Vintage Sea Isle Fire Truck Roars Back to Life

Posted on Monday, March 25th

John Miller, a mechanic, called his friend, Hal Fillinger, in Hatfield, Pa., to see if he could find some parts that Miller needed for a fire truck.

“What are you looking for?” Miller recalled Fillinger asking him.

When Miller told him he wanted parts for a Hale fire truck dating to 1927, Fillinger simply said, “I’ll see what I have. I’ll call you back in an hour.”

Miraculously, the parts were found. Fillinger has a business called Vintage Vehicle Restorations Inc. Miller, meanwhile, specializes in repairing fire equipment, including old fire trucks.

With Fillinger supplying the parts and Miller doing the work, a 92-year-old fire truck belonging to the Sea Isle City Volunteer Fire Department has roared back tThe antique 500-gallon pumper truck – resplendent in its fire engine red color scheme, although in need of a good polishing – had been tucked away in storage in Sea Isle’s Townsends Inlet fire station.

On Saturday, the truck took a leisurely ride around the streets of Sea Isle. It was only the second time that it had been out on the road since it was restored to running condition on March 16.

Driving it was John Mazurie Jr., 51, a Sea Isle volunteer firefighter for 30 years. His 84-year-old father, John Mazurie Sr., was a member of the Sea Isle fire department for more than a half-century and served as chief for 40 years before he retired.

The Mazuries envision the old truck becoming a focal point of the community again – not as a working fire truck rushing to emergencies, but as a showpiece at parades and other special events. They would also like to see it put on permanent public display, giving Sea Isle residents an opportunity to fully appreciate a part of local history.

“It’s a step back in time,” John Mazurie Jr. said of the vintage truck.

Mazurie explained that the truck still needs some mechanical work, including fixing a leaky radiator. Cosmetically, it could use a thorough polishing to restore its luster.

“It needs a lot of elbow grease, Mazurie said.o life after sitting idle for a few years.In the past several weeks, Mazurie and his father had tried to get the fire truck running again. They didn’t have any success, but Mazurie got in touch with Miller, who came to the rescue with his mechanical expertise.

Miller lives full time in Pennsburg, Pa., but has a summer home in Sea Isle. He had done repair work before on antique fire trucks, some from the 1940s and ’50s, but never one as old as Sea Isle’s 1927 Hale.

“I’m 48. It’s twice as old as I am,” Miller said with a laugh.

The truck was dead because of a bad ignition switch. Miller used an ignition switch jumper to restart it.

John Mazurie Jr. said when the truck finally fired up on March 16, everyone was ecstatic, particularly his father.

“You should have seen the look on my dad’s face. He had a smile from ear to ear, like we all did,” he said.All these years later, the engine still has a throaty roar. Overall, the truck appears in remarkably good condition for something nearly a century old. The brass touches, chrome radiator, chrome bell, round headlights, wooden ladder, a running board made of oak and old-fashioned lanterns give it its distinctive look.

It also has a hand-cranked siren. As the handle is cranked faster, the siren comes to life, producing a spirited wail, as though it were 1927 all over again. It’s not hard to image the truck rushing to a fire.

After its days as a working fire engine were over, the truck would occasionally appear in Sea Isle parades and other public events in New Jersey, collecting “Best of Show” trophies in the process.

Now covered in dust, the old trophies are stored in cardboard boxes sitting on the floor next to the fire truck.

The truck itself seemed all but forgotten while it remained stored inside the Townsends Inlet fire station. The Mazuries, however, were determined to get it back on the road again – and back in the public eye.

Now, with the help of mechanic John Miller and vintage parts man Hal Fillinger, that has happened.

John Mazurie Jr. hopes that the fire truck will be ready to make its public debut at Sea Isle’s Memorial Day ceremony on May 27. He would also like to see it be part of the Skimmer Festival, an old-fashioned celebration (June 15-16) of Sea Isle’s genteel past that will include an antique auto show and parade on the Promenade on June 16.

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