Gaylordsville Ladies Auxiliary celebrates 50th
NEW MILFORD — It was “Bread, meat, cheese; bread, meat, cheese,” when an assembly line of women prepared a wealth of bologna sandwiches in the Gaylordsville firehouse kitchen for a firemen’s party in the 1960s.
The Auxiliary celebrated its 50th anniversary last month with a dinner at River Oaks. Charter members, new and continuing members attended with their firefighter husbands and extended family members.
“Our goal from the start was to assist the fire department in buying equipment and serving coffee, water and sandwiches at large fire responses,” said Sheldon, the Auxiliary’s first president.
“I remember getting a donation of fabric from The Bleachery in New Milford, and us gals sewing curtains for the firehouse windows with it,” Sheldon said. “The men had said, ‘The paint on the firetrucks is fading. You’ve got to do something.’”
The first fundraisers were rummage sales, followed by bake sales, Easter plant sales and Christmas bazaars. At the firemen’s carnivals, the Auxiliary also sold watermelon and corn on the cob.
And then there was the cake booth: Lay down your quarter, watch the game wheel spin and you might be the lucky person to walk away with a homemade chocolate cake.
The cake booth raised up to $400 each year, Sheldon said.
Over the years, the Auxiliary bought a refrigerator/freezer for the firehouse kitchen, a jukebox for the firehouse lounge, GPS for all the firetrucks, air packs and other firefighting equipment.
Today, the main contribution the Auxiliary makes is a $500 scholarship for a graduating New Milford High School senior from Gaylordsville.
Charter member Emily Parker’s most vivid memory is of the uniforms of blue skirts and jackets over crisp light blue blouses, topped with a white hat and blue ribbon the ladies wore while marching in firemen’s parades.
“We marched all over the area,” Parker, 89, said. “Allie” — her late husband Allan — “was one of the original firefighters.”
Auxiliary members now march in the Memorial Day parades in Gaylordsville and New Milford wearing slack-and-shirt uniforms much like those of the firefighters.
In the early years, they marched in Wingdale, Kent, Bridgewater, Washington, Warren and at other towns around western Connecticut and bordering New York state.
Before the Ladies Auxiliary was formed, Parker and Sheldon were among the firefighters’ wives who worked the phone chain in the 1950s.
Unable to afford the services of the New Milford Answering Service, the Gaylordsville Fire Department gave out the fire chief’s number for residents in the fire district to call in an emergency.
“A call would come in that there was a fire and a group of us would call five or six families and tell them where to go to fight the fire,” Parker said.
MaryJane Williamson, 68, has been an Auxiliary member off and on over the years. She served twice as president and was the treasurer for nine years.
“It’s not like it was,” Williamson said. “The men carry water and energy bars in the firetrucks now, so we don’t prepare and take as many meals to fire responses. And it wasn’t difficult to get members back then. Now that’s hard.”
Williamson said Auxiliary membership has been “a lot of fun.”
“It was more of a social thing early on,” she said. “You had church and the fire department. Now we have 14 members. The most members I remember having was 30 in 1972.”
Mary Hendrix, whose husband, Lee, and father-in-law, Lowell, have been chiefs in the Gaylordsville department, said it is being there to help out that keeps her in the Auxiliary.
“Helping out the firemen and knowing we’re available in an emergency to help the community,” Hendrix said. “That’s what continues to drive us.”
Women in the Gaylordsville fire district interested in joining the Ladies Auxiliary can attend a monthly meeting, which takes places the third Wednesday of each month at 7:30 p.m. in the Gaylordsville Fire House on Route 7. It is not necessary to have a family member in the volunteer department.
The Gaylordsville fire district covers the area south to Squash Hollow Road, north to the Kent town line, west to Sherman, and east up Long Mountain Road.