The History of the Greene Dreher Volunteer Fire Association

Carroll Fetherman sent his remembrances regarding the formation of the Greene Dreher Volunteer Fire Association. Carroll stated that the idea of forming a volunteer fire company came about in 1913 when a farmer of the community lost his barn and all of his livestock to fire. Carroll said that according to his mother, his parents, Erd and Olive, his grandfather, Frank Fetherman, and others in the community contributed money to an account set up in the Hawley Bank to buy fire equipment. Over the years from 1913 to 1939 this account grew to around $1200.00 to $1500.00.

During communication between former school mates, F. Carroll Krautter and Cora Felton, who had moved to New Milford, the idea of acquiring a fire truck for this area was discussed. Cora, who was the borough secretary, apparently said that New Milford had a fire truck for sale. Carroll said that he was part of a group that included Jake Robacker, F. Carroll Krautter and Lorimer Brown, which went to New Milford to see a “second hand, workable, fire truck”. He reported that the demonstration went well except for a slight problem of getting a vacumn in the suction hose. They were told that it did need some new seals in the pump used in the priming process.

The group decided to buy the truck for around $1500.00. The firetruck was a 1929 Dodge with a front end 700 gallon Hale Centrifugal pump; Three lengths (36 feet) of suction hose; A 400 gallon holding tank, which provided water used in the priming procedure; a fog nozzle along with other nozzles; several connectors for odd threads on other 2 ½” hoses; and a lot of small items used in fighting fires.

The truck was stored in a shed that was attached to Jake Robacker’s Garage (now Litening Auto). Carroll said that Jake and his father, Ira, operated the first garage in Newfoundland.

The fire engine stayed at Robacker’s until Andy Dressler, who also bought Bert Smith’s Hotel and Bar, donated the lot from John Gilner’s store for a fire company building. (All these properties were where Cadosia Valley Lumber Mill is now located.)  Carroll said that there was an old shed about 150 feet long on that property.

With the acquisition of a fire truck and building…

it was time to create the fire company organization.  Meetings were held at the school, Haubert’s Theater and the Odd Fellows Hall.  When the firehouse was obtained, the trucks were moved out and the chairs set up and the meetings were held there. This was done until the new firehouse on Crestmont Drive was built in 1980. Money-making projects were discussed and held. Greene and Dreher township supervisors gave some money toward the expenses of forming the organization, as did some private citizens. The long process became the Greene Dreher Volunteer Fire Association in the spring of 1939.

Carroll commented that one of the methods used to train firefighters in the operation of the apparatus during the early years were contests between teams of fire company members. He said teams of 4 members were chosen to compete for the best time in driving the fire truck to the “old swimming hole”, setting up the apparatus to pump water and then pumping water from the pond through 2 ½” hose. At that time there was no fire siren, so phone calls were made to team members and the contests began. And the contest ended when the first team got from 10 to 20 pounds of pressure.

The spruce trees that are in the fire company grove today were planted during 1926 and 1927 by students of the vocational agricultural class of 1929 at the Greene Dreher School. The owners of the property at that time were Fred Ehrhardt and his son, Clarence. As this field was too wet to farm, the Ehrhardts asked Wilmer Frisbie, the Greene Dreher Vocational School agriculture teacher, if the Ag class could plant pine trees there. Some of these leftover trees were also planted by Fred Erhardt’s house and can be seen today on the left when you cross the bridge by the Newfoundland Post office.

Carroll wishes to thank the dozens of men and women who have worked to make the Greene Dreher Volunteer Fire Association what is has been over the years.

Becoming a Nonprofit Organization

In 1939, 65 citizens of Greene and Dreher Townships petitioned the Wayne County Court of Common Pleas to incorporate under the “nonprofit Corporation Law” of Pennsylvania. The corporation was named “The Greene Dreher Volunteer Fire Association”. The purpose of the GDVFA, as presented in the petition, was “to organize an association of volunteer firemen in Greene Township, Pike County and Dreher Township, Wayne County and surrounding territory for protection of property from fire to raise monies by dues, subscriptions, contributions and public events for the purchase and maintenance of fire fighting equipment, and real estate and buildings necessary to house equipment and provide meeting rooms for said organization”. The corporation charter was granted by Alfred E. Swoyer, President Judge, on April 15, 1939. The incorporators are listed as follows:

