MB Fire Company: Always Brave & Ready
The all-volunteer Monmouth Beach Fire Company — proud of its century-long dedication to protecting the lives and property of its neighbors — actually predates the borough.
With only an idea to create a borough fire company, several area residents met at the Willow Grove House on Fresh Pond Road (now Riverdale Avenue) on September 29, 1905. Prior to creation of the borough’s fire company, the town had relied on the services of the Oliver Byron Engine Company in North Long Branch.
The first organizational meeting was held in November 1905 when the company was officially presented with its charter. The first officers were: Nelson Lockwood, Sr., president; William Blizard, Sr., vice president; Richard West, secretary; John McWood, Sr., treasurer; Charles Valentine, foreman; William Heitzman, 1st assistant foreman; and E. Borden West, 2nd assistant foreman. The original MBFC roll included 46 members.
In 1906, a two-story firehouse (40 x 26 feet) was built on the corner of Beach Road and Borden Street. In June 1914, the fire company acquired the Jemima Cook property for $4,000, according to the Long Branch Daily Record. The firehouse was moved to its present location next to borough hall in late 1919.
Thanks to public donations, the company bought its first piece of firefighting equipment, a horse-drawn hose wagon, in 1907 for $565. The company elected its first fire chief, John A. Maney, in 1908. Also that year the new borough council gave the company a horse-drawn hook and ladder apparatus.
By 1916, again thanks to public donations, the company had its first motorized fire-fighting apparatus. In 1921, the borough council made another sizable contribution to the fire company with the purchase of a pumper fire truck, a 750-GPM American La France.
The company’s first major fire was in the late spring of 1909. The Mahahan Livery Stable on Beach Road burned down but several surrounding buildings were saved by the firemen. For an early alarm system, a large gong and sledge hammer was used and replaced by a large Sears, Roebuck 34-inch bell atop the firehouse in 1910. The bell tower was removed in 1919.
According to fire company records, “the greatest fire in the history of the town” occurred on December 26, 1929, when the Monmouth Beach Clubhouse Hotel on Beach Road and Club Circle burned. The building, the old Wardell Farm House, had been a popular resort spot for years. Firefighters fought the blaze through the night for 12 hours.
“When fire is cried and danger Is nigh, ‘God and Firemen’ is the people’s cry.”
—The Fireman’s Journal, 1879
The fire company bought its first Scott Air Packs in 1962 replacing the outdated mining safety masks. In 1946 the company and borough chipped in to buy a 500-gallon the Mack Fire Truck, which is still around today. In 1963 the MBFC bought a new Hahn fire truck for $25,000. In 1981 it acquired another pumper truck. The company added new pumper trucks in 1995 and 2005. A major fire at the Channel Club Tower in 1985 convinced borough officials that a tower ladder truck was needed; by 1987 a 100+ footer from Stuphen was part of the company line.
In 1989, the Clarence B. Cook Firefighter of the Year award was created, in recognition of the longtime fireman and borough official. Also that year, Jaw W. Ross donated $55,000 for the construction of a fire company museum in the back of the property.
The borough’s fire company started distributing toys on Christmas Day in 1946. Gift-wrapped toys are home-delivered to all borough children, infant through Grade 4. The MBFC is one of the few, if only, area organizations to deliver toys on the actual holiday.
The MB Firemen’s Fair is a town summertime fixture dating back 85 years. The first fair took place in August 1937 and Clarence Cook chaired the committee. Great stories abound over the years of family and friends enjoying the annual event. Who can ever forget throwing curtain rings on Coke bottles? Or a ride on the Mack? For years the fair was held at the firehouse, but Hurricane Sandy damages forced its move to the MB Bathing Pavilion on Ocean Avenue.
The Ladies Auxiliary of the MB Fire Company has been ever-at-the-ready to lend valuable and timely support to the borough’s volunteer firefighters. The group was officially formed in 1956 after several women met a week after a party celebrating the 50th anniversary of the MB Fire Company.
According to a program from the auxiliary’s 10-year anniversary celebration, the LAMB charter members were Janet Barkelew, Rita Bradley, Laura Bradley, Phyllis Cobleigh, Elizabeth Davidson, Mary DeMarco, Kate Ferrugiaro, Terry Flaherty, Evelene George, Marion Hansen, Gloria Hennessey, Elizabeth Hornbostel, Louise Hornbostel, Mary Hornbostel, Alice Johnson, Tillie Kampf, Louella Koch, Dorothy Koch, Elaine Kopnicki, Leah Leissler, Anita Maney, Helen Marsh, Marion Marsh, Myrtle Marsh, Doris Mihm, Harriet Miller, Dorothy Peterson, Marion Schumacher, Barbara Seible, Betty Truglia, Gertrude Walls, Amy Wardell, Patricia West, Marie Wood, Viola Zeim, and Flora Van Brunt. The organization’s first president was Myrtle Marsh.
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Maney, Maney Chiefs
No borough family can claim as many fire chiefs as the Maneys — seven men in all. John A. Maney (the borough’s first chief in 1908) and his brother Robert S. Maney (1922) were the sons of John Maney, Sr., who moved to Monmouth Beach from Ireland in 1863 and later served on the first MB School Board. Robert T. Maney (1928), William J. Maney (1929) and George (Pat) V. Maney (1936) were sons of John A. Maney, who was also a member of the first MB borough council. Robert S. Maney’s son was James R. Maney (1948) and his son was James R. Maney, Jr. (1977); known as Jay, he like his great-grandfather, served on the MB School Board. Pat Maney was a borough police chief from 1956 to 1964.