Wilton’s antique muster truck stays in town and finds new home

The town’s 1936 muster truck has sat, unused, in a private barn since the mid-2010s.

The town’s 1936 muster truck has sat, unused, in a private barn since the mid-2010s. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

The muster truck is loaded onto a tow bed, ready to be transported to its new home at Blanchard’s Auto Salvage, where volunteers plan to restore it.

The muster truck is loaded onto a tow bed, ready to be transported to its new home at Blanchard’s Auto Salvage, where volunteers plan to restore it. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

Volunteers move the town’s muster truck from its former location on the Caswell farm, where it had been stored, to Blanchard’s Auto Salvage for restoration.

Volunteers move the town’s muster truck from its former location on the Caswell farm, where it had been stored, to Blanchard’s Auto Salvage for restoration. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

Volunteer Mike McGonegal accompanies the muster truck as it is placed on a flatbed truck by Blanchard’s Auto.

Volunteer Mike McGonegal accompanies the muster truck as it is placed on a flatbed truck by Blanchard’s Auto. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI—

Volunteer Mike McGonegal accompanies the muster truck as it is towed onto a flatbed by Blanchard’s Auto.

Volunteer Mike McGonegal accompanies the muster truck as it is towed onto a flatbed by Blanchard’s Auto. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

A 1936 Ford fire truck is moved from a barn in Wilton to Blanchard’s Auto Salvage, where volunteers will work to restore it to make it ready for the road for parades and displays.

A 1936 Ford fire truck is moved from a barn in Wilton to Blanchard’s Auto Salvage, where volunteers will work to restore it to make it ready for the road for parades and displays. STAFF PHOTO BY ASHLEY SAARI

By ASHLEY SAARI

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

Published: 11-03-2023 8:15 AM

The doors of an old barn opened wide, and there it was – a bright red, 1936 Ford fire truck, complete with a wooden ladder hung on the side and tacked out with brass fittings.

On scene was a truck from Blanchard’s Auto Salvage, prepared to load the precious cargo and move it from its home of the past eight years, a private property on McGettigan Road, to Blanchard’s. At Blanchard’s, a group of volunteers was ready to begin work to make the truck road-worthy again, in hopes that by this time next year, it will have a place of honor in Wilton’s Old Home Days parade.

The truck had sat, mostly forgotten, for years in the barn, owned by Louise Caswell, after mechanical issues caused the town to retire it from the road. It made occasional appearances in town parades and muster events. When the town got an offer for the vehicle, and the option of selling it came up, resident Tom Schultz said his ears perked up.

Schultz said the idea of selling the truck didn’t sit right with him.

“It’s been owned by the town since it was brand new, so it’s been in the town for almost 90 years. It’s the only historical piece of fire equipment that’s still left, other than the hand pump that’s in front of the fire station. It’s a 20th century relic, basically,” Schultz said.

Schultz began trying to rouse some support for keeping the truck, including reaching out to residents on Facebook and by email, asking for volunteers to step up.

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One of those that received the email was Jennifer Beck.

“I said, ‘Hang on, that’s a piece of our history. This can’t be that hard. We have so many people in town that know about antique vehicles, and so many people in town that are talented mechanics, you mean Wilton can’t save its fire truck?’ ” Beck said.

And indeed, there were a group of people who were willing to volunteer to restore the truck, including some who had worked on the truck prior to it being put into storage in 2015.

Dana LaFleur, who runs Blanchard’s Auto, towed the truck to Caswell’s farm in 2015, and said he wanted to see it stay in town.

“I think it’s important we hold onto it if we have the space or someone who’s willing,” LaFleur said. As it turned out, LaFleur had the space, and he offered Blanchard’s Auto to house the vehicle, provide a workspace for the restoration and even some parts if they’re needed to get the vehicle back in working order.

“I love old cars, I love old trucks, I love history,” LaFleur said. “I think it’s an important piece of history.”

Mike McGonegal, one of the volunteers who will be working on restoring the truck, said he’s a longtime “gearhead,” and was recruited for the cause.

“I’m on the Economic Development Committee with Jennifer [Beck]. And of course, when you’re within 20 feet of Jennifer, you get volunteered for things, and I got volunteered for this,” McGonegal said jokingly. “But I enjoy it. I’ve been a gearhead for years – decades – and it’s not often you get an opportunity to work on something like this.”

McGonegal said he often works on his own car, which was produced in 1968, but said this is the first time he’ll be tackling something as old as the muster truck.

“I think as a society, we’ve gotten more comfortable with throwing the old stuff out. Keeping something like this around, that is easy to work on and easy to fix, I think it’s important – even just to show the younger generation that you can actually do stuff with old things,” McGonegal said.

On first glance, McGonegal said the truck’s frame looks to be in good condition, but volunteers expect a slew of small repairs, and will be reviewing just about every major aspect of the truck’s mechanics. 

The town and Blanchard’s Auto Salvage reached a memorandum of understanding that Blanchard’s would tow the truck, free of charge, from the Caswells’ to the auto yard, and that they will keep it on the property until the town determines a future for the truck or a more-appropriate home. The town will maintain access to the truck with prior permission for volunteers, town employees, firefighters or the press.

LaFleur said he hopes that after the restoration is complete, the truck finds a home that will allow for easy public viewing of the vehicle.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 603-924-7172, Ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on X @AshleySaariMLT.