Greenawald’s story begins on October 19, 1920. It was on this date that a small group of Greenawalds residents met at the lodge hall on the corner of Focht and Whitehall Avenues to discuss the organization of a community fire department. Until this time, there was no formal fire protection in South Whitehall Township. The meeting was presided over by Alton Zellers and temporarily chaired by Harold Schantz. It was at this meeting that 36 men signed up to form “Community Fire Company No. 1 of South Whitehall.” They acted quickly and by December of 1920 the first By-Laws were formed and approved and on March 7, 1921 the company had met the requirements for a Charter of Incorporation!
So, now the community of Greenawalds officially had a fire department, and in April of 1921 we accepted our first piece of apparatus. Still, there was nowhere to house this new unit. For the first seven years the engine was housed in Aaron Greenawalds’ barn. Although land along Fairview Ave. (Now Lawfer Ave.) had been purchased in 1921, it wasn’t until 1928 that the firehouse was completed with a total construction cost of $11,160.93! That would be $159,768.39 if built today. The first meeting in the new engine house took place on August 14, 1928 and the house was dedicated in September of that year. A year later, the first Ladies Auxiliary was formed on October 25, 1929 with a total of 6 members. The women of the auxiliary ran card parties, bingo, banquets, ice cream festivals, fashion shows, and even plays. They also put on social events for the community of Greenawalds, most notably the Christmas Parties for the children.
By 1931 there were now three fire companies in South Whitehall Township (Greenawalds, Woodlawn, and Cetronia), and it was in that year that they joined together to form the Relief Association of South Whitehall Township.
As time passed, upgrades in equipment were needed and in 1937, new firefighting equipment, and a new engine were purchased. The pumper was an open cab Hahn with a 150-gallon booster tank and a positive displacement pump. This engine remained in service until it was sold to the River Road Fire Department [now known as Eastern Salisbury Fire Department] in 1954 for just under $2,000.
In 1944 Greenawalds was finally debt free from the construction of the new firehouse and the acquisition of new equipment, and a mortgage burning ceremony was held at the 23rd Anniversary Banquet in April of 1944.
As the fire service progressed, Greenawalds followed suit. Upgrades and improvements continued through the 50’s with the purchase of a new pumper in 1954. The new engine was a 1953 open cab GMC customized by Peter Pirsch with a two stage 750 gpm Waterous pump, in line foam and wet water systems. The engine was also complemented with wooden ladders. Similar to the Homeland Security grants of today, this truck was purchased with the assistance of a Civil Defense Grant. Additionally, in 1956, Civil Defense purchased an air-raid siren to be placed on the roof of our firehouse.
Time passed and the company continued to expand, and in 1960 a garage owned by Andrew Turek (who coincidentally was the first Fire Chief) was acquired to house the apparatus. Later, Greenawalds would buy this garage from his estate located across the street from the firehouse. That same year the first water truck (tanker) was acquired. The next big event to occur was the introduction of the Jr. Firefighter program in 1962. Up until this time, there was no such program for the younger members of the community to learn the art of firefighting. Since its inception in 1962 the junior firefighter program has been very successful at turning out future department leaders. As a product of the junior program myself I can attest to the fact that it serves us all well by teaching young people important values such as respect, dedication, responsibility, and how to do the right thing, while also grooming the future of our department.
In 1965 we again purchased a new truck to replace the existing tanker. The new piece was a 1953, 2000 gallon International. This truck first saw service as an oil delivery truck before it came to fill the needs of Greenawalds. This truck was sold in 1980. The department continued to grow even more rapidly and again in 1968 a new squad truck was purchased. A far cry from the standards of a modern day squad truck, this unit was a Ford Econoline van.
On March 20, 1971 Greenawalds celebrated its 50th Anniversary with a large Banquet and Dance and a book was published with some key events in our history up until that point, which is where most of the information about our history has been obtained from. In 1973 Greenawalds' purchased a new Imperial Engine/Pumper. The next big event that would change the face of Greenawalds was the construction of our current facility at 2500 Focht Ave. The building was erected with a certificate of occupancy in 1975. With this move, the long time women’s auxiliary disbanded after a 46 year run. Although the new building stood on the same foundation as the facility we know and love today, it was a far cry from the amenities we currently enjoy. Tales told at the kitchen table from guys who were around at the time of the new station’s construction tell of no bathrooms and no cozy living quarters. The station at that time was basically 4 walls and a roof. So, now that we had this new facility with accommodations for up to 4 pieces of apparatus, we needed some units to fill the space between the walls. In 1980 the next addition to our fleet arrived in the form of a new tanker. That same year, a new squad truck was purchased and the old van was sold. In 1986, both the old engine, and the old squad trucks were sold. The engine went to a collector for the price of $1,500. Yet another squad truck was purchased to replace the existing rig in 1987.
