Unfortunately, the minutes for all company meetings held in 1949 have been lost.
In 1949, Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association purchased its first Maxim fire engine. The apparatus replaced the company’s 1937 Diamond T fire engine. It is unclear exactly when in 1949 the company accepted delivery of the apparatus. But the following letter dated Monday, February 14, 1949, indicates the company began making plans for the new apparatus early in the year. The letter, submitted to the membership of the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association by the New Fire Engine committee, reads:
“This committee, consisting of Chief Carl Sommers, Harold Edwards and James Dorety, was appointed at the regular meeting on January 24, 1949. Its purpose was to review the various types of fire engines, select several that would be adaptable to our needs, contact manufacturers, and to report back to the company at the next meeting. At its first meeting on January 28, the committee added the services of Thomas Hawthorne. In the three weeks since it was appointed the committee has held four meetings, met with representatives of two manufacturers and inspected and operated equipment at several fire companies. The latter included two trips to Point Pleasant, N.J. At its initial meeting the committee considered various types of equipment included Seagrave, American LaFrance, Ward LaFrance, Maxim, Diamond T, and Mack. It was decided that our best opportunity lied either with Mack or Maxim, price, delivery date, and financial condition of the manufacturer considered. The committee then contacted the Mack and Maxim organizations. Both companies sent representatives to discuss the matter with us in detail. Both have submitted proposals that are to be considered a part of this report. Briefly the pertinent data on the two trucks is:
“Mack: 750 gallon Type 85; 213 horse power; Hale pump; Mack ‘Thermodyne’ motor; delivery in 120 working days; price $13,995; no trade in on Diamond T as such but they believe they can sell it at about $3,500 for us. We would handle this transaction separately.
“Maxim: 750 gallon Model 1417; 201 horse power; Hale pump; Hercules motor; delivery in 150 working days; price $14,000; with $4,000 trade in on Diamond T.
“Both companies have good ratings in Dun and Bradstreet. By cashing in our bonds in both Engine and Fire accounts we will have enough money to make an initial payment of about $5,000. The balance may be financed at 4 percent or less. The financial details can be worked after a decision has been reached on the engine. This committee suggests that a separate committee be set up to handle the financial details. The committee strongly urges that a decision be reached at this meeting. At the present time we feel that the company can not adequately carry out its primary duty – fighting fires. The purchase of a new engine will help our considerably, not only in its face value but also because of the renewed interest and increased morale it will bring about.”
The following article cut from the pages of the Trenton Evening Times can be found in one of the firehouse scrapbooks. There is no publication date listed and a search of the newspaper’s microfilm archives has so far been unsuccessful. But it can safely be assumed that the article was published in 1949, since in alludes to the purchase of the company’s first Maxim. The article reads:
“Purchase of a new fire engine for Lawrence Road Fire Co. is recommended in the monthly report of Chief Carl Sommers. The chief suggests that the company’s 1937 engine be sold and the money added to receipts from the current fund campaign for purchase of a new engine. ‘We have just renovated the firehouse and engine room. We have just added a beautiful and serviceable switchboard. We have a group of skilled men who answer fire calls and lend their services faithfully. But not the best of these can fight a fire successfully unless our equipment and especially the engines and pumps are in excellent condition. We owe it to our company and especially to our fellow citizens to keep our equipment in the best condition,’ said Chief Sommers. He also reported that the pumper on the 1931 truck would have to be repaired. Members of the company will make the final round in their annual fund drive today. Working in teams, the men delivered pamphlets and subscription forms to every district resident last Sunday. Today they will collect the contributions. The losing team will treat the winners to a celebration dinner. Anthony Jack Pasquito, Robert Edwards and William Baker are the team leaders.”
August 30, 1949
Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association members fought a structure fire on Province Line Road in the early hours of Tuesday, August 30, 1949. The blaze was documented in the pages of the Trenton Evening Times in that night’s edition with the following story: “A farmhand was seriously burned today at 3:30 a.m. when flames enveloped the living quarters of three workers over a wagon house on the farm of John W. Perrine on Province Line Road in Lawrence Township. The two other workers escaped injury when they jumped from windows. General Schofield Whitney, 58, was taken to Princeton Hospital suffering from third degree burns of the arms, chest and face. The frame and metal building was badly damaged by the fire, Police Chief Joseph Stonicker reported. Firemen from Slackwood, Lawrenceville, Lawrence Road, and one Princeton company answered the alarm. Water was relayed for a mile by pumper engine from the old Delaware and Raritan Canal at Port Mercer. The property on which the fire occurred in owned by Joseph Miller of Princeton. Radio Patrolmen Ball and Seabridge investigated. The farmhands who escaped injured were Jessie Williams, 47, and Marvin Ridley, 43, police reported. Ridley was thought to be missing in the burned building and authorities at the scene started a search for him. At that moment, he appeared in the circle of spectators and said he had been sitting some distance away watching the firefighting.”
The following letter of thanks, dated September 9, 1949, was sent to the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association regarding the Province Line Road fire: “Dear Members: I wish to express my sincere thanks for the wonderful work you did at my recent fire. When I first discovered the fire, I was sure the whole building would be lost. Confining the fire, as you did, to the upper portion was a remarkable feat. Very truly yours, John Perrine.”
October 29, 1949
Lawrence Road firefighters responded to a spectacular blaze on Brunswick Pike on Saturday, October 29, 1949. It was documented in a story that appeared on the front page of the Trenton Sunday Times Advertiser on October 30, 1949. The newspaper reported the following:
“Fire last night destroyed a 10-room apartment and garage owned by Stephen Diviaio on the Brunswick Pike in Lawrence Township. The fire started about 7:15 p.m. in the absence of the owner and his wife, Ann, who were visiting friends. They had left their 16-year-old son, Guy, at home. He had started to work on a tractor unit in the garage beneath the apartment. Then he went to a nearby diner operated by Cass Giordano for a cup of coffee. A passing motorist noticed smoke curling from the top of the two-story frame building and stopped at the diner.
