We didn’t entirely believe our dad when he told us he was purchasing an old fire truck. Although he had a fondness for antique cars and motorcycles, my brother and I weren’t sure whether to believe he had gone off to add a 1939 Mack fire engine to his revolving collection. [check him out in the pic up above -- that's him with the top hat]
After all, did we need a fire truck? He couldn’t drive it to work, commuting down the Dan Ryan expressway. Our mom wouldn’t take it to the grocery store. It just seemed an absurd, pointless purchase. Yep, our dad was pulling the wool over our eyes and was just telling tall tales.
But we still waited and watched out the back window, watching for our dad to come home. Luckily for us, we lived across the street from grade school, so we kept a sharp eye on the patrol guards and listened for the first warning bell before we headed back after lunch. When it sounded, we realized we had to run back to school or report to the principal’s office for a tardy slip.
Halfway through our short run, we heard the siren. My brother and I spotted it: a 1939 Mack fire engine, faded red, rounded fenders, slowly rolling up 100th Street. Dad was at the wheel, announcing his homecoming by stepping on the siren button just to the left of the brake pedal.
It was true. Dad actually bought a fire engine!
That afternoon at school was tougher than usual to sit through. How does a kid concentrate on schoolwork when a fire truck was sitting at home in his driveway? We squirmed in our seats, waiting for the 3:15 dismissal bell, and immediately ran home.
And there it was, taking up the entire length of our driveway. A huge, red fire truck waiting patiently for us kids to climb on it. We jumped on the vehicle, admiring it and checking out all the gadgets while our dad stood by, beaming.
Did I say it already? Dad bought a fire truck!
The questions arose: What do we actually do with a red behemoth? We always knew Dad liked his toys… this was the biggest one yet.
Most importantly, what will Mom say when she gets home from work?
This was the big moment...
When Mom got home, she made her usual giggle while shaking her head. She then went straightaway into the house to make dinner. This was not her problem. Dad had to figure something out.
That evening he sketched out a plan to extend our garage. Yep, buy the truck first and then figure out logistics. If you hesitate, you’ll miss all the fun.
And that’s how we did have fun with the huge, loud, red Mack fire truck. We used it in the Memorial Day parades down Longwood Avenue. It was brought out at block parties to let the kids climb aboard. All the graduation parties with our aunts, uncles and cousins included a trip around the neighborhood, sounding the siren.
And, finally, Dad did take it to work one day. At lunch time, he loaded his co-workers onto the back and they drove down to the beach near the Adler Planetarium to eat their brown bag lunches at the lakefront.
It was a beautiful sight to behold – especially when Mom compared them to the gang’s day out on One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest.
And that’s how you do it in the big city when your dad brings home a fire truck.
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