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Adrian firefighters debut plan to restore city's first fire vehicle

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Keagan Polzine, 4 of Rushmore, pets Luna, a 1-year-old skunk, shown by Great Plains Zoo Express education specialist Chantelle Webb Saturday afternoon in Adrian.1 / 2
Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Adrian Fire Chief Ray Bullerman sits in the driver's seat of the vintage 1927 Nott truck Saturday afternoon at the fire hall in Adrian.2 / 2

ADRIAN -- The temperature reading on the Adrian State Bank sign was 98 degrees on Saturday afternoon. That number might have been a few degrees higher than the actual air temperature, but it still felt a lot more like July than Christmas.

Area residents had to live up to the theme -- "Be a Sport" -- to come out in the heat and humidity for Adrian's Christmas in July celebration, but they still crowded into the fire hall to partake of the offerings at the food booth and headed down to the St. Adrian church grounds to bounce around on inflatable games, eat kettle corn and pet a skunk, tortoise and other animals brought to Adrian by the Sanford Great Plains Zoo Express.

While people dined on pork burgers and pie at the fire hall, a special piece of fire equipment waited to make its first appearance in several decades in the Adrian parade.

"This is a 1927 W.S. Nott fire truck," explained Adrian Fire Chief Ray Bullerman. "Adrian bought it new in 1929. It was their first fire truck."

The fire truck was retired in 1950, but it stayed in the Adrian community until the early 1970s, when it was moved to Pioneer Village in Worthington. There it has sat, ever since, except for a brief stint in the 1990s when the Adrian Fire Department considered restoring it. There just wasn't enough interest then, however, so back it went to Pioneer Village.

"Four months ago, we brought it back here" said Bullerman, explaining that this time the firefighters are determined to see the truck restored to its former glory. "When I talked to Roy (Reimer) at Pioneer Village, the last time he could remember it running was the early '90s. He thought it had been in the Turkey Day Parade in Worthington."

After sitting for so long without any maintenance, the Adrian firefighters weren't optimistic about getting the truck running again.

"Scot, Ryan and Brent Henning and Dean Von Holtum, they tackled it, and within two or three nights they had it running," said Bullerman. "That's pretty good, after sitting that long. When Scot went and got it, they pulled the dipstick out, and the oil looked like it was brand new."

The truck was set to make its way down Adrian's Maine Street during the Saturday evening parade, but Bullerman and the rest of the Adrian fire volunteers hope the next time it appears at the festival it will sport a new coat of paint and look like it did when it was new, more than 80 years ago.

"Our plans are to get it refurbished," Bullerman said. "We got an estimate from Tom Loring at Expert Body here in town, and he thinks it will take $20,000 to $30,000. That's a lot of money, but there's a lot of history behind it."

Although they're not quite ready to take donations, Bullerman hopes to get input from area residents on how best to raise the money for the truck restoration. A plan has already been hatched to sell ladder rungs, but more fundraising is in order.

"We've got a bunch of old ladders, and we want to sell the ladder rungs and then the ladders would hang in the fire hall. We haven't decided yet what the cost will be, but say you contributed $100, and then you'd get your name on one of the rungs."

The Nott truck has some unique details that make its restoration an expensive proposition. Gold leaf decorated the truck in striping along its edges and fleur-de-lis decorations, the shadows of which are still visible.

"The gold leafing is what's going to kill us," noted Bullerman, adding that less-expensive decals may have to be utilized in place of the original genuine gold paint.

Bullerman has been in contact with a gentleman in White Bear Lake who restored a similar truck. His research showed that only 75 trucks were originally manufactured by Nott -- the chassis was made in the Twin Cities and the pump and other parts in Luverne -- and to his knowledge only 25 are still in existence. However, there's not much of a collectible market for antique fire trucks.

"I asked him what it's worth," related Bullerman, "and he said, 'It's worth as much as you think it is.' He said it's worth the most to retired firefighters who appreciate it."

The Adrian firefighters appreciate this piece of vintage equipment enough to dedicate their time, effort and money into its restoration.

"Our goal is to have it in parades by next year," said Bullerman, referring not just to the Adrian festival but celebrations around the region. "Tom said he would take it this fall and could have it done by June or July next year.

"We'll be pretty proud once it's finished. That's a lot of history."

Beth Rickers

Beth Rickers is the veteran in the newspaper staff with 25 years as the Daily Globe's Features Editor. Interests include cooking, traveling and beer tasting and making with her home-brewing husband, Bryan. She writes an Area Voices blog called Lagniappe, which is a Creole term that means "a little something extra." It can be found at  

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