by Julia Longacre of the Friendship Hook and
Ladder Company's First Truck House.
first meeting of the Friendship Hook and Ladder Company
of Boyertown, for the purpose of organizing, was held
on May 8, 1882, with six men in attendance. The meeting
was held in a hall known as Boyer’s Hall, which
is now a part of the upper floors of the D. B. Boyer
building at Philadelphia and Reading Avenues.
Endy was elected as the first president and chief,
and Frank Deysher as the first secretary of the company.
The motto, “We seek to rescue and to save,”
was adopted and the company still uses the motto today.
On July 7, 1882 a release was signed for the Pennsylvania
Railroad to ship the first piece of equipment free
of charge. The first equipment consisted of a hand
drawn hose cart.
original hose cart used by the Hookies. This
picture was taken in 1962.
first “truck house” of the company was
a small shed on Third Street, about halfway between
South Reading Avenue and Chestnut Street. The members
themselves, in three months, on the present site of
the Cumberland Farms Gas Station and Convenience Store,
built the first company-owned building, across the
street from the present quarters at South Reading
Avenue and Warwick Street. The lot itself was leased
because of the lack of money to buy it.
company received a charter of incorporation on February
8, 1889. The second piece of equipment, consisting
of a ladder wagon, was built by W.W. Wunder of Reading
and was secured in 1896. With the use of the ladder
wagon, a racing team was organized and it was the
ladder racing team, which spread the reputation of
the company throughout the state. The racing team
reached its peak when it won the state championship
for ladder climbing in a state competition in Philadelphia
in 1901. They set a record time of 36.25 seconds and
this record was never broken. The ladder wagon remained
in the company’s possession until November 6,
1941, when it was sold to an area farmer for $25.
The first ladder wagon with the original charter members.
Fireman’s Relief Association of Boyertown was
founded in February of 1902, after this company participated
in its first major fire. This was a fire in the bakery
of George Carver, the site of which is now occupied
and converted into apartments at East Philadelphia
Avenue and Jefferson St.
second hose cart (used) was presented on behalf of
the Rainbow Fire Company of Reading by W. W. Wunder,
on October 2, 1902, after a building committee of
three was formed the month before, to build a new
firehouse. This hose cart was eventually donated to
the Boyertown Body Works as an antique piece.
of the Hookie's second truck house, located
at the intersection of S. Reading Ave. and Warwick
Find, of Reading was appointed as architect and a
new building was built directly behind the original
building. An impressive cornerstone-laying ceremony
was held on November 1, 1902, when Charles D. Spats,
publisher of the Boyertown Democrat, made an address
and a Dr. Brunner, of Eshbach, followed with a speech
in Pennsylvania Dutch. The sixteen by nineteen inch
granite stone was placed in the northwest corner after
the following articles were placed therein; a copy
of the Boyertown Democrat and Reading papers, a history
of the fire company, a list of all who subscribed
one dollar or more towards the erection of the building,
proofs of coins for the year 1902, a copy of the constitution
and by-laws of the company and a copy of the Holy
Bible. The same stone was removed from the building
and placed in its current location at 10 Warwick Street,
along wit a new cornerstone bearing the inscription
“1962.” The sealed contents of the 1902
stone were left intact and not opened.
A drawing by Julia Longacre showing the second Hookie
located at the intersection of S. Reading Ave. and
Warwick St. (the
current location of Cumberland Farms).
Tragedy Known Worldwide
Rhoads Opera House fire on January 13, 1908 remains
the most tragic fire in the history of Boyertown.
One hundred and seventy people lost their lives. This
tragedy first pointed out the shortcomings of the
equipment, which resulted in the purchase of a 60-gallon
chemical fire truck on August 5, 1909. The first alarm
bell on the equipment was also purchased the same
year and installed on this truck.
of the general state of confusion and panic during
the opera house fire, the need in the town for police
protection during emergencies was apparent. The company
appointed the first fire police on February 3, 1910,
with Henry Gruber as the first police captain. The
fire police, at first, were restricted to fire call
duty only but are called upon today for any kind of
emergency or general police duties.
of the times called for motorized equipment and on
May 21, 1917 a motorized Seagrave pumper was purchased
by the borough of Boyertown at a cost of $12,500.