The next purchase that we made was our 1988 Pierce Lance, which we still operate as our first due engine. In its day, and even still today, 11-11 was a top of the line pumper with all the bells and whistles. A ceremony was held to dedicate both the ‘88 Pierce and a ‘86 Grumman Squad. The presentation was a huge ordeal, and even had celebrity guests like members of the Philadelphia Phillies and the Philly Phanatic!
By 1990 the aging tanker was in need of refurbishment. At a cost of $40,000 11-21 was completely refurbished to its current condition. As the 1990’s moved along, the department experienced a fairly significant growth in membership. The early 90s showed a roster of only 26 members. By the mid 90s we were nearing a membership of 40 personnel. Two new and major acquisitions that we made in the mid 1990s were Engine 11-12 and Rescue 11-41. The decision to become the township’s rescue company was a big one. Up until this time, rescue operations fell under the scope of practice of Cetronia Ambulance Corps. Just like the old Roy and Johnny days in Squad 51, the EMT’s and Paramedics of Cetronia Ambulance provided vehicle rescue operations and operated the township’s only dedicated rescue truck. However, somewhere along the way, Cetronia Ambulance (Station 62) decided that they no longer could provide the manpower and did not want rescue to be a part of their scope of practice. So, a decision was made by the membership of Greenawalds to become the rescue company for the township, and with that, the relief association purchased the 1980 Ford / Pierce Rescue Truck for us, and it was moved north to our quarters. Our members endured countless hours of training to become certified rescue technicians, and to this day we remain one of the premier rescue companies in the area. I also mentioned the purchase of engine 11-12 in 1994. What a story this truck has! Engine 11-12 is a 1978 Mack CF, which was refurbished in 1995 by Micro Fire Apparatus. Prior to seeing service in the quiet town of Greenawalds, our Mack was worked hard in Brooklyn as the New York City Fire Department’s Engine 252. Engine 252, which has now become an elite Squad Company under the FDNY’s Special Operations Command, is located in the Bushwick Section of Brooklyn. The neighborhood is underprivileged leading to heavy fire duty for stations in this area. The same was the case in the 1970’s when our engine was their front-line piece. The 70’s and early 80’s have been called the “War Years” of firefighting in New York with the crack epidemic and widespread arson. So, you can see why Greenawalds is a nice retirement home for this legendary engine!
As has been the trend, Greenawalds continued to grow through the 90s both in membership and fleet size. Call volume has also been on a steady rise. For a long part of our history, up through the 60’s we were averaging approximately 20 calls per year. In fact, the year 1965 only saw the engines turn the wheel a total of 4 times. Just to put that into perspective, 2007 saw over 400 calls for service! With this growth the need for a larger facility had arisen. Plans were developed, and in 2001 Greenawalds broke ground for the western expansion to the station. This addition provided almost 2000 square feet of additional flex space, and room for three additional pieces of apparatus. One of those pieces of apparatus that would be later housed in the new addition began its life on the drawing table in 2005 and by the middle of 2006 Greenawalds Fire Company took delivery of a new 2006 KME Heavy Rescue Truck! As times had changed and the art of rescue became more and more technical, the constant acquisition of the latest tools found us with the need to purchase a larger rescue truck. The result is our new 11-41.
Greenawalds Fire Company would like to thank Bob Moser of the Greenawalds UCC, Richie and John Franz, and the Serfass family for their contributions, and especially Andrew Garger for putting together all this information. Also credit should be given to Paul R. Wieand and his book “South Whitehall Then and Now” which contained much of the history of South Whitehall Township written at the bicentennial (1976). We would also like to thank Dave Torrey, whose diligence in keeping every new paper clipping form his time at Greenawalds proved to be extremely valuable.
Sadly, much of our history has been lost with the passing of our former members. Andrew has been working hard trying to contact everyone he can to accumulate as much history as possible before it is gone forever. We are tomorrow’s history! If you have any memories or pictures regarding Greenawalds Fire Co. that you would care to share with us please contact Andrew Garger.
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