“An alarm of fire was telephone to Lawrence Township police. Sgt, John Ball and Radio Patrolman Olessi arrived with the first Lawrence Township engines. Sgt. Ball forcible restrained young Diviaio from dashing up a stairway to rescue his pet dog, ‘Lucky,’ a 6-month-old chow that perished in the blaze. Volunteer firemen laid hose for almost a mile up the Brunswick Pike to the Little Shabakunk Creek before they were able to get water to pour on the spectacular blaze. Companies responding to the fire were Lawrence Road, Lawrenceville, Slackwood and Prospect Heights. The Liberty Rescue Squad ambulance and flood light truck and the Lawrence Township First Aid Squad ambulance also responded. Several firemen were treated for minor burns. The Signal 22 Canteen and Ewing Township Second Alarmers were on hand to dispense coffee and sandwiches to the firemen.
“When Diviaio returned to the blaze, he was overcome with excitement and collapsed. He was sent to McKinley Hospital for examination. Diviaio feared that his other son, 3-year-old Donald, had been trapped in the building. However, his fears were groundless as the boy was at the home of an uncle where the mother was visiting. Diviaio for the past two years had operated the Hamilton Trucking Service Inc. with a fleet of tractor-trailer units. Two of the tractor-trailers were in the garage for repairs when the building caught fire. They were badly damaged. Cause of the fire was not immediately determined. More than 1,000 persons witnessed the blaze. Traffic was stalled for a time on both lanes of the busy Brunswick Pike. The fire scene is a half-mile south of the Lawrence drive-in theater. Lawrence Township Police Chief Joseph Stonicker took charge of the police investigation with Capt. George Wood. Sgt. Ball and Patrolmen Olessi, Wood, Seabridge and Graninowski were detailed to traffic control and fire-line duty, assisted by fire policemen and state troopers.”
The Trenton Evening Times published a dramatic photograph of the blaze on Monday, October 31, 1949, with the following caption: “Flames that destroyed the 10-room apartment and garage of Stephen Diviaio on the Brunswick Pike late Saturday are shown enveloping the building as the first firemen on the scene attempt to bring the blaze under control. Fed by gasoline, the fire destroyed the entire building interior. A puppy named ‘Lucky’ perished in the fire…”
Minutes for all company meetings held in 1950 have been lost.
Plans for securing funds to pay for a second new Maxim fire engine were discussed in the following document, which is dated Thursday, August 3, 1950:
“A delegation consisting of Thomas Hawthorne, Lester Smith and James Dorety met with Mr. Harold Cramer of the Security National Bank on Monday, July 31, 1950, at 1:45 p.m. We explained to Mr. Cramer that the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association would like to replace the present Sanford with a new Maxim fire truck. We also explained that we were handicapped by a lack of funds. The new truck would cost $13,200, and we should get an allowance of about $500 on the Sanford. The means that we would need about $12,500 to buy the new truck. We also said that we owed $2,500 on our present Maxim and hoped to reduce that amount by the end of the year. Mr. Cramer asked about our financial status. We explained that our income amounts to about $4,000 – $2,000 from the township and $2,000 from our annual drive and the Ladies Auxiliary. When asked how much we could pay the bank per year we stated from $1,500 to $2,000. After listening to us, Mr. Cramer stated that the Security Bank had the necessary money and would be very happy to loan it to us a 3 percent interest in view of the fact that we are a civic association. As security, the will take a mortgage on the new truck. Mr. Cramer said that he would bring it before the board on August 2, 1950. In this manner he will be able to get around any consumer credit regulations that Congress may place before we can take delivery. We explained that we were only a committee and could make no financial commitments without the approval of the entire company, but that we could have a special meeting later in the week to decide what could be done.”
January 12, 1950
Lawrence Road firefighters assisted Lawrenceville Fire Co. at a house blaze on the afternoon of Thursday, January 12, 1950. The Trenton Evening Times documented the fire when the following story was published on Friday, January 13, 1950:
“Fire damaged the 12-room Lawrence Township farmhouse of a Rider College teacher yesterday as his in-laws, newly arrived from Chicago, were moving their furniture into the place. The blaze damaged the roof and four rooms of the second and third floors of the house owned by John C. Benson on Denow Road, about a mile from Morris Hall. At the time, the parents of Benson’s wife, Julie, were placing furniture unloaded from a moving van about an hour earlier. They joined the Bensons Sunday after coming east with their daughter, Betty Kiszely, 24, who is also on the Rider College staff. Kiszely had smelled smoke but thought a neighboring home was on fire. At that moment, Samuel Rigby, a house painter working across the road, hurried to the Benson house and told Kiszely the house was on fire. Firemen of the Slackwood, Lawrence Road and Lawrenceville companies answered the alarm. Chief Frank Buxton of Lawrenceville was in charge and he called for the Prospect Heights Fire Co. of Ewing Township. The volunteers used water in the booster tanks of their engines to bring the fire under control. Water, smoke and flames damaged several rooms. Chief Buxton said sparks from the chimney might have caused the fire. Radio Patrolmen William Hulfish and Wesley Gronikowski investigated.”
