The Sanford

1931 Sanford Fire Truck

This 1931 Sanford Cub, a 2.5 ton fire truck was the volunteer fire company’s first “real” fire truck. Photo likely taken in 1941 or 1942. The car at the right was Chief Bush’s 1941 Studebaker.

 

It’s difficult to imagine living in the modern world without the protective service that towns routinely provide for fire, but it wasn’t that long ago that Easton residents relied solely on the kindness of neighbors and the willingness of residents to band together as volunteers to do just that. While Easton’s Volunteer Fire Company Number One was officially formed in 1921, the company didn’t purchase its first true fire truck until a full ten years later in December of 1931.

The very first piece of motorized fire-fighting apparatus obtained by the fire company was a used Oldsmobile roadster that was purchased from the Cheshire Volunteer Fire Company in 1924. Basically, little more than an ordinary automobile, the Oldsmobile had a 35-gallon soda-and-acid tank affixed to each side, essentially making it a mobile, motorized, over-sized fire-extinguisher. While such a machine was useful in fighting a relatively small blaze in its initial stages, it was of little help in bringing a full-blown inferno under control. The men knew they needed a real fire truck, but trucks of adequate size and capabilities also cost real money, something the all-volunteer company had too little of.

By the fall of 1929, the company appeared all but ready to spend the nearly $7,400 it would cost to purchase a new tanker-pumper, a truck that could carry a large enough quantity of water ready to use to initially fight a blaze, but also have the ability to pump additional water from nearby ponds or streams to hopefully douse the flames for good. But timing is everything, and in this case, it was indeed poor. The stock market crash of October of that year had fire company members concerned enough about their financial future to vote down the expenditure that November.

It wasn’t until Arthur “Turb” Bush was elected Chief in March of 1931 that the discussion of purchasing a new truck was seriously raised again. Anybody who might still remember Turb knows of his fierce determination and his total commitment for all the years he served the town in a variety of capacities. Turb acted virtually alone in his quest to procure a new truck, and despite the town’s prior reluctance to commit any funds at all towards helping the fire company buy equipment that benefited every citizen of Easton, he convinced the selectmen to open the town’s checkbook. Records from the Board of Finance for that year indicate that the town paid $1,636.15 towards the purchase of the new Sanford Cub, a two-and-a-half ton fire truck equipped with a 350 gallon-per-minute pump, which would have run about half of the cost of their initial preference. The Sanford was a smaller truck than what the company had been considering two years earlier, but the country was also in the midst of the Great Depression and they were more than happy to acquire it.

The delivery of the new apparatus came not a moment too soon. Within only a few days of its arrival, Easton auxiliary police officers Martin Ohradan and Elbert Nichols – Easton only had one full-time police officer at the time – discovered a fire at the Grange Hall on Center Road around 2:00 on the morning on December the 6th. Within minutes, the new Sanford was put to its first test.

The new truck was certainly a help that night, but a single fire engine and a couple of dozen volunteers were no match for the full-blown inferno they encountered when they first arrived at the scene, the likes of which quickly destroyed the large 16-year old building that sat just to the west of the Congregational Church. What the lone fire truck was able to handily accomplish that night was to provide an adequate supply of water to prevent the flames from engulfing the nearby Staples Free Academy building that still stands across the highway at the corner of Westport and Center Roads.

The Sanford would serve as the fire company’s one and only truck until after the Second World War. In 1946, the fire company purchased a new Mack pumper to add to its fleet and a the following year they completed an addition on the original firehouse to house it.

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