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Nyack Fire Department Welcomes Home a Piece of History

Everett "Smokey" Wanamaker eagerly climbed into the familiar driver's seat, one he hadn't been in for nearly 60 years. 

"I can't believe this," Wanamaker said after climbing up into the familiar driver's seat. "Wow. It seems like yesterday I was here driving this thing."

Wanamaker, a 69-year member of Empire Hook & Ladder Company in Upper Nyack,  was enjoying a reunion with the vehicle he learned to drive in, a 1930 Seagrave Tiller truck that had been sold to a department in Cooperstown in 1954. Nyack Fire Department volunteers David and Joey Gottlieb recently purchased the truck from a private collector Andy Henderson of Marietta, NY to give it back to Empire Hook & Ladder, 

"My brother and I both felt this opportunity is once in a lifetime," David Gottlieb said. "When you look at all the things, look at the history of our firehouse, as far as I'm concerned, the historical significance of this rig is second to none.

"This is what set the precedent. This set the bar for volunteering in this county. We are the greatest fire department in the county. Orangetown Engine Co. No. 1 started it all and it's been going ever since. This is as far back as we can trace our living ancestry. This truck has a personality. It is part of our family."

Wanamaker knew he would be the grand marshal for the Nyack Fire Department's 150th Anniversary Parade, which begins at 2 p.m. Oct. 5. He did not realize that he would be riding on the very truck he drove as a 16-year-old when he joined the department in 1944. He was part of the diaper brigade, teenagers allowed to join due to manpower shortages during World War II. 

The department brought him in Thursday, telling him reporters would be working on a story about the 150th anniversary and the parade so they could surprise him when the Seagrave tiller truck rolled up North Broadway. When he was told that Empire Hook and Ladder owned the truck again, he jokingly asked if he could keep it in his driveway  

He climbed up into the driver's seat and told stories about the truck, including the point when somebody finally thought to ask if he had a driver's license after he had been driving the truck. He didn't, Then he found out he could still drive it to a fire because a license isn't required to drive an emergency vehicle to the scene of an emergency, but he wouldn't be able to drive it home. Homer Wanamaker and Harold Hill, who also drove the truck, were also on hand Thursday. 

Wanamaker told how students were allowed out of Nyack High School to volunteer at the fire department, but so many did it, the school began to restrict the number who went. The first half of the alphabet would go one time, then the last half another.

"I went every day," Wanamaker said. "I would sneak out."

When the truck was sold in 1954, Wanamaker was one of the people who drove it up to Kingston, NY. He said that he spent a couple of hours in freezing temperatures driving it around the parking lot to show the Cooperstown firemen how to use the tiller.

For more from Wanamaker on the truck, see the video attached to this report.

Children and adults alike took turns examining and climbing up into the seats. Then there was the locked box on the right side of the truck. Earlier since its return to Rockland County, somebody thought to check the closet full of old keys inside Empire Hook & Ladder. Though the truck had been gone for 59 years, the key was still there. Inside the box were tools and supplies, most of which had been there since the truck left Nyack.

Henderson first found out about the connection when his son saw a piece on ESPN about Welles Crowther, the Upper Nyack native and Empire Hook & Ladder member who was killed while saving others from the south tower of the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. 

Jeff Tangredi, a 2nd Lieutenant with the Nyack Fire Dept., was able to get in contact with Henderson, which led to the Gottliebs buying the truck and having it brought down back to Nyack on a flatbed truck. 
Ken McQuade September 27, 2013 at 06:53 PM
Great piece of Rockland history returns to Goosetown. Was that the first truck ref'd to as "10-98" ?
T Wanamaker September 29, 2013 at 02:22 PM
No Ken 10-98 started with the truck the truck that you first knew. That was 10-98 due to the 100 foot ladder. 10-100 was the old base station at Nyack PD. 10-99 is Chelsea H&L.
Ken McQuade September 29, 2013 at 07:44 PM
Thanks Tom, What I was asking is really what year did the county come up with the county names such as 10-98, 10-99 10-EM ect...?
T Wanamaker September 29, 2013 at 08:12 PM
Thats a question for Smokey its before my time.
Ken McQuade September 30, 2013 at 08:36 AM
I bet they told us that in essentials at the FTC but my long term memory is as bad as my short term memory.

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