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Greendale works to restore historic 1930s fire truck

Posted at 8:36 AM, Jun 21, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-21 09:36:07-04

GREENDALE — In the Village of Greendale, one of its newest fire trucks is also one of its oldest.

The Greendale Historical Society is the proud owner of a 1938 Diamond T fire truck. It was the first new fire truck the Village purchased months after incorporating in 1938. Finding the truck after it went missing for years was the original challenge, now replaced by the effort to restore the historic piece of equipment, and keep it running.

“History is important. It’s like, where are we know and where did we come from,” Steve Peters opined, standing proudly in front of the truck for an interview. “September 1, 1938, we got this fire engine. This was Greendale’s first new fire engine.”

Peters, a member of the Greendale Historical Society, explained the truck went out of service in 1970 and then disappeared.

“It was found in a junkyard on the South Side of Milwaukee in 1985.”

For decades, it bounced around between collectors, as far west as Santa Clara, Utah, and as far east as Randolph, New Jersey. That last collector ultimately donated the truck to the Historical Society in 2015.

The members did not want it sitting in a museum. “We drive it,” Peters boasted, just before getting behind the wheel and taking TMJ4’s Vince Vitrano for a ride. “We always refer to it as living history. So, we want it running… It’s had some hard service, so it requires a lot of care and maintenance.”

And that requires a lot of money. A recent repair job on the clutch drained the funding for the Diamond T again, so the Historical Society is hopeful its June 29th event will bring in many donations.

“We’re going to bring the Diamond T home one last time,” Peters shared. The original fire station in Greendale will soon be the new home for a local business. Before J&J Contractors moves in, they’re going to open the doors and park the Diamond T inside, recreating an old timey photograph. A luncheon, and presentation from Greendale’s former fire chief precedes the photo op.

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Peters hopes the Historical Society can continue to fund restoration efforts, maintenance, and keep the Diamond T rolling. History is more important in some communities than others, it seems. In Greendale it’s a religion. “It’s a very unique history,” Peters believes. “We want to preserve as much of that as possible, because once history is gone, it’s gone forever.”

You can also see the Diamond T rolling through Historic Greendale in the community’s annual Independence Day Parade. 10:00 AM on the 4th.