• Posted on 08 Apr 2011

Preserving Memories in Falmouth – from www.capecodtoday.com

Saving our history

Every day, the noise was like clockwork.  Actually, I guess it was clockwork in a way.  At 4PM, the fire whistle at the Fire Headquarters on Main Street would blow and be heard throughout the town.  Some days, I could hear it all the way from East Falmouth, as I walked past the funeral home on Davisville Road on my way to the Curtis compact for a 25 cent pack of gum.  In those days, a small fire station sat at the end of Davisville, at the lights where the gulf station is now.  That edifice today is an apartment building a little further east on Route 28.  You could set your watch to that fire whistle, and it is one of the childhood memories that created my Falmouth identity.

A 1930 Ahrens Fox fire engine.

I’ve chatted in this space before about the value – and signficiance – of memories like that and how they can keep us grounded and provide stability and a sense of place for future generations.  That is why I believe the initiative of Fire Deputy Glen Rogers to bring a restored 1930 Ahrens Fox fire engine, used in Falmouth until 1960, back home, is a grand idea that will provide new memories for generations of Falmouthites.

In a wonderful story in Tuesday’s Enterprise, scribe Brent Runyon brought the old engine back to life, highlighting the story of restoration expert Larry Powell of La Habra, California.  Mr. Powell acquired the then tired, old engine in 1980, and has spent the last thirty years restoring it with his son.  It is his hope that the engine will make the long trip back cross-country to its former duty station in Falmouth.

The story was accompanied by a picture of the engine as is looks today, and as it stood in service in 1930, with a virtual who’s-who of East Falmouth names standing around it, next to the old Station five.   When I hear names like Vidal and Rebello, I think East Falmouth.  When I hear names like Robbins and DeMello, I think Falmouth Fire.   Representatives of all of these Falmouth families were gathered proudly around the then pride of Falmouth Fire’s fleet.

Enter Glen Rogers.  Fireman red runs through his capillaries.  His dad, Jim, was Chief in Falmouth when that old whistle used to blow and knows a thing or two about Falmouth history.  It is no irony – but rather a fitting tribute to Chief Rogers and his son the Deputy – that the old Station five that used to be at the end of Davisville sits across from his boyhood home.   Deputy Glen has hatched the idea of adding Powell’s restored engine to a fleet of a couple of other antique fire vehicles in the town’s inventory and in service from as far back as 1897.  He’d like to showcase them as part of a local historical display to be enjoyed by residents and visitors alike.  What a fantastic idea.

Now enter the Community Preservation Committee (CPC).  Their charge, according to the Community Preservation Coalition, includes preservation of items, which are, “determined by the local Historic Commission to be significant in the history, archeology, architecture, or culture of the city or town. ”  This engine, its history and what it represents, and the historic display that could and would result from its acquisition, is not only significant in our town’s history, it would be a tangible and visible link to an era that is swiftly vanishing from our consciousness, as members of that greatest generation leave us.  The CPC in Falmouth has a great track record of supporting some wonderful projects.  This one has the potential to be added to the list.

This project is a rare opportunity for agencies in town to work together with a singular and positive purpose – to preserve something uniquely Falmouth for future Falmouthites.  I applaud Deputy Rogers for honoring his family tradition and his hometown heritage – and offer a hope and a nudge to the Community Preservation Committee to join with him in this endeavor to make some memories.

This column is reprinted from Falmouth Enterprise.