This 1937 International Fire Truck was a workhorse for the department until it was replaced by a new International Fire Truck and tanker in 1959. It served the department well over the years and in the Crow River flood of 1965 it was dispatched to Delano where it was used to pump flood water around the clock.
Jerry Carlson, a member of the department then, said he was one of the firefighters who were at Delano during that flood and said, “We were in water up to our knees pumping water off the street back into the river.” His other experience was when he drove the truck to the theatre fire in Maple Lake as a backup unit. “It didn’t have power steering and only mechanical brakes. I almost lost it on the theatre corner,” he added.
Carlson recalled the truck being used on a grass fire while the newer ’56s were at another grass fire. He said several of the older firefighters, which included Henry (Hank) Mavencamp and Frank Baert (both deceased), took the truck and put out the fire with it. “They felt pretty good about that,” he added.
Retired firefighter Kenneth Hennen recalled the Delano flood and said Maple Lake’s firefighters worked in pairs, three shifts per day, for the duration of the flood which he said was about two weeks. He and the late Ted Lauer drove the truck back to Maple Lake when they were dismissed.
Hennen said one of the truck’s last uses was for the 1964 fire in the Wright Theatre building when all of the department’s equipment was pressed into action.
David Mooney, a retired member, said Frank Baert was the department’s pumper operator during the Delano flood. Mooney said the ‘37 was also used to pump basements in Maple Lake when needed. The firefighters would ride on the back of the truck to fires. He added, “Some rode on the top of the truck, but that was illegal.” While today’s firefighters are outfitted in the latest firefighting apparel, Mooney said rubber boots were his first piece of equipment. He remembered wearing them to a grain elevator fire in Annandale.
Present firefighter, Tom Blizil, has been one of the mechanics responsible for the maintenance of the ‘37 as well as the other fire trucks since he joined the department in 1983.
“It’s going to be pumping water for our 75th,” he said, noting that the pumper was capable of pumping 500 gallons per minute in its heyday and is pretty much original. Blizil said he reupholstered the driver’s seat and put a new floor mat down in the cab. The truck’s speedometer stopped functioning at 5,000 miles, but the six cylinder flathead engine has many more hours of stationary duty.
“In order to get at the pump controls the operator had to remove the driver’s seat,” said Blizil. He felt the truck may have pulled a four-wheel wagon containing a water tank to rural fires as it is set up with a trailer hookup.
Another retired firefighter, Les Aretz, shed this information on the truck’s history.
As the fire department continued to upgrade its trucks, the members had to make a decision on the future of the ‘37 which was parked in the fire hall with the other units. Some thought it was taking up too much room and should be junked while others felt it had been part of the department for too long be tossed out, according to Aretz. He said the discussions by firefighters got pretty hot on that issue, but it was eventually decided to keep it as a parade vehicle.
It ended up Aretz’s responsibility to get it parade-ready which he said required a couple of new tires and a thorough tune-up. Aretz was employed at Wright-Hennepin Electric and worked on the truck in his spare time. At one point he felt he had it ready to go only to discover the cylinders had filled with fuel.
“It was a faulty check valve in the fuel pump letting the gas flow into the cylinders,” he said.
Aretz said the truck’s first parade was to the State Fire Convention at Sartel. After being enroute for a while his companion, Kenneth Hennen, in one of his classic comments said, “By golly, I think we’re going to make it.”
Since that day the truck has been used in local Maple Lake parades as well as others in the area.