History of Reserve Mines Volunteer Fire Department
To cover in a few words the history of an organization for a period of eighty-three years, is almost impossible. We are bound to leave out events and omit names which should be included. We have tried to touch upon the highlights of the Reserve Mines Fire Department since its inception on April 21st, 1934.
When the community of Reserve Mines was ravaged by the fire which destroyed Gordon United Church Hall, A.D. Munroe's combined barbershop and dwelling, the village jail and the caretaker's quarters, it became evident that there was an absolute necessity for establishing some sort of a firefighting organization.
Taking an active part in organizing the Reserve Mines Fire Department were two well-known local citizens, who have both since passed away. They were V.E. Bert, the well-known community leader and garage man, and Michael MacLeod, the then Councillor of the district. These men called a meeting of the elite citizens of Reserve Mines to deal with this pressing problem. The gathering was held in the old A.O.H. Hall which for many years was a landmark in the community. It was situated at Lorway Corner but was torn down to make way for a service station.
At the meeting, a Citizen's Committee was appointed, charged with the organization of a volunteer fire department. The original members of that committee consisted of the late Mr. Bert, J.T. McLeod, William Gouthro, D.M. McMillan and Joseph Blanchard, popularly known as Joe Blanche.
The Reserve Mines Fire Department was formed April 21st, 1934. The first slate of officers of the Department were elected as follows: Honorary Chief, Councilor Michael McLeod; Executive Chief, V.E. Bert; Chief, Fred Bert; Deputy Chief, Raymond Gallant; Secretary, Louis Cohen; Treasurer, W.R. Munroe. The Executive Members consisted of the following: Raymond Gallant, William R. Munroe, Sam Gouthro, Rod Walker, Art McKenzie and Dan McPhee. It is interesting to note that the Chief, Deputy Chief and Treasurer held their offices continuously during the first twenty-five years. The same is true of the Executive Members, Sam Gouthro and Rod Walker.
The Department held it's early meetings in the A.O.H. Hall and permission was granted by the Dominion Coal Company to use the Company's fire hose and hand reels.
The year 1936 was an important year in the history of the fire department. It was in that year that the fire station, located at the corner of Rear Main Street and Main Street, was erected through the untiring efforts of the Citizens’ Committee and the Fire Department, spearheaded by the then Councillor, the late Alex Campbell. This building contained the engine room, the fireman’s meeting hall, the jail, and quarters for caretaker of the building. Looking after the 1936 engine was Rod F. MacDonald, who was succeeded by Michael MacDonald who, years later, was to give great distinction to the Fire Department by being elected to the legislature of Nova Scotia. During the same year, 1936, uniforms were procured for the firemen and the costs for the same were met for the most part by the members themselves. It might be mentioned here that in 1948 new uniforms were purchased and the costs for the same were shared jointly by the Department and the members.
In 1944, accident insurance was purchased to cover all members. The premiums for this insurance coverage were paid by the individual firemen.
In 1956, a new fire engine was procured and was named “The Rod A. Campbell” in honor of Mr. Rod A. Campbell who was then Councillor of the District. The Captain of Engine Company and caretaker of the engine was Donald Stewart.
In the beginning of the Department’s existence, it was necessary to appeal to the citizens of Reserve Mines and nearby areas for financial assistance. Deductions were made for this purpose through the Dominion Coal Company’s pay office, however, in the mid 50’s, the finances required to maintain the engines and to purchase modern equipment were raised by the Department itself. This was done through such events such as: yearly social functions which were called “At Homes”, fall fairs, card games, social evenings, managing of a skating rink, boxing tournaments, amateur shows, etc.
The history of the Department would not be complete if we did not mention the wonderful and experienced help and advice given to us by George Alexander, who was the fire chief at the RCAF Station at Reserve Mines during the war. Mr. Alexander spared no effort to give to our members the benefit of his great experience. In 1945, the Department presented Mr. Alexander and his wife with a gold watch and silver tray at a banquet attended by the firemen.
The Department has maintained an exceptionally excellent relationship with the fire departments of Glace Bay and Dominion. In the early days of our existence the Department was given valuable instruction by the late Godfrey Gibson and the late John Murphy, at that time Chief and Deputy Chief of the Glace Bay Fire Department. Stanley Scott, another Chief of the Glace Bay Fire Department, had on numerous occasions given the benefit of his training and experience in firefighting and in draeger rescue work.
It might be fitting at this moment to pay a truly deserved tribute to the communities of Reserve Mines and Gardiner Mines for its wholehearted assistance at all times.
Our thoughts, of course, always go back to those men and women of our Department who have passed away and whose memory we honor.