Antique Bell Donated to Pa. Historical Society

The Schuylkill County Historical Society on Thursday acquired a vintage bell that had been a fixture on a fire truck in Pottsville.

"It's not something you want to run down the street with," George Moyer Sr., Pottsville, said, as he and other volunteers struggled to carry the more than 200-pound bell through a back door of the society's headquarters at 305 N. Centre St., Pottsville.

It belonged to the former Greenwood Hill Fire Company, Station 80, and a summary of its history is engraved on a plaque: "This bell was purchased by Charles Runciman Sr. in 1947 for $20. It was one of the last items removed from the famous switchback at Mauch Chunk. It was mounted on the old fire truck until 1960. It is a nickel plated bell. The exact age of the bell is not known."

The number "1737" is engraved on it, but the fire company members did not know its significance.

"I believe it's made of brass," Moyer, who is a past president of the former fire company, said.

Bill Webber, the society's curator, Peter Yesenchak, Ph.D, the society's director of research, Thomas B. Drogalis, the society's executive director, and Allen Frantz, a society volunteer, were there when the bell arrived just after noon Thursday.

The members of the former fire company also donated a black and orange "Greenwood Hill Fire Co." sign which hung on the company's headquarters for many years. It measures 3 feet by 4 feet and is made of plexiglass, according to Pat Fatula, one of the former fire company's past vice presidents.

On Jan. 7, 2009, the Pottsville Fire Department voted to remove Greenwood Hill Fire Company from its ranks. The company has been suspended since Nov. 20, 2007. The company's trained firefighters failed to respond to at least 20 percent of its fire calls in 2007 and "internal problems" at the company led to a drop in membership. The company did not improve its situation in 2008, Pottsville fire Chief Todd March said previously.

In January 2009, the company's members struggled to remain optimistic about the company's future as the fire chief cut power to its fire siren, according to the newspaper archives.

In March 2011, the attorney for the fire company, Jeanne M. Sninski, Bensalem, Bucks County, said the fire company was "in the process of dissolution and the funds will be distributed in accordance with Pennsylvania law."

Members of the "dissolution committee" include Moyer, Fatula, Andy DeStefano, Bruce Heckman and Tara and Jim Schartel, according to Moyer.

On Jan. 23, 2012, Brian W. and Carol L. Tassone, owners of Tassone Construction, Pottsville, bought the former Greenwood Hill Fire Company building for $40,000, according the newspaper archives.

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©2014 the Republican & Herald (Pottsville, Pa.)

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