Last week, Jean Herrin and Janet Hartmann flipped through books featuring photos of Christmas parties, friendly parties, awards ceremonies, parades and queen contests.
Old friends and dozens of others have had a lot of fun over the past few decades, helping their community as members of the Cashtown Fire Company.
There will be no more photos in the collection of memories. The subsidiary recently disbanded 70 years later.
“We just haven’t had help for the last couple of years,” Hartman said.
The Chestnut Fire Auxiliary Support Service began in 1951 to assist the Chestnut Fire Service, according to the minutes of the first meeting. That year was joined by a herring, a lifelong resident of Chestnut. Over the past 70 years, the group has directly donated $ 213,797.37 to the fire company, Hartman said, in addition to purchasing materials such as paint, deep fryers, tables, pianos and curtains. Herring is remembered as an auxiliary serving of food during bonfires and bingo games, as well as killing oysters during the Fire Fair in February.
Auxiliaries also expanded their willingness to help society at large by serving meals at Bible classes, the Order of the Eastern Star, the Lions Club, family reunions, weddings and funerals.
Herring said everyone in Chestnut once knew each other. The fire hall was a natural gathering place, and the women enjoyed supporting a male group of volunteers who put out the fire at any time.
Chestnut has changed, Herring said. Many women become firefighters instead of joining the auxiliaries, and new residents are not as active in their communities as those whose families have lived there for generations.
“We have a lot of transplants, I don’t know how you even get them,” said Herring.
In February, Hartman went from house to house seeking help at a fire fair.
“I knew everyone. Now, if you said you lived next door to me, I wouldn’t know who you are, ”Hartman said.
The subsidiary had about 20 active members when it disbanded, far fewer than the 173 members on the list in the 1970s. The Chestnut Fire Company’s auxiliary department once held evenings of friendship with similar groups throughout the county, but since then they have all disbanded, with the exception of the Biglerville Fire Department’s auxiliary department.
“This is a younger group and the city is much bigger,” said the 89-year-old Herring.
Hartman and Herring fondly remember many women who have advocated support for so many years, including Martha Spence, who worked as treasurer for 32 years, and Phyllis McCliff, who held the position for 16 years. Phyllis Chandler served as secretary for 43 years.
“When someone got into the office, they stayed,” Hartman said. “Some of these people, the amount of time they invest in it is amazing, it really is.”
Hartman noted that there are “so many women who have worked very hard to help society and support organizations”.
The subsidiary membership began to wane about 15 years ago, Hartman said. The breakup seemed likely about two years ago, but the ladies held on. A year of inactivity due to the COVID-19 pandemic has made a decision inevitable.
“I am very sorry that it has disappeared. The friendship I have made over the years cannot be replaced, ”Hartman said. “Just so many beautiful memories.”