History of SPAAMFA


Editor’s Note : SPAAMFAA Founder Richard A. Horstmann wrote the following history of the Society on the occasion of our 25th Anniversary in 1983. Inasmuch as it chronicles the club’s origins and early growth, we thought it appropriate to run it again for the benefit of those who have not seen Enjine!-Enjine! 1983-2. This is the authentic authorized version of how SPAAMFAA came to be as told by the person who single-handedly started it all. No one else could tell the story like Dick did. – Walt McCall

By Richard A. Horstmann

Unless you haven’t been paying attention, the ongoing observance of SPAAMFAA’s Silver Anniversary in 1983 is hardly a surprise. No fewer than eight regional chapters are sponsoring unique commemorative projects; the current membership bulletin proclaims our ripe old age; the pages ofEngine!-Enjine! are filled with 25-year references; our annual roster of SPAAMFAA members and their apparatus appears inside a handsome silver cover; and the yearly Convention and Muster at Syracuse August 5 and 6 is shaping up as an anniversary party of significance and fun for all 2,000 of us with this year’s silver-stock membership cards.

As the universe goes, a quarter century is the merest twinkling, but 25 years is a generation, and in the years since 1958 the world has entered space and the computer age, extended the span of human life, and failed to abolish war. It’s a long time, 25 years, yet to most of us in on SPAAMFAA’s start in 1958, it seems like only yesterday.

MAY 17, 1958
SOUND THE ALARM! After years of waiting, the bell has rung! On May 15, the City Council of Watervliet, New York, approved my sealed bid, and I became owner of a 1926 American LaFrance 750 gallon-per-minute pumping engine.

That’s the opening of a letter written to relatives and Syracuse-area friends, to none of whom was my long-time desire to own a vintage fire engine a secret.

An unofficial corporation has been formed, under the name of SPAAMFAA-the Society for the Preservation and Appreciation of Antique Motor Fire Apparatus in America.

The name had actually been invented a year before, for a tongue-in-cheek article drafted for (but wisely not printed by) a weekly newspaper in Sherburne, New York, explaining why several members of the Syracuse University rowing team and I had spent a 1957 Spring afternoon peering at ancient apparatus through fire station doors in Syracuse and a dozen other Central New York communities.

Months earlier, my first bid on an engine (an ex-Syracuse 1923 Ahrens-Fox) had come up short, leaving window-shopping, and research into rigs which might soon be retired, to keep the spark alive.

One general query took the form of a “wanted” listing in the 1957-58 edition of The Visiting Fireman, and the sole response was from Watervliet’s City Manager, advising that their retired ALF was for sale. That led to an immediate inspection trip (suffering from four years of neglect, she was stripped and rough, but running-and I loved her!), and my bid of $182.50.

Acceptance of the bid, and analysis of the additional cost of work required for a 150-mile trip home matched against a graduate student’s bank balance brought that unpublished article to mind, and the search for help was on.

Shares are available at only five dollars each. To take advantage of this once-in-a lifetime offer, indicate the number of shares you’d like to hold, and return with cash, check or money order (made payable to Richard A. Horstmann) – and you’ll be in! It’s an exclusive group, and one you’ll be glad to join.

How glad folks were about it isn’t recorded, but join they did. Friend and co-worker Mary O’Brien was first aboard (stock certificate number 2), followed shortly by lifetime best friend Dr. Hamilton Dixon, and – bless them – my parents, Margaret and Henry Horstmann, my brother and sister-in-law, and my aunts and uncles. Right behind were still more friends from college and work, along with a few members of the buffing fraternity. (While legends aren’t meant to be tampered with, fact required dispelling the notion that all of SPAAMFAA’s first members were enthusiasts of the fire service. The sanity of 1958’s originals can, however, still be questioned on whatever other grounds may have motivated their participation in dollars and in spirit.)

So here we were in late May of ’58 – some 20 people and $400 strong – with a fire engine, christened SPAAMFAA Engine 1. After tuning and extensive patchwork, ALF Type 75 No. 5751 started home to Syracuse – and made it! A garage was rented from the typical little old lady who made any little old lady’s typical request: Because it’s noisy, please don’t disturb me or the neighbors by taking the engine out at night or on Sunday. My promise was solemnly made and kept for four whole days.

