Sunday, June 13, 2010

TROPHY!!! (& sweat!!!)

The Hatfield Fire Company, of Hatfield, Pa. (Montgomery County) marked their 100th anniversary yesterday with a parade and celebration. Hatfield is an old railroad crossing town, just outside of Philadelphia. In it's heyday, it was an industrial manufacturing town- all kinds of steel, woodwork, and textiles were produced here and shipped out via the railroads. Nowadays, Hatfield is a bedroom community, with some heavy industrial still remaining and some light commercial.

It is a 24 mile ride one-way from the house. Going there is mostly downhill, down Pa. Route 309 through Quakertown. My original intent was to wake up around 7:30 and be out the door by 8:30, but I woke up around 6:45...figured I would try and get 45 more minutes in, but kept staring at the ceiling. So I jumped in the shower, had an english muffin, packed the cooler with some drinks, and was out the door and on the road by 7:45.

The forecast for the day was 85 degrees/partly sunny with some humidity. I should mention a peculiarity that the truck has: on extremely hot days, she looses coolant. I don't quite know where it goes. I do know where it does NOT go- into the crankcase (and by the way there is no oil in the radiator, either.) I kind of suspect that since it only happens on extremely hot days (85 degrees and humid) that perhaps there is a crack in one of the heads, and when she gets real hot, maybe it flexes enough to allow coolant to pass through????? I dunno....It sounds good. But like I said, no coolant in the crankcase and no oil in the radiator, so guess what....It aint broke so I aint fixing it!!!! Just keep your eye on it and have coolant and water on board to add on long trips!!

So heading south I made two stops, one at WaWa, to top off the gas tank ($25.00 worth @ 2.57, just a little under 10 gallons..) and then I stopped at Auto Zone to buy a gallon of coolant, which I had run out of some time ago. Remember, you just can't keep adding straight water, as you run the risk of boiling it off. Always make sure you occasionally add some coolant. Keep a hydrometer on hand to measure the cooling and boiling point levels of your coolant. She ran good heading S/B on 309. I always like getting her out on the open road- I suspect she has the soul of a road tractor, because when you shift her into 5th gear and put the hammer down, she loves to run.

In 1958 when she was built, "driver comfort" and things like ergonomics were not a consideration. The interiors of trucks were spartan affairs (apologies to Spartan Motors, Inc. a popular modern-day fire apparatus chassis manufacturer) and the thought of the driver being comfortable ended at a bench seat that was adjustable forwards and backwards. As a result, there is no insulation on the firewall (remembering that the engine is out in front of you, this is important!!!) Climate control ends with a flap, on the center of the back of the hood, just in front of the windshield, that you can open or close. There was a heater in the truck once upon a time, but it was removed long ago for unknown reasons. I have never replaced it for 2 reasons- I rarely take the truck out in the winter, and when I do, the heat coming off the engine and the exhaust manifold and pipes is plenty enough to warm the cab quite adequately!!!)

I arrived at the registration/judging area, and signed in. Dad (who was bringing over the 2007 Spartan/Toyne pumper by the way....) was running late (as usual) so I got in the judging line. As I was waiting for the judges, I quick went over her with a towel and some spray wax (remove the water spots) and I touched up the tire shine (I like Meguire's Hot Shine, thanks Captain Gonzo!!!) A note about Fire Department Parade Judging: I wont get into fine details, but around here, cleanliness is godliness. Judges around here are hell bent on finding the smallest amount of dirt or grime, usually an easy thing to do on a firetruck. Tools are checked for dirt, proper paint, etc. This all goes along with looking at equipment and how it is set up, but clean = happy judges. So when the 2 Antique Judges arrived, I flat out told them that "this is not a clean truck. It's privately owned, by me, without the benefit of a fire company's budget or the manpower to clean her to parade standards." I then handed them the three-ring binder I keep on board of all the factory documents (everything from original sales orders, to the telegram sent to the salesman stating "The truck is ready for pick up, come get it." They appreciated seeing the factory documents, and stated so. They did walk the truck, opened compartment doors, asked some questions, and did remark about the dirt and some rust here and there. I just politely reminded them that I was a one-man band with two ankle biters at home that had this obsession with eating and needing a roof over their heads. They did again mention seeing the factory documents helped me. So I parked the truck off to the side, and waited for Dad to show up, which he eventually did. After he had the newer pumper judged, we headed over to the line-up point, and the parade did manage to step off promptly at 1300 (rare for a parade to start exactly on time.)

