1926 Buick GMC
Around 1926, Kelseyville School District purchased a small GMC school bus. Most of the buses, in those days were built to hold 12 to 18 students. The school district used that bus until the late 1930’s. During that same time the Kelseyvilile Fire Department needed a fire engine. Not having a lot of money, what would they do? Well, the Kelseyville School District heard about this problem and wanted to help. In 1940 the school district met with the fire department and it was decided that the school district would donate the 1926 GMC to the Kelseyville Fire Department. The school bus would be cut down and made into a fire engine. Kelseyville had a handy mechanic, Seth Waite. Seth was a descendant of the pioneer Rickabaugh family, who worked at Norton Motors at the time. Seth took on the job of converting the 1926 GMC school bus into a fire engine. Of course the frame was longer than needed for a fire engine. Seth, being the craftsman he was, cut the frame down to the length he wanted and re-welded it together. To this day you can see the flawless seams that Seth constructed. After the construction was completed, Kelseyville Fire Department
had a new fire engine. These were the specifications when done.
1926 GMC Chassis
Buick 6 cylinder engine
200 gallon water tank
PTO water pump
The fire department continued to use this fire engine for many years. At this point, it is unclear if the fire department sold the engine, gave it away or just parked it somewhere.
In 1978 a group of Kelseyville Volunteer Firemen heard about the old fire engine and where it might be. After some investigation the fire engine was located at the Kelseyville Dry Yard. How it ended up there seems to be a mystery. Contact was made with the Paul Mariani Corporation, owners of the dry yard, to see if they were interested in selling the fire engine to the Kelseyville Volunteer Firemen. The Mariani Corporation did not want to sell it, but would donate it to the volunteers. All the corporation asked was that a plaque be placed on the engine once it was restored. With that in hand, Alvin Rentsch, Henry Eutenier, Gil Wells, Jim Marschall, Bill Merriman, Ken Wells, and Jeff Row went to bring the engine home again. There was a lot of interest in the fire engine for many years. The problem was a place to work on and store the engine. It has been in many locations over the years. Some work had been done on the engine, but it had never come to full restoration. The fire engine is now housed in the old Kelseyville Fire Station, adjacent to the new one. This location has made it convenient for restoration work to be done on the fire engine.
As with any project of this nature, funding is always a problem. On November 27, 2007, Gilbert Leon “Gil” Wells passed away. Gil was a long time resident of Kelseyville and one of the rescuers of the fire engine. Gil was a volunteer fireman for seventeen years. In his memory his family requested that donations be made to the Kelseyville Volunteer Fire Department Antique Truck Restoration Project. Numerous individuals have made contributions to the Antique Truck Restoration Project in his name.
Early in 2008 a former resident of Kelseyville, Robert Seth “John” Waite, passed away in Connecticut. John was raised in Kelseyville and was a graduate of Kelseyville High School. Seth Waite, the builder of the fire engine, was John’s father. Again, contributions were made to the Kelseyville Volunteer Fire Department Antique Truck Restoration Project in his memory.
Old Number 1 as it is now referred to is complete and is found in parades and numerous other events in the community and will remained a mainstay here in Kelseyville for many years to come.
Before and after photos of the restoration project.