Volunteer Fire Company

Fund Raising

The Fire Company has received donations from many companies and individuals over the last 60 years. This section will highlight the activities used for fund raising and the major donors. The minutes of the third meeting of the fire company, held on March 10, 1952 at the Lakeside Restaurant, show a donation of $3,000.00 from the County Commissioners. This donation brought the total in the company treasury to $3,084.15. At this point in the fire company history, with the exception of the onetime donation by the County Commissioners, the financial support of the fire company came from the Fire company members and the community.

The first and our most prolific donor is the Fire Company Ladies Auxiliary. Since their beginning in 1953 they have donated over $480,000.00. They have actively supported the fire company’s fundraisers including the annual carnivals, dinners, bull roasts, pony shows, and many others. They paid all the expenses for the ambulance service during the early years, purchased the motor for the 1948 Cadillac ambulance, paid for the new water tank for the 1964 Mack, paid for remodeling of our kitchen and hall on at least 3 occasions, paid for the installation of the upstairs restrooms, air conditioned the hall, assisted with the purchase of a new utility truck in 2008, paid for breathing apparatus, and paid for the elevator installed during the renovations in 1997. These are but a few of examples of the assistance given by The Ladies Auxiliary.

The Fire Company was looking for property to build a firehouse in 1951 when two pieces of property were offered as donations. The Forney family, who owned the Lakeside Restaurant and Cabin Town offered property on Magnolia Road south of route 40 and William H. Filbert offered the property on Mountain Road near the intersection of route 7. A committee was formed to evaluate the properties. The Filbert property was accepted. Mr. Filbert was a Charter Life Member of the Fire Company and owned and operated the Joppa Market at the corner of Rt. 7 and Rt. 152. This intersection was known as Shipley’s corner. He later opened an ice cream store and delicatessen across from the grocery store on Route 7 that eventually became the Nor Mar restaurant. The property he donated is where our House #1 is located today.

The Fire Company has received several large cash donations over the years, the first was from Charter Life Member and Past Chief Leo T. Holter. Mr. Holter left the sum of $15,000.00 in his will when he died in 1985. The Williams Family of Joppatowne donated the sum of $10,000.00 in memory of their son, Army Artillery 1st Lieutenant George Watterson Williams, who was killed in the Pan Am flight 103 terrorist bombing over Lockerbie Scotland in 1988. The donation was used to purchase a Thermal Imaging Camera for locating victims in fires and other uses during firefighting operations. The camera was placed on Engine 811 and a plaque was installed on the engine. The Merry Go Round clothing stores, who operated a regional distribution center on Winters Run Road, donated $3,000.00 toward the purchase of equipment for the new rescue truck purchased in 1989. There were also fund drives for the renovation and addition to House #2 in 2004, the building of House #3 in 1991, and the renovation and new building at House #1 in 1997. Many members of the community donated to these building projects and are honored on permanent plaques at the three facilities.

In the beginning, when the fire company was organized in 1951, the members realized they needed community support to fund their operations. The membership was opened to the community with associate members who paid dues but were not allowed to vote at the meetings. To raise additional funds the fire company members were assigned areas of the first run territory to go door to door and introduce the new fire company, explain its mission and ask for donations. This effort was successful but in order to build the firehouse and purchase equipment more money was needed. The fire company sold bonds in denominations of $25.00 and $100.00. The bonds paid 3 percent interest per annum for five years. Many members loaned money to the fire company through the purchase of these bonds. The redeemed bonds are in the company archives and it appears that Leo T. Holter and his wife invested the most money, a total of $500.00. The total amount loaned was $3200.00.

The largest fundraiser in the years from 1952 through 1981 was the annual carnival. The carnival was held on the lot to the rear of the firehouse and features included kiddie and adult rides including the Ferris wheel, bingo games, food concessions, raffle stand, big six wheel, glass nickel pitch, muffin pans, paddle wheels with various prizes, and other games of chance. The big event was the Wednesday night Fireman’s Parade. The Parade included fire equipment from Harford, Cecil, and Baltimore Counties, Marching Bands, Majorettes, Fire Prevention Queens, Floats, Ladies Auxiliary Marching Units, and many other entries. Trophies were awarded in many categories for the participants.

Below are pictures of the 1954 carnival.

