Local students and firefighters are taking an active role in the mechanical restoration of Tamaqua's oldest surviving motorized fire apparatus.
The 1922 Seagraves Citizen's Fire Company 6WT pumper truck, recently purchased by the Tamaqua Historical Society for $5,000, was transported recently via tow truck from the Citizen's Fire Company's storage garage to the Schuylkill Career and Technology Center (also known as South Vo-Tech) in MarLin. Students with the center's Collision Repair and Custom Refinishing class will spend the next few weeks working on the engine and mechanical operations of the truck.
"It feels great to be part of such a historical endeavor," said Matthew Hope, 19, of Tamaqua. Hope, who graduated from the South Vo-Tech course last year, donated his time to deliver the truck from Tamaqua to the center via Hope's Towing, their family-owned towing business.
Class instructor and 1973 graduate of Tamaqua, Pete Pollack, of MaryD, also stated his enthusiasm over the project. "This will be a fun and challenging project for the students," said Pollack, a 35-year instructor at the school. "It can be challenging finding parts for these types of trucks."
"To both see and work on a great piece of local history is an honor," said student Mark Miller, West Penn, who was anxious to start working on the truck.
"The truck purchased during Prohibition from funds earned through the illegal sale of five-gallon containers of canned beer," said Dale Freudenberger, President, Tamaqua Historical Society. "Those funds were raised in cooperation with the fire department and police department, who drove around town pitching the illegal libation to the citizenry."
Freudenberger added that the 750-gallon pumper cost the fire company $23,000 when ordered in 1921. First arrived in Tamaqua in 1922, it replaced a 1916 Boyd fire truck. By 1959, it was put out of service and eventually left town.
At that point, it was sold to a private collector in Allentown who stored it in a barn for over 30 years, before selling it in 1991, to a Florida couple, Mike and Debbie Zeak.
Freudenberger added that the truck had been featured at the Silver Springs Nature Theme Park near Ocala, where it is believed the truck was used for park rides. In recent years, however, it sat idle.
The Silver Springs Park property will be merged with adjacent Homosassa Springs State Park, owned by the state of Florida. That transaction provided the opportunity for the truck to return to its hometown. Bob Dampman works for Homosassa Springs State Park and knew of plans for the merger. He kept in touch with the Tamaqua Historical Society, knowing that other parties also were interested in acquiring the vehicle.
"Dampman also helped by prepping the truck last week for its travel home to Tamaqua," said Freudenberger.
"This truck has been worked on by numerous owners - who have each done their own form of work to the truck," added Pollack, who owns his own restored fire truck, a 1978 Ford Hahn pumper truck. "This will add to the complicity of the project."
"This will give us the opportunity to help bring back a little bit of history to our area," said student Patrick Ryan of Brockton.
"Definitely can't wait to get started on the truck," said Jeff Hartz of Tamaqua, who is a Vo-Tech student and active volunteer with the Citizen's Fire Company. "This is simply awesome!"
Members and officers with the Citizen's Fire Company also expressed their excitement over the endeavor and plan on helping as much as they can.
"In addition to obvious body and salt water damage, the truck as many mechanical issues," said student Chris Welfel of Tamaqua. "That won't stop us from getting it working again."
"Our historical society is extremely grateful for the help of all the students and school staff in preparing this important piece of local history," said Freudenberger.
Anyone interested in helping the historical society with future restoration of the truck is encouraged to call Freudenberger at (610) 597-6722.
Freudenberger said that the society hopes to have it running during Tamaqua's Memorial Day Parade on May 27. "Although it won't be completely restored for the parade, it will still impress the veterans."