For longtime TVF&R auxiliary volunteer Ken Lauderback, restoring antique fire engines has been a labor of love for five decades.
For the past 30 years, the skilled mechanic had the honor of keeping a 1927 American LaFrance in good, running condition with an engine that can still pick up speed and a pumper that continues to have the capacity to pump 750 gallons of water per minute.
Lauderback’s care and attention to preserving this historic fire apparatus will be on display this week as the American LaFrance returns home to the Paris Fire Department in the city of Paris, Tennessee, where it was first put into service in 1927 and owned by the city until 1964.
For several years following its retirement, the engine held a place of honor in the Myron Curtis Collection in Portland. In 2016, the Curtis family generously donated the engine to TVF&R’s antique fire apparatus fleet, where it has delighted crowds at community events and along parade routes.
TVF&R recently agreed to donate this unique piece of fire service history to the Henry County Historical Society, where it will be proudly displayed in the Paris community once again.
“I have mixed emotions about seeing it go, but I’m proud that I was granted the opportunity to help take care of it,” Lauderback said. “I’m glad to know that it’s going home and will be enjoyed by the community.”
The engine is one of Lauderback’s all-time favorites and fun to drive in parades — even if it doesn’t stop on a dime like it once did. But not even brakes that need some work detract from the 1927 American LaFrance’s charm.
“She’s beautiful,” said Dr. David Webb, president of the Henry County Historical Society, as he caught his first glimpse of the engine on Friday. “It’s remarkable to see her in factory condition after all this time. Thank you so much for taking such good care of her. Our community is so excited to get her back home.”
To learn more about this next chapter in the 1927 American LaFrance’s history, please enjoy this video.