Story by Sara Paul
Most fire-fearing citizens would appreciate and agree that new is better than old, big is better than small, and modern is better than antiquated.
Take Warwick’s Raymond Fire House trucks, for instance. The shiny new Mack Tanker holds 3,500 gallons of water; the Spartan is a 1,750 gallon Pumper with a 1,000 booster tank, boasting six compartments filled with high tech equipment.
Their old 1936 Sanford lugs a mere 250 gallons with only a 500 gallon per minute pump and a maximum seated occupancy of two men.
“I like the old truck, though,” comments Duane Robert Joslyn, a 61 year veteran of the Warwick Fire Department (QFD), who is known to most as Buzz.
Surely, the modern Mack and Spartan trucks with specialized equipment, lots of buttons and bling, and enclosed areas for essentials like ladders and axes are miles ahead of the old Sanford’s outdoor rigs.
“I liked ‘em better when they were on the outside,” Buzz says with pride – five letters that sum up a lifetime of dedication, devotion, and downright passion.
The only individual in Orange County to ever be elected president to the three County Fireman Associations, Fire Chief, Fire Police, Volunteer Fireman, and Deputy Coordinator of Battalion 6, Buzz knows fire department history because he has lived that history.
A collector of fire department memorabilia, including more than 400 toy fire trucks and photos of every fire truck in Orange County history, Buzz also has records of each fireman, officer, father and son members, both past and present, of the Raymond Company. He is also a member and past president of the Catskill Fire Cats.
A life-long Warwick resident and devout history buff, Buzz grew up on West St. near the old fire house on Howe St. At a young age he frequented the house, helping the guys with washing the trucks and generally making his curious presence known.
Born on May 2, 1938 with fireman spirit in his blood, Buzz is the son of the late Warwick Volunteer Elwyn, who passed away in in 1956. Buzz joined the WFD soon after in 1957. His mother, Elizabeth, died in 1994.
One sweet son from a family of no less than nine sisters, Buzz had no choice but to be a kind, respectful, and hard-working gentleman. The third from the youngest of 10, he attended Hamilton Avenue School and then high school at the old Park Avenue location, where he played football.
With blue eyes, and an easy-going nature, the Warwick fella of English decent married Pine Island sweetheart Albina “Bina” Mazur in 1974. The couple has one son, Jason, who is an attorney in Manhattan.
Buzz had a day job as a machine operator for Chester Cable, a wire factory in Chester, NY, retiring after 47 years in 2002. When it came to the call of fire duty, however, retirement was never in the cards.
“I was proud to join and I am proud to remain and belong to this group,” he proclaims, recalling the history of the Raymond House from its beginnings in 1896 at the Fabric Fire Hose Co., to the Fire House on Howe St. (by his childhood home), and now its current location on West Street where they ceremoniously marched to in 2004.
Steadily moving up the ladder from Lieutenant to Captain to Chief to President to key member of multiple related organizations Buzz looks back on years of service to the community, all on the arm, of course.
The family man remembers returning home after a long day’s work to a hot meal on the dinner table. However, when that fire bell sounded, he was off. He returned home from his volunteer shift to a cold platter and little sleep.
Those real-life stories of hard-work and, frankly, a hard life of selfless volunteerism have lasting effects and legendary memories.
Buzz tells of one night back in 1968 when he was driving home and observed a huge blaze in the distance. It was, ironically, the Paradise Inn, a restaurant which sat on the very property the new Raymond’s firehouse now rests on.
Buzz, who was Fire Captain at the time, sprinted to the chief’s house just down the road. It was all hands on deck as the Village of Warwick’s four companies were joined by the Pine Island, Florida, and Greenwood Lake companies – the seven groups make up Battalion 6. Companies in Vernon, NJ were even standing by to assist, as they often do.
While risking his life to respond to fires was always Buzz’s duty, his pride and passion is manifested in perhaps the most symbolic and iconic stature: the old, shiny, red fire truck.
In its glorious simplicity, the old 1936 Sanford stood for history and now for brotherhood, a work of art that Buzz and three of his comrades restored in their spare time. The Four Guys of Edenville consisted of Buzz, Ed Schmidt, Joe Walter, and Bill Doty, now legends at the Raymond House.
The Sanford was built in Elmira, NY in 1936 and was acquired by the original Raymond Hose Company. It was sold in 1954, however, years later, the company looked far and wide to retrieve the beloved vehicle.
Hope was just about lost when Buzz received a phone call from a man in East Orange, NJ. When Buzz arrived and identified the truck by its serial number as well as a crack in the frame that had since been welded, Buzz was truly a “happy man.”
With fundraisers covering most of the $12,000 restoration bill, the Four Guys from Edenville worked evenings and weekends on the truck and traveled often to as far as Albany and Connecticut to search for parts.
Everything on the rig is authentic and painstakingly perfect, right down to the kerosene lanterns, wood running boards, and real gold leaf lettering and detailing.
The project began in 1989 and was completed in 1996, the eve of the Town’s parade. Buzz’s old eyes seem as young as when he finished that epic restoration: “You get that thing out in the sun and it just shines.”
To be sure, Warwick’s troop of trucks are maintained, washed, and cherished by true firemen, who understand their importance. The Sanford, in particular, is the centerpiece of local parades, and the Raymond Hose Company has seen its impressive share of accolades over the years.
From meticulous vehicles to militant marching to the time honored color guard, Raymond Hose Company has claimed hundreds of trophies and awards over the years.
Some of Buzz’s most proud and favorite days were when they won a trophy, and, of course, when he became an officer.
At 81 years young, Buzz is still an active Warwick Fire Police member, leaving active duty in 1995. He responds to fires, attends monthly meetings, and participates in the local fire department events. Buzz looks forward to celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Excelsior Hose Company in September 2019.
Buzz seldom leaves Warwick except when fun-loving wife of 40 years, Bina, insists on cruising to Aruba and other tropical spots, though most recently the couple enjoys the New England cruises up the northeast coast.
A man a few words, except when it comes to historical pursuits of course, Buzz is grateful for the simple things. He urges, “Just get up every morning and see the sunshine.”