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 Then and now

Osterville Fire Station




 C - O F. D. 

Centerville-Osterville Fire Department



The Osterville Fire Station
999 Main Street
Photo taken around 1938 showing the apparatus.
C-O FD Engine 1 - 1926 Maxim 500 gpm pumper.
Town of Barnstable Forest Fire Department
1937 Ford Brush Breaker (First on Cape Cod)
1938 Ford Patrol Truck.


The Osterville Fire Station
"Personal Reflections"

When I grew up in the 1960's and '70's, there was nothing more exciting to me than going to the fire station. The opportunity to visit "Uncle Gus" and the other guys at the station was a real treat.

The Osterville Fire Station was right on Main Street, about a mile from my home by bike.

It was full of shiny red trucks of various shapes and sizes. Sometimes the trucks were parked out front on the ramp where everyone could see them. The opportunity to stand on the back step of the trucks, pretending to be going to a fire, or to climb into the bars of the brush breaker was better than any playground.

The station doors were almost always open with a fresh breeze blowing through. The openness made the station a very inviting place to visit.

The ability to hang out at the station and listen to the guys talking about calls, sports, or their military service was a special opportunity I could not wait to do when the chance came.

There were about 30 guys on the Osterville roster. Most were call guys that worked other jobs and came to calls when the whistle blew. It was not unusual however for some guys to be hanging around the station.

There was always one guy on duty dispatching at the little wooden console with the swinging wooden gate in the front lobby with the window looking into the engine room. The radio microphone looked like a black telephone with a push to talk button that hung on a phone hanger.

The TV in the day room would usually have a baseball or hockey game on.

A good card game was as fun to watch as it was to play. A cribbage board and poker chips were always near by the table.

Even when nothing was going on, the fire station was a cool place to be.

In the corner, there was an old red, lift top style soda machine. You could get a Coca Cola, 7 Up, Orange Crush, Grape, or Dr. Pepper as long as you put 25 cents in the bowl next to it. The ice cold soda bottle was so refreshing on those hot summer days.

The fire station was full of sounds and smells.

There was almost always a constant cloud of cigar and cigarette smoke in the day room.

Sometimes there was another smoke smell in the engine room, when hose and turnout coats were laid out to dry on the hose rack after a fire. The smell of smoke was in the air in the spring brush season.

Sometimes the hose was laid out on the parking lot, washed and dried in the sun, before being rolled and placed back into the storage rack. The hose had its own special smell.

When the trucks were parked out on the ramp, the floors would be swept and any oil spots on the floor were wiped up with rags.

There was always some project going on the work bench.

Radio speakers blared throughout the station, listening to the activities of all the other departments and fire towers. Everyone used call signs and radio numbers, so it took a keen ear to listen to and learn which radio traffic was important to listen to and which was not.

Sometimes radio "skip" from other parts of the country could be heard, with unfamiliar voices and accents that were very different than our own.

When the phone rang, you could tell whether it was a business line or an emergency line because the "hot" phones were connected to extra loud bells.

The opportunity to be at the station when the air horn sounded was a special event. It was so loud that you could feel the vibrations at your core. It would startle you even if you were expecting it. It was so loud it could be heard for miles, especially on those cold quiet nights.

When a call came in, the dispatcher would announce it over the radio and then reach into the glass front, black box that hung on the wall and pull the spring loaded "hook" that would cause a small notched brass cog to begin turning. As the cog rotated, the notches caused a mechanism to move that resulted in a round of three very loud blasts from the air horn. The cog rotated twice and then automatically stopped after blowing 6 blasts of the horn, two rounds of three blasts. In addition, the dispatcher would push a button that caused a relay to make the siren on First Avenue, by the ball field to blow three rounds.

The sounding of the air horn and siren brought about a response of personnel from home or work to the fire station. In most cases, the whistle was the only notice of an emergency in the days before pagers and scanners. The race to the station brought a dozen or so cars to the station parking lot, with guys literally getting dressed as they ran across the parking lot and jumped onto the back step of the trucks as they pulled out of the station. It was very exciting to watch and I could not wait to be a part of it when I was old enough to join in.

In 1975, at age 16, I was allowed to join the department.

My "Hometown Firehouse" was built in Osterville in 1926 when the Centerville-Osterville Fire District was first established. The small brick fire stations in the two villages were very similar, but different enough to have their own personalities and characteristics. Centerville's was on Main Street in the center of old Centerville near where 4 Seas Ice Cream shop is.

The Osterville station was added onto a number of times over the years as more and larger apparatus came along. The biggest change to the Osterville Station was the addition of a large engine room around 1962.

Over time, the Osterville station became and served as the department headquarters.

The District added a third station in the village of Marstons Mills in 1975.