Russell E. Frey
Charles J. Frey
C.L. Beesecker
Charles Fowler
A.W. Keen
Lawrence Graser
Albert Sieg
Kenneth Sieg
Leonard Green
James Gilpin
Levine R. Robacker
Leroy W. Bartleson
Lawrence G. Simons
Robert Adams
A.H. Fosgreen
William B. Banks
Homer L. Gilpin
Oscar Olsommer
Robert Robacker
Schuyler L. Kase
Russell E. Low
Marvin F. Woltjen
A.V. Gillner
Don W. Walter
J.W. Akers
H.J. Akers
George Ehrhardt
Lorimer H. Brown
John M. Wolfe
Ray Madden
F.A. Madden
Stanley R. Peet
Samuel J. Smith

Orrin H. Barnes
Palmer F. Robacker
Jack M. Brown
Clifford A. Simons
Carroll Fetherman
Joseph Hause
Charles D. Smith
Ignatz Staph
Albert F. Simons
Kenneth Brink
Roberts W. Keen
Lyman Osborne
Harry Simon
Ed Schelbert
Charles A. Sieg
B.S. Banks
Floyd Webster
Floyd Robacker
A.S. Phillips
Francis G. Wall, Jr.
Robert W. Smith
William P. Heberling
Wallace A. Simons
Ray Friebele
Theo W. Sieg
Russell R. Brink
S. Elmore Haag
Joseph W. Hirshorn
A.H. Barnes
David B. Smith
George F. Ramble
A.F. Kramer

Records indicate that bylaws were adopted and printed in 1940.

The first fire truck acquired was a 1929 Dodge pumper. This pumper and a 1936 Ford tank truck were housed in Jake Robacker’s Garage (now Litening Auto) until 1947.

The first firehouse was erected on land acquired from Andrew and Anna Dressler, Edward and Antoinette Gudinas, and John and Kathryn Fueglein in 1947. It was located on Route 191 across from the Dreher Township Municipal building, where the parking lot for Cadosia Valley Lumber Company is now located. It served the fire company until 1980 when the present firehouse was completed. The old firehouse was sold in 1980 to an electric motor repair shop. Prior to being demolished it was an antique shop.

Officers elected for 1952 were:
President – Walter Steiger
Vice President – Wardell Robacker
Treasurer – Adam Hahn
Recording Secretary – Weldon Hector
Financial Secretary – William Evans
Fire Chief – Charles Ehrhardt
Assistant Chief – Stanley Peet
Electrician – L. Webster Gilpin, Sr.
Engineer – Jake Robacker
1st Assistant Engineer – Harold Peet
2nd Assistant Engineer – Robert Beehn
First Aid: Drs. Lupcho, Uridel and Christman

Minutes of fire company meetings from 1952 indicate that several members of the Fire Company and citizens of the community lent money to the fire company to build the original firehouse. The fire company, with the help of the Greene Dreher Fire Ladies Auxiliary, retired the last of the loans in 1955.

Bills for the fire company in January 1952 included: fuel oil $49.79; PP&L $6.83. The fire company was largely supported by a fire tax collected in Greene and Dreher Townships.

In 1954, the first new fire truck arrived in Newfoundland. Through a Federal Government Civil Defense program, the GDVFA was able to acquire a 1954 GMC General pumper. The fire truck cost $8,874.50 with half being paid by the federal government and half being paid by the fire company. Also during 1954, steps were taken to form the Promised Land Division of the Greene Dreher Volunteer Fire Association. Citing a need for fire protection equipment in that area, the Greene Dreher Volunteer Fire Association agreed to provide a trailer pumper and hose to the Promised Land area upon delivery of the new pumper in Newfoundland. The fire company also agreed to purchase a 1941 International truck to pull the trailer pumper.

Officers for the Promised Land Division in 1954 were:
Fire Captain – Alvin Luckey
Lieutenant – Roy Kistler
Drivers – Calvin Rose, Charles Price, Richard Weiland
Mechanics – Edgar Wilson and John Price
Electrician – Al Haldaman

At the January 1955 meeting Jake Robacker reported that there were 8 calls during 1954 and “we were very fortunate due to dry weather last fall”. One of the highlights of the year through the 1950’s and 60’s was the annual oyster supper the fire company members prepared for themselves on the meeting night that they elected officers which was usually in January or February.

During the April 1956 meeting, Carroll Fetherman asked for the fire company’s help in forming a Fair Association. He asked that 2 members attend future meetings. Bruce Banks and Weldon Hector agreed to do this.

In 1958 the fire company agreed to have 1000 adhesive labels printed with “at least 4 telephone numbers of firemen who operate the fire equipment” to be distributed throughout the community. Anyone needing the fire company would call one of these numbers to request help and the person who answered would then notify other firemen of the emergency. The first fireman to arrive at the firehouse would activate the siren and when a sufficient number of men arrived, they would respond. Today, some people think it takes too long for us to respond to a 911 call that we are all notified of via pager from the county communications center.