March 30, 1950
On the night of Thursday, March 30, 1950, Lawrence Road firefighters responded mutual aid to Ewing Township to help extinguish a stubborn blaze in Pennington Road’s fire district. The Trenton Evening Times ran the following account of the blaze on Friday, March 31, 1950:
“Only the charred wreckage of an apartment and an implement shed remained today in the wake of a fire that swept the property of Russell Atchley of Upper Ferry Road. The blaze, touched off by an exploding gasoline stove, leveled the building as volunteers from four companies fought fiercely to subdue the flames. Strong winds fanned the flames. The firemen were forced to lay hoselines almost a mile to a creek along Reed Avenue before they could train a stream on the blaze. Damage still was not estimated today, but it is believed to run into thousands of dollars. The fire was discovered shortly after 6:30 o’clock last evening by Atchley’s son, Samuel, in a second-floor room. He pulled two cars and a tractor from the implement shed while other members of the family alerted Ewing Township police. Firemen from Pennington Road, Prospect Heights, Slackwood and Lawrence Road sped to the blaze. Fortunately, the wind blew the flames and flying embers away from an adjoining house owned by the elder Atchley. As a precautionary measure, the firemen removed a dozen calves from a barn located fairly close to the blazing home.”
April 6, 1950
A garage owned by a Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association member was damaged on the morning of Thursday, April 6, 1950. The Trenton Evening Times published the following news brief in that night’s editions: “The garage of Dr. William V. Carroll of 19 Brearley Avenue, Lawrenceville, was badly damaged by fire this morning. Firemen prevented the flames from spreading to the home and finally brought the blaze under control after an hour’s battle. Firemen said a short circuit apparently caused the fire. No estimate of the damage was immediately available. Dr. Carroll is the Lawrence Township police surgeon.” According to the incident report, Lawrence Road firefighters used 500 feet of 2.5-inch hose and 200 feet of 1.5-inch hose. Slackwood Fire Co. assisted at the scene.
August 9, 1950
The Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association was mobilized after a smoky blaze, fueled by hazardous chemicals, broke out at a paper company in Ewing Township on Wednesday, August 9, 1950. The Trenton Evening Times published a news brief and a photo of the fire in the night’s editions. On the following day, Thursday, August 10, 1950, the newspaper published this updated story:
“Ewing Township firemen have been unable to learn the cause of a fire that swept through the Reliance Paper Co. plant at 215 Kirkbride Avenue yesterday. The blaze which firemen battled for several hours, destroyed an estimated $100,000 worth of paper stock and chemicals. Chief Donald Houghton of the Prospect Heights Fire Co. said the blaze apparently started in a small storage warehouse next to the main plant building. Before firemen reached the scene, the flames had set fire to the roof of the main building and were eating their way down into the plant. Chemicals in the building sent yellow clouds of smoke billowing into the air and these attracted hundreds of spectators to the scene. The firemen had to don gas masks to combat the blaze. Even with the gas masks on some of the firemen had to retire from the building and seek first aid. At one point, part of the roof of the plant collapsed with a roar. No firemen were injured in the collapse, however. Battling the blaze were volunteer firemen from Prospect Heights, Pennington Road, West Trenton, Slackwood and Lawrence Road, as well as Engine 9 from Trenton. Ewing police set up lines to keep back the crowd of spectators.”
September 17, 1950
The Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association was one of many fire companies that responded mutual aid to Hopewell Township to battle a multiple alarm farm fire on Sunday, September 17, 1950. The Trenton Evening Times published this report of the blaze on Monday, September 18, 1950:
“Fire investigators were studying the charred ruins today in an effort to discover what caused the blaze that wrecked six silos and a part of the large barn on the Purity Farm, Scotch Road, yesterday afternoon. Damage at the dairy plant, operated by Peter Zaitz and Sons of Hightstown, has been estimated at $100,000. None of the prized cattle of the farm was hurt. The herd was complacently grazing in the pasture when the fire broke out at 4:10 p.m. Twelve fire companies with 25 pieces of apparatus fought the blaze for four hours. Two ambulances were at the scene. Two firefighters were overcome by smoke, while three others suffered minor injuries. Lack of water hindered the volunteers in battling the blaze. The firemen had to string lines almost a mile to the Navy installations at Mercer Field before they could keep heavy hoselines on the blaze. Pumpers shuttling between the airfield and fire scene were slowed by spectators hurrying to the vicinity to watch the fire. State police kept traffic moving. Hopewell Township Chief of Police Malcolm Joiner was in charge at the scene.
“The blaze started in one of the silos shortly after 4 o’clock. Joseph Hartsell, an employee of the Wenderlich & Griffis Pipe Line Co., sounded the alarm. Mrs. Doris Doman, a neighbor, apparently saw the blaze at about the same time and called the Pennington Road Fire Co. As the blaze developed seriously, more and more units were called to fight the fire. Finally, a dozen companies were at the scene under the command of Chief Robert Warren of Pennington. They included Pennington, West Trenton, Slackwood, Hopewell, Pennington Road, Prospect Heights, Lawrenceville, Lawrenceville Road, Yardley, Washington Road, Titusville, the Eagle Company of New Hope and Navy units at Mercer Field. Signal 22 and Ewing Canteen were also on scene.
“William Gorman and Joseph Huff, both of the Pennington Road unit, were overcome by smoke. They were taken to the Pennington office of Dr. Samuel R. Miller for treatment. Treated by the Union and Pennington Road rescue squads were Frank LaBau and Edward Lester of Prospect Heights and Samuel Vannoy of Pennington. The silos were filled with silage, wheat and sawdust. It is generally believed that the fire was the result of spontaneous combustion. However, some believe that a bird may have picked up a lighted cigarette and dropped it in the dry silage. At one point, it appeared as though the large barn would be destroyed. However, the persistent efforts of the firefighters, plus a stout fire wall separating the barn, saved the structure.”
