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Source: Kokomo Tribune

June 27, 2011

Return of first motorized fire truck signals start of Haynes Apperson Festival week

By Ken de la Bastide 
Tribune staff writer

— It has been more than a half century since retired firefighter Edward Rawls sat behind the wheel of the first motorized vehicle used by the Kokomo Fire Department.

Rawls, 88, served with the fire department from 1947 to 1968, and gladly climbed aboard the 1915 Ahrens-Fox now on display at the Markland Mall – a prelude to the Haynes Apperson Festival, celebrating Howard County’s automotive heritage.

Rawls was the last person to drive the Ahrens-Fox when it was retired from service on Dec. 2, 1953.

“I was on duty,” he explained of that day 57 years ago. “There was a little bit of snow on the ground.”

Rawls related how a reporter from the Kokomo Tribune asked to be taken for a ride on the vehicle.

“We drove down south on Washington Street,” he said. “There’s no wind shield, so the wind was blowing and it was cold. She asked to be taken back to the station.”

In addition to having no windshield, the Ahrens-Fox was not equipped with power steering. Rawls said the vehicle was chain driven. When in reverse, it had to be stopped with a hand brake.

“I would like to drive it again,” he said.

Rawls said the Ahrens-Fox was a stand-by vehicle. It was last used to extinguish a fire in the 1950s.

Bill Carter, president of the Indiana Association of Retired Police and Firefighters, said the fire truck was saved by the Pioneer Auto Club, which restored it to like-new condition.

The truck was sold to a Sharpsville scrap yard for $375 and purchased by the club.

An 1884 hose wagon, also on display at the Markland Mall, was manufactured in Logansport and has been restored by retired firefighter Mike Calhoun.

Calhoun said the hose wagon, which was pulled by firefighters, was in a garage in Kokomo.

“I was contacted by the owner,” Calhoun said. “He wanted to get rid of it to make room in the garage for his wife’s car. He gave it to me on the condition that I would take care of it.”

The hose wagon carried 500 feet of hose, he said.

Retired Howard County sheriff deputy Jon Zeck talked Monday about the first motorized vehicles used by the county, Kokomo police and fire departments.

Zeck said the sheriff’s department purchased its first vehicle between 1898 and 1905.

He said in 1915 the Kokomo Police Department purchased a Haynes chassis, which was converted for use as a paddy wagon. The department also had a motorcycle and four bicycles.

The Kokomo Fire Department used horses to pull equipment from 1890 to 1921, Zeck said.

He said there was a horse named “Tom” that served for 20 years with the department.

“Tom was so well trained that when the bell rang, he came out of his stall and backed into the harness, ready to go,” Zeck said.

The Ahrens-Fox was purchased for $8,000 from the Cincinnati-based company and had to be repaired in 1928 following an accident with an Interurban trolley. Zeck said, from 1915 through 1953, the truck responded to more than 3,000 fire calls.


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