I got hired as a dispatcher in 1980 and got to blow the fire whistle myself plenty of times. The following year, my fulltime firefighter/paramedic career began, working out of my hometown station for years - a dream come true in many ways.

A new fire headquarters was built on Route 28 in Centerville in 1991. At that time, the Centerville station became Station 1 and Osterville was renamed Station 2.

The old horn tower came down in 1993. It has been replaced in many ways by technology and changes in staffing. A leaky roof ultimately led to it being torn down, forever changing the look, feel, and history of the station.

In 1999, the department officially ended the days of a call department and began staffing all three stations on a 24 hour basis. My days at the Osterville station changed as I was then assigned to the Marstons Mills Station 3 for years. A new Marstons Mills station was opened in August 2003, replacing the 1975 steel clad station.

The Osterville station was deemed in need of replacement and on July 11, 2008 it was officially closed. Apparatus and personnel were moved up the street to the water department's storage shed and a house trailer used for personnel.

In no time, the old station was stripped of  its valuables and dismantled by  heavy equipment. The old station was gone. Flattened. Hauled away in trucks. Only memories and photographs left to remember the old hometown station as it was for about 82 years.

In its place, a beautiful new 12,000 square foot modern fire station has been built. It opened on January 7, 2010. The new station has all the features required in a modern fire station and will surely serve the department and district well for at least another 80 years or more.

This new station is my new "Hometown Firehouse." Over time, it will develop its own characteristics and memories, just as other stations do.

It was a great privilege to have grown up around the old Osterville station in the midst of its greatest years. Those who were part of it know what I am talking about. Those who don't, well hopefully now you will. This photo feature is here to help us remember all those who worked there, the trucks, the fun, and the changes.

I hope you enjoy my final salute to my old "Hometown Firehouse."






Engine 1 - 1926 Maxim


Charlie Lovell with Engine 1 - 1926 Maxim.
Note the swing out garage doors.


 Early Osterville Firemen


 Early Osterville Firemen



The Osterville Fire Station
The original 2 door, red brick station was very similar
to the station built in Centerville at the same time
in 1926. The Osterville station had a hose tower
which also held the air horn used to alert firemen
of a call.

Shown here are three forest fire units.



 1937 brush breaker in front of the station.


 Osterville 1950
The Osterville station was added onto during the 1940's.
A single door replaced the original 2 doors and another
bay was added to the right.
Note the "Osterville Fire Dept." designation at the time.
Engine 1 - 1950 Ford / Maxim 500 gpm pumper
replaced the 1926 Maxim.


Engine 1
1950 Ford / Maxim 500 gpm



Engine 1
1950 Ford / Maxim 500 gpm


Osterville Rescue Squad former around 1950


Osterville Fire Dept.
Shown during the 1950's


Osterville was also headquarters for the
Town of Barnstable Forest Fire Department.
The station housed a brush breaker and town
patrol truck for decades. Patrol truck 210
shown on the ramp.


Osterville Fire Station
In 1962, a large addition was put on to house larger
apparatus. The addition could house 4 apparatus
and included a dispatch room and meeting hall above.
This is how the station looked in the 1980's.
It housed 2 pumpers, 1 ladder truck, 1 brush breaker,
2 ambulances, and a service truck.
The "horn tower" can be seen clearly.


This 1952 Ford Marmon Herrington brush breaker
known as 216 replaced the original 1937 breaker.
It is shown here in the 1960's
in front of the new engine room


Brush Breaker 216
Town of Barnstable Forest Fire Department.
1967 custom designed Maxim 1000 gallon brush
breaker assigned to Osterville.
When the TOBFFD disbanded in 1975, the C-O FD

took over the breaker and renumbered it 316.


Squad 2 - 302
1960 International rescue truck.
Was assigned to Osterville and responded to almost
everything. It carried 125 gallons of water and had a
PTO pump that supplied a forestry hose line.
It carried a small generator and lighting, ladders,
saws, air packs, a come-a-long, and hand tools in the
days before Jaws.


Squad 2 - 302
The squad responded with at least two personnel and
as many as six riding in the walkin back of the vehicle.
The squad was reassigned to Marstons Mills in the
mid 1970s and served until it was retired in about 1987.


Engine 4 - (309)
The first new engine to served in the new addition at
Osterville was this 1963 International / Maxim 750 gpm
pumper with a 500 gallon tank and around the pump
foam system.


Engine 4 - (309)
This engine served as our muster truck in the first
Cape Cod Firefighter's muster in 1975.
It served the district from 1963 to 1983.
A department in Vienna, Maine bought the Engine
upon its retirement from COMM.


