Eighty years ago, a newspaper account on July 17, 1931, described the Westminster Municipal Band and the Westminster Fire Department arriving home from participating in the Maryland State Firemen's Association annual convention "in a jubilant mood, as the band brought home $100 for the best band in line of parade …"
This year, the 119th annual convention was held in Ocean City last month, June 18-24.
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 here in Westminster. A June 8, 1899 Baltimore Sun article, stated: "Have A Hot Time In Westminster And Make Brave Show … Twenty-Six Companies And Forty Organizations In The Line Of The Great Parade."
"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," stated the article. "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 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 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," said 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."
A washed-out trumpet player, Kevin Dayhoff now parades in his pajamas at his keyboard. When he's not busy with that, he may be reached at email@example.com