Wednesday, June 29, 2005


In 1969, Paul Winchell made a pilot for a TV show which never got on the air. This is what the IMDb had to say about it:

Vernon's Volunteers (1969) (TV) .... Chief Vernon
In 1969, he starred in an unsold sitcom pilot for CBS called "Vernon's Volunteers." The plot concerned the enthusiastic but incompetent volunteer fire department who protects the small town of Vernon from burning to the ground. He played the fire chief.

In the book "Unsold Television Pilots (1955 through 1989)", Lee Goldberg wrote this entry:

"Vernon's Volunteers. 30 min. Production Company: CBS Productions. Director: Charles Barton. Producer: Si Rose. Writer/Creator: Walter Kempley. The misadventures of the willing, but inept, volunteer fire department in the small, rural town of Vernon. Joe Flynn played the chairman of the town council and Paul Winchell was the fire chief. Other cast members included Mickey Shaughnessy and Cliff Norton."

The IMDb also lists Ron ('Murder, She Wrote') Masak and Whitey Hughes, great stuntman from 'The Wild, Wild West' as being involved with the pilot.

So where was Vernon located? Nearly forty years on, it hardly makes a difference, especially since the series didn't sell.

Well, that's not good enough reason to stop me! As a proud expatriate of the Nutmeg State as well as the leading proponent for Toobworld, I want to make the case that it's the Vernon to be found in the state of Connecticut.

The Town of Vernon is a residential community located east of Hartford on Interstate 84 in north central Connecticut. Even though I had to drive past it on my way to UConn at Storrs, I don't know much about the town. So the following info is courtesy of the town's website.

The history of Vernon is one of industrialization, urbanization, suburbanization and regionalization. It's a suburban community and a commercial center for neighboring towns. And the former Rockville mills section has made a transition from being primarily an industrial and commercial center to being a professional and governmental center. It is the site of local government, education, and State of Connecticut administrative offices.

Vernon was first settled in 1716 by families from East Windsor, so it's possible that Chief Vernon's family was one of them and they were the inspiration for the name. Vernon was incorporated in 1808, when it was partitioned from the town of Bolton. (As a side note of information, the palindrome for Bolton is Notlob.)

Because of the Hockanum and Tankerhoosen Rivers, Vernon had plenty of mills and power looms during the Industrial Revolution, mostly dealing with cotton and fine woolens. But since World War II, the textile industry entered a regional decline which continued steadily over the following decades.

Industrialization led to the urbanization of Rockville, while the rest of Vernon remained agricultural and rural. So there's a mark in its favor as being the setting for 'Vernon's Volunteers'.

The Vernon Historical Society admits that no one knows with certainty just how Vernon got its name. Who named it, when, or in whose honor are all a matter of conjecture.

Some early records say that it was named VERNON after "Mount Vernon," Washington's home in Virginia. Other accounts say that Vernon was named from the French word, "verdure" which means "green vegetation." Its hills were covered with virgin forests of green trees and its valleys lush with green grasses.

It has also been surmised that it was named for the town of Vernon in Evreux Province in northern France. So if the town's historical society doesn't know for sure, my theory works just as well. We're dealing with the telefictional town of Vernon rather than the historical one, so the idea that it was named for one of Chief Vernon's ancestors is as good as any.

As one would expect from any small TV community like Cicely, Alaska, or Fernwood, Ohio, or the ultimate classic, Hooterville, there should be signs of off-beat individuality and eccentricities. So why should Stars Hollow and Dunn's River be the only Connecticut towns populated with residents who march to the beat of a different drummer?

On the Town of Vernon's official website, you can (for the moment) find this web link:

"Read some interesting comments from an ammeter history buff"

"Ammeter". T'hee!

I'm not sure how long it may be up now, though. Before posting this essay, I wrote them a letter alerting them to the spelling error.

Here's the link for the Town of Vernon's website:

And best of all, the town Vernon has a volunteer fire department, and Vernon's Volunteers have their own website as well:

I didn't stay there for more than just a cursory glance (They certainly like their pictures of twisted metal car wrecks!), but I doubt I would have found any mention of Chief Vernon in their history.

But then, they're only dealing with Reality. Pshaw!



Anonymous said...

Hello BCnU -

Thanks for the alert. Spell check failure has been corrected. As a
matter of correction however, this is not the "official" site for the
town of Vernon. That address is

Our illustrious local officials would never make so egregious an error.


Toby said...

What I found strange was not that the mistake was made in the first place - hey, nobody's perfect! - but that nobody else seemed to have noticed it before.....