TORRINGTON – Roger Hamer’s boyhood memories are mostly of World War II and prisoners of war interred in camps around Torrington.
But as a young man he thought of his involvement with the fire department.
Roger’s father worked for L B Murphy in Nebraska moving to Torrington in 1936 when he was 2 years old
In the 1920’s, German immigrants came to America, some settling in Goshen County to become sugar beet farmers. This valley was the source of sugar for America in 1941.
“This is why when going through the cemetery you will see the headstones with hundreds of German names,” he said.
Growing up during the war years, local farmers did not have laborers to work their fields, because all the young men had entered the service, Roger recalled.
“The whole farming community was German, white Russian, which was the Eastern Block,” he said.
During military campaigns by the U.S. military in the North Africa, scores of German soldiers were captured, and the prisoners were brought to camps in eastern Wyoming and western Nebraska. The prisoners were put to work on the farms, mostly those owned by German families, taking the place of the men who went to war.
During high school, Roger worked for the city, part of a crew who built East D Street. After graduating from Torrington High School in 1952, he married and moved away, returning to Torrington a decade later when his father died suddenly.
“We were the new family in town and I was asked to do many things, being President of the Chamber Commerce, on the planning commission, on the Eastern Wyoming College Board for nine years and on the Hospital Board for 11 years,” Roger said.
He joined the Torrington Volunteer Fire Department in 1963. And, this week, he was honored for more than 50 years service to TVFD.
During his more than half-century in the department, he’s served in a number of different roles, from firefighter up to president, secretary and treasurer. He’s been classified as “active reserve” with the department for the past 30 years.
“My fire department experiences have been real rewarding for me in 55 years,” Roger said.
The Torrington volunteer Fire Department is his passion. He recalled how, when he joined the department, there was one homemade truck, no protective gear and no centralized dispatch center. Firefighters were alerted their services were needed through a telephone chain, with phones at the local radio station, city hall, the Elks Club and their homes.
When a call came in, telephones would start to ring in firemen’s homes across the community. Sometimes the call would be answered by children, getting involved in conversations with teens, but it would also go to the radio station.
The owner of the radio station sold sponsorship to an insurance company. Following notification, the station would air the alert. But he would put a break in the announcement: ‘Torrington there is a fire call. After this word we will give the rest of the message.’
In his more than half century, Roger has made numerous friends in the department and has earned the respect and admiration of his fellow firefighters.
“Roger is a huge Torrington supporter with 50 years in the Torrington Fire Department,” said Cactus Covello. “He has always been there with heart and soul. He is the best of the best.”
Tom Feeser agreed: “I have known Roger for over 50 years. He is a good friend. I use to shop with him at his clothing store on Main Street. He is a loyal friend and fireman who has never missed a meeting. He is a great guy and great friend.”