CFD’s Golden Jubilee In ’62 Celebrated With Grand Parade

CFD’s Golden Jubilee In ’62 Celebrated With Grand Parade

Cheshire just held its annual Memorial Day Parade, approximately a month ago, and this coming week numerous Connecticut communities will set their marching orders to celebrate the Fourth of July. From now through the end of the summer, you’ll be able to hear the sounds of bands and fife and drum corps up and down the East Coast and throughout the rest of the country.

Americans do love their parades.

In Cheshire, the only parade held per year is for the before-mentioned Memorial Day holiday. But that doesn’t mean it’s the only parade ever held in the community. In fact, one of the biggest in Cheshire’s history had nothing to do with a state or federal holiday. It did have everything to do with a certain piece of local history.

In June of 1962, the Town of Cheshire celebrated the Golden Jubilee anniversary of the community’s fire department. To mark the 50-year anniversary, the town planned a huge celebration, one they expected to be the biggest in Cheshire history.

In the June 21, 1962 edition of The Cheshire Herald, a front-page article announced the particulars. The parade was planned for the weekend, a carnival would be held in the days preceding it, and the community was awaiting the arrival of some honored guests. More than 30 musical groups were expected to take part, all hailing from around the state. Fifty-four volunteer fire departments would be marching, composed of over 1,500 firefighters, all in uniform. Participants would begin marching down the 2.5-mile parade route — from Maple Avenue to the site of the carnival at the Cheshire Shopping Center — at 5:30 p.m., with everything expected to last approximately three hours.

The community was preparing.

In that June 21 edition, The Herald dedicated pages and pages to the history of the Cheshire Fire Department, as well as old photographs from the department’s many years of service. As an article on page 9 of that week’s paper indicated, it all started, not surprisingly, with a fire:

Following a disastrous fire which destroyed the old Waverly Inn or Scott’s Hotel, early in the year of 1912, a citizens meeting was held on February 13, 1912 for the purpose of discussing the matter of adequate protection for the town. On February 27, 1912, a second meeting was held at which time the Cheshire Fire Department was organized with officers being chosen.

That initial department, the article went on to explain, was manned by 27 volunteers. The first apparatus purchased were a 60-gallon Chemical Cart and a Hook and Ladder Truck, both of which were hand-drawn. The first fire call occurred some two months after the department was established, on April 23, 1912. The first loss of life due to a fire, after the establishment of the Cheshire PD, happened in 1916.

The Herald article was full of all sorts of interesting nuggets of historical interest, from the fact that the department was first able to purchase motorized equipment — “an Oldsmobile auto” — in 1916 and have it turned into a useable fire truck for approximately $1,000, to the first light-weight Ford fire truck being purchased for approximately $2,000 in 1922, to the fact that the lowest “fire-loss” year, in terms of dollars and cents, for the Town of Cheshire was in 1931, when less than $2,000 worth of damage was reported for the entire year.

But perhaps of most interest to those picking up a copy of The Herald that week were the pictures that filled up eight pages. There, readers were treated to the first images of the Department, from the 27 inaugural members to the Ford fire truck that carried the volunteers from blaze to blaze in the 1920s. There were action photos, such as one from a fire that destroyed the “Hayward’s Barn” on Maple Avenue in January of 1952, to the volunteers fighting a fire that ended up destroying the Chipwich Caterers, Inc. building on West Main Street in 1959. Currently, Ye Olde Station Autosales resides on that very site.

In the June 28, 1962 edition of The Herald, a front-page article explained how the festivities had gone:

Although the rain threatened most all day Saturday, the luck of the Cheshire Fire Department held until their Golden Jubilee parade was safely over, and up to about 10 o’clock in the evening when the carnival held on the Cheshire Shopping Center parking area was dampened by a light shower.

The parade, which was scheduled to start at 5:30 p.m., got underway only 15 minutes late and went off without a hitch. Led by Cheshire’s own firemen the column of over 200 units marched the three-mile route to the music of many fine bands and fife and drum corps, and passed in review before a stand set up in the High School yard. In addition to the judges the parade was reviewed by the Cheshire Board of Selectmen and the life members of the Fire Department.

Thousands lined the parade route.

Of special interest were two ancient pieces of fire fighting equipment; a hand-drawn piece exhibited by New Milford which won the prize for the best appearing parade carriage, and an old-time horse steamer which won a special award for Branford.

The article went on to list the numerous other awards handed out after the parade had concluded, including such prizes for “best appearing ladies auxiliary,” which went to Southbury; “best appearing apparatus,” which was awarded to Southington; “best fire department or fire department-sponsored musical unit,” which was handed to South Meriden; and “special award for Interlachen Fire Department,” which saw Interlachen, Florida named the winner.

This year marks the 110th anniversary of the Cheshire Fire Department. Over the 60 years since the Golden Jubilee was celebrated, many more men and women have been named members, put their safety on the line to help extinguish blazes, and worked to keep residents as safe as possible. So while this year will not be marked by a major parade or festivities, it’s a good time to reflect on how important the Department and its members remain.


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