By CHRIS EBERHART
A Harrison volunteer firefighter is loaning a piece of firefighting history to the town’s department.
Roy Aletti, 56, a lifelong resident of Harrison and 33-year Harrison volunteer firefighter, has been collecting antique items—mostly patriotic-themed—for the past 30 years. His collection includes a 1916 band organ that plays carousel music and patriotic statues like replicas of the Liberty Bell, Statue of Liberty and Marines raising the flag at Iwo Jima.
In 2010, Aletti added a 1924 American Model-T Ford fire truck to his collection after he bought the antique fire truck for $14,000 from a private individual in North Branch, Mich.
Aletti said he found the 1924 fire truck when he was skimming through a Model-T Ford magazine, to which he is a subscriber, a few years back.
“I was exhilarated to find [this fire truck] because of its condition. It wasn’t restored yet, but there was no rust or anything. It’s very rare to find a 90-year-old vehicle in such sound condition,” Aletti said. “I flipped. I had to get it…The idea was to restore it and loan it to the Harrison Fire Department for parades, and it’s a great toy for me.”
The fire truck sat idle at his Harrison home from 2010 until 2012 until a BOCES class at Westchester Auto Body shop accepted the idea of refurbishing the 1924 fire truck. The Harrison Fire Department insignia will be painted on the side and the final product, Aletti said, will be lent to the Harrison Fire Department to be used during parades and open houses.
From October 2012 to May 2013, two BOCES auto collision repair classes with 35 students have been working on the fire truck’s restoration.
“Roy [Alleti] approached Mr. [Paul] Casagrande and I with this idea [to refurbish the old fire truck], and we thought about it and thought it was a pretty cool idea,” Paul Demers, who teaches the auto collision class at Boces with Casagrande, said. “We liked the back story of the fire truck…And it’s something we can teach the kids. We thought it was cool that no one touched the truck since 1924, and now there’s a new set of hands working on it.”
From October 2012 to May 2014, two BOCES classes—one morning and one afternoon—have been working on its restoration.
“It’s different from what we normally do because of the age and because it’s made of wood,” Demers said. “We had to strip down the wood, fix the cracks, remove the paint, redo the brass to bring back its luster, re-straighten and fix the fenders. All that’s left is to apply stage-two paint to the fenders, hood and the toolbox that came with the truck.”
The antique fire truck was on display at the BOCES car show on May 18.
The truck is a piece of history.
Aletti said the truck was originally stationed at one of the Ford plants in Detroit and acted as the first responder in case of a fire at the plant. It was then donated to a Michigan town in 1928.
“It was used in the Michigan town for about four or five years, and they either donated it or sold it to North Branch [Mich. Fire Department],” Aletti said. “North Branch used it for about five or six years until the 1940s. Sometime after the war, the local Ford dealer donated a brand-new fire truck and North Branch gave the owner the old Model-T. He used it in parades in the 1950s and 1960s.”