A Conversation with Marty Blumenthal – Enduring Community Service and Hometown Nostalgia

On a recent visit to Ludwigs Corner Fire Company to deliver sundry donations, West Vincent Township staff was introduced to Marty Blumenthal, a 50-year volunteer and a 67-year resident of West Vincent Township! His pleasant countenance, charming demeanor, and spry personality compelled us to extend an invitation to him to share his experience as one of our firefighters and his personal West Vincent history. The following recounts a conversation reflecting deep affection and devotion to the township we call home.

Martin (Marty) Blumenthal was born in Philadelphia in 1932 and has been a West Vincent resident since 1956 when he married his wife, Birchrunville native, Joyce Slemmer (deceased 2016). Joyce attended and graduated from the one-room Birchrunville Schoolhouse and was a member of the Ludwigs Corner Fire Company Ladies’ Auxiliary, serving as one of its presidents.

The Blumenthal family grew with our township, first living in a rental house on Birchrun Road, buying their first home on St. Matthews Road, where their children, Karen and Robert were born, and finally moving to their current home on St. Matthews Road where Marty has lived for over 60 years.

Both his children attended Vincent Elementary and graduated from OJR High School. His son graduated from Penn State University and both children attended the Chester County Fire School. Both children live locally in Pottstown and Warwick Township. Marty is a proud grandfather to three grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.

Marty’s first job while living in West Vincent was selling dental supplies for a company in Center City with the western and northern suburbs of Philly as his territory. He then worked for The Budd Company, in Bridgeport, PA, in customer service and for The Budd Company Trailer Division in Eagle, PA as a dealer sales manager. His last position was as sales manager for Florig Equipment in Conshohocken for 13 years, until his retirement.

Marty has been a tireless volunteer in our township and retired in 2022 from the Ludwigs Corner Fire Company (LCFC), after 50 years of service, where he held various positions as firefighter, Fire Chief, Assistant Chief, Vice President, and Safety Officer. In June of this year, to commemorate his long-term dedication, the new Engine 73-5, a Sutphen Pumper Tanker was named in his honor with an embossed plaque embedded into the side of the truck.

As one of the founders of the fire company (only 10 volunteers), Marty shared the story of its creation in 1972. “Along with John Harris, LCFC’s first chief, recognizing there was no fire company assigned to the Ludwigs Corner area, we got together and petitioned the disbanded local Boy Scout Troop 89 for their remaining funds to help form a fire company.”

“For the first two years, Bob Heitzman allowed the fire company to store their gear and trucks in their barn on Route 401. Other residents, such as the Griffiths, Wetherills, De Mauriacs, and Walt Styer offered their barns and garages for storage and function as well. The current facility and hall (Griffith Hall) are located on the 3.5 acres donated by township residents, Clyde and Mary Griffith. Local fire companies, Thorndale Fire Company and Kimberton Fire Company helped build their fleet by selling them trucks for $1. Ridge Fire Company, Lionville, and Elverson fire companies provided training support, gear, and equipment. Over the years, the Ludwigs Corner Fire Companies Ladies’ Auxiliary provided significant financial support.”

Asked if he remembered his first call or most impactful memory, Marty expressed that as fires are most definitely devastating and destructive, he was most affected by the tragic auto accidents on Route 100, which he noted, have decreased with the improvements to the S-curves on the road.

Marty’s reasons for joining the fire company were the desire to take part in accident rescue, fire suppression, and fire safety, “…with a great group of guys”. He encourages others to volunteer because it fulfills your mental and physical health. Every firefighter gets an annual physical paid for by the fire company, “It’s a good way to keep yourself fit and to serve your community.”

Youth who would like to join the ranks of volunteer fire fighters as junior firefighters can do so at the age of 14.

He fondly refers to the Ludwigs Corner Fire Company as his family and appreciates the camaraderie and happy times. He and his wife held their 25th wedding anniversary at Griffith Hall with the Company, friends, and relatives. He looks forward to celebrating his long-time friend, Allen Cleaver, another founding LCFC member, as he reaches his 50th year of service in 2024.

