The money was raised as part of a “Save the Seagrave” event at Winged Deer Park and featured a 50/50 raffle, food, music, a car show and antique fire apparatus muster.
Despite the cold and rainy weather, dozens of people turned out to support the firefighters’ event. Organizer Shane Malone said more than 30 cars entered the car show, while about 15 antique fire trucks or apparatuses were also on display.
“We’ve spent hundreds of man hours trying to get everything together. Our local 1791, the union helped fund the money up-front so we could get everything going. We had barbecue to feed everybody. We gave away 10 trophies for all different aspects of apparatus and cars, and we’ve been selling shirts. All the money goes toward redoing the truck,” Malone said.
Members of the Midway Volunteer Fire Department brought two of their trucks to support the event and earned a trophy for traveling the longest distance. Malone said most of the other antique fire apparatuses, like the 1925 Ahrens Fox J-S-4 and the 1948 Mack Type LS85, were privately owned.
“We had a good turnout for the weather, considering it was rainy and a cool day,” Malone said.
The 1928 Seagrave is a ladder truck, one of the city’s first gas-powered fire trucks. Despite being dusty and worn, the truck is complete.
“There’s nothing wrong with it mechanically. We drove it down here from the (fire) station on Main Street. So it’s running and driving good. We just want to get it looking pretty so it will look good in the parade,” Malone said.
A local automotive painter has already agreed to donate nearly $15,000 worth of materials and labor for the new paint job, but the firefighters will still have to pay roughly $10,000 to restore the paint to its original color and condition.
“It means the world to us because if the guys before us hadn’t took care of it, we wouldn’t have it today. Most departments have to go out and find their (old trucks) and usually, it’s sitting out in the woods or behind someone’s house. We have ours, it’s still here. The guys saved it for us by putting it up and taking care of it for all these years,” Malone said.
“Our goal is to get it out, restore it, get it fixed up the way it needs to be, and hopefully our grandkids can come enjoy it for years to come. It’s a piece of history for Johnson City.”
In December 1928, the Seagrave City Service Truck rolled off the manufacturing line and went into service with the Johnson City Fire Department. Originally housed at the Central Fire Hall and designated as Ladder 3, the truck was used as a mainline apparatus. Sometime during the 1970s, the truck underwent its first restoration and was repurposed as a parade truck.
Because space was sparse, the Seagrave was eventually moved to an outside storage shed, where it sat until January 2018, when it was towed to the city’s fleet maintenance department.
Once there, Chris Whitaker and his crew did some mechanical work and got the truck operating again. The goal is to have the Seagrave completely restored in time for Johnson City’s Sesquicentennial parade in 2019.
For anyone interested in donating toward the restoration of the Seagrave, call 423-282-1257 or visit http://iaff1791.org.