This is probably the strangest group of photos I have posted in the Fire Service Jeeps pages. They were taken on 9 September 1949 by LIFE magazine photographer Yale Joel for an assignment titled "Hyde Party," but as far as I know, none of them were actually published in the magazine.
The photos show a group of partygoers riding on a CJ-2A Jeep Fire Engine which looks like one of the earliest Willys factory fire engines. It predates the standardization of the overhead rack and rear storage compartment, and carries the suction hose on the fenders rather than overhead. See more early examples in CJ-2A Fire Engine History.
There were also a few vehicles on hand that would have been considered antiques even in 1949, and some guests were taken out on the water in a boat called the Hy-Mar Queen (340K JPEG).
The occasion was apparently an elaborate party hosted by Clarence and Mary Hyde at their "Hy-Mar Lodge," somewhere in Massachusetts. The name Hy-Mar was derived from Mary Hyde's name, and the "Hy-Mar Fire Department" was on hand with two fire engines to entertain the guests. It may seem strange for someone to have their own fire department, with state-of-the-art apparatus, but in fact it is known that in 1945 the Hydes also donated a fire engine to another "Hy-Mar Fire Company" in Webster, New Hampshire, where they had a summer home.
Anopther load of partiers rode on a brand new John Bean high pressure fog pumper, built on an International truck chassis, with equipment including two high-pressure booster lines and two large floodlights.
The fire company staged a live burn demonstration, and here the Fire Chief can be seen attacking the fire with one of the high-pressure fog nozzles, which use a small volume of water at around 700 PSI (50 kg/cm2) to create a fog which can be very effective on a fire in a confined space, as well as on brush fires.
The John Bean Company had developed this technology in the 1930s to spray fruit orchards with insecticides. Bean then adapted its high pressure piston pumps to fire apparatus, and the U.S. Navy employed the pumps for shipboard firefighting during World War II.
The company marketed fog apparatus heavily in the 1940s, and later offered combination engines with both high and low pressure pumps.
High pressure is no longer widely used in the fire service, except on brush fires, because it is considered less effective on large blazes, and often requires firefighters to be closer to the flames.
The front of the shed was removed with an axe (200K JPEG) to allow better access to the fire, while partygoers watched, some of them perched on top of the Jeep.
My guess is that the photographer asked the young women to pose on the Jeep, although it's clearly not a fashion shoot.
This rear view of the CJ-2A shows a good-sized hose load. It lacks the larger equipment basket and handrails which became standard on later Jeep fire engines.
One of the women really got into the spirit of the event. This again may have been the photographer's idea, because she doesn't look too comfortable.
The live burn concluded with the Fire Chief in his sneakers inviting everyone to a wiener roast over the charred remains of the shed.
The Chief's helmet appears to be labelled "Webster," so I'm guessing that the Chief was Clarence Hyde, who as mentioned above, was the party host and had donated a fire engine to Webster NH for their Hy-Mar Fire Company.
The evening concluded with hot chocolate for the older crowd, by the light of the Bean's two floodlights.
I would love to hear from anybody who might have more information about Clarence and Mary Hyde, or the Hy-Mar Lodge and Fire Company in Massachusetts.
Thanks to Federico Cavedo and to Time Inc. which retains copyright of the LIFE photo archive, made available free for personal non-commercial use. -- Derek Redmond
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