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Blog: 1931 Maryland State Firemen’s Association Convention

In July 1931, the Westminster Volunteer Fire Department and Westminster Municipal Band attended the Maryland State Firemen’s Association annual convention in Ocean City.

A lengthy July 17, 1931 newspaper article describes the Westminster Municipal Band and the Westminster Fire Department arriving home from participating in the Maryland State Firemen’s Association annual convention earlier that July “in a jubilant mood, as the band brought home $100 for the best band in line of parade…”

The history page from the Frostburg Maryland Fire Department reports that it was one of nine member fire companies that organized the first Maryland State Firemen's Association convention in Frederick in June 1893. 

In 1899 the convention was held in Westminster. A June 8, 1899 Baltimore Sun article, “Have A Hot Time In Westminster And Make Brave Show MANY DROP OUT OF RANKS Twenty-Six Companies And Forty Organizations In The Line Of The Great Parade” observed:

“…From 10,000 to 12,000 people were in Westminster for the opening of the seventh annual convention of the Maryland State Firemen's Association. From midnight until noon today trainloads of people arrived. By everyone it is conceded to have been the greatest day in the history of Westminster...”

The 1931 newspaper article described the trip to Ocean City in the days long before the Chesapeake Bay Bridge was built. “The firemen and band left Wednesday morning at 6:35 and arrived at Ocean City at 12:15 p.m. in a Blue Ridge line bus. They traveled by Green Spring Valley to Towson to Havre de Grace, Elkton, Dover to Ocean City, about 190 miles…

“Thursday passed off in sight-seeing with a pajama parade by the Westminster Band at 11 o'clock at night which was followed by several hundred people cheering as they passed down the board walk…” The band also gave concerts on the boardwalk and at the Del-Mar-Va Hotel and Hastings Hotel. 

One of the biggest attractions at the end of the convention is the grand parade which is described in great detail by the 1931 newspaper account, “On Friday morning at 11 o'clock the firemen's parade was the feature.

The parade was led by Gov. Ritchie, Comptroller William S. Gordy, and Mayor William W. McCabe. Twelve hundred firemen, representing 83 Maryland and Delaware fire units, paraded.” The parade extended over 2 miles long that year. 

According to the newspaper article, “Members of Westminster Fire Department taking part in the convention were Frank T. Shaeffer, Michael E. Walsh, Edw. O. Diffendal, Francis N. Keefer, J. Floyd Diffendal, Frank B. Dillard, James Pearre Wantz, Jr., Ralph Royer, Edward B. Orendorff, Wilbur Weller, J. H. Ryland and Claude Buckingham.”

“The $100 purse was a princely sum in 1931,” says local historian Jay Graybeal. “In this early year of the Depression, a pound of coffee cost 20 cents; a pound of peanut butter, 21 cents; and two cans of tomatoes were 15 cents.”

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

David A. Grand July 16, 2012 at 07:16 PM
Don't mean to rain on "that parade," Kevin, But a much more historical evenr ocurred a month earlier of that year, which was when, on June 11th, the Lord brought me forth unto the earth (with the help of my parents). And iit was no coincidence, that on that very day the Empire State Building opened its doors for the time, presumeably in honor of my arrival. And I'd often wondered why it wasn't also deserving of a state or national holiday.

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