The Bowers Beach Fire Company's 1953 GMC Oren fire truck has been through a lot.
It was the first motorized fire truck the company ever owned. It even survived a fire itself, when the fire house was set ablaze in 1979.
The fire truck helped protect Bowers Beach from the time it rolled off the production line in 1953 until 1984, when the truck was sold to a local farmer. The fire truck had three new homes, all with local farmers, before being left at a junk yard owned by John Macklin.
"Each time the truck was sold we had a chance to buy it back but the fire hall wasn't big enough for it," said Fire Chief Phil Pennington. "Then one of our guys saw it in the back field of the junk yard and some of our guys went over there and asked Mr. Macklin if he would be willing to donate it back to the company or if we could buy it back."
After a several conversations, Macklin decided to gift the truck back to the fire company. The truck was just a shell of its former self when the fire company got it back. The long years of farm work had left it rusted, faded and tired looking.
The members of the fire company spent the next four years raising money through dinners, fundraisers and bingo to have the truck restored by Swab Wagon Co. in Pennsylvania.
"We took everything off of the truck, fixed it and patched it, sand blasted the whole truck and re assembled it. Anything that was chrome was sent out to a company to be re-chromed," said Bill Mille of Swab Wagon Co. "It was amazing to see the difference from when they brought it into us to when they got it back."
Just a few short weeks ago the GMC returned to its former home, looking like had just rolled off the production line. The total cost of the restoration was $116,000.
"It was very overwhelming to see where it had gotten after it had been out in the fields and where it has just sat, to when the older members of the company got to look at the truck," said Pennington. "It was a very moving moment too see the older members see it again."
The truck made it's debut for the Bowers Beach Fire Company's 75th anniversary parade on Saturday. The GMC traveled the parade route along with many other trucks from area fire stations and was then parked for display at the festivities following the parade. The anniversary parade is sure to be the first of many that the truck will participate in in its second life.
"Ever since I got home Saturday I've been given several applications for antique organizations that want to include the truck in their events," said Pennington.
Page 2 of 2 - For the most part though the truck will be housed at the fire station, where Pennington is hoping it can be an example for the younger generation.
"I hope it will inspire the younger generation to have respect for where we are and where we have been and to understand where we're from," he said.