Naperville loves a parade! And every young kid loves a parade even more if a big red firetruck is showcased in the line-up.
When the 2013 Jaycees Labor Day Parade hits the road on Sept. 2, spectators will be treated to the return of a historic entry from the Naperville Fire Department.
In fact, when a photo was released with news that the vintage Ahrens-Fox was ready to start up again, sporting a brand new polish 42 years after it was decommissioned in 1971, folks began reminiscing on Facebook.
“Awesome job, guys!” wrote Chuck Wehrli.
“Looks great! Love that truck,” wrote John Winckler.
“Used to see this in parades all the time. NFD had a ‘Fire Prevention Parade’ back in the early 60s in October, and kids went down to the Main St. Firehouse on open house night. It was a big thrill,” wrote James Watt.
Jan Brones added, “Yes, October, Fire Prevention month. Totally forgot about that. I spent probably more time than I should have at the fire station. I remember getting to slide down the pole once…was so excited. Butch use to sit behind the desk with his big ol’ handlebar mustache.”
“My dad used to drive the FOX…,” wrote Gary Hedblom.
The vintage 1924 Ahrens-Fox
According to Soraya McLaughlin, education specialist at the Naperville Fire Department, the second piece of motorized fire apparatus that the City of Naperville purchased was the 1924 Ahrens-Fox. The now museum-quality truck hasn’t been operational for years.
“Long story short, a team of our firemen have taken their time to fully restore it and it is working,” said McLaughlin.
Senior Firefighter Mike Maver who did all the mechanical work led a group of dedicated volunteers from his team at Fire Station Number 7, located adjacent to the Administration / EMA Office on Aurora Ave.
Maver said that back in the day, “The Fox would be equivalent to having a Rolls Royce fire truck now.”
He also said most fire departments don’t have any of their original apparatus remaining, so Naperville is extremely fortunate.
Maver chronicled the life of the Ahrens-Fox that was decommissioned in 1971. In 1980, Chief Adamski petitioned the city to give the truck to the Fireman’s Association. Subsequently, the vehicle was deeded to the Fireman’s Association, and at that time received its first rehabilitation. Through the years it was always in running condition for parades and special ceremonies.
“I won’t go into all the details,” said Maver, who joined the Naperville Fire Department in 1992, recalling the first time he met Retired District Chief Mike Rechenmacher who shared a fondness to restore antique cars.
“But from 2008-2010 the truck was stored in the water service center along Ogden. It wasn’t in any kind of operational state. And it needed funding for maintenance.”
“Then one day last December Chief Puknaitis came to me, knowing that I held the title in my locker,” added Maver. “That’s another long story. But after our conversation, the Chief wanted me to determine what major repairs were needed.”
Maver said his friend Kit Kuhrt who owns Kit’s Classic Towing graciously helped with the daunting task of moving the heavy vehicle from the Ogden location to Fire Station Number 7 where most of the restoration took place. Many of the spare parts were acquired from the Chicago Fire Department. In March 2013 the restoration began.
“The City had the foresight to buy the best, an extremely well engineered and efficient pumper,” said Maver. “Imagine. This pumper pumped 1,000 gallons a minute back in 1924. Today the standard is 1,500.”
Maver explained how six fellow members of his department—Captain Paul Martin and Firefighters Scott Bostrom, Bill Kostelny, Brand Matheny, Ben Bezaire and Dan Gerken— had put in unscheduled time to restore the rig, recognizing the magnitude and significance of Ahrens-Fox.
“We were really fortunate to have a great crew who gave many volunteer hours,” said Maver.
Then the big day came on August 16 to see if the engine would start. The inaugural restart was a success!
More care needs to be given to the historic apparatus. Maver and his crew plan to keep their initiative moving.
“We all were very proud and honored to be part of its restoration,” said Maver. “It’s been an honorable way to show respect for a piece of fire history.”
Jaycees Labor Day Parade steps off at 10AM
The Naperville Fire Department plans to enter the city’s prized pumper in the Jaycees Labor Day Parade. The parade begins at 10AM on Mon., Sept. 2, in downtown Naperville. The annual parade that dates back to the 1960s always sparks wonderful memories as well as a chance to see what’s going forward today in a city with generous community spirit.