November 20th, 2008 by Ralphie
Your mother warned you. Don’t ever stick your wet tongue on a cold metal flagpole in winter. But did Flick, a character in the 1983 holiday classic film “A Christmas Story” listen? Noooo… So when Flick takes the “triple dog-dare” and attaches himself to a flagpole, the fire department had to be called.
The 1938 Ford LaFrance fire truck that came to Flick’s rescue appears for only 10 seconds in the movie, which was shot in Cleveland and Ontario. But the pumper has become an international cult hero. Fans of the movie can see the vintage fire truck Saturday, November 29, when several cast members will ride on the truck during Cleveland’s Winterfest Parade. Rides are also available at “A Christmas Story” House and Museum, 3159 West 11 Street, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., November 28 and 29. The events coincide with “A Christmas Story” 25th Anniversary Celebration and Convention that will be held next weekend.
The fire truck was purchased new for the Chippawa Fire Department in Ontario as “state-of-the-art firefighting equipment.” It has a top speed of 30 miles an hour, pumping capacity of 200 gallons of water a minute, and gets about 10 miles per gallon. It served Chippawa until the village joined the City of Niagara Falls. The pumper became part of a private fire service for the Norton Abrasives company between 1970 and 1977. The city bought it back, but in 1978 the Chippawa Volunteer Firefighters Association paid $1 for the truck. It was restored in 1982.
“The fire truck is now housed in our museum, and we get a number of visitors, mostly firefighters, who want to see the truck,” said Ken Prohaszka, a former firefighter and association member who will trailer the truck to Cleveland next weekend.
Prohaszka and another member, Ray Anderson, are the truck’s drivers. Proceeds from next week’s “A Christmas Story” rides are earmarked for the Firefighters’ Association.
“Whenever we take the truck to a parade, people are just fascinated,” said Prohaszka, who added that the truck has been a part of several firefighters’ funeral services. “If you put it next to modern fire trucks, they look like giants. You can only barely fit two people in the cab and two on the tailgate. For safety reasons, we don’t have people holding on to the truck anymore, but we may make an exception in Cleveland.”
The association has tried to keep the truck as original as possible. It has a “Ford chassis, Ford motor and is a straight six,” according to Prohaszka. But he’ll make sure the truck’s lights and sirens all work well for its Cleveland appearance.
The fire truck can trace its heritage to American LaFrance, an emergency and vocational vehicle manufacturer headquartered in Summerville, South Carolina. One of the oldest fire apparatus companies in the United States, it has 200 dealerships nationwide.
In 1872, Truckson LaFrance and his partners founded LeFrance Manufacturing Co., which made hand pumps and those that could be pulled by horses. Over the years, the company was a leader in fire safety technology, offering ladder trucks for urban firefighters and rotary, piston, steam, and gas-powered engines.
In January of this year, American LaFrance filed bankruptcy but emerged seven months later. The company’s fire truck body building operation was transferred to its Hamburg, New York, plant.
For more information about the fire truck or rides, visit www.AChristmasStoryHouse.com.
Jill Sell is a freelance writer with expertise in the local car culture. Jill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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