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Late 1940s, early 1950s bring equipment upgrades to W.V.F.D. PDF Print E-mail
Written by Wauneta Breeze   
Thursday, 06 January 2011 17:03

By Tina Kitt

The Wauneta Breeze


A new fire engine, new water and sewer infrastructure projects plus the recent acquisition of the local electrical company helped the small town of Wauneta transition into the 1950s in top form.

Electrical service was also being spread to rural areas surrounding Wauneta, adding to the exciting strides of modernity being made and visible as the countryside began to light up.

In September of 1946 two members of the Wauneta Fire Department travelled to Kansas City to procure the Dodge truck from the U.S. Surplus in Kansas City and had it equipped as a fire truck. The rig was used for several decades.

An account in the Oct. 3, 1946, issue of the Wauneta Breeze reads:

“Arnold Cowles and D.T. Thompson flew to Kansas City last week for the express purpose of purchasing for the city a new fire truck to take the place of the outmodeled number that has been used for a number of years. According to the men who made the trip it takes more than cash to buy a fire truck and by the time they were through with the board and other forms of red tape that seemed necessary to make the deal, they were about ready to come home and settle for a little red wagon.

“At any rate they arrived home with a new truck that has many conveniences and improvements over the old one and room for equipment that is necessary in case of fire. It is a good looker and many have been down to the city building looking it over.”

The new truck was stored in the Municipal Building, built in 1935, which contained “a garage for the fire truck, office, jail room and toilets.”

In the spring of 1949 Wauneta’s “Town Dads” got serious about making sure to do what they could to prevent the destructive forces of fire from destroying downtown buildings and businesses.

In March 1949 an ordinance was passed to amend town codes stating:

“Every building hereafter erected, repaired, enlarged or added to, within in the fire limits of the Village of Wauneta, shall be enclosed on all sides with walls constructed wholly of incombustible materials.”

Work on Enders Dam 8 miles to the west hit a brisk pace from 1949 to 1950, with the fill process initiated in October of 1950. With the new dam would come not only irrigation development but recreational opportunities like boating and swimming.

In August 1951 the Wauneta Volunteer Fire Department, with thoughts to their added role as a rescue squad, purchased a respirator, offering it for use by community members for a number of health purposes.

“The machine, designed to aid in cases of drowning, monoxide gas, smoke, electrical shock and lightning, suffocation and polio, provides a new safety much needed by any community. The service is planned to be offered free to anyone who might need it.”

The new piece of equipment also offered peace of mind to department members who had experienced first hand the misery of smoke inhalation. It could be used as a resuscitator, inhalator or as an aspirator.

The 1951 article notes there had been several cases in the past when WVFD members have had their lungs filled with smoke. “Even though a small quantity of smoke is not deadly, a breath of oxygen from the resuscitator aids greatly in relieving burning lungs and nausea.”

In an attempt to shore up department numbers, members didn’t white-wash the job description in seeking to fill six vacant spots on the department roster in 1952. A recruitment ad signed by officers Harry Ziegler, president, Floyd Wade, chief, and R.O. Cowles, secretary states: “We can almost guarantee that you will ruin some of your clothes, maybe your best suit — also that some of your social activities will be suddenly interrupted.

“You’ll probably be called out of your nice cozy bed in sub-zero weather — also away from a delicious meal when you are just getting started good, and many other nasty things.

“And to top it all, the pay is terrible at times — no money at all — sometimes a good cussing for dirtying up a house or getting things wet, etc. And again, a small thanks other times. It’s nice when you get a big thanks and you know they mean it.

“Between and betwixt the aforementioned times, we do enjoy ourselves and have nice meetings and a few sociable get togethers.”