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Western Pennsylvania's Fireman's
Association Convention--"Tent City"
Milestones Vol 15 No 1 Spring 1990

Preparation for a convention as big as the Western Pennsylvania Firemen's Association takes a lot of money and work. Members of the upper Beaver Valley fire departments which sponsored the convention began working months in advance of August 8, 1955. Chief Ed A. Phillips was convention chairman and Assistant Chief George Hall acted as his assistant. Paul Phillips was secretary and Chester Ewing treasurer. Many men served on the committees, such as, executive, finance, camping, street fair, and the Ladies Auxiliary. There were many areas to be taken care of, some of them were registration, entertainment, sports, parade, housing, cars and first aid. Many firemen, individuals and organizations cooperated in helping the firemen prepare for the convention which was hosted by the Beaver Falls, Chippewa, White Township, New Brighton, West Mayfield and other upper Beaver Valley departments. Close to 1,000 were staying in hotels, private residents, and the rest camped in Chippewa Township on a campsite of 40 acres, "Tent City",

The attendance was between 2,000 and 2,500 plus auxiliary members. Officers of the Western Pennsylvania Firemen's Association were Edward Clooson, New Kensington, Secretary; George Horner, Farrell, President,- George Detrich, Monaca, Treasurer; William Lewis, Sr., Masontown, First Vice President; Teofil Hereda, New Kensington, 2nd Vice President; Peter Terrini, Latrobe, 3rd Vice President; Al L. Shaprnack of McClellandtown, Chaplain,

This was the first time in 30 years the convention took place in Beaver County. The last one was held at Junction Park in 1925, under the general chairmanship of Louis Kennedy of Patterson Township. Twice before that in 1897 and 1909 the Convention was held in Beaver Falls. Visiting firemen found Beaver Falls and surrounding communities all had relatively modern, up to date equipment and the latest in communications. Beaver Falls Department at this time dated back to 1895 when Fire Company Number 1 was organized. However, other organized departments date back as many as 20 years before that. Some of the earliest Beaver Falls chiefs were: John Reeves, Sr., James M. May, James R. Braden and Dr. Wm. Raymer. Registration of delegates was held in the lobby of the General Brodhead Hotel.

The firemen's banquet was held at the Firemen's building on Bridge Street, and the Ladies Auxiliary enjoyed their banquet at McDanel Hall in New Brighton. The Firemen's Ball was held from 10:00 p.m. to 2 a.m. August 10th at the Brodhead Hotel ballroom. While the ball wasg oing on many danced on the street in front of the Brodhead to the firemen's jazz band.

At the final business meeting William D. Lewis of Masontown was elected President of the association and Edward Closson of New Kensington elected Secretary. The secretary's position is the only paid position. At the meeting August 9th, Senator Duff was voted honorary member of the Western Pennsylvania Firemen's Association. Others voted in were Congressman Frank Clark and Beaver Falls Mayor Edward Corcoran. items on the programs were battles of the barrel, held at the 11th Street school grounds, free bingo for the Ladies Auxiliary held in the fire station. Auxiliary lunch and old timers banquet were held at the firemen's building on Bridge Street.

The highlight of the convention was the PARADE.

The day of the Parade was Thursday, August 11, 1955.

Stores, Post Office and banks all closed the day of the Parade. There were 120 fire companies and 40 bands. Ninety organizations and communities were represented. The reviewing stand was in front of the Carnegie Free Library. Inclement weather dampened the crowd at the parade. $2,500 dollars was given in prize money. The Pioneer Fife and Drum Corps of Pittsburgh made up entirely of descendants of the Civil War Musicians marched in the Parade. They had played at all G.A.R. encampments in Grand Rapid, Michigan, Washington, D.C., Madison, Wisconsin, Springfield, Ill., Columbus, Ohio and many more, until encampments were discontinued. Thomas Hage the oldest member of the organization was a member of the 10 Regiment Company B., National Guard of New Brighton.

It took more than six hours for the parade to pass. The town of Beaver Falls was decorated with banners, streamers, and bunting. Thousands upon thousands viewed the parade. Senator James Duff gave the main address to the Delegation and Charles Medley was the parade marshall. The Latrobe volunteer fire department led the parade as they were the host city the year before (1954). Besides being the best dressed they had the most precise marching unit, 162 men in parade, 62 marching firemen, 23 in cars, 6 on equipment and a 40 man drum and bugle corps, boro council members and 2 banner carriers.

TENT CITY was located just south of the old drive-in Theatre on old Route #51, Chippewa Twp. First to arrive at the campsite was a group from Everson Volunteer Fire Company. Four firemen arrived Wednesday nite and slept at the Creighton and May service station on old Route 51 in Chippewa Township when one of their trucks broke down. Albert Pogwizd, held the dubious distinction of the first casualty. He had a band-aid put on his head from a bump he received when he bumped his head on one of the brackets on a truck. Aerial pictures of the Campsite "Tent City" were taken by the News Tribune photographer from a plane flown by Paul Moore of Patterson Heights Airport. The public was invited to drive through the campsite to view the set-ups, however, you had to hi invited into the individual camp areas. The visiting firemen were very happy to show visitors their camp set-up. Local police departments reported no real trouble but reported quite a few get-ups, shenanigans and pranks at the campsite. Women carried their money on an inside pocket (stocking tops) and were not embarrassed to reach for it when needed. The judging of the campsites named the Everson Volunteer Fire Co. as the largest-, Westinghouse, best equipped; South New Kensington the cleanest; Glendale, the smallest.

The same evening after the parade, Mr. George Zeller, Street Department director and his crew cleaned the avenue within a few hours and were commended for their fine work. The firemen and police had little rest the whole week of the event and were a tired crew when the firemen departed the COUNTY.