James "Bud" Hulton Jr. was a man known in the town of New Milford with affection and respect.

Hulton, a local volunteer fireman for 69 years, had owned and operated Hulton's Tavern on the corner of Main and Bridge streets for several decades.

The tavern was a gathering spot, a sort of club for generations of New Milford area residents. It closed its doors in 1984, but it was never out of the memories or hearts of those who had gathered there for so many years.

On Monday, Mr. Hulton died. He took a fall in his home and declined from there.

Mr. Hulton, who was one of 10 Hulton siblings who grew up in the New Milford area, is remembered by his family as a "wonderful, wonderful guy," his sister Geraldine Knowles said.

He is also fondly remembered by the community as a tavern owner, a member and former chief of Water Witch Hose Co. No. 2, and a VFW member since his return from World War II, in which he served his country with distinction.

"Buddy served with the Tank Destroyer Battalion. He saw some real action in Africa, Sicily, France and right into Germany," recalled Paul Hulton, a younger brother.

"He came home with a Bronze Star and joined our father at the tavern," Mr. Hulton related. "He was the bartender, then took over the business. I believe it was the first tavern in town. Our father opened it right after Prohibition ended."

Bud Hulton took over a legacy -- as well as a business -- started by his father, James R. Hulton Sr., when he took over the tavern. It was one of "camaraderie" and community dedication, Paul Hulton said.

"The tavern, my impressions of it from the stories I heard was that there was a fellowship that existed among the patrons. It was like a club," said Bud Hulton's wife of 51 years, Arline.

"They were loyal to each other, supported each other," Mrs. Hulton said. "But don't think they wouldn't pull a trick on each other."

With duckpin bowling upstairs and downstairs in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, the tavern was a recreational spot in town. People gathered there in the mornings for coffee and afternoons and evenings for a Ballantine's beer or ale.

"My dad used to have a standing joke," recalled James Hulton III, Bud Hulton's son. "When we'd see the name of some older resident in the town who had died, Dad would say, There goes another ale drinker.'"

Mr. Hulton was dedicated to the volunteer fire department in New Milford, of which he served as chief from 1961 to 1963.

"I remember how he had a fire radio in the tavern," Hulton's son said. "If the tone went over for a fire and they were going to come down Bridge Street, Dad would go out of the tavern and halt traffic coming off of Main Street. He'd hear the sirens as the trucks came off of Grove Street and stop traffic. The trucks would come flying through."

Glen Krizan joined the fire department in 1983 and later became chief. He remembers Mr. Hulton as being the "guy you'd turn to in a meeting when there was a question about the bylaws."

"Whenever we had an issue with the way a meeting was being run, Bud Hulton was who we turned to," Mr. Krizan said. "I was so impressed with his knowledge, I joined the Bylaws Committee. Now I'm the chairman and people come to me.

"That all derived from Bud Hulton's insistence on sticking to the letter of the of the bylaws as they were written. He was crisp with that. I have a great deal of respect for the man," Mr. Krizan said.

Al Tiebout was both a fireman with Mr. Hulton and a patron of the tavern.

"Bud was the kind of fellow who had a tremendous amount of knowledge about fighting fires. He was great to work with," said Mr. Tiebout, who also became a Water Witch fire chief.

"The camaraderie of the tavern continued on into the 1960s and '70s," he recalled. "When you went in, the atmosphere was completely relaxed and everyone knew everyone else. The town was a lot smaller in those days."

Contact Susan Tuz

at stuz@newstimes.com

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