As we are in the process of documenting some of the history of the Engine 6 call company in Thornton Heights, on South Portland’s west end, we turn first to the list of company captains. Those who served in that role before World War II include Cedric W. Brigham (1923-1926), Merton Holman (1927-1929), Payson E. Libby (1930-1931), Wesley Ramsey (1932-1935) and Frank Demarino (1936-1948).

South Portland Historical Society would love to reach out to the families of these early captains. If you know any of these families, we would appreciate hearing from you. Please contact us at 207-767-7299 or by email at [email protected]

We’ll share a little here about the very first captain of this volunteer fire department – Cedric Brigham.

Known as “Briggie” to his friends, Brigham served as the Engine 6 captain from the company’s inception in 1923 through 1926. His leadership role probably came as no surprise as he undoubtedly was one of the most well-known residents of Thornton Heights.

An early view of Brigham’s store at 532 Main St. South Portland Historical Society photo

Cedric Brigham was born in Brockton, Massachusetts, in 1889. By the 1910s, he had moved to Portland and worked first as a waiter, got married in 1915, and then ran his own restaurant. In 1920, he purchased the property at 532 Main St. in South Portland and while he and his family lived in the house, he set up a general store in an attached building.

The store was known simply as C.W. Brigham’s and it quickly became a popular hangout spot for locals.

I interviewed Alice Smith Dunlop back in 2005 and she remembered the store as it was when she went there. She described the inside as having three little marble tables in the middle of the store, with wire chairs. On the right side was a soda fountain with bar stools. On the left side were glass cases with notions (thread, needles, buttons). They also sold penny candy and, on the back wall, they carried ammunition.

The home and attached building at 532 Main St. are still there today, but have been converted to residential apartments. South Portland Historical Society photo

During World War II, Brigham’s was conveniently located for shipyard workers heading south on Route 1. They could stop and pick up some beer, soda, cigarettes or other sundry items. The store was in operation through the late-1950s.

Throughout this time when Cedric Brigham was operating his store, he would make himself available for any fire calls. When Engine 6 was first set up, the equipment was stored across the street from the store. Even after the call company moved to its new home on Union Street, it was still only steps away from Brigham’s home and store.

Note to readers: The South Portland Historical Society’s ornament fundraiser is going on now. All seven of the ornaments, including this year’s Engine 6 ornament, are available at Drillen Hardware, Broadway Variety and Embers Stoves & Fireplaces.

Please plan to use cash or check for your ornament purchase as these businesses are very generously selling the ornaments on our behalf. All proceeds go directly to the historical society. If you’d like to use a credit card, if you’d like to make a purchase of a large number of ornaments, or if you’d like to have an ornament shipped (for an additional $5), please call the society directly at 207-767-7299. Thank you.

Firefighters from Engine 6 showed up for a Flag Day celebration in 1942 with their 1941 Mack fire truck. From left are Larry Stoddard, Louie Nappi, Charles Bryce and Lt. Cedric Brigham. South Portland Historical Society photo

Kathryn Onos DiPhilippo is executive director of the South Portland Historical Society.

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