ANTRIM COUNTY — The siren’s song was familiar to many in the Village of Mancelona.
Mike Allison, Mancelona Village President, said the siren sounded daily at 12 p.m. for the purpose of testing and to make sure it worked correctly.
But in 2015, the war surplus siren, originally installed in the mid-1950s, made its final call.
“(Mancelona) Police Chief Bill Robbins notified me during the cleanup of the August 2, 2015 storm that the siren had sounded for the last time,” said Leslie Meyers, Emergency Services Coordinator in Antrim County. “We began the process of replacing it at that time.”
Meyers applied for — and got — a Department of Homeland Security grant in excess of $14,000 to buy and install a new siren.
A new one was installed on a pole August 6. It has many bells and whistles, including a battery back-up system that can be operated remotely by Antrim County Sheriff’s Office or by Emergency Services.
It can also be sounded manually at any time by the Village of Mancelona, when needed.
But the old siren song struck a chord of memory, as news of its replacement quickly spread through the community, sparking many residents to share on social media.
“Back in the day, the old siren was run manually whenever there was a fire,” said Allison. “There weren’t any radios for communication, so they rang the bell to get firefighters to come to the station.”
“I remember hearing it on the way to the fire hall in 1985 for the tornado that hit the area,” said Linden Bielecki, a volunteer fire department official and retired Mancelona Schools teacher.
Retired Firefighter Brian Curtis said he remembers when the siren stopped working sometime in the 1980s.
“I climbed up the siren tower, got it unbolted and the wiring disconnected, and a crane then lowered it onto a truck,” Curtis recalled. “It was the village mechanics who removed a bird nest inside that had jammed up the motor. They installed screening over the sound projection tubes to help keep the birds out then we put it back up about a week later.”
The old siren is now in the hands of Mike Vandermay, a volunteer firefighter with Peninsula Fire Department in Grand Traverse County, who has been collecting civil defense equipment since 2008.
Vandermay is working to refurbish old equipment and hopes to build a small museum in the Grand Traverse region someday. He has about half the displays that he would like to have before opening one.
“My plan is to refurbish it and place it in the museum,” Vandermay said. “It’s history that you’re not going to have again.”
Replacing the defective siren was important to lifelong Mancelona resident Elmer Grody, who was a member of Mancelona Fire Department for 51 years. He died in May, 2018.
“Elmer was around when it failed,” Allison said. “The siren had been rebuilt a couple of times, but it was time to replace it. He got the process started and then Leslie got involved and it took off.”
Allison said when the electrician is finished with the wiring, the installer will return to program it. He estimates the new siren will be working by the end of August.
“Once it’s installed and programmed, I would like to have it ring at noon every day, seven days a week, for old-time memories for everyone in the village,” Allison said, adding that it will also be used when necessary for emergencies.