local bands featured nightly; parade night will be held on July 15th. For additional information, visit www.cornNclamslam.com or www.59fire.com.