Archive 2008 - 2019

One Year Ago Today:Fire Engine 3 - The Early Days

by Fred Bray

It was a bright, sunny but very dry and windy day in early May, 1950, when a gentleman in Ashland decided to burn brush in his back yard. Not a good decision. In no time the fire was in the woods, skipping along completely out of control on a stiff breeze heading towards Holliston, roughly parallel to Ashland Street.
The first line of defense for The Holliston Fire Department was Cedar Street, which at the time was a dirt road. Providentially there were no houses, only a Boy Scout camp at the top of the hill near the town line.

Engine 2, East Holliston Engine 3 and a brush truck went up
Cedar Street and started laying hose. Fire Chief Frank Locke and Clarence Gates, Captain East Holliston Engine 3, ran up the hill from Ashland Street and told the crews to pull the trucks out, the fire was bearing down on them, and there was no way to stop it. Just in the nick of time they backed the trucks out.  No one was hurt, but they lost a lot of hose and equipment.
The blaze came down the hill, still parallel to Ashland Street, and jumped Concord Street. Unabated it went up the north/south ridge where the New Englander Industrial Park is now located. It continued through the scrubby oak, across Jennings Road, through the old quarry works and down the easterly slope of the ridge. It was finally stopped in the swampy area near the railroad tracks and Brook Street, more precisely, at the back steps of Johnny Griggs' house.
Save for scorching the tarpaper on the Boy Scout camp at the top of Cedar Street, no dwellings were damaged. Of course the landscape circa 1950 in East Holliston was wilderness compared to 2009.
East Holliston Engine 3 at the time of the fire was a 1930 Model AA 1 ton Ford with a CD pump and some cobbled up gear and hose that Punk Gates had put together. Indeed, on the way to the fire the choke linkage fell off, and with Roy Hulbert driving' Loring Lovewell rode on the right front fender holding the choke open!
The boys of Engine 3 decided they needed a new or at least a "newer" truck. The company consisted of the aforementioned Clarence “Punk” Gates, Captain, Loring “Lonnie” Lovewell, Roy Hulbert, also Carlton “Blinky” Morgan, Hubert “Bert” Gates’ Bob and Emory Payne and my father Fred Bray, known as “Uncle Willie” by the six Turner Brothers, his nephews.  But I digress.
Anyhow the newer truck started out life as an Ober Express Company 1941 11/2  Ford Truck with a two speed rear end. The cargo body had been burned off but the cab and running gear were OK.  They paid $150 for it. For the next year the truck was rebuilt at Gates Garage, which is now the Keystone Automotive Building next to Dunkin’ Donuts. History- wise before it was Gates Garage, it was a trolley barn and came right out to Washington Street Engine 3 met on Monday nights (which it still does some 60 years later). Using Punk’s tools, torches, electricity and space the fire truck took shape. 50% of the time was spent putting the truck together, 50% of the time was spent by eight fire truck "engineers" ranting and raving about how it should be designed.
The result can be seen in the photograph. For the princely sum of $630.00 the boys of East Holliston presented Holliston with a fire truck that served the town faithfully for 18 years, which works out to $35.00 year.  Not a bad deal!

From left to right in the photo are Bert Gates, Punk Gates, Blinky Morgan, Fred Bray and Lonnie Lovewell.  If you look very carefully you will see John Lovewell sitting in the cab.
The location may look familiar. The Gates House is in the middle right background.  The road is Washington Street looking north toward East Holliston corner, and the extreme left hand building is the Dunkin’ Donuts site. The photo was taken May 5, 1951 by Bob Peters, a Holliston resident who free lanced for Framingham News.
Loring Lovewell is the last of the gang still with us.  He served as a selectman for 15 years and has done much for the town in his 89 years. Very special thanks to my uncle for sharing these memories.
The Clarence W. Gates fire station is located directly behind Keystone Automotive, and the current Engine 3 is domiciled there. Mike Curnyn is Captain, Dan Moulton is Lieutenant. Bob Christensen, Keith McKeown, Steve Micelotti, Jim Moore, Jim Rossini and Peter Hill (serving in Iraq) fill out the company. Clarence Gates surely deserves a very special place in Holliston history for his town service in many capacities.  He footed the entire cost of Engine 3, to be later reimbursed by the town.  It used to be done that way.  When something needed doing, you went and did it. 

Comments (5)

Most of all I remember the STRAIGHT pipes

Butch Crutchley | 2010-02-23 20:33:15

Excellent article Fred, it is so refreshing to look back at the town as we knew it in the forties and fifties. Fortunately, the spirit lives on in much of Holliston. We still have a lot of dedicated people that give of themselves. Thats a trait I hope never dies. Snowy

George Snow | 2010-02-23 13:33:25

This article brought back a lot of wonderful memories. My dad, "Blinky"was a proud member of the old Engine 3. Although I have not lived in Holliston since 1984, Im fortunate enough to go back on business trips several times a year. It was a great place to grow up.

Robert Morgan | 2009-02-24 14:54:36

Great story Fred, remember it like it was yesterday,espeacialy old Bert Gates grinding gears as he started up washington st

Jon Dillon | 2009-02-24 13:37:32

Thanks for the article Fred. Loved it and loved the price of the new fire engine! Guess we can safely say "those days are gone forever". What a shame! Jackie

jackie dellicker | 2009-02-24 08:21:23