This version of the Station Project is a little different from the others in that I was not able to personally assist with the project, but my brothers and sisters at my volunteer department did. The department, Chilhowie Fire & EMS Department, is located in Chilhowie, Virginia. This is the community that I was born and raised in, and I lived there until taking the job in The Model City in 2008. Since it is located just about an hour from where I live, I am still an active associate member with the department and enjoy pulling shifts with the guys a few times a month. I can’t see letting go from my roots, because the fact is that I would not be where I am today if it wasn’t for the Chief, my fellow firefighters, and the instructors that assisted me along the way.
Late November, during a conversation with a past Chief of the Department, the members learned about a hose cart that had been used during the first few years of the departments existence. Chief Gene Groseclose served as the Chief of the Chilhowie Fire Department for many years. He is a wealth of information when it comes to the older days of the department, and the current Fire Chief, Chief David Haynes, is one to be sure that those times/memories are remembered by the current members. In the conversation, it was said that they believe that an old hose cart was located in one of the nearby barns and hadn’t been touched/seen in years. This of course was a challenge for the current members who immediately travelled out to look for the antique. The cart was not powered by a team of horses, but it is told that members would occasionally sit in the trunk of a car and pull the cart to the scene.
Almost immediately after entering the barn, the hose cart was found under years and years of dust. The rope was still attached, and the cart was in the same position it probably could have been found back near the turn of the century when it was being used on a regular basis. The discovery came at the perfect time, as the Department is celebrating their Centennial this year. The Department dove head first to ensure that the cart could be restored to original condition, and the members were glad to help. Sgt. Willie Gollehon assisted with being sure that the members took pride in this newly discovered antique, and that this piece of history in the Department could be restored as well.
The members traveled to the barn and carefully removed the cart from where it had been stored for years. The story is that this was the second hose cart the Department owned, and that the first one had wooden wheels. Unfortunately, it is also told that the cart with wooden wheels was stored in a different building and washed away during the flood of 1977. Once the cart was brought to the firehouse, the members established a game plan on how to restore this gem.
Within a few days, the members were going to work on disassembling the hose cart. Once all the pieces had been separated, they began stripping down the nearly 100 year old paint off of the steel. They set up shop in one of the apparatus bays and went to work. The crews were able to strip the paint off, and order replaced brass bolts to replaced the originals that held it together.
Due to the details involved in repainting the cart, the Department contacted the Smyth County Career and Technology Center. They welcomed the project with open arms knowing that not only would it benefit the Department and it’s members, but also the entire community. The pieces of the cart were delivered to the school where the students and teachers quickly began prepping the pieces for paint. A gray coat of primer was applied to the pieces and had to dry for a few days.
As soon as the school had applied the final coats of bright gloss paint, the members travelled to pick up the pieces to assemble back at the firehouse. The bolts and such that were ordered were delivered, and very carefully the members began to reassemble this history of the Department…one piece at a time.
The cart has now been assembled and currently sits in the fire station. The members plan on reattaching a few more pieces that will help complete the project, and this post will be updated once final photos have been taken in front of the firehouse. This is a great project that was completed through the dedication and hard work of all those involved. If you have a project that your members have been considering completing around the station, all it takes is the initiative to make it happen. It’s projects like these that will bring members together, help establish pride in your department, and reignite the fire that burns in all of the members (current and past).
As part of the Centennial, the Chilhowie Fire & EMS Department issued each of it’s members with a badge, challenge coin, and lapel pin set that was produced by NM-Coin LLC. These badges will be worn by the members for the next year to showcase the history of the Department. If your department is interested in purchasing or designing patches, badges, coins, or lapel pins, contact me at Andrew@nm-coin.com.