Firemen's Relief Association  
Thursday, July 11, 2002
Patenaude/ Webster
JULY 11 TELEGRAM & GAZETTE
So I've Heard Column


It's a 38-year stretch of Webster Firemen's Relief Association history, and a heck of a lot more!
The second book of relief association records, discovered recently by Josephine E. Mason, covers quarterly meetings from May 14, 1930 to May 8, 1968. Her late husband, Nobel L. Mason and others in his family served with the on-call force. The book was in her home for safekeeping. It's small town America at its best, and appropriate to Independence Day.
William J. Love was the secretary when the log was purchased for $1.25 in May 1930. The last 35 pages, 265 to 300, are blank. The reason might be in the report for Feb. 14, 1968. The meeting was in "the New Fire Station." The facility had equipment unavailable in the old one--like a typewriter.
A typed sheet of minutes for the association's 2/14/68 meeting is in the book, floating between a couple of pages. Logic suggests subsequent reports were placed in a loose leaf binder.
A sense of history is necessary to understand some of the entries. For example, the association authorized a loan of $3,000 to the town on May 11, 1932. The Great Depression had the country on its knees, and Webster was not immune to the national ills.
Banks didn't have money for loans, not even to the towns. Webster borrowed from its citizens, and the men in the Firemens Relief Association were good citizens. Loans to the town were at a modest rate of interest, but, like others with some means, the relief group waited months to years for return of their money. Some people collected real estate tax credits.
The association decided August 10, 1932 to hold a dance to help the town Welfare Department. They raised about $400 at a time when welfare demands were without precedemt. Beano games proved a great source of revenue for several years from the mid-1930s.
Reports took on a routine of their own by the late 1930s. Funds were invested for safe keeping, committees insisted on value for goods received, and stability seemed certain. Then, the department suffered its first fatality. Charles E. Marsha died while battling a blaze inside a building in Charlton on Christmas Day 1939. His widow received a $1,000 settlement. This brought an awareness that improved coverage was necessary, and changes followed.
The association voted to buy $10,000 in war bonds at the first meeting after Japan attacked the U.S. Naval Station at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Dec. 7, 1941, plunging the United States into World War II. The membership decided also to present $50 in cash to "all members entering the U.S. service." Arthur Lizzotte, now of Oxford, joined the Army in March 1942. He was the first Webster fireman to leave for duty. Alfred Bernier followed about a week later.
War bonds were purchased on a regular basis throughout the war, and donations to the Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the Webster-Dudley War Chest were made regularly. The war chest was a local appeal that sent a $5 check, a carton of cigarettes (before smoking was treated as an addiction), and a card every Christmas to every person from Webster-Dudley serving in the military.
A dispute between the 1949 Board of Fire Engineers and the Board of Selectmen, with both claiming the right to name the fire chief, brought political fallout of the first order. While displeasure must have penetrated into the ranks, and especially when several engineers were replaced, the Firemens Relief Association remained above the fray, judging from minutes from that period.
The association had three presidents--Chiefs Arthur Belmore, Leon Kujawski Sr., and Edward Poblocki--all within a year, but help for others remained its credo. Everyone on both sides of the political debate, played out at the 1950 town election, became honorary members, in keeping with a custom from the start of book two. Retirements were feted, sick benefits were automatic, death of former m
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