OPINION: End of an era for South Meriden Volunteer Fire Department

OPINION: End of an era for South Meriden Volunteer Fire Department

I’m so old … (voices: “How old are you?”) … I’m so old that I remember a time when teenage kids were expected to mow the lawn in summer and shovel the driveway in winter. It’s possible that this sort of child abuse still occurs, now and then, here and there (unless OSHA or DCF forbids it; I’m not really sure), but I haven’t actually witnessed such a thing in a long time. I assume this means that kids nowadays stay indoors at all times, texting each other or playing video games, while the manual labor gets done by outside contractors like the lawn guy and the plow guy, who make quick work of those tasks.

I’m also so old … (“How old are you?”) … that I remember a time when fathers like mine would think nothing of doing an oil change and some simple repairs on the family car, in the family garage. (One time, when Dad and Uncle Paul were bleeding the brakes on Paul’s 1961 Thunderbird, my job was to sit in the driver’s seat and pump the brake pedal as directed.) Nowadays, though, you’d need an engineering degree or two to do anything more complicated than topping off the wiper fluid; everything else requires the services of lab-coat-clad certified technicians with computers and clipboards.

In other words, lots of activities that used to be do-it-yourself have been professionalized. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, but it’s certainly a thing, and a certain amount of nostalgia is unavoidable.

So it is with the South Meriden Volunteer Fire Department, which has a long and proud history, with lots of loyal support from residents of the Village since 1908. That’s the year when, after two major fires, a group of men gathered at the Odd Fellows Hall and organized the SMVFD. The department acquired its first motorized fire truck in 1915, and its own fire house in 1917. A bigger truck, costing $3,700, was bought in 1923, with villagers raising money for that purpose. 

And sad as it is to see such a well-loved institution officially cease to exist, here’s hoping that Village tradition lives on in spirit, even now that the South Meriden Volunteer Fire Department has been merged into the Meriden Fire Department as Station 6.

This change may come as a shock to some people, but it’s no surprise; Meriden Fire Chief Ken Morgan and others have been working on the transition for years. The advantages of uniting the departments, said Morgan — who is also serving as acting city manager — will include greater continuity in training, emergency response and service, and perhaps some long-term savings as well, by eliminating duplication of certain functions.

The fact of the matter, according to the National Volunteer Fire Council, is that recruitment and retention have long been problems for lots of volunteer departments: “The population of communities served by volunteers is both shrinking and aging. … The pool of potential recruits that volunteer departments have to draw from is smaller than it used to be.”

Things in the Village won’t be the same as before, of course. But what is, nowadays?

Reach Glenn Richter at grichter@record-journal.com.


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