“I always felt like they were just wandering around, talking to each other,” he said.
The portraits and dozens of other artifacts rest in the McKinney Fire Museum, which is a section of the Wysong Central Fire Station. The museum, founded by retired Battalion Chief Darrell Groves, was built with the station in 2006 and has been dedicated to preserving the department’s 131 years of history ever since.
“It shows and honors our guys that worked here before us,” Hedges said. “It shows that we’re dedicated to keeping their memory alive.”
The museum is largely the product of community donations. When the museum first opened, Hedges said it featured fire trucks, stray helmets and empty cabinets. As local firefighters and their families heard about a space to show treasured keepsakes, they came forward with boxes of artifacts and memorabilia, he said.
Today, the museum showcases objects including two antique firetrucks—one from 1931 and one from 1924—in the wide room near the station’s garage. Among them are firefighters’ suits from different eras, photos honoring a firefighter convention in 1907 and documents detailing the department’s history from World War I to 9/11.
Glass cases display badges from the department’s volunteer days and decades of evolving uniforms and equipment. Another shows off generations of toy fire trucks located near a 100-year-old pool table from the old station.
The museum holds value to many different people, Hedges said. Younger firefighters can engage with the origins of the field in which they operate. Older visitors remember the antique trucks from parades of their era. Young girls can learn the history of the male-dominated field and see that the job can also be for them. And anyone who stops by can draw a little closer to McKinney’s history, Hedges said.
Hedges knew many of the past chiefs immortalized on the wall of portraits. He said to him the building, with its commitment to upholding history and legacy, is a comfort.