So, on a hot, 85 degree day, you can imagine it gets kind of, just a wee bit, and a little warm in there. Going downhill most of the way, when the engine isn't working that hard, at 55 MPH it isn't quite that bad. But when you are in a parade going at a snail's pace, it gets downright unbearable in there!!!! I can't tell you the last time I ran the truck in a parade, but now I remember why I don't do it more often!!!! It gets (pardon my french) fucking nasty ass HOT in there! Anytime throughout the parade route that I stopped, I would open the driver's door, open the cooler and grab the bottle of water and take a gulp, and then wipe the sweat off my face and neck. The temperature gauge (the 1958 temp gauge may I add) rarely went above 160 degrees. The few times that it did, I would just shift down into the lo-hole first gear, which would raise the RPM's, and she would cool back down.

It was a nice parade route, through an old historic town, with lot's of friendly people who were appreciative of all the firefighters who came out to help the Hatfield Fire Company celebrate 100 years of service.

We arrived at Hatfield's sub-station on the outskirts of town, which is on a large parcel of ground, right next to Hatfield Meat's enormous processing/packaging plant. Here they had a small carnival set up for the firefighters and their families, and of course the usual end-of-parade activities. Occasionally, the wind would blow samples of aroma over from the rendering plant, but it was not all that bad. Dad hung out for a while, and then took the Toyne back to Bryn Athyn. I hung out for about an hour and a half, which was spent talking to old friends and watching the sights, which were plentiful. Finally the trophies were announced, and I walked away with "Second Place, Privately Owned Antique." I lost out to an absolutely breathtaking 1949 Ward LaFrance. When first place goes to a truck that you drool over, it's not hard to accept second!!!

Now for the fun part...Heading home, back up Route 309, up the mountain I had just come down....with the engine working hard going back uphill....making lots of heat......

Monday, June 7, 2010

Play the cards......

So while I am sitting here converting some of my CD's into my I-Tunes list to later import into my I-Phone (right now it's the soundtrack to "The Empire Strikes Back") I figured I would blog while I wait for the CD's to burn. And to open this one, sometimes you just have to blog about things other than antique firetrucks- for there IS more in life other than antique firetrucks. Hard to believe, yes I know, but true.

So about 20 years ago, a very close friend of mine (Joel Bain) was hired onto the City of Camden, NJ. Fire Department. Joel and I got to know one another through my father, from when he worked at Jevic Transportation as a driver. We hung out for a good while prior to him getting hired onto the CFD. So when he got hired, he was assigned as a proby firefighter to Engine Company 9, located at 27th and Federal Streets, quartered with Ladder Company 3 and Battalion 3. I would visit him at the firehouse often and hang out. I soon got to know most of the members of Engine 9 and Ladder 3 just as well as I knew Joel. One person in particular was Captain Joseph Gallagher, the skipper of 3 Truck on the same work group. Joe took an interest in me, as we determined through kitchen table talk that I took my Firefighter I and II at Burlington County Fire Academy, where he was an Instructor. He was not one of the instructors for my classes, but he was one of the "Burn Building Extras" brought in during live exercises. He remembered me as "the aggressive kid from Pennsylvania." So anytime I came to visit Joel, it turned into "visiting Joel and Captain Gallagher."

