Historic fire truck resurfaces at Hayden

Published 8:09 am Wednesday, June 17, 2009

FRANKLIN—A piece of the city’s firefighting history saw the light of day for the first time in almost 30 years Tuesday, after a tow truck gently pulled a 1935 Ford Oren pumper truck from storage at the shuttered Hayden school building.

The truck was moved a few blocks away to a public works garage on Pretlow Street, where it now awaits its fate.

“It was a 500-gallon per minute pump truck,” said Franklin Fire & Rescue Deputy Chief Mark Carr, who together with Captain Tim Dunn was on hand to see the historic truck moved from Hayden.

The deputy chief gestured at the front of the truck, telling Dunn that back in 1983 or 1984, “We removed the pump that was mounted here and put it on another truck.”

Carr said the truck was not new when the city fire department purchased it, and it last saw service around 1974 or 1975. Afterwards it was stored in an auxiliary building at the John Beverly Rose Airport.

Then there was a setback.

“Some kids from (a local) trailer park vandalized it,” Carr said. “So then we moved it over to Hayden after they closed the shop class.”

Carr and Dunn said the truck was moved to the former Hayden school building in 1980. Hayden at that time was a middle school serving sixth- and seventh-grade students, but the industrial arts section of the building was vacant. Hayden finally closed in June 1986.

Signs of the truck’s vandalism before being moved to Hayden are still evident today. All of truck’s windows are shattered. A baseball-sized stone, perhaps one thrown in a senseless act years ago, rests among pieces of thick broken glass on the passenger side of the cab. The cab itself is an inhospitable place to take a seat; the cushions have withered away, replaced by rusty spring coils.

Above the steering wheel, a spartan dashboard displays a rusty speedometer and oil and fuel level indicators. An odometer reveals the truck’s mileage so far: 29,893.

Carr said that although there currently were no plans to restore the truck to its former glory, it was definitely an option.

“We don’t know what the plan for the truck is right now,” Carr said. “(Restoration) is certainly an option and certainly something that we will explore. Finances are a big part today and we do not have the money available to do it. It would take a few dollars to restore.”

Carr added, “But it’s a valuable part of history and I think we need to evaluate very closely what we’re going to do with it.”

The truck was removed from Hayden — a 57-year-old former high, junior and middle school on Oak Street — in anticipation of the building being sold to a private, nonprofit organization for renovation into a multi-purpose facility.

Dunn said he was hopeful that people in the community who were interested in the city’s history or restoring vehicles might also come forward to help out with the truck’s restoration.

“We would love to see it restored,” Dunn said. “I think that for its age, it’s in very good shape, especially with just sitting around for almost 30 years. It hasn’t been moved from Hayden. It’s not in excellent shape by any means, but I would have expected it to be much more deteriorated.”

Still, despite the damage from the vandalism and a few dents and flaking paint, the old pumper truck inspires the imagination.

“I’d like to wash it, just to see what the colors of the lettering are and to see what kind of condition they’re in,” Dunn said.