Clayton Volunteer Fire Co. No. 1 celebrates 125 years

Clayton Fire Company No. 1 Station 45 is celebrating 125 years of serving the community. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

Clayton Fire Company No. 1 Station 45 is celebrating 125 years of serving the community. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

CLAYTON — Clayton Volunteer Fire Company No. 1 turns 125 this year — and is proud of it.

Station 45 isn’t stuck in its ways, though.

“We’re focused on continuing on with what past members have done and keep building on that,” said Capt. Alex Carrow, whose grandfather and father are past and present chiefs.

“We don’t want to be so dedicated to keeping our traditions alive that we fail to keep up with what’s working best now, either,” he added.

In recognition of its milestone, the all-volunteer company has several events planned for the next few days.

On Saturday, the company will host a fire apparatus muster showcasing antique and current equipment; the event runs from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the First State Military Academy at 355 W. Duck Creek Road.

Next Friday, Xbos is the site of a children’s-themed gathering to celebrate, followed by a block party for members in front of the fire station on Railroad Avenue on May 14.

Other intra company events are planned at the fire station.

A room full of artifacts highlight Clayton Fire Company No. 1 Station 45’s 125 years, including a historical uniform and the first hand truck purchased in 1881. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

A room full of artifacts highlight Clayton Fire Company No. 1 Station 45’s 125 years, including a historical uniform and the first hand truck purchased in 1881. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

While so many have served with distinction, 51-year member and lifelong Clayton resident Jim Cubbage said three past chiefs were especially crucial for “setting the tone” at Station 45: William “Ace” Carrow, Bob Berghorn and Bob Faulkner.

Mr. Cubbage said Mr. Carrow especially fostered a high expectation of performance to the company, inspiring members to meet certain standards through PRIDE — professionalism, respect, integrity, dedication and education.

With just 60 fully trained volunteers currently active, everyone must pitch in.

“We probably train as much as any small company in the state,” Mr. Cubbage said.

Indeed, hard work is a must when gaining an expertise that’s more challenging than ever through state requirements.

“Training is a lot more rigorous these days,” said Richard Locke, a member since 1974. “You can’t just jump on a truck that’s heading to a fire. You hear around the state that people are using our training programs.”

Staying true to regular training mode, the celebration on Monday will include a fire school conducted by former Buffalo (N.Y.) Fire Commissioner Mike Lombardo, with mutual aid companies invited to attend. At Tuesday night’s regularly scheduled company meeting, various elected officials and other companies to acknowledge and salute Clayton FC.

The company will host the Kent County Fire Chief’s Association monthly meeting on Wednesday, and a Thursday social gathering is planned for 50 year and lifetime members, past chiefs and presidents. Clayton FC spokesman Kevin Wilson said, “The highlight of this even will be the members having their thoughts and recollections recorded for our members of the future to review.”

On Sunday at the station, members will gather for a memorial service paying tribute to members; Ewell St. Paul church Pastor Rich Walton, a retired City of Wilmington firefighter, will conduct the service.

New generation emerges

A member for 49 years, Clevie Donavon believes the company remains strong today as a new generation steps up to serve the community.

“We have new members who are carrying on the tradition and carrying it on well,” Mr. Donovan said. “There’s a sense of pride and brotherhood that is still here.”

Regularly gathering for conversation at the Clayton Fire Company No. 1 Station 45 are long-time members, from left, Cleve Donovan, Wally Hudson, Jim Cubbage, Robert Lightcap, Ron Ivory, Donald Kelly and Richard Locke. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

Regularly gathering for conversation at the Clayton Fire Company No. 1 Station 45 are long-time members, from left, Clevie Donavon, Wally Hudson, Jim Cubbage, Robert Lightcap, Ron Ivory, Donald Kelly and Richard Locke. (Delaware State News/Craig Anderson)

Where fire companies statewide lament a drop in volunteerism challenging manpower needs, William Carrow said new Clayton FC members quickly become part of a family-like atmosphere that keeps them around.

“We’re able to recruit members and retain them,” Alex Carrow said.

The fire service is not for everyone, however, according to Jackie Davis, who joined in October 1963.

“I’ve seen a lot of people come and I’ve seen a lot of people go,” he said.

Nearly every morning, a group of three to five members gather at the fire station to reminisce and hold conversations that “can go just about anywhere,” said Mr. Davis.

Wally Hudson, 90, and a 74-year member of the fire service with four companies, looks forward to the meetings because “just being around everyone and hearing the friendly talk is nice.

“There’s always boys in there every day. They just sit around and talk. We don’t have any big fires any more because of good fire prevention, so there’s not much about fires to talk about.”

With a wry grin and chuckle, Mr. Donavon described the meetings this way:

“We always try to see who can out-lie everyone,” Mr. Donavon said. “You always want to go last.”

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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