Polk fire company marks 50 years of service
Pleasant Valley Marching Band performs for the crowd gathered along Rt. 209 during Saturday’s parade to honor Polk Township Volunteer Fire Company’s 50th anniversary. Polk’s apparatus, other fire departments, local businesses, Getz Personal Care home, elected officials, sports teams and cheerleaders paraded from Pleasant Valley Intermediate to the firehouse. STACI L. GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Dylan Haydt, dressed as the department’s unofficial mascot, waves to parade watchers gathered in the lawn Saturday afternoon. Polk Township Volunteer Fire Company celebrated its 50th anniversary with a parade, ceremony and party. Visit tnonline.com to see the photo gallery. STACI L. GOWER/SPECIAL TO THE TIMES NEWS
Sirens sounded, horns honked, cheerleaders cartwheeled, a marching band played, and kids dove for candy as a parade rolled through Kresgeville Saturday afternoon.
Polk Township Volunteer Fire Company celebrated its 50th anniversary and invited everyone to its festivities.
“This is an exciting day for them. Volunteer fire departments do great things for our communities. They should be recognized,” said Lynn Roos, a Polk Township resident for 21 years, as she watched the parade on Polk Township Road.
The parade included Polk’s apparatus and trucks from neighboring departments, past fire chiefs and former fire company presidents, ladies auxiliary, classic cars carrying 50-year members, the Pleasant Valley High School Marching Band, Cub Scouts, residents from Getz Personal Care Home, local businesses, Polk’s township supervisors and elected officials, sport teams and cheerleaders.
“I like the firetrucks the best. This was kind of a surprise. The road was blocked off, so we came around here to watch,” said 12-year-old Koda Delarosa.
He and his father, Akhtar Hussain, are township residents who watched the parade from the parking lot of Cherry’s Sunset Diner.
Delarosa cheered and waved as various participants went by, and his father photographed it all. They scooped up plenty of treats.
When the parade ended, the apparatus and classic cars were parked so attendees could get a closer look and chat with the drivers.
“We could not have asked for a better day or a better turnout. We are very happy with how everything is going so far,” said Polk fire chief Billy Tippett as attendees gathered for a ceremony at the firehouse.
Those who served
Fire company chaplain Bill Campbell thanked God for 50 wonderful years and all the brave men and women that have been saving lives and properties here at Station 35.
Tippett introduced all the men who have served as chief over the years. President Aaron Keller, during his remarks, did the same for the former presidents.
Eddie Arnold, the first fire chief and one of the founding members, shared a heartwarming story about compassion he witnessed in three 4th grade girls during a fire prevention week event at Pleasant Valley.
Their classmate, Eric Murphy, was bound to a wheelchair, but they really wanted him to be the one who pulled the rope to sound the rescue truck’s air horn. Just like their teacher had done moments before, as she wore the full set of turnout gear.
“These three little girls tied their sweaters together to tie onto the rope. Eric did not have much strength, but he pulled that sweater rope and it sounded,” said Arnold. “I get choked up every time I tell that story. That is one experience I will never forget. It’s all about compassion.”
The early days
In the 1960s, Polk Township was covered by Towamensing and West End fire departments. Towamensing had stationed a truck in Jonas but was pulling it out of service.
“Our township supervisors knew we needed to have a fire department. In March 1969, we held a meeting at Jonas Hotel, where more than 65 people showed up and said they wanted to help start a fire department,” Arnold said.
Towamensing offered them the truck that had been parked in Jonas, and they purchased a second one from Quarryville for $500.
“We had two trucks and nowhere to park them,” he said.
They were housed in Dick Strausberger’s garage in the winter and sat outside during the summer. Strausberger served as the first fire company president.
Instead of the modern-day pager system with dispatch from Monroe County Control Center, they had a telephone system in four businesses and three homes.
“When one phone rang, they all rang. There was a button to push to sound the alarm,” said Arnold.
In August 1969, they purchased the six acres where the firehouse now stands.
Ray Brockmier and Arnold signed the loan for the firehouse through Palmerton 1st National Bank.
“We didn’t have much collateral, just two trucks and six acres,” he said.
The ladies’ auxiliary, which also formed in 1969, was made up of the firemen’s wives. They helped to raise money for the building.
The firehouse was built in 1971. The first major renovation was completed this spring.
“We still need help and we need volunteers,” she said.
She and four other women have paid their membership dues every year for the past 50 years. They have had numerous other women and some men join them in the kitchen and other fundraising pursuits.
Those in the line of duty have been busy with training, purchasing apparatus and gear, fundraising, maintaining the building and responding to calls.
“In 50 years, we have responded to thousands of emergencies inside Polk Township and outside it,” said Tippett. “We are fortunate to have our founding members with us to go to when we have questions.”
Arnold and Clarence Hawk received engraved clocks to commemorate their 50 years of fire service. Three founding members were honored with special awards, as were 50-year members of the auxiliary. Mary Lou Hawk, who started with the auxiliary, was honored as the first female firefighter.