The little red 80-year-old Maxim Oak Bluffs fire-truck shines in its new home, a little fire-station off Wing Road. The newly shingled barn and museum is appropriately placed across from the much larger Nelson W. Amaral Fire Station.
Donations in the amount of $90,000 helped to house the truck, and now after a year of effort and fund-raising, they’ve run out of money.
Donald R. Billings, 78, and William (Bill) Norton, 81, both retired firemen, sought and succeeded at purchasing the old Oak Bluffs truck from a retired fire chief on the mainland a year ago. They purchased the truck for $10,000 and it has become the fire department’s rolling mascot.
Putting a roof over the fire truck and the construction of No. 2 Fire Barn Museum has been their greatest hurdle. They’ve received plenty of community support. They raised $40,000 for the building. Another $10,000 was derived through the state and local Community Preservation Act for the restoration of the truck. The preservation act money, from the state, was approved last spring at town meeting.
There is another $50,000 of in-kind labor and materials.
The roof shingles and the shingling labor were donated. The cedar shingles and the shingling was donated. The copper eyebrow over the main doors was donated. Work on the little museum has become a showcase for a lot of talented workers within the community. All of the landscaping and stone work were donated.
Despite the long list of contributors, there is a need for $10,000 to complete the effort.
Trim work and shelving is needed for the interior for what will become the fire department’s museum. Though the barn has the square footage to accommodate two fire trucks, one side is devoted exclusively to memorabilia and space for the fire department’s collection.
“We have a megaphone which goes back to 1889,” said Mr. Billings. “It was used when the firemen were up on the ladders during a fire. They hollered through it. We have two original leather helmets that were worn in the 1920s, in the days of horse and buggy,” he said. Those will be displayed.
In its day, the truck was housed underneath the town hall, on Pequot avenue. Today that building is known as Cottager’s Corner. “We have the original furniture that came from that town hall station,” Mr. Billings said. At the time the station was called Hydrant Hose, he said.
There are plans to plant flowering plum trees and erect a split rail fence with roses at the little fire station. The fence arrives this week.
Watching the project move successfully ahead has given a great deal of pleasure to Oak Bluffs fire chief Peter Forend. “The work is unbelievable. It has been uplifting for the whole department,” the chief said.
For the firemen who have served on the department for many years, the fire truck is a centerpiece, the chief said, the start of a conversation about the history of the department. For the newest and youngest firefighters, the chief said: “It brings the history of the department out for them to see. I like seeing the guys listen to the old stories.”
A key player in the fund-raising effort has been Mr. Norton. Mr. Billings said of his colleague: “Billy was captain of this truck for a long time, for seven years. He made it nice for the men to belong to the fire department. He was the type of person who had an interest in everything. That is what kept the interest in our company together all those years. His enthusiasm then and now has helped this project move forward,” Mr. Billings said.
The truck has been around town. It made its debut drive, a first showing in the Holy Ghost Parade, in late July. Former Fire Chief Nelson W. Amaral was a passenger in the truck when it ran up Circuit avenue and made its way up Vineyard avenue to the parade’s end.
There are plans this fall to hold a firemen’s celebration around the truck. It will be an opportunity for the firemen to sit and share in their stories.
Donations to finish the project can be sent in the form of checks made out to the Town of Oak Bluffs, with the notation Fire Department Restoration Fund. Checks should be sent to Mr. Billings at P.O. Box 143, Oak Bluffs, MA 02557. Mr. Billings said he is collecting the checks and letters in an effort to keep a close record of the community support as part of the record.