MITCHELL (Mieczyslaw) WOJTKOWIAK was born on July 12, 1897 at 1002 S. 10th St. in Camden, NJ. He was one of four children born to Adalbert Wojtkowiak and Mary Nowak Wojtkowiak.
Adalbert and Mary had arrived into the port of New York in 1884 on the ship America with their eldest son Ladilaus (Albert) and Adalbert's brother and sister-in-law John and Hedwig Wojtkowiak and their 9 month old daughter Victoria. Both families settled in Camden. By 1906 John and Hedwig Wojtkowiak were at 1210 Chestnut Street, while Adalbert and Mary were living at 831 Sycamore Street. They had moved to 1002 South 10th Street late in 1910, where they remained through at least the fall of 1918.
When he registered for the draft in September of 1918, Mitchell Wojtkowiak was living with his parents at the South 10th Street address and working for his cousins Stephen and Stanley Wojtkowiak, who had founded a coal and ice business. This partnership dissolved in the 1930s, and Stanley went on to found and operate the Stanley Fuel Company in Camden for many years thereafter.
Sadly, another cousin, the brother of Stephen and Stanley, Private John Wojtkowiak was killed in action while serving with the United States Army in France in November of 1918.
Mitchell Wojtkowiak married Stanislava (Stella) Kurylo, daughter of Stanley Kurylo and Mary Slurzynski Kurylo, on June 29, 1919 in St. Joseph's Polish Catholic Church. January of 1920 found the young couple renting at 1255 Thurman Street. Mitchell Wojtkowiak was working as a coater in a candy factory while his wife was employed at one of Camden's cigar factories.
When the 1927 Camden City Directory was compiled Mitchell and Stella Wojtkowiak were living at 1171 Sycamore Street.
Mitchell was appointed to the City of Camden Fire Department on March 16, 1927. His badge number was 93. He reported for duty to Ladder Company 2 at 619 Kaighn Avenue on March 17, 1927. On June 26 of that year he was transferred "across the floor" to Engine Company 8, quartered at the same building. At some point after March of 1942 he was assigned to Engine Company 10 on Morgan Boulevard, where he served out the balance of his career as a member of the Camden Fire Department. Department records indicate that Mitchell was capable of filling the following positions: acting captain, driver and pump operator, ladderman, and hoseman. Apparently while at Ladder Company 2 he also served as tillerman, the back driver of the long hook and ladder truck.
While living at 1150 Sycamore Street in Camden, Mitchell's wife Stanislava died at age 28 in February 1929.
There were three children from this marriage, Stanislava (Stella), Mathew Stanley, and Rita. Mitchell Wojtkowiak married Mary M. Manikowska, daughter of Martin Manikowska and Sophie Paprzycka of Mannyunk PA in May of 1929 at St. Joseph's Polish Catholic Church. The 1929 City Directory shows them living at 1169 Sycamore Street.
Fire Department records from 1931 show the Wojtkowiaks at 1008 Atlantic Avenue.
Fear of enemy air raids in 1942 spawned a number of Federal Decrees regulating public conduct in the event of air raid warnings. One new Federal Regulation prohibited fire apparatus from using sirens in response to alarms. Under war-time regulations, sirens would be reserved exclusively for air raid warnings.
By 1947 Mitchell and Mary Wojtkowiak had moved to 1162 Lansdowne Avenue. Mitchell and Mary Wojtkowiak had one son, Walter. All the Wojtkowiak children are mentioned in the 1943 anniversary book of St. Joseph's Polish Catholic Church.
The use of audible warning devices by fire apparatus was restricted to bells only. The burden to both fire fighters and the public safety was formidable. On March 1, 1942, the inevitable happened. Engine Company 8 while responding to an alarm was involved in a collision with a ten ton truck at Third Street and Kaighn Avenue. Upon impact all of the firemen were thrown into the street. The truck driver declared that he failed to hear the bells of the approaching apparatus. The mishap resulted in injuries to six members and total destruction of the apparatus. Captain Alvin Thompson was listed in critical condition, while Firemen Mitchell Wojtkowiak, Philip Farrow, Leonard Oshushek, Lawrence Boulton and Edwin Robbins were admitted for lesser injuries. Battalion Chief Laurence Newton stated that he believed the accident might have been avoided if fire companies were not prohibited from using sirens.
Mitchell Wojtkowiak retired from the Camden City Fire Department on April 15, 1961. He was replaced in his position in August 1961 by Lacy Phelps.
Mitchell Wojtkowiak was still living at 1162 Lansdowne Avenue when he died on February 16, 1972 at age 74. He is buried in St. Joseph's Cemetery, Chews Landing, NJ.
Thanks to Sandy White-Grear for her help in creating this web-page, and to Constance R. Wojtkowiak Wilke, granddaughter of Mitchell Wojtkowiak, who authored Wojtkowiak Family History in 1992, which was the source of much information on this web-page.
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