Perrytown firemen roll out ‘red carpet’

Published 9:15 am Thursday, August 20, 2009

PERRYTOWN – Good things happen to those who wait…and wait…and wait.

Nearly a half-century after the founding of the Perrytown Volunteer Fire Department, the current band of hard-working and dedicated firefighters have moved into a brand new facility.

To help christen the building, the Perrytown firemen are hosting a fundraising meal tomorrow (Friday, Aug. 21). Pork barbecue/fried chicken plates (complete with potatoes, slaw and hushpuppies) will be served from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. and again from 4-7 p.m. at the Perrytown Community Building. Plates, eat-in or take-out, are available for a $7 donation. Free delivery will be offered in surrounding towns, including Ahoskie, during the lunch hours.

“We’re very happy to be in our new building and we want to use the occasion to let others see how proud we are of the building,” said Perrytown VFD Chief Bud Lee. “Please come out and join us on Friday. We’ll serve-up a good meal and plenty of Perrytown hospitality.”

For Lee and the 32 other Perrytown VFD members, this day was a just a dream three years ago.

The department had operated in a facility built in 1963 on land donated by then Bertie County Commissioner W.R. Lawrence (his family later founded Lawrence Academy, now located in Merry Hill). Lawrence also contributed the money that Perrytown VFD used to purchase its first fire truck (a 1955 military surplus vehicle with a 1,000 gallon tank donated by C.W. Beasley Oil Company).

With approximately 15 members and Edward Byrum as its first chief, the Perrytown firemen protected and served their community from that building and using that one truck. The department was officially formed on Jan. 4, 1963 after concerned residents came together to talk about several fires that had destroyed property in and around the small community located southwest of Colerain.

Later that same year, the Perrytown VFD began a tradition that continues today – its annual corned herring fundraiser. That event is still held each year on the Friday before Thanksgiving.

In 1975, the department purchased a new truck – a pumper with a 750-gallon tank. The firemen built a bay on the back of the building to house that new piece of equipment.

The next new truck was a 1983 pumper.

“We operated for years with just that pumper and old tanker,” Lee recalled. “The building we were in was small and the roof leaked. We had to move the vehicles outside in order to hold a meeting inside.”

When Lee became chief three years ago, discussions were launched about a new building.

“Things moved forward from there,” Lee said. “We started looking into funding opportunities. It was then that USDA Rural Development entered the picture. They worked with us. I can’t say enough good things about Perrytown’s relationship with (Rural Development representative) Susan Christensen and her boss, Doug Causey. They were wonderful people to work with.”

From that relationship has emerged a new Perrytown VFD. The 70’ x 64’ building – complete with three truck bays, office space, a communications room, bathrooms and storage area – is located on the same lot as the Perrytown Community Building, approximately one-quarter mile east of the old fire station.

As fate would have it, the heirs of W.R. Lawrence donated the land to Perrytown VFD to build its new fire station.

Along the way, the department has discovered other generous friends. They have added three vehicles to their fleet – a 1987 Equipment Truck (on permanent loan from the NC Forest Service), a 1980 Mac pumper (donated by the Haw River, NC Fire Department) and a 1988 GMC pumper/tanker donated by the Powellsville Volunteer Fire Department.

“Speaking on behalf of the 33 members of the Perrytown Volunteer Fire Department, we are very appreciative of all the support we have received from numerous benefactors over the years, including the fine folks right here in our community,” Lee concluded. “With their help, we feel we have the proper firefighting tools to protect our little corner of Bertie County.”

A formal dedication of the new Perrytown Volunteer Fire Department will be held next month.