Harrington firefighters will welcome back an old friend later this week.
If only we all looked this good at the age of 82.
Spiffed up with a complete mechanical renovation and a shiny red and gold paint job, an antique fire truck, built in Wilmington eight decades ago and bought by the Harrington Fire Company in 1931, will be making a memorable return to the First State Friday.
The event coincides with the 19th annual Delaware Volunteer Firefighters Association conference, being held through Saturday.
That the truck even exists today, more than 80 years after it rolled off Wilmington's U.S. Fire Apparatus Company's assembly line, is a testament to two Virginia brothers, Derek and Jim Hart, who completely refurbished the vehicle over a two-year period.
Pure coincidence brought it to the attention of Harrington EMS Capt. Rob Taylor, who happened to be at the firehouse when one of the Hart brothers called looking for information.
"I was just there doing some paperwork when one of the sons called and mentioned they might have one of our old trucks," Taylor said.
After that, "We had a pretty long conversation," Taylor added.
The sparse records from that time don't have a definitive means of identifying the vehicle, such as a serial number, Taylor said. However, conversations with the people who sold the truck to the Hart family in 1987 and comparisons with contemporary photos convinced Taylor and the Harts that they had the real deal.
The Harrington Fire Company paid $7,500 for the truck, which was first used on March 29, 1931. Although the company was strictly a men-only organization at the time, Harrington's Martha Smith often drove while responding to alarms while men were in the military during World War II. Unfortunately, costs and maintenance issues forced the company to sell the truck in 1952.
From there, it passed through a number of hands before Derek and Jim Hart's father bought it for $800 in 1987. But the senior Hart never got around to refurbishing the truck, so his sons did it for him.
Although not decked out in Harrington livery, the truck first will be displayed at 7 p.m. Friday at the original Harrington fire house, and then moved, parade fashion, to the current fire station.
After that, it will go to Dover for the annual parade, and then returned to Virginia.
"When I first saw it from about 30 feet away, the other guys pretty much had to hold me back because I was so anxious to see it," Taylor recalled upon seeing the restored vehicle at a New Jersey antique truck show.
"You can really tell the Hart family put their hearts and souls into it," he said. "It's just immaculate."