Watching the 200-year-old firetruck named “Old Forgotten” travel the route of the 2015 Bethel Memorial Day Parade down Greenwood Avenue, on May 17, 2015, had to bring back memories to the elder residents of Bethel CT.
Report and Photography by Paula Antolini
May 23, 2015 11:10AM EDT
Bethel Fire Dept. ‘Old Forgotten’ 200-Year-Old Hand-Pumped Fire Engine Proudly Displayed in 2015 Bethel Memorial Day Parade
Watching the 200-year-old firetruck named “Old Forgotten” travel the route of the 2015 Bethel Memorial Day Parade down Greenwood Avenue, on May 17, 2015, had to bring back memories to the elder residents of Bethel CT. In days of old it took twenty fire fighters to pull the hand-pumped fire engine, now towed on a trailer by a modern Bethel Fire Department SUV, with a celebratory banner on the back. After the parade ended it was also touching to see a group of Bethel firefighters lovingly return the apparatus back to the Bethel Fire Department, and unload it carefully from the trailer to its present home in the “Bethel Historical Firefighter Museum.” There you can get a closer look at not only this antique, but three rooms filled with firefighter antiques and ephemera.
Directly after the Bethel Memorial Day Parade, the Bethel Fire Department, located at 36 South Street, #38, in Bethel CT, held an Open House inside the fire house where fire trucks and apparatus are normally stored but moved for the gathering. Food and refreshments were generously served and tables and chairs were placed at one end of the fire house with both garage doors opened, that produced a welcome pleasant breeze gently blowing through on the warm weather day.
As an extra special treat, the Bethel Historical Firefighters Museum was open too, located behind the Bethel Fire Department, where thousands of fire department treasures lie. If you’ve never been there, be sure to visit. The assortment of museum pieces, expertly displayed, was a treat for the eyes.
Walter Dugdale, a firefighter for 50 years, and Richard Reynolds, a firefighter for 42 years, both with the with the Bethel Fire Department, chatted with Bethel Advocate and were extremely knowledgeable about the firefighters’ historical collections. We were given a personal tour by Dugdale, that was absolutely delightful. You could see the love and dedication that went onto the creation of this exhibit, much of it maintained by Dugdale.
Dugdale rang an antique fire department bell as we entered the museum, the first room being a mere hint of what’s to come in two more rooms. It held unique treasures like an antique life net, antique hooks on long poles used to “pull down walls in a fire,” Dugdale said, antique wheels, and numerous old fire fighter photos.
As we entered the center room of the museum we were greeted by two large pieces of antique apparatus used to haul hoses, surrounded by shelves and shelves of antique firefighter gear and other objects, such as rows of antique helmets, miniature fire trucks, fire alarm boxes, an antique switchboard,and antique communication devices.
The second room held another large fire engine apparatus, along with firefighter badges made of metal and fabric, an antique wooden fire truck, firefighter-themed decanters, and much ephemera such as vintage illustrations and advertising. Of special interest was the “Darktown Fire Brigade” series of antique prints by Currier and Ives. There were more old photos of fires and firefighters that make you want to remain in the museum all day viewing those, just fascinating.
The firefighters later removed the antique apparatus named “Old Forgotten,” from the trailer that hauled it in the Bethel Memorial Day Parade earlier in the day, and brought it into the museum with gentle care.
This museum exists on donations and the kindness of Dugdale and Reynolds and other Bethel Fire department members who have kept it going. It is a creation to be proud of. They used to do fundraising by selling hot dogs at the Redding Antique Tractor Show, said Reynolds, but not anymore. In fact, they really haven’t done much fundraising lately, he said.
The Bethel Historical Firefighter Museum… another hidden treasure and another reason we love Bethel. Pay them a visit.
View photos below….