He and Joel taught me much about being a competent, aggressive, and efficient firefighter. Joe would often quiz me about building construction, and pour on the ball busting if I answered something incorrectly. In due time, Joe took the promotion exam, and was promoted to Battalion Chief. (Now importing the soundtrack to "JAWS") He was transferred to Battalion 2, at Liberty Station down on Broadway, quartered with Engine Company 8 and Rescue Company 1. Soon visits to Camden had to have 2 stops- one to 27th and Federal and one to Headquarters (where Joel had since been transferred to Ladder Company 1.) If I was in quarters and Joe got a run, he would throw me in the car, twisting my arm the whole time (yeah, right.)

Joe and his wife Sue were lovers of the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where they had a small house in Avon, which is on Hattaras Island, about 10 miles north of the Cape Hattaras Lighthouse. Invitations were extended to come down and sample some the "easy life" as they touted it. I soon accepted, and learned that visiting the OBX is like eating potato chips- once is not enough. Eventually, in preparation of Joe's retirement, they bought a bigger place just a few blocks from the small place they had at that time; and he and Sue sold their home in Riverside and moved down to Avon full-time. They both kept busy with various volunteer activities, the local VFD, the Park Service down at the lighthouse, the Church Food Pantry, etc.

(now importing Lonestar "Lonely Grill) There is no scale or standard to measure against Joe and Sue's sense of hospitality, or their generosity when opening up their home to guests. I cannot even use the word guest, as when you visit them, you are Family. The home that they moved into is large and spacious, so much so that guests have their own separate "wing", with 2 bedrooms (one having a king size bed plus a set of bunkbeds and a TV) and a bathroom. You never, ever feel like you are intruding. When you are ready to explore the sights of the OBX, they make sure you know where you are going, what you are doing, and how to do it. If you are going to the beach, Joe opens up his "beach storage closet" inside the garage, and shows you where all the beach chairs (pilfered from an un-named Jersey Shore town), boogie boards, umbrellas, towels, and other accessories necessary for a successful venture to the beach are stored.

When you return back to their place in the mid-afternoon, the air conditioning is always set at a comfortable level. You hose off in the driveway, and Joe is ready to help you re-pressurize the tires in your car with his air compressor and hose (did I mention you can drive out on the Beach?? You have to have 4WD and let some air out of the tires, but you can do it!!!) After you get the car all restored while the wife rinses off the kids and gets them upstairs, you retire to the guest wing, and take a hot (or for the sunburned a cool) shower. Then take a nap for an hour or two, and wake up to the smells of Joe's cooking. (I never did mention that Joe's cooking in the firehouse, although rare, ROCKED!!!)

So, in short, JOE AND SUE ROCK. GET IT??

(now importing the soundtrack to "Days of Thunder.) About two and a half years ago, in a cruel twist of fate, Joe was diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer. How in the fuck can something so cruel and inhuman happen to someone so good? I suppose all of the years of urban firefighting without SCBA finally caught up to Joe. However, Joe was never one to simply stand there and take shit, especially when he was always the one dishing it out. He decided to fight it. And an easy fight it would not be. Knowing where Avon is located will help the unknowing reader one of the huge problems of the impending battle- Avon is located on the OBX, without any specialized care of any kind, 70 miles from the closest (minor care) hospital, and 150 miles to Norfolk, Va. the location of the nearest (but thankfully a very good) cancer treatment hospital. A very close friend of Joe and Sue's, who has a little extra money and several places to live, offered the use of his apartment in nearby Virginia Beach, to save them from having to go back and forth or from having to dish out bucks for a hotel.

So Joe battled the Cancer, but not without getting his ass kicked. The radiation treatments caused a lot of damage to the soft tissues inside his mouth and throat. He had to have a feeding tube inserted into his abdomen, and "drank" nutrition formulas through the tube. He also had a traech tube in his throat, and between the damage from the radiation and the traech, when he talks he sounds like "The Godfather." (Side Note: he grows tomatoes in pots out on his back deck, so when he tends to them, of course Don Vito Corleone jokes are tossed at him, resulting in his sly smile....) Joe beat stage 4 cancer. What more can you say? This August, god willing, he will be cancer free for 2 years.