Most of the community turned out to watch the parade and enjoy the carnival. The carnival grounds seemed like a huge family reunion after the parade with people meeting old friends and catching up on family and community news. Saturday night was the culmination of a year’s work for the carnival committee with the award of the grand prize from the raffle. Many years featured a new car as the grand prize for the raffle and a large crowd stayed until midnight to see who won. In later years, as cars got more expensive other large prizes were awarded. There were also many ground prizes given away during the carnivals that were donated by local merchants. The members of the fire company and ladies auxiliary operated all the food concessions, paddle wheels, big six wheel, raffle stand, bingo games, and ride ticket booths. Many different prizes were offered on the paddle wheels including stuffed animals, plants, stretch soda bottles, buckets of groceries etc., but the most remembered prize was live gerbils. The animals were a popular attraction on one of the paddle wheel stands and were stored with the rest of the carnival supplies in the upstairs hall of the firehouse at night. One afternoon when a few of the members began to set up for the night’s carnival they noticed the cage where the gerbils were kept was empty. The wily creatures had escaped and were hiding throughout the firehouse. An all hands detail was called to search the firehouse and roundup the critters so the carnival stand would have prizes to offer that night. It should be noted that all the paddle wheels, including the big six were made by member William Thompson. The big six wheel is still in use at fire company fund raisers.

In 1957 the idea of using coin cards for funding was accepted and put into operation. The cards were distributed in the community and were filled with spare nickels, dimes, and quarters. When full, the cards were collected by the fire company and donation receipts issued. In 1958, The Baltimore News Post newspaper printed a special edition devoted to Joppa-Magnolia Volunteer Fire Company and one of the articles was from Chief Milton Sniegowski asking for the communities support in returning the coin cards.

The community businesses supported the fire company in many ways besides the donation of ground prizes for the carnival. One example was the Edgewood Motorcycle Raceway. The racetrack was in the area where Edgewater Village is now located. The track circled what is now Lake serene. The fire company ambulance stood by at the race track to treat any injured race participants or spectators and a portion of the track proceeds were donated to the fire company.

The early 1960’s brought the new housing development of Joppatowne. The developers were the Panitz Brothers who envisioned a community center in the development to include a fire company. The Panitz brothers donated $5.00 for every house sold in the Joppatowne development to Joppa-Magnolia volunteer Fire Company. The Panitz Brothers went bankrupt and the town center was never fully developed.

The Olney Farm on Old Joppa Road sponsored a pony show to benefit the fire company. The fire company operated the food stand at the show serving breakfast and lunch to the participants. The ambulance stood by in the event of injuries or other medical emergencies and a fire engine was provided to wet down the horse show ring to control dust. This was a full day of equestrian competition with award ribbons awarded to the best of each class.

For many years the Holter Family hosted a haunted house at Halloween to benefit the Fire Company. Their entire house and grounds were used for the show and many fire company members participated either as cast members or behind the scenes. It was said to be the best haunted house in the area and people traveled considerable distances to be scared out of their wits. The fire company supplied an engine and ambulance to stand by at the show and all proceeds were donated to the Fire Company.

There were many other functions sponsored by the fire company and supported by the community. They included Donkey Baseball, monthly teen dances, monthly adult dances with Charlie Lynch and his band, Buddy Dean teen dance, bull roasts, crab cake and ham dinners featuring ladies auxiliary charter life member Viola Thompson’s secret crab cake recipe, oyster and ham dinners, new year’s eve celebrations with breakfast served after midnight, sour beef and dumpling dinners, rabies clinics in addition to the many functions catered by the ladies auxiliary.

The costs of providing emergency services continued to rise. To meet those expenses the fire company began an annual ambulance fund drive. Every household in the first due area was mailed a packet asking for a donation, in return they were issued an ambulance club membership card that entitled the family to free ambulance service for that year. The fire company sent invoices for ambulance services provided, however, people were not required to pay for the service. Several years after the ambulance fund drive was started an annual fire fund drive began. The ambulance fund drive is mailed in January and the fire fund drive is mailed in July.

Over the past sixty years many other businesses, individuals, and civic organizations have donated time, materials, and other things needed by the fire company. This includes discounts to the fire company for supplies, building materials and labor for the buildings and upkeep of the facilities. The Joppatowne Optimist Club for many years sponsored a banquet to honor our fireman of the year. In 1974 the Joppatowne Jaycees installed the helicopter pad at house 1 that is used for medevac transports by the surrounding fire companys as needed. The Helicopter pad was dedicated to the four helicopter pilots that lost their lives in helicopter crashes in the performance of their duty on rescue missions.   The fire company could not provide the emergency services needed by the community without the generous support from the community.