This engine was reported as the first Seagrave engine
in eastern Pennsylvania. This engine served the company
well for 30 years, before it was donated to the Barto
Volunteer Fire Company and served as their first piece
old chemical tank wagon came in for modernization
when a used Chadwick car was bought on June 6, 1920
and converted to fire use with the installation of
the old chemical tanks. This conversion was done by
the Boyertown Carriage Works, free of charge. Improvements
were again in order on October 5, 1922, when an International
truck was purchased at a cost of $745. This International
chassis replaced the old Chadwick chassis. The chemical
tanks were later changed to carbon dioxide and pressurized
in April of 1934. This truck served the company well
until 1940, when it was sold to the Reading Airport
An International chemical truck purchased in 1922
used until 1940, when it was sold to the Reading Airport.
value of the company was again pointed out on May
28, 1926, when fire threatened to destroy buildings
of the Boyertown Burial Casket Company. The height
of the buildings showed a need for a modern ladder
truck, but this would not be realized until twenty
years later. Then a new Seagrave 65-foot aerial ladder
truck was ordered at an estimated cost of $20,000
on March 7, 1946. This also included a 750-gallon
pumper. Because of the material shortages of World
War II, delivery was not made on this truck until
September 25, 1948 at an actual cost of $19,982. This
ladder truck was the pride of the company for 30 years
until it was sold to a fire company in Harrisburg
to make room for the company’s 1976 Seagrave
100-foot ladder truck, that was delivered on March
23, 1976 at a cost of $85,000 after being in the planning
stage for two years.
Police Gain Recognition
company fire police organization gained additional
recognition after the casket company fire, when the
borough outfitted the fire police with their first
official police uniforms on June 21, 1926. From this
time on they supplemented the regular borough police
on a part-time basis. They are still used today on
special occasions and are subject to immediate call
for any emergency by the borough police.
February of 1947, the Tung-Sol Electric Company donated
the company’s first tower siren. This was replaced
two years later with a larger and louder model at
a cost of $360. This siren was used for years. It
is now used by the Gilbertsville Fire Company to alert
the residents of Gilbertsville.
to the installation of electric sirens, all fires
were sounded with the hammering of an old rim from
the wheel of a locomotive. This rim was six feet in
diameter, nineteen feet in circumference and weighed
950 pounds. The clang from it could be heard over
a wide area. Older residents of the area can attest
to the fact that there was never a doubt when the
“Hooks” alarm was being sounded. The alarm
was supported by an iron crossbar extended from the
ceiling of the fire steeple. A hammer-like object
was fastened near the rim with a long chain attached.
The chain, reaching to the first floor, was merely
pulled when the alarm was to be given.
of the latest improvements to increase fire-fighting
efficiency was the installation of two-way radios
on each truck and the purchase to two walkie-talkies
in August of 1954. A base radio station for Boyertown
and nearby areas was established in the Hookies building.
Hookie members voluntarily manned this base radio
station for several years, until a community emergency
control center was established in borough hall.
usefulness of the two-way radio system proved itself
five months after the installation, for on December
30, 1954 the Hookies engaged in the biggest fire-fighting
operation in its history. The fire, fanned by high
winds, leveled the L. H. Schmoyer lumberyard and severely
damaged several homes. This fire was the work of an
arsonist, who was convicted and served prison time
for his crime. Fortunately, there were no casualties,
but the fire chief estimated the financial loss to
be about $235,000.
company’s first truck to carry additional emergency
and rescue operations equipment was purchased on October
7, 1943 and consisted of a used Chevrolet panel truck.
This truck was disposed of on a bid of $106 on June
4, 1959, the same day the new emergency truck arrived.
