"It's part of our heritage"
Panora firemen have restored a part of their heritage from the past.
A 1940 Ford pumper truck used about 30 years by the department has been given its original pristine look absent rust or scratches. It’s now a source of pride and compliments.
The restoration took about three years and at times wasn’t easy.
“There were times I wanted to throw up my hands and quit,” said Shane Andersen who did much of the work. He recalls once spending two hours just trying to thread a bolt.
However, he noted, “Just all the comments you get makes one appreciate all we did.” For him it included some late night sessions.
Andersen, Tom Campbell and Eric Kunze made up the committee restoring the vehicle with a nod also to Andersen’s 13-year-old son Cooper. The truck went for its first spin on St. Patrick’s Day of 2016.
“It’s something that’s part of our heritage, it’s been in the department for years”, said Campbell, approaching his 47th year as a firemen here. “We can take it anywhere and be proud of it. I don’t think you can find any truck that looks better.”
He pointed out it draws interest where ever they go, especially at the state convention of the Iowa Firefighters Association, a group he headed in 1992-93.
The 1940 pumper truck carried hoses in back and had a pump on the front that would draw water from another truck or hydrant to shoot on a fire. Campbell recalls it even pumped a well dry at a fire in Linden.
Firemen could ride on running boards around three sides, a practice forbidden these days. It carried a ladder.
It had drawbacks. Top speed was 40 miles per hour and the cab was small and cramped as testified by the burly Andersen. He joked firemen must have been shorter back in the days the truck was used. Nowadays a modern pumper truck carries water and many more hoses.
“As soon as we arrive on the scene, we have water available,” Campbell points out.
Restoration was done because the truck had damage from leaking water and the running boards were rotted, Andersen said. Trim carpenter Gary Geopfert volunteered to build the new running boards. It wasn’t very reliable or usable anymore for parades or other events, Campbell added.
“We stripped it down to the bare metal and started over,” is how Andersen describes the restoration process. “We had it completely in pieces.”
Campbell said as much as was feasible was used from the original truck, such as frame, lights, finders, siren and ladder. The original motor blew out years ago and was replaced.
While the truck looks pristine, it’s no longer functional, said Andersen.
It’s used mainly for parades. Last fall over 100 kids were given rides at a fundraiser here for Tori’s Angels. Local firemen sat in the back as it provided transportation for them around the city at the state convention in Waverly.
Andersen looked back on the difficulty of project: “I left a lot of my knuckles on the truck.”
Established in 1893, the Panora Fire department has always had a strong presence and community backing with good equipment. The restored truck reflects that heritage.
Campbell recalled the annual firemens’ ball and banquet fundraiser, once held annually, had a tremendous turnout and was the social event of the year.