|Boys love their toys, and Kurt Tadich ’05 is no exception.
When Tadich brought home his newest plaything, the response was no laughing matter. “My mom told me I was crazy and that I shouldn’t waste my money,” said Tadich. “My dad was just a little surprised, and he shook his head [hoping it would be] something I’d grow out of.”
Tadich said that most of his friends also were skeptical.
Needless to say, his purchase of a $3,000 American LaFrance fire engine took many by surprise.
Tadich bought the 1962 engine in August from Tuscarora Fire Co. in east central Pennsylvania with the help and support of his co-workers at Union Fire Co. in Carlisle. Tadich began volunteering there in June 2002, prompting him to want a fire engine of his own.
“It’s not like a car where you can just drive around and stop at dealerships [to find an unusual vehicle],” said Tadich.
After searching Internet sources, including Ebay, which he notes has 20 to 30 engines for bid or sale on any given day, he finally found his match listed on a forum at centralpafire.com. Tadich said that Tuscarora was looking to sell its 1962 American LaFrance because the company wanted to “upgrade their apparatus with a newer engine.” It wasn’t practical for Tuscarora to keep both.
Tadich credits his passion for the past as fueling his search and eventual purchase. The history major studied the engine for two months before buying. “I researched the history of this fire engine, such as its manufacturing, who previously owned it, etc. Everything [that appears] on the fire engine has to be specific to when it was manufactured in order for it to be preserved,” he explained.
After studying its history, Tadich visited Tuscarora Fire Co. twice to see the engine. On his second visit he brought two men from his squad, one of whom owns three fire engines and another who has driven engines from that era. They urged him to take the plunge.
But these hot wheels are not made for joy rides as Tadich soon discovered. The usual two-hour trek from Tuscarora to Carlisle took Tadich and his engine three-and-a-half hours to complete. “It has no suspension, so I had to stop and let the engine cool down,” he said. “I felt like I was riding a horse the whole way home.”
And it’s definitely no luxury sedan. “Even now if I drive it around for a day or two constantly, my back and shoulders will start to hurt,” said Tadich. “The way this particular fire engine was made was for climbing hills and driving [in the proximity] of a five-to-10-mile radius.”
He estimates that the engine, with its 50-gallon tank, would guzzle $100 out of his pocket each week if he drove it on a regular basis. He only drives the engine when he’s off work and when the weather is nice. Otherwise, he keeps it in a storage garage in Carlisle and relies on his everyday car.
Since graduating on May 22, Tadich has remained in Carlisle, planning to take graduate history courses at Shippensburg University. He continues to enjoy restoring the engine and uses it to make comparisons between now and then. “The new ones are about twice as big as the one I have,” Tadich stated. “You can see a lot of things when you put them side by side, basically [observing] all that has changed over the past 40 years.”
Tadich will continue his work with the Union Fire Co. and showcase his engine in parades. He wants people to understand that this engine “is a piece of history and not just a big toy to play with.”
Smiling, he confessed, “All little kids want to grow up to be firemen and policemen and all that goofy stuff, so I guess I never really grew out of that.” •