Dormont Historical Society

Chartered 1999

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Our newsletter is published on a bi-monthly basis and mailed to our members. Only limited excerpts will be published here. To start receiving the newsletter, consider becoming a member of the Dormont Historical Society. See our Membership page for details.

Volume xii number 3 (MAY/JUNE 2010)

Have you visited our Membership page and viewed the list of our Business Members? Please consider supporting those Businesses who have supported us. This newsletter's featured business is Samarin Electric. Contact them at (412) 889-1809. Samarin Electric is owned by Steve and Carrie Blando Samarin.

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Last year Dormont Borough celebrated its Centennial. This year it is the Dormont Volunteer Fire Department.

When the  borough was incorporated in 1909, there were quite a few residential and commercial structures here, and many more were being planned and built. In 1910, a group of residents and businessmen formed a fire company and bought their first piece of equipment - a horse-drawn pumper which was kept in the Snyder School later named Hillsdale Avenue, where the fire department was located today. A Gamewell air horn system was installed on the roof of the building at West Liberty and Potomac Avenues, and a coded series of two-digit numbers was set up to identify the location of fires. After the Municipal Building was erected in 1918, the Gamewell horn was put onto its roof, where it was used until the building was closed in 1999. Many of us remember the blare of that horn - especially at night.

An agreement between the borough and the fire company was that the borough would furnish and maintain the trucks and equipment and a meeting room in the new building. The fire company was responsible for furnishing the room, buying their own uniforms, and raising funds for all other expenses. The borough also hired the fire truck dispatchers/operators, who put out the alarms and drove the equipment to the fires, where the firemen met them. This provided a response of less than five minutes to any location in Dormont. This system worked so well that it became the model for other towns and is still the standard operating procedure here. In 1929, a state charter was obtained that incorporated the fireman as the Dormont Volunteer Firemen's Association.

Dormont was one of the first fire companies to require formal training and hold regular drills. New recruits must serve a year's probation and must complete a state-approved fire school course before receiving regular membership.

For years a special telephone system supplemented the air horn to alert the firemen and truck operators. Personal pagers and monitors have now been in effect for more than 25 years, and the air horn has been retired.

Fire equipment here now consists of two pumper trucks, an aerial ladder truck and a squad vehicle which carries special tools, extra air bottles, and other specialized equipment. Dormont has had members in Allegheny County's Hazardous Materials teams with special equipment and training since their inception in the 1980's. 

Our firefighters exchange assistance regularly with other towns when extra manpower and equipment are needed to fight a bad fire or at times of other disasters.

After 100 years of existence, Dormont's firefighters are in a position to give the borough's residents an emergency response which betters that which is available in many other towns.

** Retired Dormont Fireman Jim Harrod write this article

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 Those of you who walked along Potomac Avenue during the holiday season and after may ave noticed the nice banners that hang from many of the light poles, a product of the Dormont Community Development Corporation's Main Street Program. The banners, which will be changed to reflect the seasons in which they will be hung, feature scenes from the past, courtesy of the Dormont Historical Society.

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American flags still fly along the streets of Dormont's business district on national holidays, thanks to local Boy Scouts and the street crew. Charles Cruikshank would be very proud to see them as Mr. Cruikshank worked with Dormont Boy Scouts for over 50 years. A former Cub Scout and Explorer Master, and a special projects engineer with Bell Telephone Company, he was the holder of scouting's highest citation for adults, the Silver Beaver Award. Other honors he held were the Wood Badge, which entitled him to teach scouting skills, scoutmaster's key and Eagle Scout Award. He attended five of the first seven national Boy Scout Jamborees ever held; three as a master.

Mr. Cruikshank thought that the most satisfying aspect of working with young people was seeing them using their scouting experiences later in life. One of his scouts, shot down over Germany in World War II, told Mr. Cruikshank that his scouting experiences helped him live in the woods until the underground spirited him out.

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To read more of the bi-monthly newsletters, consider becoming a member. All members receive a copy of the newsletter by mail.