THE LITTLE VILLAGE THAT COULD - 1952—FIREMEN’S ASSOCIATION STATE OF NEW YORK ANNUAL CONVENTION
By Anita M. Mance, Historian, Research assisted by Seth Wagner, SUNY Geneseo Intern
It began during the spring of 1951 when members of the East Rochester Volunteer Fire Department considered requesting that the state convention be held in our hometown. With support from the community leaders and letters of endorsement from various area officials, the firemen went to the convention in New York City in August 1951, and urged that the 1952 convention be held in East Rochester. To help encourage the delegates to vote in ER’s favor they took 10,000 brochures describing our village, pins (East Rochester in ’52), and large banners which they hung from the hotels. The delegates were so impressed with the sincerity and earnestness of the claims of the firemen from ER that they granted our request. And so, the convention held in New York City in 1951 with its population of 7,000,000 came to the village of East Rochester with 7,000 residents in 1952. The headline in the ER DESPATCH read: FIREMEN DUE IN ’52.”
Hosting the convention was one of the most ambitious plans in the history of the East Rochester Fire Department. The 8oth annual convention (August 18-22) brought more than 2,500 officers, delegates and members as well as thousands of spectators to East Rochester. To accommodate the delegate meetings, mutual aid demonstrations, tournaments, parade, and carnival, venues all over the village were needed. With no hotels in our village, accommodations in Rochester were used, especially the Powers Hotel.
The week began on Sunday with a banquet at the Powers Hotel for Past Presidents. On Monday registration of delegates and members and meetings were held in the high school (now the Morgan Middle School) on East Avenue. Edmund Lyon Park was the setting for a first aid contest. On Tuesday, the convention formally convened in the high school auditorium. That evening the Kiddie Parade was held at 6:00. Later that evening firemen could attend the Famous Artists Country Playhouse performance of Remains to be Seen with Jackie Cooper, or go the carnival. The carnival was held on the grounds of the Firemen’s Exempt Club (Country House) on Linden Avenue. Wednesday’s highlights included mutual aid demonstrations on Harris Field (now the site of our PreK-12 School) and at the Eyer Building. On Harris Field an estimated crowd of 8,000 saw various fires set and extinguished. At the Eyer Building, pans of oil were set on fire on the roof and three high school students were carried down ladders on the shoulders of firemen to simulate evacuation of the building.
On Thursday, the annual tournaments were held. On Main Street thousands watched as firemen from over 40 departments took part in races including the bucket brigade, hose coupling battles, and ladder climbing contest. With rain early in the day, the events were made even more dangerous. Spectators remembered the smell of smoked rubber that filled the air. The climax of the week was the grand parade Friday afternoon. The parade route went from South Garfield Street to West Commercial, down East Commercial to Lincoln Road, then north on Lincoln to Linden Avenue and across the street to the grounds of the Exempt Firemen’s Club. Eighty fire companies took part in the two-hour parade. Fire fighting equipment, marching bands, ladies’ auxiliaries, and of course, firemen, took part. Trophies were given for: most women in line (ladies auxiliaries), most men in line, best drum major, best band, best appearing apparatus, coming from the greatest distance, and oldest piece of equipment.
After the week’s events concluded, the Fire Department thanked everyone in the community for their support and cooperation, as well as the police department for maintaining law and order. And so, the “greatest little town in the world” had a very special summer memory of which to be proud. Thousands of people came to our community and left with a glimpse of small town hospitality.