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‘Pearl,’ Sandy Spring fire department’s 1949 Mack truck, is home

by Terri Hogan

Senior Staff Writer

“Pearl,” Sandy Spring Volunteer Fire Department’s 1949 Mack E Model fire truck, has found her way home.

“If Pearl could talk, I am sure she would have some interesting stories to share about her life,” fire department President Johnie Roth said.

On Sept. 2, several members of Sandy Spring Volunteer Fire Department (SSVFD) traveled to an auction house in Mount Wolf, Pa., on a mission to bring Pearl back where she belongs.

Roth said Pearl had a somewhat troubled past.

“According to some senior life members, she was loaned to a fire museum in Baltimore around 1975,” he said. “Apparently, they rotate displays, so she was then offered back to us, and that is where it gets cloudy. Whoever they talked to said that the SSVFD didn’t have room for it.”

Roth said the vehicle was then sold to a private collector.

Roth said one of his friends, who is a member of Rockville Volunteer Fire Department, has a business transporting tractors, trucks and other vehicles and called to say “he had come across this truck just outside of York, Pa., that had Sandy Spring markings.”

“It was going to be in an estate auction on Labor Day,” Roth said.

A few SSVFD members went up to take a look, and the department gave them a green light to bid on the truck, which they won.

It was a cash-and-carry sale, so they loaded Pearl on a flatbed truck and delivered her to Station 40 on Georgia Avenue.

“She is in relatively good shape for a 70-year-old fire truck,” Roth said.

He said the truck doesn’t run, but the fire department will bring in mechanics to take a look and then get bids to see what it will cost to refurbish it.

Roth said Pearl is more than just a vehicle — it is a little bit of history brought back to the greater Olney community.

“She was the first Mack truck that Sandy Spring owned,” he said. “And when the Laytonsville District Volunteer Fire Department burned down, Pearl is the truck we loaned them so they could be back in service that evening.”

Because this year marks the 95th anniversary of SSVFD, Roth expects some life members to be in town for upcoming department festivities. He hopes to talk with them to learn more about Pearl’s history.

He said the fire department is also going to conduct research at Sandy Spring Museum and obtain information from the Mack company to learn more.

“We are very excited and all like little kids. To see it is just awesome,” Roth said. “But we plan to approach this project slowly and methodically.”

He said they would explore fundraisers to pay for Pearl’s restoration.

Once restored, the truck would likely be used for public education, parades and community events.

He said the fire department has no plans to abandon its 1954 Mack, which is used to escort Santa through communities each year, as well as participate in other community events.

Roth said the SSVFD is hoping to debut Pearl at their annual open house on Oct. 6 at Station 40.

“It will take a lot arms, legs and bodies to pull her out, but we are going to try,” he said.


   Anyone with historic information or photos of Pearl, is asked to contact SSVFD at 301-774-7400.

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