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Port Hood VFD takes being fully-equipped to new level

The 1934 Ford fire truck that the Port Hood Volunteer Fire Department first purchased in 1963 returned home on Saturday after getting a major facelift. Welcoming it home are, from left: Gerard Beaton behind the wheel, chief D.F. Beaton, Malcolm MacEachen, Gerald MacDonald, Kristen Marcott, Wayne MacDonald, Archie MacDonald, David MacKenzie (on a knee), and Donald A. MacEachen at the back.

June 12, 2024

-by Bill Dunphy
    “Fix it or junk it.”
    That was subject of debate the members of the Port Hood Volunteer Fire Department were faced with nearly two years ago in deciding the fate of their 1934 Ford fire truck.
    Every fire department likes a good debate at its meetings, and like the meeting 60 years ago when some members didn’t want to buy an ‘old’ truck, the pros and cons of restoring it were tossed back and forth until it was decided to go ahead with the restoration.
    The truck, looking like it just came out of a 1934 Ford dealership showroom, was delivered on Saturday.
    “It’s part of Port Hood’s history,” said chief D.F. Beaton. “There are three members of the department who bought the truck in 1963 – Gerard Beaton, Archie MacDonald, and Donald A. MacEachen – and it has sentimental value to them. And all the younger members were up to keeping it and fixing it up.”
    Beaton said it sat outside behind the hall for five or six months before they moved it to his son Leander’s barn on Mabou Ridge, where it stayed for a year.
    “Leander wanted his barn back,” laughed Beaton.
    After deciding to fix it, they knew of a guy in Brookfield, Shaun Burke, who used to do maintenance on fire trucks and was into restoring old vehicles.
    “He came down and said he would be willing to tackle the job,” said Beaton. He estimated the cost of the job to be between $20,000 and $30,000.
    The truck was then loaded onto Beaton’s trailer and hauled to Auld’s Cove where Monastery Towing was to take it to Brookfield. When the driver with Monastery Towing saw the truck, he told Beaton there would be no charge – a donation to the fire department.
    The restoration job wasn’t an easy one. The major tasks included replacing all the wiring, and changing the voltage to 12 volt from the original 6 volt; the brakes, which are not hydraulic, had to be replaced and parts located; extensive body work was needed; and then came the paint job and lettering.
    That was nearly two years ago.
    Today, the Ford V-8 flathead purrs like a kitten and even though trucks can’t smile, the shiny red paint job makes it look like it’s beaming.
    Along with the PHVFD Maltese cross, Gerard Beaton, Archie MacDonald, and Donald A. MacEachen each have their names on the truck.
    Gerard Beaton wrote a piece on how the 1934 came to Port Hood. Here’s his story:
    In 1960, a flue fire happened at the Glebe House in Port Hood. When Father McAdam went to call the fire department, he learned there was no fire department in Port Hood. That was not satisfactory – a fire department was needed in the community.
    A group of citizens banded together and began the work of setting up a department. Hugh Beaton, of Little Judique, donated a 1956 Ford gravel truck without a box. A 500-gallon tank was put on the back to carry water. A pump, equipment, and gear were bought and by 1963, the Port Hood Volunteer Fire Department was officially formed.
    Around that time, RCMP officer Bob Clifford was transferred from Kentville to Port Hood. At a meeting of the fire department in 1963, where he was present, he advised the group that the Kentville Fire Department had a 1934 Ford fire truck for sale. He knew the truck was in good condition and would be worth buying.
    Some at the meeting were not in favour of spending money on an old vehicle. It was suggested that anyone in favour could donate $10 towards the purchase. Bob said he would offer Kentville $100 for the truck.
    By the next day, he had enough to pay for the truck plus expenses. Kentville accepted his offer and the deal was made. Now to bring the truck to Port Hood!
    Bob agreed to travel to Kentville with the help of his RCMP buddies transporting him from town to town. He would then drive the truck to New Glasgow, to be met by some firemen who would drive the truck to Port Hood.
    The day was set and Calvin Burke, Dewey Reynolds, and Donald A. MacEachen drove to New Glasgow. Bob met them, switched vehicles, and drove back to Port Hood. The firemen then began the drive home in the fire truck.
    Bob, back home, and dressed in uniform, took the police car to meet the truck. He picked up Dougald Joe MacDonald and Donald Francis MacDonnell to travel with him.
    They stopped at Archie (Crash’s) garage to get a can of gas for the truck. As it was near closing time, Archie closed up and travelled with them. When they were near Judique, a bottle of the Captain was produced, but as no one was drinking, it was put away until they met the truck.
    In Long Point, they met the truck chugging along. Bob flagged them down and approached with the Captain to warm them up. (Remember, this was in the fall of the year and they were driving an open truck with not a lot of speed).
    Dewey Reynolds said, “I will drive and the others can have the drinks.” This offer was “warmly” accepted.
    Bob escorted the truck to Port Hood with the police car. Some cars were waiting along the route to welcome them. At the Station Road, everything opened up with lights flashing, sirens and horns blaring.
    The fire truck drove into Port Hood at 11 o’clock – waking the town. It was met at the fire hall by the firemen who gathered to welcome the new truck to the Port Hood Volunteer Fire Department.
    The truck was restored in 1982 before getting its latest restoration this year.
    The PHVFD is well-equipped, with some of their newest trucks costing nearly $500,000. Repairing the 1934 Ford will cost around $28,000 when all’s said and done – a fire sale in comparison.
    Keep an eye out for it when our county festival parades get going!





















































































































































































































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