Fire Company

Peripheral events periodically entered my life giving me reason for thought and action outside of IBM such as the Little League, American Legion, Roller Skating Club and motorcycling. Most of these events were enjoyable.  However, there were times I brought disastrous problems upon myself by not foreseeing the future.  Until I arrived, Binnewater was inhabited by (natives?) people who had lived here for fifty years or more. Newcomers were intruders who must be tolerated. I was accepted by the fire company and given instructions for operating a navy surplus fire pumper.  Fighting fires in country surroundings always faces a need for more water. A pumper is useless without water to pump. Our pumper held a mere 400 gallons, enough to get started until a tanker arrived. If it arrived late----!

On inquiry I learned the company and equipment was owned by the paid up members. There were many prospective members in the community but somehow they seemed reluctant to join. I learned also that the Chief and Asst. Chief of many years would stop the truck in route to a fire and make the driver move over, "I'm chief so I'll drive."  This attitude, I'm sure had much bearing on the skimpy membership.

The chief many times took it upon himself to proceed without membership approval.

At one meeting he told how we needed a new $75,000 pumper and he had called a special town meeting for approval to float a bond.

I pointed out that our priority need was a large capacity tanker, either a straight truck or a tractor/trailer.  I was shouted down by the Chief who said we are a disgrace at parades.

"Binnewater can not afford to support your vanity", said this arrogant new comer.

"Well, the meeting is set for this week, you can have your vote then."

That put the young whipper-snapper in his place. ByGar.

Most of the Binnewater residents attended the meeting presided over by the town supervisor (George Mollinhour) the farmer who loaned his equipment to build the Little League field.  I presented my philosophy of water verses pumper - of dollars verses vanity.  Dollars did it. The bond was voted down.

Next morning storm clouds rolled up to my door in the form of a Fire Chief and Asst. Chief. They handed me the keys to the fire house and told me I was now Chief. They told me from now on they would stand on the sidelines, smoking a cigar, and watch me fight the fires.

What a surprise! I was speechless! I didn't even have time to ask at what meeting this decision was reached. "Coog", I thought, "you did it again."

"Where do you go from here? If you give the keys back you become a laughing stock.  You are the only one who knows how to run the pumper and you can't do it alone."

A plan began to unravel, not that I was confident it would work, but it was worth a try.

Key number two, John Hicks a retired Army Captain

I spoke to Ed and explained what had happened. I asked if he would accept position of Engineer; evaluate what we have and recommend our needs. Little did I know I had tapped the most knowledgeable source of planning.

I asked John to take charge of training people to operate the pump.   John agreed to do that.

We scheduled a meeting once a week to report our progress. At the end of a month John reported thirty capable people.   "My God!", I exclaimed, "Where did they come from? Where have they been?"

John just smiled.

Ed Scharmer recommended a large tanker to supplement the pump truck. In the meantime he was traveling all over the state for IBM. While in New York City he inquired of surplus City equipment.  "Anything the City declares surplus, believe me, we don't want it", he commented.   He checked the National Guard to no avail.

He finally heard of an oil company in Kingston selling out to a larger company. Their trucks were up for sale. The Binnewater Fire Company membership approved the purchase of a Ballard oil truck with 2200 gallon capacity.  They also wanted a large meeting room attached to the fire house. And they built it themselves - those wonderful people.

Have I doo doo on my shoes? No, I have a group of lifelong friends who always make the day brighter just to say, "Hello".

The new tanker became a community project. An auxiliary pump was installed under the dictatorial leadership of Scharmer. "Coogan, God-damn it, forget the frills and appearance until we have it mechanically operative."

Bob Hicks, a local plumber and oil distributor, said, "Coogan you could screw up a crow bar."

The tanker became a secondary pump truck that supplied forty pounds of pressure to the pumper before the pumper added sixty more.

Finally I was allowed to add the frills. Art Mulligan gave us the use of his garage to paint the truck red. Teenagers, including Charles Coogan and Matty Liggan helped prepare it for painting.

Scharmer directed preparations while I mixed three gallons of paint.  Two hours later we had the most beautiful tanker in Ulster County.


The Mulligans lived upstairs over the garage. The smell of paint made the apartment unbearable. Beverly swore she would never again allow painting in the garage.

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