This photo of the Peninsula Fire Department was taken in 1945 at the “fire barn,” located on Center Road, just north of the current fire hall in Mapleton.
Pictured, standing left to right: Harry Heller, Arnold White, Roy Hooper, Claude Watson, Stanley Wood and Ray Heller. Seated in the truck are John Lardie (wearing helmet) and Ike (Isadore) Lardie.
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The fire truck was built by volunteers, most of whom had recently returned home from World War II. While the men fought the fires, the auxiliary group, coordinated by Gwen Watson (wife of Claude; they owned Watson’s Store in Mapleton) brought coffee, food, blankets or whatever was needed.
As soon as an emergency call was received by “Central” (Peninsula Telephone Company), the switchboard operator would ring all the phone lines of the volunteers and let them know the location of the emergency. In 1953, when the phone system went to rotary dial, ten red “fire phones” were installed in homes around the Mapleton area. In an emergency, those ten volunteers were called and, in turn, notified others.
A siren positioned atop a 40-foot pole at the fire station notified folks in the surrounding countryside. There were no issues with alerting people, as most of the farming community worked outside in the orchards and field. One long blast meant the fire was north of Mapleton, and two short blasts sent the volunteers south of Mapleton.
Thanks to Theo Weber for posting this photo on Facebook the other day. It’s featured in the book, “A Century of Service: The People and Places on Old Mission Peninsula,” published in 2008 by the Peninsula Telephone Company (Jack and Vi Solomonson, and their daughter Mary Jo Lance).
I believe the books are available at the current phone company, AcenTek, located at 14909 Peninsula Drive on the Old Mission Peninsula. Call them at (231) 223-4211 and double check before heading over there.
A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers and magazines like the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So I started my own newspaper. Because the Gazette is mainly reader-supported, I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks my way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the OMP. Check out the donation page here. Thank you so much for your support. -jb