Stafford Historical Society hopes to see 1937 fire truck in Memorial Day Parade

By Lauri Voter - Staff Writer
Stafford - posted Thu., Mar. 10, 2011
The Stafford Historical Society hopes the 1937 Ahrens-Fox fire truck it donated to the Connecticut Fire Museum can be included in this year’s Memorial Day Parade. Photo contributed by the Connecticut Fire Museum. - Contributed Photo

After a brief business meeting on March 8, the Stafford Historical Society hosted guest speaker Bert D. Johanson, president of the Connecticut Fire Museum in East Windsor. Johanson presented a talk about the 1937 Ahrens-Fox fire truck that was once owned by the Stafford Springs Fire Department.

Prior to turning the program over to Johanson, Dave Bartlett, president of the Stafford Historical Society, gave a brief history of the truck.

“The Stafford Springs Fire Department owned a 1937 Ahrens-Fox fire engine. We donated it to their group [the fire museum]. They have restored it and have it up and running. It is part of their collection now,” said Bartlett, who continued by saying that the truck had been stored at Festi’s Oil Service for many years. Its tires were flat and it was not running. It was delivered to the museum on a flatbed truck early in 2010.

Bartlett referenced “Torrent Fire Engine Company No. 1,” a publication about the history of the Stafford Springs Fire Department, written by Allen Armelin.

The townspeople voted on the funds to obtain the truck in 1937, which cost $8,500. Excerpts from the history say “Handicapped for years by obsolete equipment, the voters will be asked to authorize the purchase of a new pumper fire engine for the borough fire department on Dec. 2, 1937... The new pumper will carry 250 gallons of water... The new truck will also be equipped with ladders and sufficient hose... The voters will be asked to appropriate $5,500 to pay for the apparatus.”

Indeed, the new fire truck was delivered to Stafford Springs on Feb. 15, 1938. “The new Stafford Springs Fire Department pumper roared through Main Street and proceeded to Haymarket Square for all to see and take pictures,” read Bartlett.

According to the history, the new fire pumper was put to the test within a week when it responded to a chimney fire on Feb. 21, 1938.

Johanson circulated a fire museum publication that provided information about the truck. According to Johanson, the truck was unusual because it was designed with 18-inch wheels – an uncommon size. The museum installed 20-inch rims during the vehicle's refurbishment.

Johanson explained that the Ahrens-Fox model was designed for small town fire departments. A similar truck was used in Auburn, Maine. Approximately 100 of these trucks were made from 1934 to 1939 by the Ahrens-Fox company of Cincinnati, Ohio. That company was sold to Mack Trucks in 1955.

“These units were promoted by Ahrens-Fox as the answer to the needs of small communities that wanted quality apparatus on a limited budget. A goodly number were sold during the Depression years,” is how the truck is described in the fire museum’s publication, “Collection Highlights.”

The truck remained in service until July of 1961, when the fire department acquired a new fire truck - the LaFrance - at a cost of $17,000. That truck replaced the Ahrens-Fox, which was converted into a utility wagon.

After the Stafford Springs Fire Department closed, the Ahrens-Fox truck was given to the historical society. However, with no ideal location or resources to store, refurbish or display the engine, the society gave the truck to the fire museum in October of 2009. It was transported there a few weeks later.

“When we donated the truck to the museum, part of the agreement was that they would bring it back for special occasions,” said Bartlett.

After its refurbishment, the 1937 Ahrens-Fox was displayed at a carnival in Ellington. This year, the Stafford Historical Society hopes to see the truck included in the town’s Memorial Day Parade.

The Connecticut Fire Museum is located in East Windsor, and is associated with the Trolley Museum. The Stafford Historical Society is located in the former library building at 5 Spring St.

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