ADAMS — The Alert Hose Company, the town's crack all-volunteer firefighting unit, will stage its 95th annual ball at the Park Street armory Friday, Feb. 19, from 9 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Dancing at the formal affair, highlight of the social year in Adams, will be to the music of George Cohen.

In the past, attendance has run as high as 2,000, with crowds of children allowed to stay up late to watch the glitter and glamor of the grand march.

This weekend the 40 members of the Alerts will go door to door selling $2 tickets for the ball. The event doubles as a fund-raiser, and proceeds go to support the volunteers and their fund for disabled firefighters. Radio station WMNB again will broadcast the ball live.

The Alerts are unique in the county for being the only all-volunteer unit to serve a community the size of Adams (population 11,668). Membership is a much-coveted honor. Only through death and resignation of current members are persons allowed to join. Members range from 44-year veterans to one-year newcomers. Oldest member was Claude Gould, who died this year with 54 years of membership behind him. His vacancy has yet to be filled.

Applicants to the Alerts go through a detailed process before being accepted by the company. The foreman chooses a secret committee of five members who check each one thoroughly. Important questions include whether applicants work in town or out and whether their wives will mind the 24-hour "call duty" required by the job. Applicants are expected to respond to all fire calls like regular members, and they are watched carefully.

Then the secret committee narrows the field to one or two men. The entire company votes on the chosen man, rolling either a white or black marble into a box to designate approval or disapproval. If one-fourth of the balls are black, the applicant is rejected.

Organized in 1876, the company started with three hand-drawn hose carts housed in the stone mill in the Maple Grove section, behind the Baptist Church and where the St. Thomas' Church now stands.

Present equipment consists of a 1946 Chevrolet emergency truck, a 1957 Seagrave 1,000-gallon pumper, a 65-foot aerial ladder truck, and 750-gallon Ford pumper and two auxiliaries.

The largest fire the Alerts have faced was in 1956, when Stanley's Lumber Co. burned. A total of $300,000 damage resulted, and 18 families were left homeless. During the past year no major fire occurred in the town, a fact which may credit to the Alerts' fast work and zeal for fire prevention.

This Story in History is selected from the archives by Jeannie Maschino, The Berkshire Eagle.

Community News Editor / Librarian

Jeannie Maschino is community news editor and librarian for The Berkshire Eagle. She has worked for the newspaper in various capacities since 1982 and joined the newsroom in 1989.