November 3, 1950
An explosion and subsequent fire on President Avenue on Friday, November 3, 1950, was responded to by Slackwood and Lawrence Road firefighters. The Trenton Evening Times published a report of the incident on the front page of that night’s editions:
“Mrs. Ada Davis, 62, was seriously hurt shortly before noon today when an explosion blasted the kitchen and side of her Lawrence Township home. Working men ran from a house a block distant and found the housewife unconscious in the kitchen of 730 President Avenue at the corner of Cambridge Avenue in Colonial Lake Lands. Mrs. Davis was hurried to McKinley Hospital in the ambulance of the Lawrence Township First Aid Squad. Still unconscious, she was given oxygen and treatment for blast injuries and shock. A flash fire followed the mysterious blast, which was heard over a radius of almost a mile. The side of the seven-room clapboard house was bulged from the foundation to its top by the explosion. A Public Service trouble-shooting crew was dispatched to the home immediately. Their foreman, William J. Pfaff, said his men found no evidence of a gas leak precipitating the blast. One of the workmen who hurried to the house said he found three of the stove’s four jets burning. The fourth was open but not aflame.
“Mrs. Davis’ husband, Raymond, drove his automobile from the No. 4 School on the Brunswick Pike when he learned of the explosion injuring his wife. Davis is the school’s custodian. The first to reach the injured housewife were Elias C. Steinert and James Yeager. Steinert told Lawrence police Capt. George Wood that he shut off the three burners. Window sashes and storm windows were raised to ventilate the house of fumes that smelled like gas, police said. A picture window measuring 4-by-6 feet in the kitchen next to the gas stove was blasted to tiny fragments by the explosion. The gas stove appeared undamaged, however. Door jams of the kitchen were blown loose. Patrolman Carmello Russo joined Capt. Wood in the investigation at the scene. Fire Chief James Smith was in charge of the Slackwood and Lawrence Road fire companies.”
December 10, 1950
Lawrence Road firefighters again responded mutual aid to Ewing Township to help battle a house fire in the evening hours of Sunday, December 10, 1950. The Trenton Evening Times ran the following brief about the blaze on Monday, December 11, 1950: “The Rev. Philip Allen and his wife, Mayola, were routed from their Eggerts Crossing Road home last night when an overheated heater set fire to their two-story frame dwelling. Six volunteer fire companies sped to the scene. They succeeded in keeping the flames from spreading beyond the first floor. The Allens were awakened by the crackling flames and the smell of wood smoke. When they were unable to reach their first-floor telephone, they ran to the home of a daughter-in-law a block away to sound the alarm. The Prospect Heights Fire Co, under the command of Chief Donald Houghton, was at the scene first. Then came the West Trenton, Slackwood, Lawrence Road, Pennington Road and Lawrenceville companies to aid in subduing the blaze.”
January 4, 1951
At 1:45 p.m. on Thursday, January 4, 1951, Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association assisted Slackwood Fire Co. at a fire at Bailey Millwork on Slack Avenue. The fire was out on arrival. The following letter, January 9, 1951, was received from John Bailey, general manager of the mill: “I want to take this opportunity to thank you men for your splendid and fast response to the fire call we placed on January 4. While the fire was small and was quickly extinguished, it made us very happy to know that within a matter of minutes you were here to do whatever was necessary. We would also like to wish all at Lawrence Road Fire Co. a very happy and prosperous new year.”
February 3, 1951
At 4:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 3, 1951, the members of the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association responded to a fire in the home of former member Donald Gallimore at 159 Oaklyn Terrace. According to the incident report, the blaze started in the heater and spread to the cellar joists of the two-story dwelling. Lawrence Road firefighters were on scene for 2.5 hours. The following letter, dated February 11, 1951, was received from Donald Gallimore: “I want to express my sincere thanks and appreciation for the efficiency and promptness that saved my home and family. I feel this note is really inadequate and I cannot begin to show my gratefulness. I feel the least I can do at the present time is to pay my delinquent dues in full and as soon as possible do something more for the organization. As a former active member of the organization, please again accept my thanks.”
March 12, 1951
Members of the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association responded to a pair of structure fires on Monday, March 12, 1951. The first blaze occurred in a two-story structure at 2061 Pennington Road in Ewing Township. According to the incident report, Lawrence Road firefighters were dispatched at 1:15 p.m. They responded with one engine, used 400 feet of 2.5-inch hose and one 24-foot ladder, and were on the scene for 2.5 hours. William Walter Jr. suffered an eye injury while fighting the blaze and was treated by a Dr. Seemly. During the Ewing fire, another fire was reported at 2:25 p.m. in the area of Bakers Basin Road. “One engine was left in the firehouse when the call came in,” according to the incident report. That engine responded and was on scene for about one hour.
The Trenton Evening Times published the following report of the two fires on Tuesday, March 13, 1951: “More than $2,000 in furniture went up in smoke yesterday as a three-hour fire destroyed six rooms of a two-story apartment house on Pennington Road. Fire bachelors, employees of General Electric Co. who lived in the house, lost most of their personal effects including a television set and several sets of golf clubs. Volunteers from six fire companies fought the blaze, which had a head start since the house was unoccupied when the fire started. Before firemen could be called, the roof and one side were ablaze. Firemen differed on the cause of the fire. Some believed it was caused by a grass fire in an adjoining field and some said it had started inside the house. The Pennington Road Fire Co. was called and volunteers from Prospect Heights, Pennington, Slackwood, West Trenton and Lawrence Road joined in fighting the fire until just after 4 p.m. While firemen were fighting this blaze, a barn on Franklin Corner Road burned to the ground.”
April 9, 1951
At 9:15 p.m. on Monday, April 9, 1951, Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association responded to a structure fire on Brunswick Pike and remained on the scene for an hour, according to the incident report. A dramatic photograph, showing a house fully engulfed in flames, was published on the front page of the Trenton Evening Times on Tuesday, April 10, 1951. Accompanying the photo was the following caption: “This is the house in Lawrence Township that William Moon planned to move into next month. Fire, which did a complete job of frustrating Moon’s plans, broke out about 9 o’clock last night. Township fire companies had a problem of relaying water, pumper to pumper, from a source a half-mile away. No one was in the house. The fire was believed by firemen to have been started by a brush fire, found burning about 50 feet away. The property is a quarter-mile off the Brunswick Pike near the old Princeton-Trenton Airport. Three alarms brought out the Lawrence Road, Lawrenceville and Slackwood fire companies and Lawrence First Aid Squad. The house was owned by Philip Barker, plumbing supplier of 334 Perry Street. The extent of loss was not estimated.”
April 28, 1951
At 2:25 p.m. on Saturday, April 28, 1951, Lawrence Road firefighters responded mutual aid to Princeton Township to help battle a structure fire on Rosedale Road. They remained on the scene for about 3.5 hours.
April 29, 1951
Flames destroyed the Slackwood Presbyterian Church on Brunswick Pike on the afternoon of Sunday, April 29, 1951. The Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association was dispatched at 3:30 p.m. to assist Slackwood firefighters. According to the incident report, Lawrence Road firefighters were on the job for about two hours and used 600 feet of 2.5-inch hose and 400 feet of 1.5-inch hose. The Trenton Evening Times published this account of the blaze on Monday, April 30, 1951:
“Fire wrecked the Slackwood Presbyterian Church on Brunswick Avenue at Cherry Tree Lane yesterday afternoon. The flames roared through the 57-year-old building, causing the steeple to collapse and crash through the roof. One side of the structure was burned completely and officials said the building was ruined. It has not been definitely established what caused the blaze, but it is believed that it originated in a loft directly below the roof. An attendant at a nearby service station noticed smoke pouring from the steeple about 3 p.m. and promptly telephoned an alarm to the Lawrenceville police headquarters.
“Chief Joseph Stonicker relayed the alarm to fire companies and then hurried to the scene to keep traffic clear. Volunteers of the Lawrence Road Fire Co. under direction of Chief Carl Sommers, the Lawrenceville Fire Co. headed by Chief Frank Buxton, and the Slackwood Fire Co. hurried to the scene. They were soon joined by the Hamilton Fire Co. Within a half-hour the firemen had the blaze under control and the flames extinguished an hour after the alarm was sent. Traffic was detoured a half-mile from the scene by Chief Stonicker, Sgt. Ball and Patrolman Seabridge, aided by fire police. No damage estimate has been given.” The following letter, dated May 5, 1951, was received from H. Fieler, recording secretary of the Slackwood Fire Co.: “We wish to thank you for the cooperation and assistance in fighting the fire at the Slackwood Presbyterian Church on April 29, 1951. We further wish to advise that we are ready at all times to cooperate and assist you at any time we are called upon.”
May 8, 1951
An invoice from the Maxim Motor Co. dated May 8, 1951, was received by the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association for a Maxim 750 gallon-per-minute Model 1417 fire engine (serial number 1772, engine RXLDH-141021). The price listed was $13,200. On May 17, 1951, the Security Fire Equipment Co. of Factory Street, Trenton, acknowledged the receipt of a check from Treasurer George Welde for $13,200 for the new Maxim engine. The engine was equipped with a 800-gallon tank and two 1-inch booster reels.
June 12, 1951
On Tuesday, June 12, 1951, at 1:10 p.m. the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association was called to assist Lawrenceville Fire Co. in battling a barn fire. This narrative was recorded on the incident report: “Barn started on fire and set nearby house on fire and also set the helper’s bunk house on fire. A house next to the burning house was in great danger and had to be went down. Barn was total loss. Back of one house badly burnt. Bunk house was considerably burnt.” A photo of firefighters hosing down the ruins ran in the Trenton Evening Times on Wednesday, June 13, 1951, with this caption: “A $750 riding horse perished in a barn fire yesterday on the farm of John Hall on Phillips Avenue. The horse was owned by Charles Cross of Nottingham Way. Hall, who was working in his garden about 1:15 p.m. when he discovered the blaze, managed to free pigs and chickens which also were in the barn. Flames melted tar shingles from the rear of the nearby Hall home, but firemen were able to save the house.”