During 1959 the Promised Land Division was separated and became the Promised Land Volunteer Fire Company. The apparatus was returned from Promised Land and subsequently sold to the Ledgedale Volunteer Fire Company.

Officers for 1960 were:
President – Jake Robacker
Vice President – Stanley Peet
Treasurer – Bill Evans
Financial Secretary – Leon Schelbert
Recording Secretary – Emil Schoenagel, Jr.
Fire Chief – Charles Ehrhardt
Assistant Chief – Stanley Peet
Engineer – Jake Robacker
1st Assistant Engineer – Harold Peet
2nd Assistant Engineer – Robert Beehn
Electrician – L. Webster Gilpin, Sr.
First Aid: Drs. Lupcho, Uridel and Christman

The membership roster in 1960 showed 66 members, while only 10 to 15 members would show up at monthly meetings. Discussion of buying a new pumper started during 1960 and continued until 1965 when a new Hahn pumper, built on a Ford chassis, was delivered. It had a 750 gallon per minute pump and a 750 gallon water tank. This would be the “first out” apparatus until 1989.

Officers elected in 1970 were:
President – Harold Peet
Vice President – Edward Imbraglio
Treasurer – Bill Evans
Financial Secretary – J. Wesley Akers
Recording Secretary – Emil Schoenagel, Jr.
Fire Chief – Bill Evans
1st Assistant Chief – Stanley Gearhart
2nd Assistant Chief – Harold Peet
Engineer – Jake Robacker
1st Assistant Engineer – Web Gilpin, Sr.
2nd Assistant Engineer – Arthur Frey
Electrician – L. Webster Gilpin, Sr.

A New Era at GDVFA

The 1970’s ushered in a new era at the GDVFA. Younger men began to join the fire company and push for changes and improvements. In June of 1970 the fire company was complimented for its participation in marching in the May 30 Memorial Day Parade. The GDVFA established a single fire call number in May of 1972. 676-4444 became the number to call if you needed the fire company. This number could be answered on any of 4 telephones located in Jake Robacker’s house, Bill Evan’s store, Stanley Gearhart’s garage and at the firehouse. A relay switch would allow whoever received the call to activate the fire siren which would summon volunteers to the firehouse. Later that year a relay telephone system was devised so that whoever received the call would call several others who would, in turn, call other firefighters to notify them of the emergency.

Also, in the fall of 1972 a decision was made to purchase the first protective fire fighting clothing (fire coat, pants, helmet, boots and gloves) for our firefighters.

January 1973 brought new leadership to the fire company. Bill Sauerbrey was elected fire chief; Ed Imbraglio, 1st Assistant chief; and Jerry Obert, 2nd Assistant Chief. The Ladies Auxiliary was reactivated in May. The fire company also attracted some youthful members and organized them into a junior fire company. Self contained breathing apparatus was purchased in this year. It was reported that there were 30 calls during 1973. Members of the fire company conducted a coin drop on Rt. 191 in front of the fire house over Memorial Day weekend. Due to some problems with another fire company doing this, the State Police came and arrested several fire fighters for obstructing traffic because they were collecting coins from the middle of the road. In spite of this, the fire company raised $1072.00 that day.

During 1973, there was discussion of purchasing a new fire truck, but it was determined that the company couldn’t afford it. However, in June 1974 the GDVFA decided to purchase a used 1962 Ford C-1000 fuel truck to be converted to a tanker – our first lime green fire truck. The truck had a 3300 gallon tank and a pump and other equipment were added to it. It was put into service early in 1975. Also, during this time period, Dutch Butler donated a 1964 Ford truck chassis to the fire company. The tank from the 1936 Ford was removed and reinstalled on this chassis. This truck would continue to serve as a brush fire response truck until the early 1980’s.

As time went, changes were made in the fire telephone system. Fire phones, as they were called, were moved to Gilpin’s Drug Store, The Newfoundland Hotel (operated by Bernie and Iris Rath and later by Buck Seagraves and family),and Herb Peet’s house, while the fourth phone remained in Jake Robacker’s house.

During 1974, there were 29 calls – 2 electrical fires, 10 brush fires, 8 house fires, 9 auto fires. My, how things have changed! In 2006, there were 282 calls. Of interest is the fact that most of the calls are now motor vehicle accident related. There are not many more actual structure fires today than there were in 1974.

