"ODENTON - The Town a Railroad Built"
The following is reprinted from the book by permission of the author, Mrs. Catherine L. O'Malley.
In 1931, a group of citizens in Odenton met in the small office of O'Malley's Coal Yard to organize what is now known as the Odenton Volunteer Fire Company, Inc.
The officers elected that night were: William A. Pumphrey, Sr., President; Leroy T. Mankin, Vice President; Wylie L. Donaldson, Secretary (grandfather of Wylie Donaldson Jr., immediate past Chief of the Fire Company); Murray D. O'Malley, Treasurer; and Lester L. Disney, Charman of the Board.
Controlled by a Board of Directors rather than a government office, the Company raised its own money rather than rely on taxes. The only government funds the Company started with were $2,000 per year from the County, to be used strictly for maintenance, and the sum remained unchanged for 25 years.
None of the men involved derived any money from the Company, nor do volunteer firemen today. In fact, volunteer firemen have to pay dues for the privilege of being awakened at midnight and driving to some inferno. The only paid employee of the fire company in 1931 was Charles L Eckman, whose job it was to maintain the station, then Silver's Warehouse on Morgan Road. He also operated the fire engine, a Model-T chemical wagon. The chemical wagon was on loan from the U.S. Engine Corporation. The county did not recognize the engine as being adequate; however, because it was not a pumper. In 1932, the Fire Company bought a 1930 Chevrolet pumper.
On May 30, 1934, the members of the Company urged all residents and their friends to attend a Grand Opening at the Fire House. This date marked the beginning of the ever-increasing progress made by the Odenton Volunteer Fire Company and the members were grateful to the local citizens for their cooperation.
In July, 1934, the firemen sponsored their first carnival, netting $450. In addition to this fund-raising project, dances were held weekly. The dance ads in 1934 newspapers stated the admission as 35 cents for gentlemen and 15 cents for ladies. That was for the "big bands." If you liked square dancing, the cost was only 25 cents for gentlemen and 10 cents for ladies.
Later that same year, it became apparent that the company was ready for a new fire station, in-stead of someone's warehouse. They built one right across the street, where it stayed until World War II. It was located at 1416 Odenton Road.
By 1935, the company felt it was ready for its first completely new fire engine, although according to chief M.A. Disney, "there wasn't a nickel in the treasury." Mr. Schaefer from US. Fire Apparatus (Wilmington, Delaware) had interested the company in a big model that held 700 gallons of water, weighed 10 tons, and went 65 miles per hour. He had also interested them in credit.
Maybe the US. Engine was jinxed because the company bought it without money, because in fact some unusual things did happen in connection with that truck. The company had signed the contract for delivery of the new engine. The signing had taken place at the home of "Roy" Mankin, and later that afternoon the Mankin home burned to the ground.
The new engine was ready for delivery in December, 1936, perhaps a bit too ready. Wylie L. Donaldson and Mr. Schaefer were bringing her in from the factory to Odenton, via the long route through Baltimore, when the temptation to turn her loose and see what she could do became too much. Was that a stoplight back there? Better flick on the siren and make it look official. Cars scurried to the curbs for a few blocks but a motorcycle officer closed in. He pulled the engine over and asked the inevitable question, "Are you going to a fire?" Eventually he let Donaldson and Schaefer off on the promise that they would leave town slowly and quietly. How the police officer ever conceived that the shiny new engine was only on a joy ride has never been resolved.
Upon arriving at the Odenton Fire House, there was much excitement and glee. The crew jumped right in to put the engine in "showroom" condition. It would be sinful to ever get it dirty. But no such luck. In about five minutes, the alarm went off and the gleaming new fire engine sped off into the smoke and dirt answering its call to duty.
When World War II got things moving in some parts of the country, it nearly paralyzed, the Odenton Volunteer Fire Company. Besides the fact that many boys were called away, there was Ft. Meade to be reckoned with. Troop trains coming and going blocked the roads completely for long periods of time. According to a letter from Wylie Donaldson to the War Production Board, "this rendered the company of little of no use to the community." This letter, incidentally, pointed up another drawback. Since all building materials were channeled to the war effort, one had to get permission from the War Production Board to build a firehouse. Permission was granted; however, and in 1943 the new fire station went up were it stands today. Along with the new fire station, a hall known as the "Blue and Gray", was purchased. Fund raising events were held there. The company acquired enough property so that the annual carnival could be held, and is still being held there today.
