New London’s 1934 fire truck still rides in parades
By John Faucher
Early morning Tuesday, May 2, several members of the New London Firefighters Association carefully ratcheted down a piece of New London history.
The association arranged to transport its 1934 Buffalo fire engine to Fond du Lac Machine for engine repairs.
New London Fire Captain Bernie Ritchie said the truck has been inoperable for nearly a year after its engine encountered bearing problems.
Bob Nutter of New London; his son New London Fire Department engineer Joe Nutter; and Richie pulled out of town with the Buffalo at 7 a.m. on Tuesday.
Ritchie said they did not know the extent of repairs needed on the engine.
“They’ll have to get into the engine and have a look first,” said Ritchie. “Then we’ll find out a timeline and cost estimate.
“The New London Firefighters Association will be funding the repairs,” said Ritchie.
The firefighters association acquired the truck from the city in 1979. Members held numerous fundraisers and dances over the next several years to fund the restorations on the truck.
A front-page article in the Press Star on March 4, 1982 included a photo of the newly restored truck and a caption that read, “The old Buffalo rides again.” The photo featured firefighters Don Conat, Marvin Besaw, Gary Tate and Bill Jaeger seated in the open cab of the truck.
Firefighters were gearing up for the Sixth Annual Buffalo Restoration Dance that year on Saturday, March 6 at the VFW Clubhouse.
According to the article, most of the restoration work on the vintage 1934 truck had been completed except for some minor wiring and chroming work.
At the time, the firefighters association paid $15,000 towards restoring the truck. The sixth and seventh annual dances were held to help pay the remaining $7,000 to finish the project.
The truck has been used in parades and special events in and around New London ever since.
Ritchie said Gary Tate, who passed away in February this year, was particularly fond of the old truck. Tate served on the New London Fire Department for 34 years before retiring in 2003.
“He did a lot of work for that old truck,” said Ritchie. “He loved it. The old Buffalo and the fire department were passions of his.”
In lieu of flowers at Tate’s funeral, the family donated memorials to the New London Firefighters Association.
The New London Firefighters Association continues fundraising efforts through its annual gun raffle each fall. The association uses the funds to purchase equipment for the fire department.