Pembroke Fire Station No. 3 Exhibit
Fire Station No. 3 features Pembroke's historic 1923 Bickle Fire Truck (nicknamed "Bertha)! The Bickle was Pembroke's first gasoline powered fire truck and it is believed to be the last one of its kind.
It was bought in 1924 as a way to lure Fire Chief Bob Dey to head up the Pembroke fire department. The story goes that he didn't like Pembroke when he arrived but rather than reject any job offers, he told the municipal council he'd accept the position of fire chief if it would modernize by purchasing a gas-powered fire engine, never believing he'd be taken up on the offer.
Six months later, the town called Chief Dey to let him know about the Bickle's purchase and as a result Pembroke ended up with one of its finest fire chiefs. He went on to become one of the top firefighters in Ontario. The Aherns Fox Bickle was bought for the hefty sum (at the time) of $18,000. It was made to order in Woodstock, Ontario and shipped up by rail in 1924. The arrival of the Bickle was heralded as a great event.
The truck remained the fire departments main pumper until 1954, but continued to serve until it was retired in 1954.The Bickle was there at the Shook Mill Lumber yard fire on April 17, 1950, where 150 million board feet of lumber was destroyed. The Bickle was pumping water with the rest of the fire departments fleet, although it did need quite a steady supply of engine oil to keep going, brought up by the bucketful.
After more than 40 years of service, it ended up in a wooden garage at the Champlain Trail Museum, where it sat until being restored in 1992. This restoration is the second one to be done. The Bickle's restoration was spearheaded by Acting captain Bill Clayton of the Pembroke Fire Department. Other Pembroke businesses and organizations coming forward and assist with the Bickle's restoration included KI Pembroke, Valley Radiator Service, the Pembroke Fiddling Association, and local artist Barbara Blackstein.
The newly restored 1923 Bickle Fire Engine was unveiled at Renfrew County's Expo 150 in 2011. Acting Captain Bill Clayton and OVHS President David Whitmore proudly drove it to the Expo to display it to visitors!
Donations are still being accepted for this project and they can be made to the Champlain Trail Museum Bickle Fund.