In 1945, the company purchased its second new engine, a 500 gallons-per-minute (GPM) Chevrolet pumper. As the community continued to grow the fire company had to keep up, and in 1950 purchased another new engine, an FWD 500 GPM pumper custom built to the company's specifications. In 1957, the company purchased another custom engine, a FWD 750 GPM pumper. At this time the 1945 Chevrolet was converted for use as a brush fire fighting truck.
In 1963, the company undertook a major building project by constructing four engine bays, a new hall, and renovating the interior of the old station. At this time, the old "Blue and Gray" hall was moved to the center of the carnival grounds where it can be seen today. The large new hall then became a meeting place for a number of area civic organizations. It also became a major part of the fundraising activities for the fire company. The hall is used for dances, weekly Bingos and rental for a wide variety of events. Also in 1963, the company purchased a used GMC brush truck from the Glen Burnie Volunteer Fire Department. At this time the 1945 Chevrolet was disposed of after a long and glorious life.
In 1965, the County changed to a Charter form of government and gave birth to the Anne Arundel County Fire Department. The paid service expanded. A central dispatch for alarms was established. The company was given number 28 on all equipment and insignia.
In December 1969, the company took delivery of a new Seagrave 1000 GPM pumper. This was the first of the so-called "modern looking" fleet of apparatus.
In November 1970, the company took a major step in providing service to the community. A much needed ambulance service was started. This service began with a well-used Chevrolet Carryall, referred to by many who rode in it as "the Odenton Buckboard." Later a new ambulance was provided by the County. Today, Odenton has one of the finest and best trained ambulance services in Anne Arundel County.
In 1973, the used GMC brush truck was sold and a used 1967 Ford brush truck was purchased from the Galesville Volunteer Fire Department.
In 1976, another new Seagrave 1250 GPM pumper was added to the company's fleet of equipment. Also, the Ladies Auxiliary to the fire company purchased a new jeep which is used to fight the ever-increasing brush fires in the area.
Although the dedication of the early volunteer fireman equals that of today's, far more training is now required to keep abreast of the complex fire fighting and emergency care procedures. Each member must complete an Emergency Medical Technician training program to be qualified to ride the ambulance, or a Fire Essentials training program to ride the fire engine. The company takes pride in its ranking as one of the leading volunteer fire companies in the county, both in terms of responses, number of qualified personnel, and in hours spent by members in continued training programs.
Since Mrs. Catherine L. O'Malley wrote the book "ODENTON" The town a Railroad Built", the Odenton Volunteer Fire Company has continued to work hard to guarantee that the critical goal set by its founders remains priority one - ensuring life safety for its community. In doing so, the fire company has since initiated aerial truck operations and rescue pumper operations. Moreover, the Odenton Volunteer Fire Company has retired the 1950 and 1957 FWD pumpers, and sold the 1969 and 1976 Seagrave pumpers. The operations fleet now consists of a 1984 Emergency-One 110 foot aerial ladder truck, a 1988 Seagrave 1250 GPM pumper, a 1993 E-ONE 1250 GPM rescue pumper, a 1998 Ford/Med-Tech Ambulance, a 1991 Ford LTD Chief\u2019s car, a 1984 CJ-7 Brush Jeep, and a 1990 Ford F-250 Utility Truck. The fire company takes great pride in the quality of emergency services it provides to the citizens of Anne Arundel County. In its normal progressive way, the fire company was one of the first in Anne Arundel County to equip a pumper with 5", large diameter hose and the first to put in service a rescue pumper. This one of a kind rescue pumper provides citizens with both fire fighting equipment such as hoses, ladders, and water, and rescue tools such as the "jaws of life", saws and ropes.
Today the fire company is focused on human resources and strategic planning. The fire company is actively recruiting and training a high powered volunteer force to meet the needs of the rapidly growing west county. In addition, the board of director and suppression officers held a history making management retreat at the National Fire Academy. This off-site enabled the officers to examine the fire company\u2019s strengths and weaknesses and to begin the process of developed a working strategic plan. The company has also completed a facilities expansion/renovation plan, and has kicked off a major fund raising program for these capital improvements.
The Odenton Volunteer Fire Company is a leader in Anne Arundel County. Its members are of the best trained and most dedicated, and as a result, prepared to face the challenges of the 21st century.