How would you describe fire training and/or your first fire training?

“Part of my training was putting up ladders, learning how to use extinguishers and how to use the fire hose with different nozzles. At that time there were no air packs. Today it’s also more complicated to become a fire company volunteer, added safety procedures and regulations have contributed to the complexities. It now takes 180 hours of training to become a state-certified fire fighter. I have taken dozens of hours of re-training over the years to keep my certification current.”

Radio training is also extremely important, where proper communication protocol is key. Every firefighter carries a radio. Firefighters need to learn how to report a scene quickly with succinct descriptions and actions.

How would you describe your last role as Safety Officer?

Marty’s last job at the fire company was as a Safety Officer, retiring at age 90, after performing this role for 10 years.

“A Safety Officer continually moves around a building, reporting what he sees from the outside to the Officer in Charge. In addition to reviewing water volume and usage, assessing the interior of a fire, and determining how to disseminate manpower, the Safety Officer also ensures no fire fighter does something out of regulations, no one goes in alone, and every firefighter follows the name tag protocol.”

Each firefighter is given two name tags with name and company. When entering a fire, the firefighter must clip one name tag in the rig and then leave one at the door or a ladder when entering a building. This check system ensures the Company knows who is on the call and their location on the scene.

Before fighters enter a scene, Marty also checks that their hood is properly tucked into their coat, their breathing mask is on properly, all latches are properly secure, and they are using the proper gloves. There are two types of gloves used, one pair for an auto rescue, thinner and not insulated, and one pair for firefighting, insulated and thicker.

In what other volunteer groups have you participated?

Marty has been a vessel examiner for the U.S Department of Homeland Security, United States Coast Guard Auxiliary serving in flotillas (basic organizational units of at least 15 members) around the area, performing safety inspection of pleasure boats. He plans to retire from this role, after 25 years of service.

The United States Coast Guard Auxiliary helps promote and improve Recreational Boating Safety, provide trained crews and facilities to augment the Coast Guard and enhance safety and security of our ports, waterways, and coastal regions and supports the U.S. Coast Guard in operational, administrative, and logistical requirements.

What are some of your hobbies?

Marty has been a sailor all his life and has enjoyed many excursions with his wife sailing the Chesapeake Bay for 21 years out of Rock Hall, Maryland. Marty also hunted pheasants in the township and ducks and geese along the eastern shore of Maryland.

A few years back, Marty visited the Hankin Library to take in a display of model sailboats and met John Stoudt, of the Chester Springs Model Yacht Club. He immediately joined the club, sailing in our township’s pond, in Marsh Creek, and on Lake Tel Hai, in Honey Brook. Some members build their own boats. The club sails three or four times a month, March through October on Lake Tel Hai.

Marty was an active member of the former Chester Springs Skeet Club.

What has remained constant or what has changed in West Vincent?

“The beauty of the open space and the desire of the Board of Supervisors over the years to try to preserve our vistas and the land have always remained constant.” “Weatherstone is ok and was needed to handle the new folks coming in. Hankin did a good job with the houses and the layout.”

Where did you shop for food and celebrate events?

Marty remembers food shopping at a grocery store in Kimberton (before Kimberton Whole Foods) that had a butcher shop.

To enjoy a night out for dinner he and his family would patronize The Black Angus, the predecessor of Ludwig’s Grill and Oyster Bar, and the Eagle Tavern, where he knew the owners.

What does West Vincent mean to you?

“Trees, fields, and my pond on my property.” Marty’s pond is spring fed and has bass and blue gill. He loves the open space. His property borders the Natural Lands, so he will, “…always have the opportunity to enjoy the tranquility of the fields.”

Marty reminisced about his first date with his wife: “In 1954, there were no street signs at that time in the township, so when he had our first date, since I only knew how to get to Miller Road, her instructions to me were, ‘…well, you know how to get to Miller Road, so from there go to the corner, make a right, then your first left, go down the hill to Birchrunville Store, make a right a ¼ mile after the store…and that’s where you will find me!'”

The following is a copy of a note and picture Marty sent to a nephew about his car that led him to West Vincent and the love of his life: