Hickory’s antique fire engines to be restored to former glory

Firefighters across the nation are known for their service and dedication to their communities.  That is especially true of a local father and son who have partnered together to preserve the pride and spirit of Hickory’s historic fire department.

Senior Firefighter David Mills, a current member of the Hickory Fire Department, and his father, George, have purchased three fire trucks from the City of Hickory; a 1919 American LaFrance Type 75 triple, a 1924 American LaFrance Type 75 triple, and a 1924 American LaFrance Type 14-6 combination service ladder.  The two plan to restore the antique engines and drive them in local parades and shows and allow the community to enjoy this unique part of Hickory’s history.

George Mills, former Chief of Bay Leaf Volunteer Fire Department, spent a large part of his life as a volunteer fireman.  He instilled the love of community service into his son, who from an early age wanted to be a firefighter as well, and went on to begin his volunteer fire service at the age of 16.  After retiring from his fulltime career with IBM, George Mills decided to take up a new hobby; restoring antique fire enginIMG_2679es.

“Restoring these trucks has become a labor of love. It has to be,” explained George Mills. “Ownership is expensive and it’s money that will never likely be reflected in the trucks’ value.”  He went on to explain the joy that he gains from sharing this gift with the community. “Trucks are always an attraction for kids that love to climb aboard to ring the bell and crank the siren. I enjoy this as well, unlike many antique fire truck owners that post ‘Do Not Touch’ signs all over their rigs and have heart attacks when someone does. They are fire trucks! What can hurt them?”

Prior to the trucks being purchased by the Mills, they had been stored on city property for many years.  Hickory Alderman David Zagaroli, who also enjoys restoring cars, recognized the potential of the engines that were in storage and was instrumental in bringing the Mills in to make the purchase.  He said, “What is most exciting about George and David buying the trucks is that it’s a win-win for the Mills and for the city.  If we would have salvaged them out, we would have lost that history.”

Of taking on the restoration project with his father, David Mills explained, “I’m vested in the city and I want to use my tools and education to help the city grow.  This community is a great place to raise a family.  From our parks and lake access, to seeing what the city is doing with the bond projects; I think it’s great.  I’m happy for the trucks to stay here and for the community to enjoy them.  It’s important to remember this piece of history and where we came from.”

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