By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News
A lot of history, both local and otherwise, will be marching with the 133rd annual Fireman’s Day Parade today in North Tonawanda and the City of Tonawanda. The parade will begin at 2 p.m. at Thompson Street and Payne Avenue in North Tonawanda, then proceed south on Payne, west on Goundry Street, south on Webster Street, across the bridge into Tonawanda and finally, to Main and Broad streets in the City of Tonawanda.
From the City of Tonawanda, Fire Chief Charles Stuart said that the four volunteer companies — Union Hook and Ladder No. 1, National Hose No. 1, Delaware House No. 2 and Niagara Hose No. 3 — will take part, as will the career division, members of City of Tonawanda Professional Firefighters Local 859.
“Back in the heyday, it was nothing unusual for each company to turn out over 100 people themselves, so you would have over 1,000 in line,” he said. “It’s a national trend and it’s been that way for 20-plus years. People don’t volunteer as much. Double-income families make it difficult to volunteer. It makes it difficult to find the time.”
“In the early days, it was held on a weekday and they closed the schools and banks down,” he said. “It was quite the event. The fire companies were much bigger. There was much more involvement. Our culture’s changing now and people do other things, but that was how it was.”
The event has changed in other ways large and small over the years, including tinkering with the route designed to bring more people out to watch the parade and salute their firefighters. In another change, this year Mayor Robert Ortt and members of the City Council will formally review the North Tonawanda firefighters in front of City Hall as they stand for inspection before the parade, Lapham said.
The Tonawanda fire companies will have their own inspection at 12:30 p.m. in front of fire headquarters on William Street, Stuart said. For the past two or three weeks, the vehicles have been inspected, washed, waxed and prepared for the day.
Tom Pendleton, a former firefighter with Columbia Hook and Ladder in North Tonawanda, has been involved with the parade for more than 40 years. He said it’s something he always enjoys.
“You don’t want to see it go, because all the people who are in it, they want to be there. It’s a sign of the times.”
“I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t look forward to parade day itself,” he said.