Elderton -- How many of you remember the little verse, when repeated on the buttons of a girl's dress that was supposed to indicate the type of man she should marry? It went something like this: Rich Man, Poor Man, Beggar Man, Thief, Doctor, Lawyer, FIRE CHIEF.
In the original verse the last person was an Indian Chief, but it seems there are more women married to FIRE CHIEFS than to Indian Chiefs.
Mrs. Paul Rupert of Elderton is one of these women. Paul Rupert, a charter member of the Department, has served as fire chief in Elderton for the past eight years. Other current line officers include assistant chiefs Harold Johnston, Lee Walker and Harry Reefer, Jr.
The 1971 administrative posts are held by Robert Solinger; Dean Elgin, 1st vice president; Donald Stubrich, 2nd vice president; Donald Rupert, secretary and Victor Schall, treasurer. Trustees are LeRoy Smith, Lester Walker and Dean Elkin.
Long before today's company was originally chartered in 1934, the area expressed an interest in fire protection. In April of 1934 following a fire which destroyed a large brick hotel, a post office and a harness shop, the first efforts were made to organize.
The Ford City Fire Department had purchased a new fire truck and brought the old truck to Elderton for a demonstration. The selling price was $500. Following much discussion it was decided that the price was too high and plans were temporarily given up.
Three other large fires were to occur before the community's dream of a fire department was to be realized. The first of these three fires was in 1932 when the Elderton High School Building, formerly the old Academy, was burned and all its contents destroyed.
The second was in November of 1934 when the E.W. Williams store was struck by fire with a large amount of damage to the contents and the building. The present fire hall was later erected at this location.
Then in June of 1951, a third and worst disaster of all. A fire broke out in the township building which consisted of a drug store and several apartments. An adjoining home belonging to Mulberger's was ruined and four members of the Bothel family lost their lives.
Again an attempt was made to organize a fire department and citizens of Elderton, Whitesburg, Shelocta, South Bend Twp. and Plumcreek Twp. joined in a effort to get this project under way.
At a meeting on June 17, 1951, Joseph Frantz was elected to serve the new department as president. Other original officers of the fire company were Gerald Kimmel, first vice-president; Horace Wood, second vice president; Victor Schall, secretary and D.L. Solinger, treasurer. The first line officers were H.E. Shaffer, fire chief; Herschel McNeeley and Neal Clark as assistant chiefs.
Chartered on August 13, 1951, the company ordered its first equipment on October 22 from the McCune Motor Company of Kittanning and the Howe Equipment Company of Anderson, Indiana.
A used truck was loaned to the department by the Howe Company until the arrival of the new truck. The Bierer Garage in Elderton was rented to house the new truck which arrived in July of 1952.
Land was then purchased for a new fire hall and plans were drawn up for the building. It was a concrete block structure measuring 68 by 64 feet and is located north of Route 210. After the completion of the building, a tank truck was purchased from the Texaco Company to supplement their water supply.
The Elderton Department is affiliated with the Western Pennsylvania Firemen's Association and the Armstrong County Firemen's Association and carry sick and accident insurance on all the members of the company. Each year delegates from the 40 active members are chosen to attend the annual fire training school conducted by the Armstrong Association near Crooked Creek State Park.
The company boasts of an active Firemens Auxiliary. The present fire department is currently free of debt and gives much of the credit for this to the members of the auxiliary who work so hard to aid the department in its work. Leading the auxiliary this year are Mary Ellen Wells, president; Margaret Prugh, vice president; Hilda Kelp, secretary; Edna Wells, treasurer and Florence McLaughlin, chaplain.
Part of the Armstrong County Warning Set Up, the department is connected with all 26 companies in the county which as a main base station in the sheriff's office in Kittanning and one at the Schenley office in Leechburg. A base set is installed at the fire hall and mobile units are mounted on each truck.
A mortgage-burning ceremony was held by the department in 1957 and since that time they have continued to improve their building and equipment.
Several acres adjacent to the fire department property were purchased in 1964 and in 1968 an addition was made to the fire hall. Approximately 30 by 60 feet, the new addition has hardwood floors and is used for social functions sponsored by the department.
Providing fire protection for Elderton, Atwood, Shelocta, South Bend Twp and Plumcreek Twp., they are financed through contributions and fund-raising activities.
A street fair held this year the week of June 21, was a major boost to the finances of the fire company. Consisting of a carnival, free square dancing, band concerts, mini-tractor pulling contests, pony pulling contests and many other activities, the fair is a big part of the fire department's fund-raising projects each year. As of yet no date has been set for next year's fair, but plans are already forming in the minds of the firemen.
On September 4 of this year, the Elderton Fire Department will begin sponsoring square dances at the fire hall. The dances will be every other Saturday night with music being provided by the Johnny Nesbit orchestra. Refreshments will be provided for these dances by members of the auxiliary.
Valued at $65,000, the department presently consists of a 1955 GMC 740 Pumper, a 1971 GMC Tanker and a 1968 GMC Brush Truck. In additon they have an adequate supply of special equipment necessary to aid them in combating major fires.
After eight years as fire chief in Elderton, Paul Rupert knows it takes more than one man to make an efficient fire department function properly. He sums up his feelings this way, "The continued growth of the Elderton Volunteer Fire Company depends on the citizens of the area, our annual firemen's fair, the Ladies Auxiliary and recruitment of young members for the service of the fire company."