Truck 13 was placed in service May 4, 1904 in a new station located at 50th Street and Baltimore Avenue. Assistant Engineer 7 moved into the new station on the day it opened. Prior to this move, Assistant Engineer 7 was stationed with Truck 6 at Preston Street and Haverford Avenue. (See post for Truck 13 below – dated April 16, 2017.)
Engine 68 was organized in Truck 13’s station on January 1, 1928. The company was one of four engines organized during 1927 and 1928 with a hose and chemical wagon only. If they had a fire that required a larger diameter hose line, the company would place a hydrant stream in service. A new pumper was supposed to be purchased for Engine 68 during 1929 but it was delayed by the Great Depression. Engine 68 received a pumper during 1933 when a 1926 American LaFrance 900 GPM engine was assigned to them. This piece had formerly been assigned to Engine 32.
Rescue 3 was moved to Engine 68’s station on June 5, 1953 from Engine 65’s station. On July 10, 1956 Rescue 3 was moved to Engine 40’s firehouse. The company was moved back to Engine 68’s quarters on April 7, 1961. Rescue 3 was deactivated as a heavy rescue on September 18, 1961 and reorganized as a light rescue or ambulance.
On July 19, 1984 Engine 68, Ladder 13, Battalion 7, and Rescue 3 moved into a new station at 52nd Street and Willows Avenue. These companies, known as the Cuckoo’s Nest, continue to serve West Philadelphia and Southwest Philadelphia from this location.
It was March 17, 1952. As I was walking down 55th St. from Mitchell School to go to my house at 5535 Belmar Terr. for lunch, I saw a ladder truck pull out of my street and go north on 55th St. Wow! There had been a fire on my block. As I rounded the corner onto Belmar, a neighbor kid informed me that it was my house. Unbelievable! My mother filled me in on the details. She was upstairs when she heard a loud boom and black smoke began coming up the basement stairs. She ran to the next door neighbor to call the fire dept.. Engine 68, Ladder 13, & Battalion 7 was dispatched on a local alarm for a dwelling fire. In her panic to leave, she let the front door lock. When the companies arrived, instead of breaking down the front door, they broke a small pane of glass on the top part of the door, and reached in to unlock it. They even rolled up a large living room area rug to keep it from getting soiled from walking on it. And extinguished the fire before it could extend to the 1st floor. Being a kid, I thought this was normal. But as I grew and saw more firefighting, I came to realize that they took extra care to minimize damage. Real professionals! A great testament to the members of Engine 68, ladder 13, and Battalion 7.
In 1951, at the age of 6, when my father saw that I jumped on my 16-inch wheel bike and chased Engine 57’s hose wagon and pumper responding south on 56th St.(never could keep up with them), he decided to take me one Saturday morning to our local firehouse at 50th & Baltimore. Not too long after arriving, both Engine 68 & Ladder 13 were dispatched to an alarm box at 52nd & Market Sts.. When Engine 68 started up their 1941 Autocar, 1000gpm pumper(shown above, top, second from left), the roar of the engine was so loud, echoing around the apparatus floor that it shook my insides. Very thrilling! (Back then, Engines didn’t have mufflers.)
We followed in our car. When we arrived with apparatus still on the scene, we found that someone had maliciously turned in a false alarm. Very unusual for that to happen at such a busy corner of West Philadelphia’s main business district on a Saturday morning.