History of the GAFB
In August of 1981, more than 35 pieces of apparatus gather at Wheaton Village in Millville, NJ for the first muster. The Muster was held under the guidance of the Union Historical Fire Society and directed by Stu Lathrop, Jim Mulch, Wes Howe, and Nancy Howe. The highpoint of the muster was Bob Hoffman's 1922 American LaFrance city service ladder named as Best of Show. This was the first of 24 Best of Shows to be named over the next 25 years.
In November of 1982, many of the participants from the August Muster attended a meeting held at Wheaton Village. The object of the meeting was to decide if there was enough interest to start at South Jersey Chapter of the SPAAMFAA (Society for the Preservation & Appreciation of Antique Motorized Fire Apparatus in America).
The President pro-tem of the meeting, Jim Mulch and those present had a positive discussion on this issue and it was agreed upon to have another meeting in December. At that December meeting, elections were held to name the following as officers for this chapter: President - Jim Mulch, Vice President - Wes Howe, Secretary - Nancy Howe, and Treasurer - Jack Fisher.
Additionally, it was agreed at the December Meeting that an application for the SPAAMFAA Chapter would be filed and in February 1982 the SPAAMFAA approved the application. We became the South Jersey Chapter of the SPAAMFAA, known locally as the Glasstown Antique Fire Brigade (G.A.F.B.)
We soon had by-laws created, bank accounts opened, and activities planned. One of the major changes made by the by-laws was to amend the titles of President to Chief Engineer and Vice President to the Foreman. These new titles are the original, historical names used by fire companies for their leaders.
The Charter Members of the brigade were: Eldon Acton, Robin Adair, James Anderson, Jack Bruner, Archibald Carson, Don Cione, Howard Davis, Lee Eichinger, Jack Fisher, Ben Ford, Germania Fire Co., Robert Leeds, Earl Manley, Wilson Manley, Bud Mathis, Wayne Mounts, Mike Moyer, Jim Mulch, New Gretna Fire Co., Pomona Fire Co., William Proudman, Ed Reid, Bill Harm, Ed Hennessy, Bob and Liz Hoffman, Wes and Nancy Howe, Don Johnson, Frank Lambing, Stu Lathrop, John Laws, Doug Lee, Robert Schafer, Roy Schmidt, Whitey and Joy Swartz, George Taylor, John Tomlin, Steve Ware, Joseph Wolf, and Robert Zimmerman.
The first Muster under our new Chapter was held in June of 1982 at the Renault WInery in Egg Harbor, NJ. This was the beginning of a spring tradition with a friendly pump-in. This Spring Muster has been held at a variety of locations such as Historic Smithville, Mays Landing, New Jersey Aquarium, Vineland, Cold Spring Village, Cooper River Park, and Malaga Lake.
The Wheaton Village Muster has been held annually in August, and it grew from the original 35 antique apparatus in 1981 to 115 apparatus as were in attendance at the 1986 SPAAMFAA Summer Convention hosted by the G.A.F.B. at Wheaton Village. Although many people thought that we were too small to host a SPAAMFAA Convention, we were able to prove our doubters wrong. We again hosted a SPAAMFAA Convention in Atlantic City, NJ during the winter of 2000.
The Best of Show Award, now known as The Nancy Howe Best of Show Award in honor of her dedication to the G.A.F.B., is a very distinctive crystal glass speaking trumpet crafted by the Artisans at Wheaton Village. This is a highly coveted award given only once a year at the Muster in Wheaton Village. The late Nancy Howe, the heart and soul of the brigade, not only held many offices within the Brigade but also served as a Trustee of the National SPAAMFAA for two years during the 1990's.
Over the years six members have held the position of Chief Engineer: Jim Mulch - 1981-1987, Wes Howe - 1988-1989, 2003 - Present, Nancy Howe - 1990-1991, Ed Hennessy - 1992-1995, Joe Bertino - 1996-1999, and Joel Bain - 2000-2002.
The offices for the 27th Anniversary are Immediate Past President - Wes Howe, Chief Engineer - White Swartz, Foreman - Robert Hoffman, Sr., Secretary - Diana Ford, Membership Secretary - Joy Swartz, Treasurer - Joe Bertino, and Trustees - John Burzichelli and Jack Geisler.
The Glasstown Antique Fire Brigade has more than upheld its mission of preserving firefighting history. The members of the Brigade have caringly maintained, restored, or just saved more than 150 pieces of firefighting equipment. Throughout our past Musters, we have been able to give many thousands of people the experience of enjoying the legacy and yesteryear of antique fire apparatus.