SYCAMORE – Former Sycamore firefighter Jerry Taylor still remembers the last time he went on a call with the city’s first motorized engine.
It was July 2, 1952, when Sycamore firefighters received a call that there was a fire at the old East School in Sycamore. The report was a false alarm, but Taylor ran outside to jump aboard the 1923 Stutz fire engine. A pick-up truck that Sycamore Fire Department used for grass fires accidentally struck Taylor, causing a skull fracture and broken elbow.
Those memories came back to Taylor, now 86 years old, Thursday when he saw the fire engine for the first time in decades.
“We used it in a lot of fires,” he said.
Sycamore Fire Preservation Company, a nonprofit organization headed by Gene Ege, former Sycamore fire chief, is trying to raise $25,000 to restore the 1923 Stutz. So far, they’ve raised half their goal with donations from individuals and businesses.
To make a donation, residents may call Sycamore Assistant Fire Chief Marc Doty at 815-895-4514, Gene Ege at 815-761-8844, the DeKalb County Community Foundation at 815-748-5383 or visit www.dekalbccf.org. Checks can be made out to “Sycamore Fire Preservation Company LTD. Fund.”
Sycamore Fire Preservation Company will hold a bunco dice and dinner fundraiser at 6:15 p.m. Sept. 20 at Sycamore Veterans Memorial Home, 121 California St., Sycamore. Attendees must make a reservation to Kris Morris at 815-762-3050.
The goal is to get the fire engine running again, Ege said. So far, a mechanic has repaired the wooden spokes. The mechanic still needs to assess the batteries and wiring to see if they can eventually get the vehicle running to use in parades, Ege said.
Although many of the firefighters who responded to fire calls with the 1923 Stutz have since died, Ege said he found four former Sycamore firefighters still alive today when looking at a list of firefighters dating back to the 1910s, he said.
Jack Spartz, Sycamore volunteer firefighter in summer 1951, was saddened by the rusty engine’s current condition. He said when he was a firefighter, he would wipe down the Stutz at least once a week to keep it looking polished.
A close look at the fire engine shows the name “Sycamore” faintly on the hood.
“People at work would have said: ‘Grab a rag and dust her off,’” Spartz said.
Former Sycamore volunteer firefighter George Holland, who worked for Sycamore from 1955 to 1960, said the Stutz was only used as a back-up during his time. However, Holland always knew how important the Stutz was to other firefighters, including to the man who served as Sycamore fire chief just before Holland’s service.
“This baby was in their era, and it was their proud and joy,” Holland said.