Oak Hill & Vicinity: A benefit for Charlie

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By Mary Lou Nahas

For Capital Region Independent Media

Charles “Charlie” Fremgen

The Oak Hill-Durham Volunteer Fire Company will host a spaghetti-and-meatball dinner benefit on Saturday, March 26, from 4-7 p.m. for Charles “Charlie” Fremgen to help offset medical expenses due to a cancer diagnosis.

The dinner will be at the firehouse, 103 CR 22, in Oak Hill. Donations are $12 and the dinner is eat-in or take-out. To call ahead for take-out, please call 518-239-4837.

Charlie is a life member of Oak Hill Fire Company, an honor given to those who have served in the company 25 years. He joined in 1987. He was a member of Catskill Hose No. 1 before moving to Durham.

Charlie held numerous positions in the fire company over the years: president, secretary and assistant chief. He has been honored in many ways; in 2013 he was recognized for having gone on the most calls during the year. He was always at the fundraising breakfasts for the fire company and helped take care of and honor countless community members. Which is what members of the volunteer fire companies do for others. So, it is especially fitting for his community to be there for Charlie now.

Charlie has also been active in the Greene County Volunteer Fireman’s Association for many years. He chaired many committees for the organization including Drill Day and Fire Prevention at the Youth Fair. Charlie is active in the Greene County Fire Chiefs Association and has been the president many times over the years, Kevin Sattler remarked. Charlie has also served many years on the Greene County Fire Advisory Board. He is a military veteran and member of the Greenville American Legion.

While my main reason for choosing this topic to write about this week is to honor Charlie for all the many things he has done for his community and to let everyone know about the dinner, I also want also to talk about volunteer fire companies and what they do for all of us who live here. I think Charlie would want this story to be about others, too, and not just him. Residents who have lived only where there are paid fire companies may have no idea how it works here.

Let’s start with some history of volunteer fire companies in Greene County. On April 1, 1797, an act to “Better Extinguish Fires in the Village of Catskill” was passed. The Justice of the Peace was authorized to command the assistance of all able-bodied inhabitants of the village to assist in fighting fires.

When the village of Catskill became incorporated on June 6, 1806, the first ordinance passed by the trustees was that in the event of a fire, the trustees shall invest themselves with a white scarf on their respective hats and shall perform the duties assigned them. Trustee #1 shall pay particular attention to the formation of the line of citizens with buckets. Trustee #2 shall attend to the hooks and ladders. Trustee #3 shall direct this attention to the removal and security of all effects. Trustee #4 shall have the supervision and direction of the engine and fire company.

On Sept. 26, 1855, Engine Company No. 1 was organized. The horses to pull the equipment were furnished by a local businessman. Hose Company No. 1 purchased the first motor-driven fire apparatus in Greene County in 1914. This unit had no pump but did have a 50-gallon chemical tank, two ladders and the headlights were the large round gas type with tanks on the running board. The men had to buy their own boots in 1914. As mentioned above, Charlie was a member of Catskill Hose No. 1 before he moved to Durham.

The Oak Hill-Durham Fire Company was formed on Sept. 14, 1945. The East Durham Fire Company had been servicing the hamlets of Oak Hill and Durham as well as East Durham and Cornwallville, but residents felt their own company was needed. A meeting was called for the residents of the Oak Hill-Durham area; officers were elected; and on Dec. 29, 1945, corporation papers were filed.

Street dances and sales were held to start the treasury. An old barn in Oak Hill next to the funeral parlor was located. Mr. Brandow donated $1,000 for the purchase of the building. The first truck, a 1929 Chevrolet 1-ton cab A chassis, was purchased on the recommendation of the first chief, Hyatt Field. In 1949, under the direction of Chief C. Burton Mattice, who held office for 15 years, the Oak Hill-Durham Fire Company joined the Greene County Firemen’s Association.  Charlie has served in the County Association as well as the Oak Hill Durham company. 

While Charlie is being honored with this benefit dinner, many others have been recognized over the years. I can’t name them all, but at a recent installation dinner Bruce Borwegen was honored for 60 years, Walter Wood 50 years, Alan Beechert 40 years, Joe Thornton 30 years, Bob Haller 25 years, and Kevin Sattler 10 years. Bob Haller also earned a life membership and received his 25-year pin and metal membership card.

Fire companies and their auxiliaries have had suppers, lunches, bingo games, hobby shows to earn money help build fire houses and maintain them. They have used their funds to send gifts to the sick and shut-ins. Donations have been made over the years to the Red Cross, the Heart Fund, Christmas Seals, March of Dimes, the Community Christmas Party for the Children, and the Firemen’s Home.

This benefit follows that tradition. It’s also a good opportunity to meet your neighbors and enjoy a good meal. For those who have moved here in recent years and never been to a benefit dinner at a local firehouse, I urge you to give it a try.

As I recently read: Who needs a big shout-out right now? Volunteer firefighters who are putting $4.20-plus per gallon of gas into their cars just so they can show up to your emergency, absolutely free.

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