July 19, 1951
A fierce thunder and lightning storm swept through the Mercer County area on Thursday, July 19, 1951. At noon, Lawrence Road firefighters responded to help Lawrenceville Fire Co. battle a barn fire on Lewisville Road. The structure was totally destroyed, according to the incident report. Later that same day, the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association was dispatched at 4 p.m. to the corner of Lawrence and Gedney roads for fallen power lines. They stood by for 3.5 hours. The Trenton Evening Times reported on the storm on Friday, July 20, 1951: “…High winds, accompanied by a heavy downpour, gave a wide area a rough time for about an hour. Limbs of trees were torn loose by the winds, which reached a velocity of 24 miles an hour and considerably more on the outskirts. Public Service reported many of its power lines out of the operation because of the storm. It said most of its trouble spots were in and around Princeton, Trenton and Camden. A Bordentown resident was killed by lightning at the Garden State Track in Camden…”
February 23, 1952
At 2:09 p.m. on Saturday, February 23, 1952, a blaze broke out on the second floor of Roth’s appliance sales and television repair center at 363 Pennington Avenue in Trenton. By 2:34 p.m. the fourth alarm had been struck and volunteer companies, including Lawrence Road, were called to cover the city. The following details of the fire were published in Trenton Sunday Times Advertiser on February 24, 1952: “…Extra firemen were needed to ventilate the big building, heavily charged with gaseous smoke in choking clouds. Streams of water were pumped from fog and deluge nozzles as the firemen advanced on the building. They chopped out plate glass windows and let out the smoke. Finally, ladders were raised to the roof and holes were chopped in it. Tons of water were poured into the openings. Several firemen were given oxygen by ambulance crews when they suffered from breathing the smoke. There were nine engines and two truck companies battling the flames. When the fourth alarm emptied their houses, 13 volunteer units rolled in from their suburban stations as standbys. Cause of the fire was given as an electrical short-circuit in a television set being repaired…”
A fire at Lawrenceville School occurred sometime in late March 1952, but no fire company documents or newspaper articles have yet been found on the incident. However, the following letter, dated April 8, 1952, was received from the head master of Lawrenceville School: “Dear Chief Sommers – I am just back from spring vacation and one of the first things I want to do is to thank you and your company for your prompt and able assistance at the fire in the Griswold House 10 days ago. I am told that you and your colleagues of the Lawrenceville Fire Co. were prompt and efficient in very high degree and that the limitation of damage to an absolute minimum was due entirely to your care and skill. The Lawrenceville School is completely dependent for fire protection upon nearby volunteer companies and we are grateful indeed for your assistance…”
April 22, 1952
On Tuesday, April 22, 1952, the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association sent this letter to the Mercer County Board of Chosen Freeholders: “Gentlemen – At the present time this organization is attempting to provide adequate parking space for the firehouse. Under present conditions, a serious traffic hazard exists whenever activities are taking place in the firehouse, the adjoining first aid squad building, or the church directly across Lawrence Road. To correct the traffic condition, we are converting the area of lawn into a parking yard. We are in dire need of some stone and have been informed that, for formal application made, we might obtain the same from you. We would like 180 tons of 2.5 ballast, 72 tons of dust, and 94 tons of FABC2. We would appreciate you taking this up at your earliest convenience and advising us of our possibility of obtaining this material.” A reply on Wednesday, April 30, 1952, was received advising that the request had been referred to the freeholder in charge of public works.
January 17, 1953
The following letter, dated January 17, 1953, was received from the Security Fire Equipment Co of Myrtle Street, Trenton: “Gentlemen – we wish to compliment you very highly for the condition in which you have placed your Maxim fire trucks. We see that you have done a magnificent job, of which we are proud due to the fact that we see the difference in fire trucks and the pride shown by different fire companies. It shows where Maxim trucks are furnished the organizations have taken considerable interest in preserving their equipment. I am sure that if the Maxim officials saw your apparatus, they certainly would compliment you very highly as they are very concerned about the condition and upkeep of the apparatus they produce. They know it is a sign that their equipment is appreciated to the n’th degree and also that the organizations which have bought it are not negligent and are responsible people. Keep up the good work, which is of great benefit to all. Very truly yours, John J. Yandura, Security Fire Equipment Co.”
January 26, 1953
The following resolution to officially change the name of the fire company was adopted during the meeting held on Monday, January 26, 1953: “Whereas, the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association, duly incorporated under the laws of the State of New Jersey, is known throughout the State of New Jersey as the Lawrence Road Fire Company; and whereas, a majority of the members of the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association are desirous of changing said name to the Lawrence Road Fire Company; now, therefore, be it resolved, that the name Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association be and is hereby changed to that of Lawrence Road Fire Company. Harold Holden, president.” The certificate of name change filed by the fire company reads: “The undersigned, the president and the secretary of the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association duly incorporated under the laws of the State of New Jersey, hereby certify that at a regular meeting of the said association held at its firehouse on the Lawrence Road in the Township of Lawrence, County of Mercer, State of New Jersey, on January 26, 1953, at 8 p.m., the members of said association present at said meeting resolved to change the name of said association as hereinafter specified and to that end we certify and set forth: that the name of said corporation in use immediately preceding the passage of the resolution as aforesaid and the making, recording and filing of this certificate was Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association; the name assumed to designate said corporation and to be used by it in the place and stead of that mentioned in the preceding paragraph is Lawrence Road Fire Company. In witness whereof we have hereunto set our hands and seal of the said Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association corporation as aforesaid, in the Township of Lawrence in the County of Mercer in the State of New Jersey on this 26th day of January 1953. Signed Harold Holden, president, and Harold B. Ellingham, secretary.”
March 6, 1953
On Friday, March 6, 1953, letters were sent out to the township and various other groups reporting that: “This is to notify you that the organization known as the Lawrence Volunteer Fire Association Inc. has been legally changed by court order to the Lawrence Road Fire Co. Inc. The address will remain the same.”
August 7, 1952
According to insurance company documents sent to the fire company, Lawrence Road Firefighter William H. Walter Jr. was injured in the line of duty on August 7, 1952. Unfortunately, no other information has been found about the injury, as fire company minutes and incident reports for 1953 are all missing. Other insurance documents refer to an injury, possibly in July 1952, suffered by Steve Stanzione.
September 17, 1953
The following letter, dated Thursday, September 17, 1953, was written by Secretary Harold Ellingham to Mercer County Freeholder Curry: “Our organization forwarded a letter to the Mercer County Board of Freeholders dated April 22, 1952, requesting stone and dust to convert the lawn upon the east side of our firehouse into a parking area. The Mercer County Board of Freeholders in their reply to us of April 30, 1952, stated our request had been referred to you. Our new building has been completed at the present time, and we need 360 tons of crushed stone and 50 tons of dust. This, if put in soon, would provide parking space we need and relieve Lawrence Road of a traffic hazard. Our building will be in operation within the next week.” A reply from the freeholders’ clerk, dated Tuesday, September 22, 1953, advised that the requested material for the parking lot had been granted to the fire company. An additional allotment of 60 tons of stone and 50 tons of dust for a driveway was granted to the fire company by the freeholders on Tuesday, December 15, 1953.
