One of Waynedale’s proudest possessions was the Waynedale Volunteer Fire Department. It had as many as 40 volunteers to man the trucks in fighting fires throughout Wayne Township.
I sat down with Charlie and Doris Miller on Wednesday, January 12, 2005 to talk about the Waynedale Fire Department. Charlie was one of the original group of volunteer firemen and donated many years to the town of Waynedale, both in fighting fires and operating the ambulance.
After the new fire station was dedicated in October of 1942, the firemen decided a tanker truck was needed to compliment the new American LaFrance, K-7 International Fire Truck. Jim Mason along with the other volunteers acquired an old school bus from Southwest Allen County School District for free. They stripped it down to just the frame and engine. They acquired a cab from a local trucking company and modified it to fit on the old school bus frame. They then contacted Standard Oil and obtained a used oil tank for a dollar.
The component parts were transported to Charlie Churchward’s shop on Lower Huntington Road. Charlie and the volunteers fabricated the necessary pieces and with some elbow grease, paint, and a lot of tender loving care, a new tanker truck was born. Charlie Miller said, “Back then there wasn’t a lot of money, so you made do with what you had.”
Every year the Waynedale volunteer firemen celebrated Fire Safety Week by inviting the Waynedale kids to take a ride in the back of the fire truck. Early in October, the firemen would lift each youngster over the side of the truck into the hose-carrying section. When the truck was full of kids they would do a quick tour around Waynedale and then come back for another load of passengers. Charlie said, “Once we had a load a kids on the truck and we got a call for a car fire. We turned on the sirens and lights and raced back to the station (at about 20 mph) to unload the kids and load up with firemen. The kids loved it.”
The carnival-like atmosphere of the Fire Safety Week celebration included water-ball fights. Two teams of firemen would line up in full gear, and aim a highly pressurized stream of water at a ball that was suspended on a cable. There would be three men to a hose, one man to aim the stream of water, and two to hold the hose and back him up. The two powerful streams of water, the steel ball being blasted from both sides, and the overspray often dousing the spectators on a warm October day was about the most fun a kid could experience. I doubt that the firemen knew how much we looked up to them as our heroes.
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