Driving through downtown Beaumont, you may notice something out of the ordinary - a fire hydrant. Not so out of the ordinary, you think? Did we mention it was dalmatian spotted (and 24-feet tall)? Oh yea, that too. This Disney-donated monument, located on the grounds of the Fire Museum of Texas, has become a landmark and must-see photo spot for Beaumont visitors and locals alike. What some may not realize, though, is that there's some pretty interesting pieces on the inside of the museum walls just as well as the outside.
The museum has recently purchased the original cab of the 1931 Beaumont Fire Department REO Light Truck. Found in the good care of Sam Castner, Fire Apparatus Collector in Dundee, New York, the cab arrived via transport in Beaumont last week. The goal of the organization will be to remove the 1956 cab currently on display at the Fire Museum and return the unique piece of equipment to its original glory.
The Light Truck was designed and constructed by Johnny Southwell, Superintendent of the Electrical and Mechanical Division of the Beaumont Fire Department and employees. The Light Truck is the first of its kind in the United States. The truck currently on display features a 238 cubic inch V-8 Chevrolet engine with five 1,500 watt floodlights and one 2000 watt spotlight with a capacity of 11.5 kilowatts. The body and lights are original equipment. The 1931 REO Cab will be restored and put back on the Light Truck as funding allows.
"The original cab, replaced in 1963, was auctioned off in a City of Beaumont surplus auction," said Jack Maddox, Beaumont Fire Rescue Services Fire Marshal. "We are fortunate to have relocated the piece in such good condition." "The Light Truck was a valuable piece of equipment; the Department used it well up into the 1980's. The piece remains a featured piece in our museum collection," added Maddox.
The Light Truck has rich history. It responded to the 1937 New London, Texas School Gas Explosion in which 596 individuals died including teachers and children. In addition, it responded to the Texas City Explosion in 1947, played a part in Jefferson Theater in the movie premiere of Beaumont's own sports star, Babe Didrikson Zaharias, furnished lighting after a power outage at the South Park High School football stadium, and was used extensively at the Red Carpet Inn fire on February 24, 1982.