The community committee formed to plan the 1976 Bicentennial Celebration asked for the fire company to handle visiting fire companies that came for the parade. The fire company decided to have an open house and sell beer and refreshments. A one day beer license was obtained from the state. This was the beginning of what has become our annual Firemen’s Picnic which is held around the 4th of July each year. The mid–70’s was a busy time for the fire company. Soup sales were held twice a year with George Rettstadt making the soup with the help of the firemen and ladies auxiliary members. Weekly Bingo was started in the firehouse in warm weather and at Rebecca Hall in cold weather. This was done because the fire trucks had to be parked outside during Bingo at the firehouse. The fire company held raffles, worked with the American Legion on the Annual Carnival and continued to work on various fundraising activities at the GDS Fair.

After looking at various options, the GDVFA decided to purchase 6 acres of land on Crestmont Drive from F. Carroll and Kathryn Krautter to be used as the site for a new firehouse. The existing firehouse sat on a little more than ½ acre of land with no room for expansion. The 4 fire trucks were jammed into the building and the kitchen and restrooms were inadequate for any type of fundraising activities. The land to be purchased included a grove of spruce trees that could be utilized as a picnic grove. This was the beginning of a 4 year project to complete a new firehouse.

Noting the success of the July 4th Open House in 1976 and the potential of the spruce grove on the new firehouse site, the members decided to have a firemen’s picnic over the July 4th weekend in 1977. There was a beehive of activity in the grove on work nights and on weekends to prepare for the picnic. Over the next several years small areas of the grove were carefully cleared and stands were erected using dead trees that had been removed from the grove. The grove evolved into a picnic area that the members are quite proud off. The Picnic has been held each year since 1977.

Construction of the new firehouse began in 1978. Pocono Construction Company of Paupack was awarded the contract to erect a 60’ x 120’ steel building. They would provide a complete shell with a concrete floor. The fire company members would do the electrical and plumbing work and complete construction of kitchen, restrooms and office area. W.F. Garing Company of Honesdale would install heating and air conditioning equipment. Members and others worked to haul and grade fill in order to raise the ground level on the building site. The new firehouse was completed in the spring of 1980. The building was constructed at a cost of $145,500.00 plus hundreds of man hours put in by members and others who volunteered their time and talents. An Open House and dedication was held on Sunday, April 27, 1980. Speakers who offered comments were Willis Gilpin, Pike County Commissioner and Don Olsommer, Wayne County Commissioner. The Ladies Auxiliary presented a check for $5000.00 to the fire company toward the building costs. Over 200 people attended the affair.

Officers in 1980 were:
President – Ted Nakielny
Vice President – Allen D. Shiffler
Secretary – Roger Altemier
Financial Secretary – J. Wesley Akers
Treasurer – Jim Lee
Fire Chief – Jerry Obert
1st Assistant Chief – Dave Altemier
2nd Assistant Chief – Jim Wasylyk
Engineer – Ron Altemier
Assistant Engineers – Carroll Krautter, Dave Carr, Doug Krautter
and Jim Lee
Captain – Don Shepard
Lieutenant – Jeff Head
47 calls were reported in 1981.

With the firehouse completed more effort was put into the grove. A roof for the dance floor was constructed and stands were improved. Also, the fire company was able to turn its attention to updating its equipment. During the 1980’s 2 new pumper fire trucks were acquired and 2 tankers were updated.

In 1982, the GDVFA accepted delivery of a new 1982 Ford/Amthor pumper. It had 1000 gallon per minute pump and 1000 gallon water tank. The fire company also purchased 1000 feet of 5” large diameter fire hose. This fire truck would replace the 1954 GMC General and be used primarily as a supply pumper. A major step toward improving communication and fire response time was taken in 1982. Pagers were purchased for active firefighters. Through the use of call forwarding, our emergency calls would now be answered at the Wayne County Communication Center and they would activate the pagers to notify firefighters. The acquisition of new equipment during this period was made possible by a new state program where volunteer fire companies could borrow money at 2% interest.

The first firemen’s parade was held in 1982 as part of the Firemen’s Picnic on July 4th weekend.

In 1984, the GDVFA purchased a new 1984 Ford chassis and installed a previously acquired used 2000 water gallon tank on it.

In 1987, the GDVFA retired the 1962 Ford tanker. The tank and pump were removed and installed on a used 1979 Mack tandem chassis. This created a reliable tanker that is still in service.

In the fall of 1989, the GDVFA accepted delivery of a new pumper which was built by Emergency Equipment, Inc. The pumper has a 1250 gallon per minute pump, 750 gallon water tank, 6 man cab, and space to carry all the necessary fire fighting equipment. This truck replaced the 1965 Ford as the first out apparatus for fire calls. The cost for the new fire truck was $135,000.00 – almost 10 times the cost of the truck it replaced.