February 1, 1954
On Monday, February 1, 1954, Lawrence Road firefighters were called out to battle a blaze in the Crossing Inn. The Trenton Evening Times published the following account in that night’s edition of the newspaper: “Flames badly damaged the Crossing Inn on Cheverly Road in Lawrence Township early today. The entire wine and liquor stock of the tavern in Eggerts Crossing was destroyed. The fire apparently started from an overheated heater, police said. From there, flames spread with heat so intense that keys of a piano at the other end of the 75-foot building were melted. The blaze was discovered at 4:08 a.m. and the Lawrence Road, Lawrenceville and Slackwood volunteer fire companies had it under control by 5 a.m. No estimate of damage has yet been made…”
April 8, 1954
A blaze on Vermont Avenue on Thursday, April 8, 1954, was documented in the pages of the Trenton Evening Times on Friday, April 9, 1954, with the following story: “Fire, locked up in one side of a two-family house, brought three fire companies and Lawrence Township police to Vermont Avenue last night. Mr. and Mrs. John R. Popendick of 37 Vermont Avenue smelled smoke seeping into their half of the house shortly before 8:30 p.m. The fire apparently started in a closet in the apartment of Mr. and Mrs. Henry Gerdes of 35 Vermont Avenue. But the Gerdes and their daughter were away from home and the doors were locked. Mrs. Popendick rushed out to notify neighboring friends of the Gerdes while her husband called police. Slackwood and Lawrence Road fire companies and Engine 9 of the Trenton Fire Department responded to the alarm. The bedroom of the Gerdes’ apartment was badly damaged and water damage to both apartments was extensive. Slackwood Fireman Conrad Fink, 45, of 728 Puritan Avenue, suffered a cut hand in the fire fight and was treated at McKinley Hospital. Capt. George Wood was in charge of the police detail.”
May 1, 1954
Lawrence Road Fire Co. apparently celebrated its 40th Anniversary with a “charter members” dinner on May 1, 1954.
October 14, 1954
On Thursday, October 14, 1954, the Lawrence Road Fire Co. responded to help cover Trenton while city firefighters were committed at a four-alarm blaze at St. Francis Hospital. The Trenton Evening Times published the following details of the fire in the newspaper on Friday, October 15, 1954:
“Fire departments of this entire area sprang to alert last night when fire broke out in a unit of St. Francis Hospital. The fire burned out the loft f the 2.5-story laundry building in the rear courtyard of the hospital. Four alarms within 13 minutes after the first at 8:07 p.m. sent firemen to battle the blaze. Fourteen men were in their rooms on the second floor of the 50-year-old structure when the alarm was raised. All got out safely but one had a mild heart attack. Workmen taking down a big roller-type ironer on the first floor of the laundry reported an electric spark set lint ablaze in a ventilator duct. The spark occurred when one of the men cut an electric power cable to the mangle. Hand extinguishers were trained on the fire but it raced up the tubular duct that sucks lint up from the mangle to a roof hatch.
“Trucks 2 and 4 and Engines 3, 6 and 7 arrived on the first alarm. Aerial ladders were raised 60 feet high. Firemen dragged hoselines up the ladders to throw streams of water down on the flames in the roof. Others remained on the ground to shoot water in through windows. Fire apparatus, sirens blasting, sped throughout the city and suburbs. Within minutes busy dispatchers in the city’s alarm bureau were swamped with calls. Outlying fire companies and others offered help. Many thought the fire was in the hospital proper. In about 30 minutes, the city firemen had the blaze under control. Firemen pumped more than 32,000 gallons of water on the fire through nine hoselines that tapped hydrants on nearby streets…”
October 15, 1954
On Friday, October 15, 1954, Hurricane Hazel swept into the area and caused havoc. Lawrence Road firefighters, who stood by in the firehouse during the storm, responded to a report of a tree fallen on a house. The Trenton Sunday Times Advertiser published several stories on the storm on October 17, 1954, including the following details: “…At the height of the storm Friday night, falling trees tore down more than 200 primary circuit power lines. This knocked electrical power out for about 20,000 homes in the Trenton-Princeton-Bordentown district. The big wind caused two deaths in Burlington County. It uprooted hundreds of trees in this area and tore the roofs off barns and other buildings. Felled trees made driving hazardous and snarled traffic in many sections. The wind reached a velocity of 56 miles per hour around 8:30 p.m. Friday. The storm left some volunteer fire companies without phone service or power to operate their sirens. Thousands of chickens and other fowl were killed. At one farm near Washington Crossing, N.J., dead chickens were found in treetops 100 yards from their coops…”
November 30, 1954
A general alarm fire occurred in Trenton in the early hours of Tuesday, November 30, 1954, and Lawrence Road firefighters responded to help cover the city during the blaze. The Trenton Evening Times published the following report in that day’s newspaper:
“Well over a half-million dollars damage was caused by a spectacular general alarm fire that leveled Brown Trucking Co. warehouse on Whittaker Avenue at Swan Street shortly after midnight today. No casualties were reported, although five homes on Swan Street were set afire by the wind-fanned flames as they leaped across the street. Several families were forced to flee into the street in the heavily-populated neighborhood. Thirty-four trucks and large quantities of food, soft drinks and other materials were reportedly destroyed by the roaring flames, which were visible over a wide area of the city.
