60 Years of Service in Mohegan
by Pat Sillery
On Saturday, June 5, at 1:30 in the afternoon, 20 local fire companies will strut down East Main Street in Shrub Oak in honor of the 60th anniversary of the Mohegan Volunteer Fire Association.
The day-long celebration will start at 10 a.m. with a home improvement fair at Horn Circle on Route 6 near the firehouse. A highlight of the fair will be the department's pride and joy, an antique Mack fire engine.
Boys and girls take notice: if you happen to be at the grandstand from Shrub Oak School at 1 p.m., you might be lucky enough to receive one of the 500 frisbees being given away. But be sure to bring along one of your parents because you have to be accompanied by an adult to get a free frisbee.
When the big parade finally begins, the Mack pumper will take to the road driven by Mohegan Fire Department life member Roland Travis, who has been serving the department longer than any other member. Travis will lead the parade from Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton Church to Shrub Oak Pool. Behind him will be Parade Marshal Charlie McCann, Honorary Parade Marshal Theodore Hill and other life members who will motor by in a contingent of antique cars including 1930 and 1940 Fords.
Then, of course, there will be some pretty classy modern sports cars too. Next you will have the pleasure of viewing Mohegan's volunteers, accompanied by the department's Ladies Auxiliary, and a host of marching bands, firefighters and equipment from other departments.
None of the men marching for the Mohegan Volunteer Fire Association go back to February 21, 1922, when a group of 27 men interested in protecting life and wanting to insure proper fire service held an organizational meeting at the former Lake Mohegan School on East Main Street. First Lieutenant Frank Healy, a member of the company for the last 10 years said, "Six months prior to the gathering, there had been a fire at one of the Mohegan Hotels, and as a result, the need for a fire company was recognized."
According to Healy and Life Member Hugh Scofield, Mohegan was a swinging place in the "Roaring Twenties," 30s and 40s.
"It was the place to go," Healy said. "The trolley stopped in front of the firehouse. In the old days, the streets were jammed. People came from all over to stay the weekend at the casinos and hotels in Mohegan. They came to hear the big bands and see Broadway entertainment at the hotels and bars. When the hotel that featured big bands burned, that made the original men form the company."
George G. Jetter was elected the first President and Louis Zunger was voted Chief, according to Healy. Edward Percy was Vice-President, Morris Kramer second Vice-President, George T. Pratt Treasurer, Robert Reynolds Financial Secretary, Albert Foell Corresponding Secretary, J. Edward Jetter, Jr. Battalion Chief, and Christian E. Jetter Chief of External Communications.
Healy also said the first firehouse was located in a barn on the Jetter Estate on Lexington Avenue. There, an American LaFrance Pumper and a Model T. Ford ambulance were housed.
The Marrs Extended Care Facility is now located on the former Jetter Estate property, according to Scofield. "The Jetters owned the Ruppert Brewery and this was their summer home," he said. Scofield, who first joined the MVFA when he was 22, said that during wartime, the MVFA recruited 16-years -olds because the 18-year-old men were drafted. "Some of the members worked on large estates in the area, and they would go to fires from the field," he said.
Healy said that former Yorktown Police Chief Charles Valentine was one of the young men to join the company at 16. "He worked as a caretaker on an estate where Ladycliff is now. It was the Field Estate on the corner of Strawberry and Lexington. You can still see the lookout tower he built during World War II to watch for enemy planes."
"Charlie would take the guys who worked under him to the fire in the estate truck with the owner's permission," Scofield said. "Those were the good old day."
In 1927, the company moved to its present headquarters on East Main Street. The building as it now stands was built from bricks that were taken apart one at a time from the old Park Street School in Peekskill and reassembled on East Main Street. "In 1927 the volunteers chipped off the old brick cleaned off the cement, and built the firehouse," Scofield added. "The Travis Family donated the property the firehouse is on now."
Today there are 180 active members of the Mohegan Volunteer Fire Association, Healy reported. "There are also six pumpers, a ladder truck, two ambulances and a utility truck."
Present officers include Chief Jay Schwartz, Assistant Chief George Prine, Second Assistant Chief Jay O'Donnell, First Lieutenant Healy, Second Lieutenant Robert Conlon, Second Lieutenant Mike Soboleski, Second Lieutenant Paul McCann, President James Griffen, Vice-President Richard Gleason, Financial Secretary Irwin Golman, Recording Secretary Robert Malespina, Treasurer Rich Goldstein, Commissioner and Chaplain Howard Moriarity. Commissioners are Vincent Mallone, who serves as Chairman, Charles Valentine, Peter Cachioli, Luke Oswald, James Murphy and Secretary Terry Jordan.
There is also a Ladies' Auxiliary which helps out by serving coffee to the firemen after the fires, and by having fundraising events during the year to contribute necessary items to the firehouse or ambulance meeting rooms. Current officers are President Barbara Jaeschke, Vice-President Barbara Kristofferson, Secretary Cathleen Romanych and Treasurer Hannah Sperber.
This coming Saturday, the ladies will again do their part by serving food to all the marchers after the parade.
Deputy Chief Goodineer is Chairman of the 60th Anniversary celebration. He said the ladies will also help by giving trophies to the various fire companies.
Goordineer has been working on the celebration for the last year and a half, he said. "We have been working with parade permits, insurance to cover the parade routes for personnel, and corresponding with other companies, sending out invitations and keeping track of who will be coming."
As for the day of the parade, Goordineer said in case of a fire," the area will always be protected. We will have other fire companies with their apparatus right in the firehouses, while we are in the parade. We'll leave the parade if there is a fire, but you have to have a standby."
Goordineer, who has served for 23 years in the company, started as a volunteer, worked his way to Chief, and now works as a deputy chief whose function is to serve as Chief at a fire if there isn't another officer at the scene to issue orders.
Goordineer also said that being a firefighter is a full time professional job. "The firemen and ambulance personnel all have state training and work very hard at the job. It is a very serious profession and their last free service to community residents," he stressed.
And for 60 years the volunteers have taken the job seriously. As a prayer hanging on the wall of the firehouse states, "They have dedicated themselves to the preservation of ideals and principles of the founders of this volunteer organization, giving unstintingly of their time and their enthusiasm. They have rendered a noble and valuable service to the inhabitants of our community without compensation and as public spirited citizens contributing to the welfare, safety, and the progress of the community.""
And the prayer only reflects the noble ideals expressed in the Mohegan Volunteer Fire Department Code:
"Our organization reaffirms the principles of its founder. We will continue to render to our citizens and the inhabitants of our fire district, the best fire protection a man can render to the service of man and strive to protect the life, limb and property of the men, women and children of our community. In accordance with the highest ideals of volunteer firemen to make our community a safer, better and more enjoyable place to live, we dedicate ourselves, our efforts and or devotion."
Source: North County News, June 2 - June 8, 1982
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