An Historical Look at the WB Fire Department in Honor of Jay Wiseman’s Service

In honor of the retirement of Fire Chief Jay Wiseman, Local Stew is taking a look back at the early history of the West Bloomfield Fire Department courtesy of the Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society.

Originally called the Keego Firemans Club, the West Bloomfield Fire Department was organized in 1923 with 15 volunteer firefighters, mostly businessmen from Keego Harbor. The first fire station, donated by a local judge, was housed in an old garage on Orchard Lake Road, now the site of the Keego Hardware parking lot. The first paid firefighter received $1.00 per night in 1931 to spend the night at the fire station and keep the fire truck clean and ready to go.

In 1939 the Township built a new fire station in Keego Harbor where most of the population was centered. The Michigan State Police set up their headquarters in the upstairs, answered the fire phone and set off the siren for firefighters. In 1968 the communities of Keego Harbor, Sylvan Lake and Orchard Lake formed their own fire department, known as the Tri-City Fire Department.


Men from the Walnut Lake Fire Department and Early Fire Car, Left to right: Ray Hetcher, Claude Whitman, Ernest Jacobson and Clayton LaMotte. Photo Courtesy of Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society


Fireman Bill Stewart, Red Morgan, Chet Hunt and Wayne Vogelsburg selling the Inter-Lake News for Goodfellows. Photo Courtesy of Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society

Snow Apples

Snow apple on tree

By:  DuAnne Sonneville

The Snow Apple or Fameuse (also known as:  Snow Chimney, Chimney Apple, Red American, Royal Snow, Pomme De Neige, or Chimney Point) is aptly named for both the fruit’s white flesh and the tree’s winter hardiness.  Tolerating cold winters, it is well-suited to northern climes.  An unknown disease or severe cold snap killed almost all the trees in the 1860s.  Following the demise of the Quebec line, the Snow Apple fell into obscurity and is rarely grown today.
The Snow Apple is one of the oldest known apple varieties on record, most likely originating in France in the late 1600s (1650-1699), although some European pomologists claim its origins were in Canada.  Its start in North America may have been a seedling orchard from seeds brought from France (one of the few apples that often reproduce true to variety from seed).  This variety (Malus domestica) was noted in Canada in 1739 and was first introduced to the United States that same year.  Snow Apples were found in almost every French settlement in the late 1700s and were the most commonly cultivated apple in Quebec for over 100 years.
The distinctive bright ‘snow white’ flesh can also be a pale pink, red, red-flushed, or pale-yellow and/or can have a red streak or occasional crimson stains near the skin.  (My father would reminisce about eating Snow Apples with pink flesh, on his paternal grandparents’ farm, saying the redder the flesh, the colder the winter to come).  The skin is crimson with green stripes.  This apple is small to medium in size and ripens in early fall (late September to early October).  The Snow Apple is very sweet (sub-acid), tender and juicy, with a nice crisp and a smooth sweet wine-like flavor and strawberry-like aroma, making it good for apple cider because of this aromatic and distinct flavor.  Storage is fair, one to two months, so apples are best eaten fresh or used for baked goods or sauce.
The tree has heavy branching so needs regular pruning.  Without early thinning, it tends to produce a heavy crop biennially.  The Snow Apple is very mildew resistant, and has some resistance to both bacterial canker and fire-blight, although very susceptible to scab.  A probable ancestor, the McIntosh apple, is a cross between the Fameuse and the Detroit Red and was discovered by a Canadian farmer around 1800 who gave his name to the variety.
In his comprehensive book Le Journal D’Agriculture Illustre published in 1889, writer and botanist Jules N. Paquet said:  “But I remain without expressions when I eat a Fameuse apple in our happy winter evenings.  Is there a most succulent, most tasty; with a richer taste and more flavourful?  In one word, is the Fameuse, no species will equal it in quality, argue its glorious title; Admittedly it has certainly not stolen it’s picturesque name.”

See this sign and other related items at an Orchard Lake Museum Open House, the second Sunday of each month, from 1-4 p.m.

MotorCities Wayside Exhibits

Unveiling of Wayside sign

By:  DuAnne Sonneville

The Wayside Exhibits is a project of the MotorCities National Heritage Area dedicated to preserving, interpreting and promoting the automotive and labor heritage of the State of Michigan.  MotorCities, an affiliate of the National Park Service, was designated by the U.S. Congress in 1998 to “preserve the cultural and historic landscape associated with the automobile in Southeastern and Central Michigan.”  The Greater West Bloomfield Historical Society (Orchard Lake Museum), West Bloomfield Parks & Recreation, Westacres Community Association, the Oakland County’s Department of Economic Development & Community Affairs, local governments, and many volunteers worked with the MotorCities National Heritage Area Wayside Exhibit program to help create more than 20 local outdoor exhibits about the automotive heritage of Keego Harbor, Orchard Lake, Sylvan Lake, and West Bloomfield.  Beginning in 2012, GWBHS volunteer historians, Cara Kazanowski, Helen Jane Peters and Sue Williams, provided historical information and images for the design of many of the exhibit signs.  The Orchard Lake area exhibits are a part of a network of approximately 250-300 (2’x3’) signs that will be created throughout central and southeastern Michigan to chronicle automotive and railway transportation.  This historic project was made possible through a grant from the Federal Highway Administration, Department of Transportation, the Michigan Department of Transportation, and the Michigan Department of History, Arts and Libraries.