September 16, 2009 THE VILLADOM TIMES II, III & IV • Page 17 100 A desire to help the community is what brings residents to volunteer to serve on the fire department, and the camaraderie and strong bonds they form with their fellow firefighters is was keeps them in for decades. Thus spoke several veteran Midland Park firefighters last week when they met with Villadom Times reporter Ester Vierheilig to reminisce about their experiences. “You can’t make any stronger friends that the ones you make here. You go into a fire together, and you watch out for each other,” said Peter Jeffer, who’s been a member for 35 years. His father, two brothers and son were also Midland Park firemen. “Our whole life revolved around the department,” said Edward Hollema, a fireman for 55 years. “The women did everything with us,” he added, explaining that there were regular social activities, including pot luck suppers, picnics and other family events. Sam Schaper, a 42-year fireman, remembers the time he and his family moved to a home across the street. “Everybody showed up for the move without being asked. They picked up a piece of furniture and took it across to the new house. We didn’t need a moving truck. Afterwards my wife made spaghetti and we shared a few beers,” he recalled. That bond has also helped to attract new members. “Midland Park’s been lucky,” said Hollema, whose son was the fire chief for four years and whose two sons in law also served. “We’ve been able to attract young kids.” He acknowledged, however, that the extensive training that is required serves as a deterrent. Volunteers must attend classes at the Police and Fire Academy three times a week for 20 weeks to be certified. And they must attend weekly drills in addition to turning out for fires. Schaper said that the best recruitment tool is word of mouth. “The young kids know us from around town, and they see how active we are, so they want to join,” Schaper said. The veteran volunteers reflected on the major advances the department experienced in the last 50 years and what the future might hold. Training is now a major force, they said, sometimes discouraging new recruits. Equipment is much better and more sophisticated and is computer operated. “We didn’t have Scott packs when I started, and the fire truck had a manual gear shift,” said Hollema. Communications have progressed from “kids’ walkie talkies’ to present day pagers, they said. And the firemen have their own firehouse and meeting room, built in 1979, instead of cramped quarters in town hall. th ANNIVERSARY Camaraderie helps recruitment, volunteer retention The department is proud of its own training program, its fire prevention activities, its college scholarship program, its participation in the mutual aid network and its ability to retain volunteers. The veteran firemen, however, expressed concern about the possibility of the state forcing towns into fire districts. “I’m against fire districts,” said Jeffer, voicing the others’ concerns. “Response time is everything. The closer you are to the firehouse, the faster the response. I’ve seen it elsewhere, where the firemen have a long ride to get to the firehouse and then from the firehouse to the fire,” he added. “We always get a truck out, and then we have Mutual Aid,” he added. At the time the Midland Park Fire Department was first formed, a fire alarm consisted of a steel railroad tire rim suspended from a frame that was struck by a hammer. This system was ineffective, particularly at night. To overcome the alarm system’s shortfalls, tire rims were strategically placed around town. Their locations included Godwin Avenue near the Methodist Church, Central Avenue in Wortendyke, on Goffle Road near the brook, Erie Avenue near Glen Avenue, and Franklin Avenue near Rea Avenue. The Granite Linen Company, which had been restored after the 1905 fire, permitted the installation of a steampowered fire whistle on its property. However, the range of this whistle was also considered ineffective. Mayor Henry J. Wostbrock subsequently had a new fire whistle installed at the Bergen Water Company pumping station. This improvement allowed the borough to remove the railroad tire alarms from service. Eventually a fire horn was installed atop town hall on Godwin Avenue to summon volunteers to a fire, and Alarm system has come a long way through the 1950s this system was supplemented by a phone chain run by the women’s auxiliary. Fire alarm boxes connected directly to the horn were strategically placed on telephone poles throughout town so that an alarm could be activated by pulling the box. Each box had its own code, and all households had a card giving the code for each box so that they could identify the location of a fire called from a box. “There would be a line of cars, bikes and people responding to check out a fire, even at night,” recalls Edward “Eppie” Hollema, a 55-year member. The system worked well enough in town during daytime hours, he noted, but the horn could not easily be heard at night with the windows closed or if a volunteer was out of town. Plectrons, a radio-like device, were issued to each volunteer in the 1960s to supplement the horn. Today, firefighters are summoned via personal paging devices, with the horn and several sirens throughout town still sounded until 7 p.m. as a backup. Thank You for Protecting our Properties ������������ ����������������������� Patrick `Bud’ O’Hagan, Realtor W 100th Anniversary ������������������������������������ David Zuidema, Sr., center, and Andrew Van Dyk, at left, are pictured in this 1938 photo taken on Hill Street in Midland Park. ������������������� ������������������������� ���������������� ������������ hen the time comes for you to sell a home, buy a home, rent, lease or to invest in real estate, take the time to select a professional to represent you full time. You look into which bank or investment company will handle your money … It is even more important to select a Professional Realtor who will protect your interest in any real estate transaction. Not all real estate sales people are Realtors, nor are they a full-time practitioner. 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