Osterville Fire Dept.
Left to right
Breaker 216 - 1967 Maxim 1000 gal brush breaker
Squad 2 - 302 - 1960 International rescue squad truck
Engine 4 - 309 - 1963 International / Maxim 750/500
Engine 1 - 307 - 1950 Ford/Maxim 500/500
Rescue 303 - 1966 Chevy Challenger Ambulance
Patrol 210 - 1967 Ford patrol truck


Engine 1
New 1969 International / Maxim 1000/500
replaced the 1950 Ford


Osterville Fire Station
March 1984


The Osterville Station in January 1987


Osterville Air Horn
Sitting atop the old hose tower was a large air horn.
Each day at noon it would sound 1 loud blast followed
by one round of a siren "fire whistle" at the First Ave
ball field downtown.

When there was a fire or rescue call, the horn would
blow 3 blasts at the beginning of round 1 and round 3
of three siren rounds. There was no doubt in town
when something was happening.

The air horn and siren was the way personnel were
alerted before the days of radios and pagers.


The horn tower had a metal ladder that enabled
personnel to climb the exterior of the tower
to observe brush smoke in the distance.


A weather station was also on top


The front door at 999 Main Street


The Fire Station Road side of the station.
The old engine room and the living quarters
including the chief's office, day room and kitchen.


The dispatch console installed in the 1970's
in the Osterville station


Right side of console including a status board,
door opening buttons, air horn and siren mechanisms,
telephone, and fire alarm panel.


Dispatcher Donald Varnum in the 1980's
at the console with street card files behind.


Blazer the fire dog.
Daily log maintained on manual typewriter.
Fire tower map on the wall.


Early "CAD" System
For those familiar with the Cape dialect,
"card" is pronounced as "caad" without the "R"
Each street had a card showing the response on the front
and a map of the street on the back with house
numbers and hydrant locations.
Cards never crashed...


Reel to reel tape recorders hooked to the
emergency phones.


Apparatus on display at an open house
in May 1984


The "old" engine room
was no longer capable of housing fire apparatus
so it became known as the ambulance room.
Rescue 10 (300) was a 1974 Dodge.


Rescue 3 (303) - 1976 Chevy / Horton and
Rescue 10 (300) 1974 Dodge.


On the other side of Rescue 10 is the rescue boat
and service truck.


Rescue boat 1 ready for winter duty with ice sled
and surf board, as well as the pickup truck.


Rescue 3 1976 Chevy / Horton and Rescue 2 (300)
in 1987.


The ambulance room 1987


Me in 1987 at my turnout gear locker.
We wore grey uniform shirts in those days.
It was the days of plastic "Kraut" style fire helmets
 and 3/4 boots.


The "Fire Pole"
The guys found an old brass pole in a city station
some where off Cape and brought it home in the 1970's.
A hole was cut  in the second floor and the pole installed
making a quick way to get down to the engine room.


The Engine room
The 1975 Mack Engine 5 (315) and
the 1976 Maxim 100' Ladder 1



Engine 5 (315)
The first cab forward, diesel pumper owned by the
department was the 1975 Mack CF600.
1250 gpm / 1000 gallons.



Brush Breaker
1967 Maxim


Full house
The department's first ladder truck was delivered in
1976 and filled the engine room, over hanging
the front of Engine 2. Wheel chocks were vital.


The engine room


Engine 5 (315)
1975 Mack


Engine 5


Engine 5
A great engine to work on. The first diesel, automatic
transmission (that shifted a little roughly) that the dept
had. It had jumpseats for SCBA, a deckgun, booster reel,
hard suction, a generator with lighting, foam, lots of
tools, hose, etc. A real work horse that saw plenty of
fires over the years.



Ladder 1 (314)
1976 Maxim 100'
Diesel with manual transmission.


Brush Breaker



Truck 16 - 316


Engine 1 (307)
1969 International / Maxim
1000 gpm / 500 gallons
Twin to 1968 Engine 2 in Centerville


Engine 2 (306) 1968 International / Maxim



Training at the fire academy



Dispatcher Robyn Parker
behind the desk at Osterville Station


Young firefighters at 60th Anniversary in 1986



Chief Car 301 in 1989



S-13 (313)
Chevy 4x4 Pickup truck


The fire station was not all work.
One of the big social events of the year was always
the C&O Volunteers annual clambake
held behind the station.



Snuffy Souza, Harry Thomas, and Charlie Rogers
at the clambake



Annual C&O Volunteers Clambake
behind the Osterville station



Chief John M Farrington with his father and
bake master John B. Farrington
2004 Clambake



Engine 315
1987 Pierce Arrow
First fully enclosed engine replaced Engine 5.
The Mack went to Station 3 at E-302.


Engine 315


Engine 315


1987 Pierce


Rescue 326
1989 Ford / Braun


View from the top of Ladder 1 in Feb 1991


Engine 315 1987 Pierce and Ladder 314 1976 Maxim



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Osterville Fire Station 2010