BERWICK AND DISTRICT
VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT

VETERANS' MEMORIAL FIRE TRUCK

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TOWN OF BERWICK'S
FIRST MOTORIZED FIRE
APPARATUS

1923 FORD MODEL 'T'

HISTORY

This vehicle is the first motorized fire truck purchased by the town of Berwick in 1924 for the sum of $1,875.00.

The Ford Motor Company at the Windsor Ontario plant built the truck chassis, a Model 'T', in 1923. Due to an unfortunate fire at the plant, Ford lost much of the documentation about production in those early years. However it was one of seventeen million Model 'T's manufactured from 1909 to 1927. This is still the largest model run by any automobile manufacturer and there remain a million Model 'T's licensed in North America today.

The fire equipment was built and added to the chassis by the Bickle Fire Engine Company, also in Ontario. This type of apparatus is referred to as a 'chemical fire truck'. Pressure was created in a tank by mixing soda water and acid. The water was forced from the tank through various valves and plumbing to the hose and finally the nozzle. Two tanks were supplied so that one could be refilled while the other was in use.

SERVICE

Although small in stature by today's standard, this vehicle was a huge step in mechanized fire fighting. Prior to this type of machine, horse drawn wagons, hand operated pumps and bucket brigades were used.

With the automobile industry still in its infancy, many of the things we take for granted were not afforded the operators of these early machines. For instance, on steep hills the truck had to go up in reverse because no fuel pump was provided and raising the carburetor above the level of the fuel would starve the engine. There were no modern paved roads either. If the truck was needed in Kentville it was faster to transport it by steam railroad than to drive.

Despite its shortcomings the 'T' served the town well until 1949. By then the Model 'T' was obsolete, surpassed by automotive technology and firefighting requirements. The truck was sold, stripped of its fire equipment and sold again. The 'T' was used for a few years on a local dairy farm, and was again sold, this time out of the area.

VETERANS' MEMORIAL

Many years have passed since Berwick's first fire truck was sold. To most of the members it was just another faded photograph on the clubroom wall of the way things used to be. And why shouldn't it be. Most of the men and women who now serve the town's fire department were not even born until after the 'T' was retired.

For a progressive fire department in modern times we must think modern. Fire trucks must be large, carry masses of gear and be able to assist the citizens of the community with whatever the citizens' demand. Whether it is a fire, car accident, medical emergency, real or imagined the fire department must be capable, trained, ready, and able to respond with the best people and equipment possible. In such a department little room was left in the day-to-day operation for the contemplation of the past.

Such is the way things were when, in 1998, the family of Mr. Stanley Higgs of Halifax contacted us to see if we had any pictures of an old truck that he had purchased and wanted to restore. Sadly Mr. Higgs passed away before he could carry out his work.

That truck was the 'T'. The members of the department decided to try to reacquire the old Ford and turn it into a Veterans' Memorial. After all those years the truck was brought home on 19 Dec 1998, the day of the annual Children's Christmas Party.

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Since then, the process of restoration has been ongoing, and will continue for some years yet.

It is our hope the truck that pointed the way to the future so many years ago will help to put us in touch with the past. For our Veterans, here is your 'T'. May it remain a symbol of the dedication required to build a strong fire department, past, present, and future.

VETERANS' HONOUR ROLE

Keith Johnson 41 Years 1931-1972
Ernest Frost 40 Years 1953-1993
Cecil Rood 39Years 1939-1978
Ernest Hiltz 37 Years 1940-1978
Everett Millen 35 Years 1953-1988
Stewart Peterson 31 Years 1949-1980
Ronald Smith 30 Years 1956-1987
Donald Cunningham 28 Years 1955-1985
Gordon Johnson 26 Years 1960-1988
George Rainforth 26 Years 1967-1993
Dallas Simpson 26 Years 1950-1977
William Wollard 23 Years 1933-1955
Hardy Bezanson 22 Years 1936-1958
Donald Parker 21 Years 1937-1958
Whitney West 21 Years 1937-1958
Roderick Bethune 20 Years 1941-1961
Percy Beckwith 17 Years 1933-1950
Albert Dennison 17 Years 1939-1956
Robert Caldwell 16 Years 1950-1966
Alan Whittier 16 Years 1964-1980
Clyde Rice 16 Years 1953-1969
Cecil Huntley 15 Years 1951-1967
Leroy Salsman 15 Years 1942-1958
Joseph Clark 13 Years 1942-1955
Arthur Pearson 12 Years 1939-1951
Harlan Eaton 12 Years 1939-1951
Lewis Pierce 11 Years 1939-1950
Alfred Corkum 7 Years 1940-1947
Robert Spicer 5 Years 1939-1944
Kenneth MacLean 5 Years 1955-1961
Reginald Robicheau 4 Months 1966

Honorary Members

Howard Margeson
Wilfred Schurman
Maurice Spicer
Glen Oickle

Model 'T' Donor
Stanley Higgs

The Veterans' Memorial Fire Truck Committee would like to express its gratitude to the many people who have assisted in making this project possible. To the members of the Berwick and District Volunteer Fire Department, your support and help have been necessary and very much appreciated. To the many anonymous donors of parts, pieces and tales we thank you. To our Veterans for showing us the way we salute you.

Officer In Charge
Dep. Chief Laurie Saunders

Project Director
Capt. Mark Marchant

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Special Thanks to
Blair Rhodenizer, Ken Redden, Steve Palmer,
Alan Wagner, and Tom Easson


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