February 3, 2004
Fitzgerald-- Slowly but surely, without fanfare, special relationships often happen at work, prompted by years and years of helping others. Sometimes love doesn't look pretty at first, especially to those who don't know about the relationship, even though the outside is stripped of its physical beauty.
"All my time is donated on this," says Roger Coleman, Fitzgerald's Fire Chief, who put hundreds of hours of elbow grease to revive a 1946 fire engine. "I work on it anytime through the week, day or night it doesn't matter," says Roger holding a water hose in one hand, and a piece of 400 grit sandpaper wrapped around a paint stick in the other. A little time donated here, a little time there. A short rub means a lot.
Togetherness and memories count more than ever before. "Old fire truck feels special," says Roger as he sands the left front wheel cover to smooth the primer coat of paint perfectly. "This is the first one I had driven," says Roger with tears in his eyes when remembering years of fighting fires together. The emotional connection started decades ago when responding to their first fire. "Going to a car fire and almost wrecked," says Roger.
A car pulled into their path and they barely missed hitting it, taking evasive action instantly. Somehow man and machine avoided certain catastrophe and a special relationship began. "Most people don't understand it," says Roger who had stopped sanding for a few moments. He understands the connection between man and machine, a relationship started 33 years ago that has lasted longer than most marriages.
Engine Two was the back-up engine that he drove. "We've seen the sun come up a lot of times with this old truck," says Roger, remembering the many house and stove fires they worked together. Those hours and hours of togetherness quietly deepened the attachment.
Then, one day they were broken-up. The fire department retired Engine Two to a barn where it lost its physical beauty during its 12 year abandonment. "That's true," says Roger. He tried to buy it, but the fire truck wasn't for sale. The City of Fitzgerald keeps all of its fire fighting equipment. The mayor, who loves old fire engines, too, saw a chance to build a museum with all the old equipment. Roger saw a second chance with Engine Two. "We're not going to let it die," says Roger, but there was more to it.
Now, it involved reviving not one, but more engines, one in pieces, one that looked hopeless, and Engine Two. He would see to it that Engine Two looked its best, have a nice home and he would provide plenty of tender, lowing care. When Roger retires on September 23, Engine Two will look as good as new, "I'll be finished," says Roger, 33 years to the day after their first meeting.
He will never have to worry about the engine again because Roger plans to spend a lot of time volunteering at the City's Fire Engine Museum, still caring for Engine Two that still ranks number one in his heart.
The museum is open with old fire engines, alarm bells, report books dated back to 1936, helmets, flashing lights and a fire pole brought over from the old fire station.