The Fire Engine for the

Rotary Club of Huntingdon Valley & Southampton, Pa

By Ed Waetjen



I was a new President of a real old Rotary Club and determined to do “something” different from the past to get more people to join and have some fun.

I was looking thru a booklet that was published monthly, by and for, Rotary International called the “Wish Book” that listed all kinds of “things” that “other” Clubs needed and/or had to give away.

I saw that a town in Cato, New York was trying to get funds for a new Fire Truck. They also had an “old” Fire Truck that they had to get “rid of”. They were upset that the USA had recently passed a law, that firemen could no longer “hang on the back” of a Fire Truck. They had to be “inside” & have “safety belts” while going to a Fire.

I thought it would be fun to have an old Fire Truck, as long as it wasn’t too expensive.

I called up the President of the Rotary Club and he sent pictures and indicated that it was 20+ years old, in beautiful condition because it had never been to a real fire– real small town, smart careful people, and was only used on in Fourth of July Parade from the Fire House to the Park.

I did not tell my wife!

I indicated to the President of the Club that I would be interested…depending on just how much they wanted for it and his estimate as to how much it would cost to get it from Cato, New York to Meadowbrook, PA.

Months went by and I really forgot about it.

My Club had embarked on a lot of projects that literally fell in our laps. Three local Hospitals were “expanded and up-grading” all of their facilities and equipment. The Abington Hospital, Holy Redeemer Hospital and Fox Chase Cancer Hospital were all tearing down buildings and throwing out Hospital beds with wind-up handles, older furniture, wall mounted blood pressure machines, Incubators, Crash Carts, Isolators and we were sure that we could find places that could use them. One summer we collected hundreds of desks and chairs from elementary schools while they were getting new ones.

We had to find places to store all of them until we could CON – excuse me, I mean, persuade, Moving Companies and Truckers to lend a hand and deliver them as “space available” freight.

At the same time, we were using that same book that I saw the Fire Truck in, to advertise all of the “stuff” to Rotarians all around the world. We started to send the bounty to Haiti, South America and Mexico. It was fun for the first few weeks, but it really got out-of-hand. Too much “stuff” and too much work, for one small, old Club.

I heard that the Hotel at the Turnpike in Willow Grove was being torn down by the new owner – Abington Hospital. We enlisted the Governor of the District and got a lot of help for a few weeks. Dist Gov Hart found a Rotarian that owned a Moving Company and convinced that he would get a lot of “advertising” if he helped out. We dispersed 200 bedrooms of furniture to families from Creston Community in Abington to Appalachia and received letters and pictures of kid’s first night sleeping in a bed. We also packed the entire Kitchen from the “Conference Center” that could serve 500 people in an hour; Ovens, Cook Stoves, Pots and Pans, Knives, Spatulas, Colanders, Silver Service, Dinner Plates with Cups and Saucers, Serving Plates, Cloth Napkins and Table Covers that were sent out to an Indian Reservation, for use in an Elderly Community that did not have a kitchen.

I was working all of the Rotary Members of our Club like “rented horses”.

Finally Mr. Marshall Mackler brought a friend Mr. Gene Kazak that was associated with a worldwide association, “Christian Relief Services” that distributed items and food all over the country and the world. He helped us to “get organized”. In fact he spent a lot of his own time and money to make us look like heroes.

My job has required me to travel all over for many years. It did not take a long time to discover that most countries have a need for something – not wish lists, but real needs.

I was visiting a town in Mexico, Los Cabs on the Peninsula. I went to a Rotary Meeting to “makeup” for being away from my home Rotary Club. They asked what my club was doing. I told them. After the meeting, I was taken on a tour of the other side of a “Resort” City. I have never seen such poverty!

Within the next two years our Club had built seven schools, four clinics, Sent four Dental Offices and the first TV using satellite technology to their area. We also opened an area for families to sit outside at night and see movie pictures and TV.

Since then, we have installed a “top of the Line” X-Ray Clinic, a Bus Company – complete with three buses and one School Bus for the Special Children.

We have a Special School for the Special Kids. Special Kids are those born by a parent who used (or were exposed to) a chemical called“Fledimite” that causes the child to be born with deformed faces, arms and/or legs.

The Rotary of Cabo had asked me to help get the hospital in Cabo some “real” Instruments and Machines as the community was growing real fast and the hospital did not have sponsors. We went looking for a few Incubators and called Abington Hospital to see if they could spare a few. I was told that we would have first call when we got around to up-grading. Within 4 months we got the call – thirty one units! We than called a Company in Hatboro called Air Shield, Inc., who happened to be the manufacturer of the incubators. They did not hesitate to offer their services to make sure that the product we were getting, would work properly. They finished their part within a week and called me on the next Monday. Now the only trouble we were going to have was getting the Incubators down to Cabo, Mx, without breaking any of them.


I got a call on Thursday (Thanksgiving Day) -from the President of the Cato, NY Rotary Club. Four months after I opened my big mouth – he calls and says “we will deliver YOUR Fire Truck to you on Saturday – at no cost – Good-by!” I did not have his Telephone Number! I found out later that their new Fire Engine was to be delivered that next week, and since nobody was allowed to use the old one, he needed the space, and it had to go.

Shortly after the phone call I was in contact with an old friend contemplating; weather I should lay on the rail road tracks, buy a gun, tell my wife or just disappear.

That friend was in the Military and, over a few beers, confided that if any Military Airplane is going somewhere, and has space available, and you have a safe load that has to be delivered for charity, they have to take it. He suggested that I donate the Fire Engine to Mexico.

Two days later, I called the base Commander at Willow Grove to see if his statement was correct. He reluctantly confirmed the statement.

All of my problems were coming together in one big deal.