History of the Branchville Ladies Auxiliary

Written for the 1998 PGCVF&RA Convention Book - Items in [ ] added by web page author

Recognizing the need for an auxiliary to assist the members of the Branchville Volunteer Fire Department, the wife of the Chief at that time, Mrs. William Deeck, Sr., together with Mrs. Annie Burnett, a local resident, called a meeting of interested ladies on September 26, 1925. Fourteen ladies attended and an election of officers was held. Mrs. Burnett was elected President; Mrs. Esther Allsworth Vice President; Mrs. James Staley Secretary and Mrs. Frank Burton Treasurer. In addition to those elected, others in attendance included Mrs. Frank Dyer, Mrs. Cleve Johnson, Mrs. H. Arrow, Mrs. William Mulligan, Mrs. K. Cassard, Mrs. Sadie Wilson, Mrs. Estells Thrift, Irene Bates and Alice Rook.

This organization of ladies met in their homes until such time as a firehouse was built, there they would then hold meetings. Simply stated, their aim was, and continues, to be of assistance to the firemen in any way and at any time and during the years following its formation, the members of the Ladies Auxiliary have continued serving alongside the firemen.

Mrs. Burnett didn't confine her activities to Branchville. She went on to be instrumental in organizing the Prince George's County Ladies Auxiliary, with the help of Mrs. T. Weston Scott of Cottage City at a meeting held at the Branchville Fire House on May 23, 1930, and was elected its first president. In July of the following year in Ocean City, Mrs. Burnett acted as chairman and organizer when the Maryland State Association Auxiliary was formed. (Mrs. Mary Fainter of Hyattsville was elected that group's first president.) And, until her death on April 20, 1958, Mrs. Burnett always had the interests of the volunteer fire service uppermost in her thoughts.

The Second World War came and with it a manpower shortage. The Ladies Auxiliary members did their duty by staffing the switchboard to relay incoming fire calls to all the companies in the surrounding areas. And a crew of ladies from the Auxiliary was trained to operate the Diamond "T" pumper, becoming a very effective addition to firefighting under wartime emergency measures. Members of that crew were: Dorothy Stauffer - driver; Mae Duval, Kitty Fortner, Katherine Kirkpatrick, Alma Caudell and Blanche Longanecker. What a crew!

The volunteers at Branchville changed, along with their growing community, and their existing quarters were no longer adequate to meet their needs. In October 1954, a new $85,000 firehouse was dedicated and with that new building the need for fund raising increased. The Auxiliary members have always taken a very active part in the fund-raising efforts of the fire department and on their own, or at times through the use of the fire engines to aid in canvassing the neighborhoods, the Ladies Auxiliary has raised thousands and thousands of dollars with which to purchase a much needed resuscitator for the ambulance; a constant supply of sheets and blankets for both the ambulance and the bunk room; first aid supplies; kitchen equipment and curtains for the hall and downstairs, to name but a few of the "needed" items. In addition, they purchased the chrome-plated bell that was mounted on one of the former engines (and is now enshrined at the University of Maryland) and a pool table for the "rec" room. But the most impressive donation was the new ambulance that was presented to the fire department in 1996.

For many years, Branchville held a dance each Saturday night, and had it not been for the help of the ladies, it would not have been possible for the dances to be the major source of revenue for the department at the time. The ladies ran the kitchen and on numerous occasions, they actually ran the dance when there were no firemen to do so or when the firemen would have to leave to go to a fire. The weekly bingo games have also been a good source of income over the years, thanks in no small measure to the dedication of the members of the Ladies Auxiliary. There were also carnivals that they helped with, too.

In the early 1950's, when the rescue squad began its fund-raising drive, the Auxiliary members provided those who participated with a "kick-off" dinner, which has now become an annual tradition. And not to be forgotten are the social events such as the annual banquets, fire prevention Open House activities, housing of new equipment, and volleyball tournaments; events that were both fun and necessary.

The ladies have, for many, many years, provided the food and/or refreshments for the numerous meetings and services held by the firemen. And they have also provided holiday baskets to those in our community who are most needy.

Sports, too, have been an important part of the lives of many Auxiliary members. When the County Auxiliary organized a bowing league many years ago, some members formed a team and won first place in the 1966-67 season. They continued to have a team from time to time but in later years there has not been too much interest or time to participate. But supporting the men's softball teams has been another "sports" activity for over forty years.

As time went, so did some of the auxiliary members and in 1946, when the County Firemen's Convention was held in Branchville, only one charter Auxiliary member was still active - Mrs. Annie Burnett. However, since the organization of the county and state auxiliaries, members from Branchville have been present at the countless meetings and conventions and many members have served on committees and taken active roles in each group, following in Mrs. Burnett's footsteps. In 1945, Mrs. Dorothy Stauffer was elected county president and in 1976, Mrs. Josephine Porter was elected county president, again bringing honor and fame to our Auxiliary.

In the early years of our Auxiliary, a marching unit was formed but it didn't remain active for too long. In 1954, new interest was shown in a marching unit and it was reactivated with participation by many new members. Through their efforts and with an "OK" from the firemen, money was raised for new uniforms, national and state flags, and a beautiful banner, all of which contributed to the unit's success. For the next decade, it was seldom that the unit didn't win a trophy when it participated in any of the many fire department related parades, whether it was in Falls Church, VA, or District Heights, MD. It wasn't only their meticulous appearance in those navy blue serge uniforms that made them look so good, but their silent drill was unbeatable. Of course credit for the success of the silent drill goes in large part to their instructor, John Rhoads, former drum major at Northwestern High School and the University of Maryland, who was a member of Branchville at that time.

Regretfully, that particular marching unit disbanded, but in the late 1960's another unit was formed and, for several years thereafter, maintained that tradition of participation.

In 1985, after another period of inactivity, the Auxiliary was again re-activated and more new members joined. Another bowing team was formed, interest in county meetings increased and participation in annual convention contests started in the early 1990's. Their participation in those contests has demonstrated just how physically capable our members are! And as before, there was renewed interest in forming another marching unit.

In June of 1996 the Branchville Ladies Auxiliary took on a challenge to walk the walk and from that point on the Ladies Auxiliary has marched in various parades in the county and state. In 1996 we won Second Place - Best Appearing Ladies at the Maryland State Firemen's Association Convention Parade in Ocean City and Second at the Prince George's County Volunteer Fire and Rescue Association Convention Parade.

In 1997, the Ladies won First Place - Best Appearing Ladies at the State Convention, Best Appearing Auxiliary - Overall at the P.G. Convention held in Laurel, and First Place at the Montgomery County Convention Parade.

Once again this year [1998] we are proud that the Branchville Ladies Auxiliary were named Best Appearing Ladies Auxiliary at the State Convention, an honor that we have worked very hard to achieve.

Since its inception, the dedication with which all of the members of the Ladies Auxiliary have served has been commendable and it is fitting to say that the BRANCHVILLE LADIES AUXILIARY is and always will be an integral part of the BRANCHVILLE VOLUNTEER FIRE COMPANY AND RESCUE SQUAD, INC.