AFD Welcomes Old-Timer Home

Dennis Evanosky    Richard Bennett, left, and Chris Davis look on as Richard Davis gets comfortable behind the wheel of the 1935 Seagrave pumper that once served Alameda and has come home at last.

Richard Davis and his son, Chris, waited with Richard Bennett outside Alameda Fire Department’s long-shuttered Station No. 5 at Alameda Point last Saturday. Something very special was on the way. 

They were waiting for a 1935 Seagrave pumper truck that once served the Alameda Fire Department. Someone — no one recalls just who — purchased the 30-year-old truck for $1 at a city auction in 1965. It also remains a mystery just how the pumper wound up with its hood and its grille peeking out of the overgrowth in the unlikeliest of places — Ketchikan, Alaska.  In 1978 Garth Drakelely discovered the relic.

“We were up visiting my uncle in Stewart, British Columbia, and went over the border … and on the way back found this thing backed into somebody’s property,” Drakeley’s son Martin told Chris Bush of the Nanaimo News Bulletin. 

The Lantzville, British Columbia, Fire Department purchased the nearly complete truck — the owner wouldn’t part with the ladders or bell — and had it brought some 665 miles south to its new home. Thomas Whipps, retired Lantzville fire chief and a former auto body repairman, and several other Lantzville volunteer firefighters restored much of the truck’s body work and paint. They then sent it some 40 miles south to Harry Blackstaff in Ladysmith. Blackstaff collects and mechanically restores vintage vehicles. 

“Harry fine-tuned everything the way he wanted it and then just put it all together,” Whipps told the News Bulletin. “We had it assembled, but he kind of took it apart, painted it and put it back together and made it run.”

The truck served the City of Lantzville for 39 years, “pulling its weight in parades and ceremonies from Victoria to Parksville, including Lantzville’s Mine Town Day celebrations,” the News Bulletin reported. “It also carried teachers retiring from Seaview Elementary School on their last teaching day and the children would line the school’s drive to say farewell.” 

In February, the City of Alameda purchased the restored truck. Bennett and Richard and Chris Davis had a hand in the complicated task of bringing the 1935 pumper back home.