50 Years of Service

The delivery of the new fire truck coincided with the celebration of 50 years of service to the community by the GDVFA. An Open House was held at the firehouse on October 22, 1989. 8 charter members were alive at that time. Commemorative mugs were presented to S. Elmore Haag, Carroll Fetherman, James Gilpin, J. Wesley Akers, Leroy Bartleson, Leonard Green, Robert Robacker and Harry Simon. Presentations recognizing 50 years of service were presented by Representative Fred Belardi on behalf of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives, and Russ Guntin, assistant to State Senator Charles Lemmond on behalf of the Pennsylvania Senate. Other honored guests who spoke included State Representative Jerry Bermelin, Wayne County Judge Robert Conway, Wayne County Commissioners Tony Herzog and Don Olsommer.

The GDVFA Ladies Auxiliary presented a check for $10,000.00 to help pay for the new truck. Major contributors to the special fire truck fund drive were recognized – Blueberry Hill, Neil and Phyllis Biscardi, Camp Pocono Ridge, George Clauss, Devereux Foundation, Dutch’s Market, First National Bank of Lake Ariel, Frank’s Drug Store, Greene Dreher sterling Fair Association, Gumble Brothers, Inc., Hamlin Truck and Body Company, Carroll and Dawn Krautter, Bill and Diane Hiller, Theodore and Lurene Nakielny, Northeastern Bank, Newfoundland Hotel, Newfoundland Rotary Club, The Sterling Inn, John and Kate Napolitano, and Art and Gail Frey. The celebration continued with a demonstration of the new fire truck, a buffet luncheon and dance in the evening.

The scope of the fire company’s activity expanded during the 1980’s. The fire company started responding to auto accidents to provide road washdowns. The Newfoundland Area Ambulance Association acquired the Jaws of Life with the help of the Newfoundland Rotary Club, the GDVFA and other community organizations. There were many discussions in the 1980’s as to whether the fire company should get involved in the rescue business. As time went on more firefighters were trained to run the “jaws”. Eventually, it evolved to the point that firefighters were responding to all motor vehicle accidents and handling all aspects of vehicle rescue. This led to the discussion in 1993 to acquire a rescue pumper. This truck would be built to carry the “Jaws of Life’ and other rescue equipment and be equipped to fight motor vehicle fires as well as other firefighting uses. The new truck, manufactured by Kovatch Mobile Equipment in Nesquehoning, Pa., is on a 1993 International Chassis with a 5 man cab, 1000 gallon per minute pump and 500 gallon water tank. The cost of which was $135,000.00. The GDVFA later replaced the “Jaws of Life” with a new, more advanced, and lighter weight, hydraulic rescue tools from Homatro Rescue Equipment.

1991 Officers were:
President – David Carr
Vice President – Bryan Wasylyk
Secretary – Sandy Levier
Assistant Secretary – John Kilpatrick, Jr.
Treasurer – Gary Gardsy
Fire Chief – David Altemier
1st Assistant Chief – Allen Shiffler
2nd Assistant Chief – Roger Altemier
Chief Engineer – Tom Hettes
Assistant Engineers – Stanley Marhefka, Jerry Obert, Carl Smith
and Pete Mulcahy
First Aid Officer – Bryan Wasylyk
Air Supply Officer – Dave Elders

The GDVFA has worked continuously to try to keep up with changing times and changing needs in the community. The focus of the fire company evolved from just answering fire calls to responding to motor vehicle accidents, automatic alarms and community service calls, as well. Great strides were made from the early 70’s through the 90’s as a new firehouse was built and new fire fighting equipment was acquired. The members of the fire company and auxiliary found more ways to raise much needed funds. The number of members has gone up and down over the years. Some members have remained active for years while others went on to other interests. A common refrain down through the years as various activities were discussed is that “there was not enough help”, “only a few people showed up to help”, etc. The same questions that came up in the 1960’s are still coming up now – “Can we afford it? How are we going to pay for it? How many members are going to help?” But, the fire company has persevered; in some cases making commitments some members felt could not be fulfilled. The plan to update the firefighting apparatus, which started in the early 1980’s, has been relatively successful. By adopting and maintaining the fire tax over the years the Dreher Township Supervisors have been instrumental in helping the fire company achieve that goal. However, it is becoming more difficult each year to keep up.

In 2003, the GDVFA acquired a new KME – International Supply pumper to replace the 1982 Ford. This truck, a basic pumper without a lot of equipment, cost $165,000.00. It will soon be time to replace our 1989 pumper – a replacement that will cost $275,000.00 +. And, the question will be asked again “How we are going to pay for it?”