“The first alarm was telephoned in to fire headquarters at 12:13 a.m. Engines 3 and 7 answered the first alarm. When the apparatus arrived, firemen reported the warehouse was a mass of flames. At 12:19 a.m. Deputy Chief Joseph Landerkin turned in a third alarm and 9 minutes later he sounded the general alarm. That brought every piece of apparatus in the city – 10 engines and four trucks. Suburban volunteer companies were summoned to cover the city in the event of another fire. Those that answered included Morrisville’s two companies, Rusling Hose, White Horse, Slackwood, Lawrence Road, Nottingham, Colonial, Pennington Road, Lawrenceville, Hamilton, Prospect Heights and DeCou. The fire was brought under control after about an hour’s battle…”
The minutes of all company meetings held in 1955 have been lost. All that have been found are a few random pieces of correspondence. Similarly, incident reports for 1955 are gone.
August 8, 1955
On the morning of Monday, August 8, 1955, Lawrence Road firefighters were called mutual aid to Hamilton Township to help battle a spectacular blaze that destroyed the J. Leo Cooke warehouse on Whitehead Road. The Trenton Evening Times published the following description of the fire in that night’s newspaper: “Flames broke out shortly after 10 a.m. The warehouse was filled with cotton material and dehydrated citrus meal. Firemen directed streams of water on nearby buildings to save them from flying sparks. Eight hoses were played on the burning roof but the blaze was still going at noon. Walls threatened to crumble under the heat of the blaze. The one story brick building, measuring 75 by 175 feet, is owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad, which formerly used it as a repair shop for locomotives. More recently it had been leased to the Cooke Warehouse Co. of Jersey City.”
An updated story, published by the Trenton Evening Times on Tuesday, August 9, 1955, reported: “Nine fire companies battled the flames, under difficult conditions. Low water pressure made it necessary to lay hose all the way to Whitehead pond 1,000 feet away and to the Whitehead Rubber Co. 800 feet distant. One piece of apparatus remained at the scene until 9:30 p.m. – nearly 12 hours after the fire broke out – to make sure that smoldering embers did not erupt into flame again. One volunteer fireman was injured fighting the fire. William Sutton, a member of the Hamilton Fire Co., suffered a sprained knee when he slipped and fell in the water-soaked debris. Other companies which answered the general alarm included Enterprise, Nottingham, Mercerville, Colonial, Rusling, Slackwood, Lawrenceville, and Lawrence Road.” The following letter, dated August 28, 1955, was received from Norman W. Wright, secretary of Hamilton Township District 4 Board of Fire Commissioners: “The fire commissioners of District 3, Hamilton Township, thank the Lawrence Road Fire Co. for their very valuable assistance on Monday, August 8, 1955, at the J.L. Cooke warehouse fire.” A similar letter of thanks was received the following day from Frederick J. Cope Jr., secretary of the Hamilton Fire Co.
August 19, 1955
On Friday, August 19, 1955, a massive rainstorm caused the Delaware River to overflow its banks and flood towns along the river, including Trenton. Millions of dollars in damage was caused. The Yardley bridge was destroyed when a house, swept away by the current, slammed into it. Several other area bridges were damaged. Thousands of people were forced to evacuate their homes. At least five people were killed during the storm within New Jersey, including two young boys and Princeton Township Police Officer Billie D. Ellis. The officer tried to save the youngsters when their canoe was swamped in the Millstone River in Princeton. All three drowned.
Lawrence Road firefighters were called to duty during the storm to help pump out flood waters in Trenton and Ewing. Lawrence Road firefighters were part of the fight to save the State House from the destructive force of the flood. The Trenton Sunday Times Advertiser published the following account of that effort on August 21, 1955: “A grim battle was fought at the State House to avert what could have been a major emergency. Flood water began invading the power house of the building on Friday. High tension transformers in the plant are on the same line serving the city filtration plant. Had they been submerged the damage would have been far-reaching in consequences. First resort was made to sand bags. A crew of civil defense volunteers joined building maintenance workers in building a barricade. It was soon toppled, however, as the relentless flood grew in volume.
“When the water continued to mount during the night, pumps were put into service. A unit of the Trenton Fire Department and crews of the Pennington Road Fire Co. in charge of John Lapetz, Lawrence Road Fire Co. directed by Thomas Hamilton, and Prospect Heights Fire Co. led by Frank LaBaw battled the menace, along with a contingent of state highway workers. In the end, the fight was won, but not before the peak height of the water came within two feet of the transformers. From 3 a.m. the crews labored by portable lights. The building lighting system was cut off at that hour. The building superintendent was on scene all night. So was a Public Service Corp. team and the entire maintenance staff. The Red Cross and State House cafeteria kept the men supplied with coffee and sandwiches. Twelve fire pumpers supplied by other communities continued pumping out the flooded power house. The pumpers worked around the clock in three eight-hour shifts of four each. Six of the pumpers were provided by Jersey City, and one each by Bordentown, Burlington, Mount Holly, Beverly, Delanco, and Moorestown. They were obtained by Civil Defense Director Thomas Dignan on request of Governor Meyner.”
August 29, 1955
New Jersey Governor Robert B. Meyner sent the following letter, dated August 29, 1955, to Chief Carl Sommers: “I wish to express to you and the other members of the Lawrence Road Fire Co. my very warm appreciation of the services rendered the state in the recent emergency occasioned by the flooding of the Delaware. The promptness and fine spirit with which you responded to our call for help and your willingness to stay on the job until the danger was ended entitle you to the gratitude of us all. Thanks to the assistance rendered by your unit and a few other volunteer companies, it was possible to avoid serious damage to the State House and indirectly to the water works on Calhoun Street. As a token of our appreciation of what you have done, I am enclosing a check payable to your company, drawn on state funds which have been made available for emergency purposes. I hope the money will be useful in helping you keep the company’s equipment in its customary first-class condition.”