By John Anderson
If you want to know something about firefighting in Auburn, ask a Holstrom. In fact, if you want to know most anything about firefighting, ask a Holstrom. Between Kenneth of Auburn, Gordon of Sturbridge, and their late father Floyd, they have given 106 years of service to the Auburn Fire Department. Although Ken retired a few years ago and Gordie moved to Sturbridge in 1988, these brothers share enormous pride in their hometown department. And, they’re not just brothers, they’re identical twins.
Things were abuzz with excitement at Drury Square on Friday morning as retired Engines 3 & 4 came together for the first time in 32 years. Engine 3 is a 1939 Maxim Motors pumper that carried 300 gallons of water and had a 750 GPM (gallons per minute) pump. It had a large hose bed that could fit 2,800 feet of 2-1/2 inch diameter hose which made it the “hose wagon” for the department when hydrants were few and far between.
Ken Holstrom found the truck in very good condition in Portland, CT a few years ago, and when Gordie got eyes on it, he had to have it. Unlike cars and other trucks, fire trucks tend to have very few road miles on them although their motors may have operated for many more hours while pumping at fires. Aside from a few rust spots, Engine 3 is in remarkable condition. It runs and drives beautifully and isn’t that different from when it was retired in 1982.
Engine 4 is a 1954 Ward LaFrance owned by Bill Clark of Colchester, CT. It also has a 750 GPM Hale pump but has a larger 500-gallon water tank and the ability to carry 1,200 feet of 2-1/2” hose. This engine soon became the “house truck” and was the first due piece for structure fires. Bill was on his way to Wakefield, MA for the 37th Annual Fire Parade and Flea Market held by the Massachusetts Antique Fire Apparatus Association. He offered to stop in Auburn along the way.
With Engine 3 and Engine 4 sitting together for the first time since 1982 when Chief Murray traded Engine 3 back to Maxim after more than 40 years of service to the town, current and retired firefighters had to come down and see the show. Retirees included Richard Fleming and his wife Ann, Dave Salmonsen, John Willis, and Ken Gorczynski. These firefighters worked on both engines for many years, and they were thrilled to see them in such good condition and together again.
Several hopped the back step for a ride around the block that went Auburn St., Southbridge St., Brotherton Way, and back to Auburn St. where the Holstrom boys lit up the lights and cranked the sirens before pulling into headquarters. This was quite the sight.
It is fortunate when old things don’t always get thrown away or scrapped, and it is nice that two important pieces of Auburn’s history remain intact. Ken Holstrom penned a book “Auburn Fire Department, A History from 1988-2000” It is in the Auburn Public Library and the Auburn Historical Museum. It can also be read in the history section of the Auburn Fire Rescue Department’s web site.