15 April 2018

David Purington Reminiscences of Sleepy Hollow, Part Three

Returning to a series of posts based on typewritten recollections of Sleepy Hollow by David Purington, son of the community's founders Cleve and Elizabeth Purington, here are five pages of his story about the creation and operation of the volunteer fire department, which served the community for several decades.  Thanks again to the neighbors here in Sleepy Hollow who provided the original typescripts.

Purington stated that the fire department started in the late 1940s and was housed in a garage at the back of the Sleepy Hollow Cafe, formerly a store operated by Dave Tidwell.  This is in the area of the parking lot for the Sleepy Hollow Community Center where Rosemary Lane meets Carbon Canyon Road.

David Purington's recollections of the Sleepy Hollow volunteer fire department in five pages.  Click on any image to see them enlarged in a separate window.
The initial crew of five volunteers, later seven, worked out of a garade behind the cafe, and were paid a couple of dollars per call, so that worker's compensation benefits could be obtained, but Purington noted that the money was put into a common fund so that the volunteers and wives could go out to dinner once in a while.

Purington also recorded that some volunteers had hitches on their vehicles so that a trailer, provided by the Chino Fire Department, could be hauled for calls.  Training was provided by the department, which was mostly comprised of volunteers under a paid chief, Art Wagner, who worked for the telephone company, as well.  This situation was, in fact, common for rural areas, remembering that this took place nearly three-quarters of a century ago.

The volunteers met weekly and conducted "dry run" drills, in which the equipment was brought out and hooked up, but no water used.  Purington related one instance in which the trailer became disconnected from the hauling vehicle and a couple of volunteers riding outside on the trailer hung on for dear life as the wayward trailer headed into some brush along the road.

Wanting a better vehicle, but with the Chino department unable to acquire anything in its limited budget, the Sleepy Hollow volunteers acquired a four-wheel drive truck from Army surplus.  The funds for this were raised by having Fireman's Balls, a common fund-raising technique, at the two cocktail lounges in the community (one at the east end where some apartments are today and the other at the former Party House #2 liquor store).

The fundraisers featured floor shows based on hit musicals of the day, like South Pacific and Guys and Dolls with scripts written by Nolan Hyde, secretary of the Sleepy Hollow Water Disrict (several years ago, Hyde's son provided some recollections posted on this blog).  With enough money raised to purchase the vehicle, volunteer Verne Stearns, whose son lives in the Mountain View Estates tract just east of Sleepy Hollow, picked out one.

A pumper unit was also acquired and Purington fabricated and welded a water tank, with both added to the International Harvester truck in Stearns' garage.  The vehicle was then taken to the Chino fire station for additional apparatus installation, including hoses, reels and a siren.

The fire company then moved to a new heaquarters on land owned by the water district once approval was obtained from the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors.  This became the volunteer fire building that stood for many years until the current community building was built in the early 2000s.  As Purington noted, it was decided to make the building large enough so that it could be used "for community meetings, dances, parties, etc." 

The structure, which was completed in 1951, included restrooms, a water heater, a cooking range, refrigerator, hot air furnace, sink and cupboards.  To raise money for the building, more events were held, mainly at the bar at the east side of Sleepy Hollow, the building of which still stands right along Carbon Canyon Road with a two-story house and apartments behind it.  These consisted of dancers, with the owner of the bar providing the space and allowing the department to keep all proceeds.

The volunteers used their skills in construction and contacts in getting deals for materials, including lumber, pipe and cement, and, after about a half a year of weekend work, the building was far enough along to park the truck in it, while more money was raised through community events, including dinners as well as dances, to get the lath and plaster finish done (the restrooms took a little while longer to get completed.) A Women's Auxiliary helped to stock the building with curtains, dishes, cups, silverware and other essentials.  Purington gave particular credit to Jean Stearns, Verne's wife, for her leadership in the auxiliary's work.

A few more volunteers were allowed to join the department and there was even a firehouse dog, Purington's pet Roger.  Purington recalled that there were times that, while he drove from his home to the hall, Roger would take off on his own route and arrive first.

In the late Fifties, the Chino Fire Department provided a Ford truck to the Sleepy Hollow volunteers and the International Harvester was retired.  Purington also related a story of how one of the volunteers played Santa Claus for community holiday events and the fire truck was used as a vehicle to escort St. Nick to the oak grove near the currently shuttered liquor store. 

He ended by noting that the fire house and community building needed some space cleared behind it on the steep hillsides as a park and patio area for events, but also to protect the building from exposure to water and rot.  As noted above, the structure was removed to make way for the current community building, which was designed and engineered for modern standards and codes.


Anonymous said...

After my birth I was brought home to my home on Rosemary Lane. So many memories of Santa and Christmas present 3xcgange parties at the fire station. While I can't tell you anything about Vern Stearn, his name brings back a memory of a dad backing up over his child by accident? I left The Canyon in 1972. My home still stands ( I think). Note: it was sad to see the church turned I not a residence. Spent many Sunday mornings in that place!

prs said...

Thanks, Anonymous, for the comment and recollections of Sleepy Hollow. Which home did you live in? I can reply and tell you if it's still there. The church/residence was up for sale recently for a time, but that was pulled.