This emergency truck had a van-type body built on
a Dodge chassis at a cost of $4661. It was used to
house and transport such equipment as a resuscitator,
emergency lighting equipment with a portable generator,
litters, extra hose, boots and coats. This truck was
disposed of by bid in 1980 and was purchased by the
Bally Goodwill Fire Company. In May of 1980, the company
received its latest rescue truck at a cost of $64,000.
This was paid for by the Community Development Funds
from the Borough of Boyertown.
1959 Dodge Rescue Truck used by the Hookies
until it was disposed of in 1980.
Dodge crash truck equipped with emergency tools and
a high-pressure water pump was purchased on April
1, 1948, at a cost of $2476.95 and the utility-type
body was built by the Boyertown Body Works at a cost
of $2640 and donated to the company. This truck served
the company for 22 years and was disposed of by bid
to the Upper Frederick fire company in 1970. The company’s
current crash truck was purchased in July of 1970
at a cost of $14,312.
old building was sold to pay for the addition of a
1966 Seagraves 1000gpm engine. This was an anniversary
model with the long front end and chromed nose. This
unit continued to serve until it was replaced in 1986
by a Spartan/Pierce 1750gpm engine. The cost of this
unit was $164,000.00. The new engine had a hose bed
capable of carrying 2000' of 5" supply hose and
900' of 3" hose. The 5" supply hose was
bought and the Ladies Auxiliary of the company purchased
all the adapters. It also has an automatic ladder
rack and four preconnected attack lines. The unit
has a top mount pump panel, which allows the operator
to see the entire fireground. The unit is still in
service to this day as Engine 15. The 1966 Seagraves
engine was sold to a private collector for $3,300.00.
Seagraves Pumper. This was later
replaced by the current Engine 15.
Engine 15 is a 1986 Spartan/Pierce Pumper. Click on
image to learn more about the Engine 15.
became evident in the early 1990's that the company
was fast outgrowing the current Rescue Truck. A committee
was formed to evaluate the possibility of replacing
this unit. The fire company allowed the truck committee
$250,000.00 for the replacement of this unit. After
nearly two years of searching vendors a contract was
signed with Kovatch Motor Equipment of Nesquehonning,
Pa. for a 21' walk through rescue vehicle built on
a KME MFD chassis. The unit was delivered in April
of 1996 at a cost of $249,800.00. The unit has a 20'
Wilburt 6000watt light tower, 40kw PTO generator,
two 250' electric cord reels, two 100' hydraulic tool
reels, and one 100' air tool reel. The unit also has
a full command center on the interior with four mobile
and six portable radios, cellular phone, and writing
desk. For rehab, the unit has a refrigerator, microwave
oven and is heated and air-conditioned. Shortly after
putting the unit into service the Hurst gas power
unit, which runs the "Jaws of Life" that
was purchased in the early 1970's, failed and needed
replacing. The Apparatus Crew asked the Ladies Auxiliary
to purchase a replacement unit and they agreed at
a cost of $5,700.00. The KME unit is still in service
as Rescue 15. The 1980 Pierce rescue was sold to a
used apparatus dealer who subsequently sold the unit
to a fire company in Arkansas and still in service.
15 is a 1996 KME Rescue Truck. Click on
the image to learn more about Rescue 15.
late 1998 the pump on the 1970 Dodge Powerwagon brush
unit failed and a committee was formed to check the
options on the repairs. It was decided to purchase
a drop in skid unit to replace the current pump and
tank. Members performed most of the demolition of
the old unit and a new skid unit was ordered at a
cost of $8,500.00. Upon arrival of the new skid unit
both were sent to Borchelt Welding and Fabricating
in Boyertown, Pa. to rebuild the unit for the new
skid unit as well as the old hose reel and a 3500watt
Honda generator. The unit was also sanded and prepped
by members for repainting and lettering by Faust Auto
Collision in Boyertown, Pa. The total cost to refurbish
the unit was approximately $10,000.00 and the unit
was put back into service in September of 1999.
15 is a 1970 Dodge Powerwagon modified as a brush
Click on the image to learn more about Brush 15.
2001 it was discussed to form a truck committee to
look at replacing the 1976 Seagraves ladder truck.
