Happy Gang Recognized at St. Croix No. 1 Fire House

Photo: Receiving a thank-you plaque from St. Croix No. 1 Fire House Association member Dick Barnard is Floyd Sanders, former president of the Happy Gang. The Gang was recognized on Monday, July 10th for keeping the building imbued with community spirit for over three decades and for making donations of $9,000. Front row, left to right: Irene Moreside, Happy Gang treasurer; Barbara Long, Happy Gang Vice President; Floyd Sanders, Happy Gang President; Edna Southard, Happy Gang secretary; and Dick Barnard. Back row, left to right: Mae Berry, Happy Gang member; and Marian Chambers, Happy Gang Member. On the wall behind them, the deceased 152 members of the Happy Gang are listed. (Photo by Lura Jackson)

By Lura Jackson

Seeing new life breathed into an old building can go a long way toward lifting the spirits of those who once called the building their base of operations. Such was the case on Monday, July 10th when the six remaining members of the “Happy Gang” returned to the St. Croix No. 1 Fire House for a group photo and the presentation of a plaque thanking them for their efforts to support the building.

The St. Croix No. 1 Fire House has avoided the fate of many of the 1800s-era buildings in the Calais Downtown district as a result of ongoing support from the community and the city to restore it. The building was built in 1874 after the Great Fire of 1870 devastated the downtown. It was used by the city as the centralized location of its fire department for the next century until the North Street facility was built. 

After the city no longer needed it, a group of friends began utilizing the building for gatherings, holiday parties, and potlucks. Soon, they named themselves the “Happy Gang”, and membership soon climbed to more than 150 members, many of which were senior citizens.

Unfortunately, after a century of active use, the building began showing increasing signs of disrepair. The Happy Gang realized that keeping the building for community functions would not be possible unless it received significant renovations. In 2003, the building was donated back to the city where it was under threat of being demolished due to its dangerous condition. Community members rallied to the save the building, with the St. Croix No. 1 Fire House Association leading the charge.  

Since then, the building has received major renovations, many of which came as donations from community members and local businesses. The Happy Gang itself has made periodic donations of $9,000 to enable the good work to continue. One such donation was made in January of 2017. Dick Barnard, member of the St. Croix No. 1 Fire House Association, presented the remaining members of the Happy Gang with a plaque that thanked the group for “taking such good care” of the building. The plaque will hang on the wall alongside a larger plaque listing the names of now-deceased members of the Happy Gang. 

For most of the six members of the Happy Gang, this was the first time they’d returned to the building since it had been restored. Their reactions were all glowingly positively. “They’re really enthused,” said Irene Moreside, former treasurer of the Happy Gang, as the group toured the new kitchen. “You can talk about the place but you really have to see it to believe it.”

“This is nice,” said Floyd Sanders, former president of the Happy Gang. “This would make a lovely home.” Speaking on the Happy Gang’s recent donation, Sanders said: “We’re proud about it and that we could do such a thing.”