The Westboro Fire Department recently honored Jim Morrison, an original firefighter. A shirt was presented to Jim that reads, “Last of the Originals.” Pictured are, from left to right, Alan McNaughton, Jim Morrison and Jim Quimby. Morrison is wearing his 164th Infantry WWII cap and a WWII Veterans jacket. His family also attended the presentation. “Thank you, Jim, for the many emergencies you assisted with.” (Submitted by Beverly Clinkingbeard)
By Beverly Clinkingbeard
Waiting for a fire truck seems forever as flames steadily make way to destruction. In reality, being rural, emergency crews arrive as quickly as possible and it is in minutes, not hours.
According to the records, in January 1949, the Westboro Lions Club was instrumental in calling a meeting at Westboro School and the community began considering the possibility of fire protection. There were 42 in attendance and a speaker explained how to organize a rural fire district. The vote was unanimous to proceed with plans to establish the Westboro Rural Fire Truck Association.
They knew they would need at least $8,000 to start. They would need a constitution, by-laws and elected officers. To fund this undertaking, it was decided to sell shares to the community, $50.00 per person or business. They accepted donations too and an annual Fireman’s Ball (no longer active) was established as a fundraiser.
There would be a rep-resentative from each school district who would explain the plan and canvas their neighborhoods to buy shares. From Hazel Grove would be Fred Beck and Albert Rolf; from Eureka District, Raymond Huston, Roy Matheny, and Ed Collins; from Enterprize, John Ebert, Jake Fetcher, Harry Johnson; from Tarkio Valley, Kyle Green and David Flack; from Bartlett (Center Grove), Ralph Chambers and Keith Bolton; from Waldon Grove, J.W. Harris and Ernest Johnson; from Clover Hill, Sam Jones and Harry Mier; from Westboro, Dr. Jim Jones, Robert Tucker, Luke Mathers, Henry Beckman, and Bert Norton; from Moulton, Lloyd Smith; from North Star, Ora “Doc” Noble, Lester Ebert, and Grant Klute; from Emporia, Harry Rolf and Grover Hurley; from Cyclone, Ralph Roberts and Tommy McEnaney; from Morning Sun, George Laur and Sam Rolofson; from Yale, Harry Broermann; and from South Dale, Albert Pelster, Gus Rolf, Bill Vette, and Clarence Hull.
By March, the newly formed fire service had half of their projected monies and it was time to consider the fire truck itself and who would man it. Todd Macrander was elected president (his farm home had burned earlier, and he and the neighbors had been ill equipped to fight the fire). Dean Tiemann was elected vice-president and the directors were Fred Beck, J.W. Harris and Ed Tiemann. By January 1950, they took possession of a 1946 Chevrolet chassis and at a cost of $6,275.25. It was loaded with: a 350 gallon water tank, two booster reels with 150’ hose each, portable pump unit, 10’ ladder, drench “wet water” (a chemical that penetrated hay or grain fires), 15 lb. carbon dioxide extinguisher, 600’ 2” hose, crowbar, 100’ garden hose, one 30’ extension ladder, one roof aluminum ladder, Indian brand firefighter equipment, 12 buckets, pike pole, and an axe. Westboro was ready when the fire siren blew.
One of the original firemen was Jim Morrison. He was recently recognized by the fire department and given a shirt that read “Last of the Originals.” At the presentation to Mr. Morrison, a few remembrances were offered:
• The telephone central ladies, Mary [Todd] Macrander or Carolyn Brewer (the telephone office was across the street from the original firehouse), dashed out to tell firemen where the fire was.
• Other laughable moments remembered included the fireman who lost his pants while hanging on the back of the fire truck.
• Then there was the time the fire truck hit a pothole on Main Street and blew a tire on the way to a fire.
• The most dangerous fire Morrison recalled was of buildings burning near a large tank filled with fuel.
In April 1969, the volunteer fire department voted to replace their 1946 fire truck. Harry Wright Motors in Tarkio, Missouri, was the low bidder and a 1968 Ford fire truck was purchased. There is no mention in the minutes as to final cost of outfitting the truck, but it is still in use today, not as a fire truck, but with a blade on the front. It pushes snow off the streets of Westboro.
Over the years, maintaining fire service subscriptions was difficult, as subscribers moved, died, or there were tenant changes for businesses and farms. In August 1973, the volunteer fire department voted to change their name to the Westboro Fire District and rather than have subscribers, there would now be a tax solicited by the county on everyone’s tax bill within the district. Boundaries of service were made and agreements with other towns for receiving and giving assistance were also established. This made for a steadier income and fairer fire coverage, since everyone wanted it, but not everyone paid for it.
In 1980, the fire department built a 4-bay garage to park their trucks and house their equipment.
In 2007, a new International fire truck, with fire blazes across the front and the United States Flag on the sides, replaced the 1968 Ford. At the time it was ordered, the specified fire blazes on the front concerned a director who wondered at spending taxpayer funds that way. However, when the truck arrived and cruised by the waiting audience, with Old Glory emblazoned on the side, the comment was, “Beautiful truck.”
Today, 2021, Ronnie Bruce is fire chief and Christopher “Chic” Stevens is assistant fire chief. There are 18 volunteer firemen and added to the International pumper truck is a new 3,000 gallon quad cab all-terrain pumper tank wagon equipped for grass fires. It has front nozzles that spray water ahead and on each side. The nozzles are operated by the driver using a joy stick. There are two bus water trucks, and they can arrive at a fire with 48,000 gallons of water, as well as up-to-date equipment. Training on equipment use is as on a needed basis, with safety first focus for personnel at a fire. Alan McNaughton has served for 50 years and says he’s strictly a driver these days. Jim Quimby is also a long-time volunteer, as is Donald Lee Martin, who with Jim Morrison (an original member of the first fire crew) are honorary and retired volunteers.
Now, a word of thanks to the volunteers: A fire is no respecter of day or night, be it bad or good weather! When a call comes, they go. The writer, having been subjected to two fires that imperiled her home (though the fires were not in the home), can personally speak to the need for adequate fire protection. When a fire is hot, to hear that siren coming down the road is pure music.”
’Til next time….
(Rhonda Macrander Schultz contributed information to this article, as did Alan McNaughton.)