Few of us recall Trego’s first fire truck. We have to go abeam nearly a half-century to get to those of us who drove it – and I guess I’m one of the youngest. Tommy White, Jack Dickinson, Ted Burke, LeeRoy Mee, Tom Johnson, Cecil Storm – all gone, and with them many of the memories and stories that involved the old International.
It was red – faded, and pebble-textured in the way that only a lead-based paint endures the elements. It may have been from the late forties or the early fifties. I don’t know of any photos remaining. It wasn’t the sort of truck that inspired photographers – just an old International, with a cylindrical water tank, a couple of wooden ladders strapped to the side, and a marginally reliable single cylinder engine powering the water pump.
I recall driving it up to Gongaware’s for a chimney fire, along with Curtis Schroeder. Curt went up the ladder with three fire extinguishers, and, by the time I had the pump running, he had the fire under control. Another trip was to Norby’s – we were too late to save much of anything that time. I don’t know how many runs the old beast made – but I drove the International on it’s last run.
We were backup for a fire up Deep Creek. As I started the truck from our root-cellar fire hall, and headed out, I could see Jack Dickinson stop at the service station, and get out of his rig to be picked up. I pulled toward him, stepped the brakes down, and, since there were no brakes, kept the International in third to cross the tracks and continue down the hill. Jack passed me on the downhill, and parked at the substation for pickup. This time I used the emergency brake and stopped for Jack. He asked “Why didn’t you stop the first time?” Shifting into third, I answered, “No brakes.” Around the Ant Flat Ranger Station the horn button flew out of the steering wheel. Jack grabbed it as it flew towards my face. As I tried to stop when we reached 93, the emergency brake lever came loose. Jack took it, since it wasn’t doing me any good. Things went well along the highway, and we headed up Deep Creek. When I went to downshift into third, a chunk of the clutch linkage gave way – but we were in third, and continued to the fire.
We parked and started the engine on the pump. I crawled under and managed to get the clutch functioning again. I never knew if Jack got the board to buy the ton and a half Ford that replaced the International, or if he just bought the second-hand truck himself and started transferring parts. I know it was a better truck than the International – and that Jack Dickinson’s presence made a better community.