The company granted permission and the committee began
the task of writing specifications for a new unit.
After over a year of meetings with vendors and trips
to look at units it was decided to purchase a Pierce
Lance 105' Aerial Ladder. The unit was designed to
be used as an "In front" of the fire building
truck. Some of the features the unit has are a 25kw
hydraulic generator, which supports over 5000 watts
of permanent and portable lighting as well as four
200' electric cord reels. The unit also carries over
150' of ground ladders. For ventilation there are
two positive pressure and two negative pressure smoke
ejectors on the unit powered by both gas and electric.
There is seating for eight fire fighters in a climate-controlled
cab with heating and air conditioning. There are also
four gas powered and two electric saws used for ventilation
and forcible entry. There is also a wide variety of
hand tools and salvage equipment carried. The unit
was placed in service in October 2003 at a cost of
over $588,000.00 for the unit less equipment. The
unit is designated as Ladder 15.
15 is a 2002 Pierce Lance Ladder truck. Click
on the image to learn more about Ladder 15.
late 2002 the Fire Company was approached by the VFW
about possibly purchasing their property, which is
adjacent to the fire company property. A committee
was formed to look into the feasibility of this purchase
and it was decided to purchase the property at a cost
of $95,000.00. After the property was acquired the
committee was looking at ways to utilize the property
and the building. It was determined to do some upgrades
to the stone parking lot for additional fire company
parking and the committee met with several local realty
companies for ideas on the building. Although no usable
ideas came from these meetings it was decided to "winterize"
the building and use it for storage. After several
months the owner of a local dance studio approached
the Fire Company on the possibility on renovating
and leasing the building for their business. Several
meetings were held and it was decided to renovate
the building for leasing as a dance studio at an estimated
cost of $50,000 for renovations. The project took
several months to complete and the dance studio opened
in late 2003 with total costs of close to $70,000
for renovations to the building and site to meet today's
codes. At the same time this was occurring, it was
decided that the kitchen in the existing firehouse
needed to be upgraded as the ventilation hood over
the grills did not meet code and would not be recertified
after November 2003. A contractor was hired and the
kitchen was totally renovated with the help of fire
company members at a cost of $45,000.00. The new kitchen
was inspected and passed the current codes and is
operating to this date.
membership in the Friendship Hook and Ladder Co. totals
over 2,500 members. The increased membership and the
need for more engine room space sparked the plans
for a new building late in 1945. The first transaction
by the building planners was the purchase of the lot
on which was located the Old Keystone Hotel. The price
was $35,000. The original sketch submitted by an architect
in 1948 called for a capital outlay of $325,000. The
original plans were revised and after several days,
the present building of the “Hookies”
was finally built at a cost of $123,000 with an additional
$15,000 spent for new interior equipment.
ceremonies were held on July 11, 1961, signaling the
start of the new building. To keep the costs to a
minimum, the members themselves performed much of
the work, free of charge. The new building is actually
the climax of 17 years of planning. Total project
cost was $154,000.
cornerstone-laying ceremony was held on June 28, 1962.
Placed in the cornerstone were a set of 1962 proof
set coins, a scroll listing all of the company officers
and house committee members, the Bible, a patron donor
list of persons who contributed $5.00 or more, a copy
of the 1962 by-laws, a company history, and a copy
of the dedication book. Also included in the cornerstone
were mementos from the building dedication, including
a parade badge, a book of matches, and imprinted glass,
four issues of the Boyertown Times and an 1886 silver
current "Hookie House" located on the
corner of S. Reading Ave. and Warwick St.,
in the Borough of Boyertown.
March 17, 1966, the old fire company building was
sold to the Gulf Oil Company for $30,000. The building
was subsequently demolished. During June of that same
year, the company’s original hose cart was loaned
to the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles for display.
this day, the Hookies continue to service the Borough
of Boyertown and surrounding areas. Our dedication
and passion shows in all our work, be it public protection,
fund raising, or just everyday life. When you hear
our siren and look up to see the maroon fire trucks
coming, you will know, "The Hooks are coming."