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‘Testament to volunteerism': Firefighting mural dedicated in Pa. community park

American Hose Company No. 2’s 1948 American LaFrance fire engine is the centerpiece of the Pottsville mural

By Ron Devlin
Republican & Herald

POTTSVILLE, Pa. — Calling it a vibrant tapestry woven from the threads of history, Mayor Dave Clews dedicated a mural honoring the history of the city fire department Thursday evening at Discovery Park.

“This mural stands as a testament to volunteerism, inspiring us to embrace our past, celebrate our present and envision the future,” the mayor said, reading from a proclamation issued to commemorate the occasion.

Painted on the side of 307 W. Market St., the 2½-story mural encapsulates the city’s firefighting history from 1829 to 2018.

Its centerpiece is a depiction of a 1948 American LaFrance firetruck stationed at American Hose Company No. 2.

Fire historian Michael R. Glore said it was difficult to choose which firetruck to include in the mural. There were several others that were deserving, including West End Hose Company’s 1928 Ahrens Fox pumper, which was parked along Third Street.

The American LaFrance was chosen, Glore said, because it was the first cab-forward truck in the city’s history.

“American LaFrance, post World War II, changed the game with this particular style of fire engine, and it set the stage for everything you see here today in terms of a modern format,” Glore said. “From a historical standpoint, this was an easy choice.”

Megan Price, the artist who painted the mural, drew inspiration from a dozen or so photographs supplied by Glore, co-author with Michael J. Kitsock of “Schuylkill County Firefighting.”

Over two years, working from a hydraulic lift, Price hand-painted the mural. Using basic exterior house paint, she went through about 50 brushes of various sizes.

Price, 35, who studied at the Moore College of Art and Design in Philadelphia, said it is the largest mural she has ever painted.

“I just put the pieces together like a puzzle,” said Price, who painted a mural at the Third Street Playground in Saint Clair. “I was inspired by the big and grand murals in Philadelphia , and we deserve the same thing here in Pottsville.”

Located at the corner of Third and West Market streets, across Third Street from the Pottsville Free Public Library, the mural overlooks a plot that was once slated for a fallen firefighters memorial.

Price painted the mural from a child’s perspective, recognizing the past and acknowledging the future, she said.

From the left side, a large depiction of a child’s face looks out on a panorama of nearly two centuries of the city’s fire department history.

She incorporated existing windows in the building into a depiction of Cafe Little, which was involved in the Great Fire of 1914, the largest in the city’s history.

When the smoke cleared, only the former Union Bank building remained standing on Centre Street between West Norwegian and Mahantongo streets.

City Administrator Thomas A. Palamar said the idea for Discovery Park originated with the late Mayor Terence Reiley.

“Unfortunately, he passed away in 1997 and didn’t get a chance to see this happen,” Palamar said. “So, we are all together here helping him to realize something that was very special to him.”

The schematic for the park, he said, is still largely Reiley’s.

The design calls for a small amphitheater, a coal sculpture and solar panels installed atop an adjoining storage facility on Third Street.

William Messaros, director of parks and public property, moderated the program.

Fire Chief James Misstishin was among about 50 people who attended the dedication. City councilmen Mark Atkinson and Andy Wollyung also attended.

Though unrelated, the dedication occurred as Pottsville is hosting the 70th annual Schuylkill County Firefighters Convention, which concludes with a parade at 2 p.m. Saturday.

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