History of the Ringing Hill Fire Co.
On January 3, 1956, a group of twenty-three men met in Ringing Rocks Park Roller Skating Rink to organize a new fire company. During that year and in the ensuing months many impossible dreams were realized. To say that the making of this fire company was an easy task would be a grave error, as the short history of the Ringing Hill Fire Co. is replete with seemingly insurmountable obstacles which were met and overcome as new and higher goals were immediately set. These, in turn, being achieved, aided this ambitious group, whose ranks swelled over 500 members in four short months, to build, not only stone walls and cement foundations, but also a reputation for getting things done. In fulfilling their responsibility to the community, an exceptionally high degree of service was performed.
Close harmony among the originators of the company, the cooperation of the former owner, Walter J. Wolf, and the help of several hundred local citizens who believed in and supported the new "infant" with money enabled this band of "daring young men" to embark on a venture, which, to some, was seemingly wild and hairbrained. But, before we begin this history, let us first consider the story of Ringing Rocks Park itself, for no mention of Ringing Hill Fire Co. would be complete without first delving into some of the rich history of the Park and of the "rocks that ring."
Located in what is now Lower Pottsgrove Township, the Park was an integral part of the lives of the people of the area including Pottstown, and the western end of Montgomery County, as well as sections of Berks and Chester Counties. Originally a wild region, Ringing Hill became known to the general public at even greater distances because of one of nature's freaks. This was the group of boulders known as "ringing rocks," and received its greatest attention during the era of the development of trolley cars, at a time when nearly every line established a summer park for increased traffic. There are other boulders which do not ring, but are similar to those found at Ringing Rocks Park, situated in Sumneytown, Spring Mount, Gettysburg, and at the Falls of French Creek. It is said that those boulders imbedded in the earth will not ring, but the ones that rest on other boulders "ring" if struck with a hammer or hard stone.
The locality was known over two and a quarter centuries ago, when a road was opened in 1742 from Pottstown over Ringing Hill continuing to New Goshenhoppen (now Pennsburg) and extended further to the western end of Bucks County (the present Quakertown area). This road today is North Charlotte Street and Legislative Route No. 663. Over the years the main attraction was the group of rocks, but by the late 1800's the people saw the area developed into a real park, and in the summer of 1895 the Park was officially opened. Throngs came to the Park walking, by horse and wagon, bicycle, and the trolley car. Picnics were held during the summers, various associations met here, and on some evenings attendance at a lecture was of interest to adults.
A decline in attendance and general interest in the Park's activities was noted when Sanatoga Park was opened as it was much easier to reach. Then when the trolley service was abandoned to the Park a bus line was established. In 1920 a fire destroyed the large pavilion, and a new one had to be erected. Following the depression, Walter Wolf purchased the Park, and operated the amusements and rink until September 1, 1957, when ownership was transferred to the newly organized Ringing Hill Fire Co. Included in the sale were the skating rink, the restaurant building, and the wooded areas of approximately 160 acres.
The distinguishing feature of this embryo plan to have a fire company was the fact that the men who were instrumental in organizing Ringing Hill Fire Co. discarded the old methods of raising funds by illegal methods and planned to operate the Park and Rink to obtain its revenue. Returning to the fire company's "growing pains," during the balance of the first half of the year 1956, By-laws were adopted, the Charter was issued and formally presented, and the first annual election of permanent officers was held. Those installed were: President, Clarence J. Kohler; Vice President, Norman V. Arndt; Secretary, Harry J. Keeler; Treasurer, Duncan M. Hunsberger; Directors, Lawrence Istenes, Herbert Firing, Paul Bieleski, William Fizz, and Walter J. Wolf.
On September 28, 1956, a Ladies Auxiliary was organized. Much help and financial assistance was give by the ladies to the fire company.
In order to raise funds to by the Park from Mr. Wolf, a drive was begun on October 2, 1956 to sell $100 bonds at 2% interest for a twenty year term. The drive was climaxed on January 7, 1957 when a victory celebration was held to mark the success of the campaign. Settlement for purchase of the Park was made of August 16, 1957, with Mr. Walter J. Wolf.
In June of that same year a motion to purchase a new, and their first, fire engine, instead of an inexpensive used model stunned members. However, the motion passed easily, and delivery of a 750 gallon pumper with a 750 gallon tank with a Harwick body was made on February 22, 1958. Ringing Hill's first Housing was conducted by Sanatoga Fire Co. in Ringing Rocks Park on July 4, 1958, and was attended by many hundreds of interested persons from the entire area. The main speaker of that occasion was Mr. Francis Baer of the Allentown City Fire Department.
It is noteworthy that, in November 1957, work was begun on the Apparatus Room for the first fire engine, and ten years later, in December 1967, work was begun again to renovate the room further for a "house" in which to keep a new 3000 gallon tanker.
Ringing Hill received a gift of a 750 gallon capacity used fuel oil truck from Nagle Motors in July 1961. This was converted to a tanker and placed in service on October 2nd that fall. Six years later, August 1967, an emergency truck was donated by Sanatoga Fire Co. A decision to donate the old converted tanker to Barto Volunteer Fire Co. was made in April 1969 and was wholeheartedly approved by the membership.
On July 1, 1968, another milestone was passed when the firemen ordered a new 3000 International tanker with a Hale pump. The huge truck arrived on March 3, 1969, and was called into service within five hours from the time of its arrival, when a serious fire erupted in a barn at Laurel Locks Farms. The new tanker was thoroughly tested and put through its paces in hauling and discharging 21,000 gallons of water.