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My best friend: The yellow fire truck

Whenever I look at an old fire truck, the same thoughts come to mind

I am still amazed at the technology available to the average citizen. I can do things like look people up and get a map or photo of their house (aerial or street view) from my personal computer.

In the past only mirrored sunglass-, overcoat-, fedora-wearing government people who had a phone in their shoe could do that. Must be a stalker's paradise…

My kids have never lived in a world that didn't include cell phones and computers. E-mails are just part of life as far as they are concerned. I of course, have just figured out how to send an attachment.

A while back a discussion group popped up on one of the popular social networking sites centered around small town I grew up in — Gibbstown, N.J. Lots of people who I went to school with were talking about their memories of growing up. It was fascinating; I remembered things I probably never would have remembered again.

Through all this electronic cyber magic I have connected with four old friends of late. One lady is living near Buffalo, N.Y.; another is a special ed teacher in New Jersey and a third is now a real estate agent in San Francisco.

But I want to tell you about the fourth friend in particular. First, however, a confession about me. I like fire trucks. Some people like trains, some airplanes.

Some attend antique car shows, some collect stamps or bottles. I like fire trucks. I wear a medic alert bracelet with a fire truck on it. I don't know why I have such a strong love for them. It's not a sexual thing, because if so I would have had enough pleasure by now to have had a heart attack.

Recently on a road trip with my two boys, the youngest was tinkering around with a GPS unit I had recently acquired. He said, "Dad, did you know this thing can map out all the fire stations you pass?"

My oldest son reacted in horror and yelled at the youngest, "Do you realize what you have done?" The trip took a little longer than planned.

So, if I was to be asked what my all-time favorite fire truck was, that is actually a question I could answer with a fair degree of certainty.

Admittedly the question rarely comes up and honestly I don't think I have ever been asked. I don't ever recall a telephone survey asking me that or even a new patient questionnaire in a doctor's office requesting this info.

But let's say I was to make a run for the Oval Office and in the last televised presidential debate I was asked by the CNN anchor what my all-time favorite fire truck was.

That would probably be the only question I could honestly answer without stammering and worrying about offending special interest groups and losing votes.

So, back to the fourth friend, which, you have may have guessed by now, is also my all-time favorite fire truck — a ladder truck operated by the Almonesson Lake Fire Company, Deptford Twp., Gloucester County, NJ.

The truck was a 1968 Maxim ladder truck painted in a gaudy yellow. In that time period it was the coolest fire truck around.

Every few years when our town got a new fire truck, they had what was called a "housing." Some places called them dedications, some wet downs. The word housing comes from an old Colonial English word, with the literal translation meaning "party."

The usual drill involved a ceremony with a politician or two saying what great guys these firemen are (so you can tell this really was a few years ago…). Next came an endless parade of fire trucks from different towns and even different states.

After the parade, all the trucks would park in a field and the firefighters would gather to eat and have refreshments. You were given a glass mug with a picture of the new fire truck on it. I still have a massive collection of mugs, much to my wife's dismay.

Regardless of the new truck, my mother would take me to the field and I would search high and low until I found that yellow truck, where I would climb all over it from front to back.

But, in life, just like old friends, time moves along. The ladder truck was eventually sold and a new one arrived. It was a nice, enclosed cab, air conditioned. I even rode in the new one.

So you can imagine my surprise the other day when I saw a blurb on message board about that department reacquiring the old ladder truck.

Whenever I look at an old fire truck, the same thoughts come to mind. Whether it is in a museum, a fire station or rusting unwanted and abandoned in a field (yes, I stop and look at those, too.)

I wonder about all the things that truck saw during its active life and how that fact that the day this thing pulled up it was the bomb. All the firefighters stood outside and marveled at the latest technology. It was the newest and greatest.

I would love to run on this truck for just a day. Of course my co-workers, who are well used to me now, would all lower and shake their heads at this thought.

"It doesn't have Chevron striping on the back, no computers screens in the cab. There is no EMS cabinet in the cab for the drugs and defibrillators. And, hang on, what cab?! It doesn't even have a roof! No collision air bags, no roll protection, no back-up cameras. Where are the buttons and computer screens on the pump panel?" (Yes, it has a pump and even hard suctions. Let's not start that argument; pump on a ladder truck)

Oh well, nevermind. All that stuff is important for safety reasons. Maybe I could just get a ride on it. If you have a favorite fire truck let me know. You know I'll look at it. Amazing times…

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