Firemen's Muster 1906  
Thursday, December 12, 2002



THURSDAY, DEC. 12 TELEGRAM & GAZETTE
So I've Heard Column


There was a time when a firemen's muster was a truly major event, judging from a program for a Saturday, Sept. 1, 1906 muster sponsored by the Webster Fire Department.
Memorabilia collector Michael T. Branniff bought the 96 year old program recently through an internet site. Mr. Branniff, of Lyons Road, Dudley, shared his find with Webster Fire Chief Douglas H. Babcock and this corner.
While the program has 40 pages of advertising, the cover features a photograph of Chief James Newman--Esther (Deary) Perry's maternal grandfather. More than $1,000 in prizes, all in gold pieces, was distributed.
I checked news accounts and learned the day-long event brought hundreds of visitors to town for a six division parade. Thirty-two fire companies from 26 departments, including three from Putnam, were among the participants. Most of the companies were accompanied by bands. The North Brookfield Steamer Company took first prize for the best appearing unit in the parade.
Horse drawn carriages transported state and town dignitaries. One of the post muster reports ran the better part of two pages, and even described bunting and flowers on all the pieces of fire apparatus. Sponsors kept some of the gold. The Webster Department won one of the timed events. Other major winners were North Brookfield, Putnam, Hinsdale, N.H., and Leominster.
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"U" comes before "o" when you're talking about "fluorspar," says Leonard A. Chauvin, retired chairman of the Bartlett High School Science Department.
I went with the reverse Nov. 7 in remembering Webster's first World War II casualty, Felix E. Borus. He lost his life when the destroyer he served aboard grounded in a storm off the coast of Newfoundland. The Navy was there to protect fluorspar mined in that area and used in the first atomic bomb.
The column also brought a call from Judith Borus Edwards of Weston, W. Va., who was just a child when her father made the supreme sacrifice. Her memberships include the World War II Orphans Network, she said. "It's made up mostly of daddies little girls."
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Raymond P. Orlowski was surrounded by municipal records when I happened into the Webster town clerk's office on a recent afternoon.
He's into family research. A daughter started the project and he was drawn along, Mr. Orlowski said. "You never know what you're going to learn," he added, providing an example. His grandfather died at an early age, and his father was given a different surname when his grandmother remarried, he said.
"My father went into the army in the old country under his stepfather's name but he went back to Orlowski the first chance he had."
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The first Bartlett High School Athletic Hall of Fame installation illuminated something Chester Starzec has long believed.
Mr. Starzec's senior year at BHS, 1940-41, produced one of the best athletic records in the school's history. "We lost two games in football, the big one to Wells, 12 to 6 in a snowstorm, and three games in basketball by four points, two regular season games by only one point, and a tournament game by two points."
The 1941 baseball team was undefeated, Mr. Starzec, an infielder, recalled. Two of the fielders on that club, John Stefanik and Sam Cowitz, were enshrined with the first athletic fame class.
"Kuba (Andy) Jarzabski should have made it but he'll get on," Mr. Starzec predicted, showing an understanding of the generational system used by the Hall of Fame committee. With a long and rich athletic history to draw from, the BHS selectors have a lot of great performers to honor.
Now that the athletic fame group is up and running, on street nominations are being heard. Nellie Twardzik Thompson, the only woman to ever letter in baseball, seems a favorite with the 1930s to 1950s crowd.
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Last I knew, Stacey S. Baron had a college degree in hand and was w
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Telegram & Gazette

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