(now importing the soundtrack to "Saving Private Ryan") We recently returned from a long Memorial Day weekend to visit Joe and Sue. We needed a long weekend getaway, as our official family vacation (DISNEY!!!) does not come until late in September. The last time I waited that long for a vacation, I went batty. Almost 2 years after finishing his treatments, Joe is doing extremely well. He has lost a tremendous amount of weight (expected) and recently had the traech removed. While we were there, he was still not able at the time to eat anything in his mouth, but as of the other day, my wife received an email from Sue advising that Joe had eaten some ice cream and oatmeal!!!! THIS IS HUGE!!! (side note: he had tried, at my Nurse wife's insistence the last time we were down there in July of last year to eat some soft foods, but it didnt work too well.....) But apparently he ate and reported no problems. He does have a Doctors appointment in Norfolk later this week to have the ENT doctor look at his throat.

The cancer knocked him on his ass for quite a while, however, as soon as he was able, he jumped right back up. One of the most amazing things to me, that really blows my mind, is the fact that even though he cannot eat, Joe insists on cooking for his guests each and every night that they are in his home. What this man does in the name of hospitality is just priceless. And the treatment my children get from he and Sue- to say that they are like a second set of parents is an understatement. One thing that Joe loves to do is to take the boys down to the dock behind his house, and check out the scenery (a bit different from when we would sit on the front bumper of Engine 9 and check out the sights on 27th Street so many years ago.....)

Ok, enough. You get the picture. Good people overcame. Now importing Billy Idol "Rebel Yell."

Saturday, June 5, 2010


First my apologies for this delayed entry. After taking the truck to the below-mentioned show, several hectic days were spent doing laundry, getting the car ready, and everything else (including work!) that goes with getting the family ready for a road trip. We took a long weekend over Memorial Day and spent it in Avon, North Carolina in the Outer Banks.

Saturday, May 22, I took the truck to the Trinity United Church of Christ's second annual Car & Truck Show on Rt. 212 in Quakertown. I attended their first show last year, and was pleasantly surprised at the large showing. As many of us that regularly attend these events know, many "first time" shows are poorly attended, usually due to lack of communication. However they had a great turnout, so I eagerly filled out the registration form and sent it in a month or two in advance.

This year's show was not as well-attended as their first one, which I am assuming was due to the weather- Mother Nature just wasn't sure what she wanted to do. Many Car Enthusiasts are hesitant to take their "babies" out in any kind of precipitation, even "threatened" precipitation. If there is a guarantee of rain, I will not take mine out- but if it is one of those "partly cloudy with a threat" of rain, I'll go. If I get caught in rain, oh well. This was one of those kinds of days. Nevertheless, they still had about 100 or so vehicles show up.

I had a great spot, too- right under some very nice shade trees!!! Too bad I didn't need them, because as predicted by the "Weather 8-Ball" it was cloudy and overcast all day, with a spattering here and there of sunshine. It was also a bit on the cool side, too. That shade would have been handy last year when I was parked smack in the middle of the place with no shade whatsoever and it was 90 degrees and sunny all day. There were three or four other big trucks there, not as many as last year. A local trucking outfit had two road tractors there, all nicely chromed out and accessorized. I always enjoy looking at "working" trucks that are well cared for. One of them had a set of locomotive air horns mounted just forward of the steps into the passenger side of the cab, just behind the steer axle. The horns were pointing out to the side of the truck. It was very obvious what they were there for, and when I said to the owner "blind spot horn, huh?" he just smiled and winked. For those of you who drive cars and know nothing about tractor trailers, never get in their blind spot on the right side, and never, ever come up on their right-hand side when they take a wide swing in an intersection to make a right-hand turn. You'll get the locomotive horns right in your ears.

It was a nice day, with lots of cheap home made food courtesy of the church's ladies auxiliary (highly recommend the hot german bacon-potato salad and the pulled-pork barbeq sandwiches!!!) Came home with the first-place trophy for "Heavy Truck."