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Where There is Smoke…

I know many of you are opening up to page 2 expecting to find my rant over the Borough of South Williamsport’s intervention into the fire protection business. Believe me I spoke with, met and was provided more information about the merger of the Borough’s three fire companies than Hillary Clinton’s deleted emails.

I was all set and ready to burn some ink and those who operate in the shadows for political and personal gain and then a funny thing happened on the way to the fire. Representatives of Independent, First Ward and Citizen Fire Company along with some great folks who serve the citizens of Southside asked me not to throw gas on the division already created.

They opted for a team approach in an effort to provide the best fire and emergency service to the residents of Southside. Allowing time and negotiations to hopefully get Independent Fire Company back on the street. Yes that is correct, they cannot respond to an emergency due to the politics and decisions that have been made.

I respect the individuals who asked me not to get after people and give it time to burn itself out and be solved. Many are lifetime friends of my Father who deserve the respect that maybe they have not been shown. So I will absolutely honor this request and pray common sense prevails and those who understand firefighting and the importance of the neighborhood fire station are respected and listened to.

Many asked me why this issue is so near and dear to my heart. My Grandfather Arthur D. Webb was a lifetime member of Independent Fire Company. He served in almost every position possible from the board level to Fire Chief. He was a very proud builder and firefighter of the entity that is Independent Fire Company. I could never imagine him handing over the keys and the assets of something so many have sacrificed for in the name of a merger. I think he would have been in agreement of a joint fire department if best for public safety, but demanded each kept their own identity and assets.

Incidentally my Grandfather passed away when I was only six months old. I have heard about him and the man he was while looking into this issue. Thanks to everyone who shared information and stories with me.

My Father was a lifetime member of First Ward. He was extremely passionate about fire and emergency service. He also served in a variety of positions, but was most proud and honored to represent South Williamsport as their Borough Fire Chief.

He, until he passed, was committed to the education and training of firefighters. He was as strategic and organized as any Fire Chief that has ever put on the white helmet.

My Dad was committed to making sure the people of South Williamsport had the best fire protection long after he responded to his last call. He shared his knowledge with any fire department that was interested and some that might not have been he told anyway. He actually believed and supported the idea of one South Williamsport Fire Department, but each would remain independent and self sufficient, operating under the umbrella of SWFD.

My Uncle Rick Webb also was a firefighter. See it is in the blood, which is why so many families provide multiple firefighters. It takes a special person to go into a burning building, to provide that calm and cool when someone may be having the worst day of their life. Those who do it have a special bond and completely understand. Many who watch from the outside may never understand. Uncle Rick was a professional fireman in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and finished his career as a fire investigator.

I have never put on the hat and coat, but have an obligation to my family, all firefighters of South Williamsport, past and present and the citizens of Southside who are dependent on the services they provide, to make sure the decisions being made are done for the right reasons and in support of the men and women who volunteer for our community.

Everyday Players

I have known John Agnoni and the Agnoni family my whole life. He is truly one of the “good guys” his restaurant the Humdinger has been a Southside fixture for 46 years. I would not even want to guess how much broasted chicken and potatoes he and his staff have served over the years or how many events John and the crew have catered across Lycoming County and beyond.

When I was first out running the streets of Southside as an 11 or 12-year-old boy there were two things that I could count on, basketball at the St. Lawrence playground and a ham and cheese cosmo at the Humdinger. Thanks to my good friend Richie Opp for making sure I got to play in the pickup hoop games. I was younger and he made sure I was on a team playing against the high school age boys. And thanks to Mr. Agnoni for making sure I got fed at the Humdinger after playing, even when maybe I lost or forgot my money. Back in the day a folded up five was kept neatly tucked in your high white socks. John and the girls always treated me like their own and yes I did pay them back, I think?

John catered many events for Mr. Webb and was like family. My Dad especially liked when he started catering steamed clams for picnics. He had this family relationship with so many people; it was one of the things that made him and the folks at the Humdinger such a special part of our community.

I wonder how much soft ice cream was served in 46 years? He is a proud Southsider and always involved in community. Humdinger was a longtime sponsor of the Little Mountaineer Little League. What a great place to stop as a kid after your Little League games. Thanks to Mr. Bob English and Mr. Dick Whiteman for making sure Kings Motel got their post-game ice cream.

Well as you probably know the Humdinger has been razed. My good friend John has retired and sold the property. The sign still marks the spot of so many memories for folks over the years.

Congratulations to John and his wife on retirement, you earned it the old-fashioned way – hard work. Most of all, thank you from the bottom of my heart for being a part of my life and if I owe you anything from those younger days let me know.

Tip of the hardhat to Walt and Marion Nyman. The husband and wife duo have served as executive officers for the West Branch Susquehanna Builders Association for the past 18 years.

We here at Webb Weekly have been proud members of the WBBA since we began our publication. We enjoy manning our booth at the annual Home Show. It is a great way to meet and greet so many of you. I cannot begin to tell you the work Walt and Marion have done over the years to make this event successful.

The West Branch Builders Association could not have had two better ambassadors. Always kind, friendly and business with a smile – their commitment to local industry amazing. Whether a small business or a large corporation, Walt and Marion treat folks as they are of the utmost importance to them. The friendships they have built in our area are countless.

Walt and Marion have hung up their WBBA hardhats, although I know they won’t be too far away if someone needs a helping hand.

Thank you my friends for all you have done for our community and take some time to smell the roses or some fresh cut 2 x 4s in your case.

God Bless America.

Jim Webb

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