Sirens downtown signaled a major midnight blaze as Ham Dixon and I worked on his car in the little old lady’s garage – and, well, we just had to take the Alfie, embargoed or not, wanted at the fire or not. Of course the rig made a racket, of course we woke up the neighborhood, but it was wild, and fun, and we were right in the middle of a three-alarmer all night – as well as in deep trouble when returning at daybreak. Ham’s wife, Jane, wouldn’t talk to either of us, and Engine 1 was no longer welcome in the little old lady’s garage.

Love, and abject apologies, cured both problems in a few days, and subsequent activities were more proper: firemen’s parades, visits to schools, and even a ride for Santa Claus at the start of the Christmas shopping season. As the fall of 1958 turned to winter, 35 people were SPAAMFAA stockholders and $585 had been raised and spent.

Then, as now, it was evident communications would hold the group together, and then, as now, communications were generally late.

NOVEMBER 24, 1958
Dear Shareholder: Here is your copy of the first periodic report of the Society. It has been a long time coming, but at the six-month anniversary of this great venture, your faith in what looks like, and may well turn out to be, a fly-by-night outfit is commendable, and your patience through long periods of silence has been worthy of merit.

The eight-page report covered all the first half-year’s events, listed each shareowner’s name and address (you could call it the first SPAAMFAA roster), and promised big things for the future.

There is no end in sight, either for items for this truck, or for the eventual acquisition of one or two more.

Fulfillment of that prophecy came as quickly as the following April, when Syracuse placed their reserve 1923 Seagrave tractor-drawn 85-foot aerial on the bid list. I tossed $400 more into the fire engine account, issued myself 80 more shares, and an offer of $365 made Seagrave No. 33455 mine – SPAAMFAA Truck 1. With two rigs to care for and enjoy, 1959 was a fun year. A request to provide height for flagpole re-roping at the New York State Fairgrounds resulted in a storage arrangement for the new machine and her companion – an arrangement perpetuated for Central New York Chapter apparatus to this day – and at year’s end, shareowners stood at 41.

Two new Macks joined the SFD roster in 1960, shoving aside a 1928 Seagrave 1000 gpm pumper I’d been in love with for years. A transfer of $400 from my savings bought 80 more shares, supported a winning sealed bid of $353.50 for No. 53715, and I had my third: SPAAMFAA Engine 2. As the stable grew, so did the list of those willing to own a minority share or two –up to 57, including the ever-faithful Alex Black and firefighter/merchant Tom Laun.

Fire engines are like martinis in that one is too many, two are just right, and three aren’t enough. With a spring-raised wood aerial, and both a rotary and centrifugal on hand, the obvious missing element in 1961 was a piston pumper. That circumstance was rectified by my purchase of still more shares, and the acquisition in Saddle River, New Jersey, of 1924 Ahrens-Fox K-S-4 No. 1153 for $400. New and old shareowners helped, too, and there were 65 on the list to greet my fourth rig – SPAAMFAA Engine 3.

We’d broadened the scope of annual activities to include Fire Prevention Week planning and participation along with the customary paint-up, fix-up parties, flagpole roping sessions and parades. Ten stockholders came aboard in 1962, including future officers Dave Sinclair and John Corcoran, running the membership total to 75; they were joined in 1963 by three more –including the incomparable Eric Sprenger.

After six years of local fun and frolic, 623 shares were outstanding (my 472 and 77 other folks’ 151), and we faced another major problem without the money to handle it: How to replace Truck 1, which had become troublesome and infirm, with a handsomer and more reliable younger sister, 1930 Seagrave aerial No. 61245 – one of the last of Syracuse’s first-generation motor apparatus and due to be traded in on a new ALF Aero-Chief elevating platform. The solution was more communication.

MARCH 1, 1964
Here, at last, is your second periodic report. We have the opportunity to expand our horizon, (but) one matter requiring our immediate attention is additional financing to meet a pressing need. Renew your interest, adopt our slogan, “Share More in ’64,” and return cash, check or money order…

As well as that subtle request for fresh funds, the second report – five and a half years after the first – contained 24 pages, lots of pictures, year-by-year coverage from November, 1958, and, in a section headed “Future Plans and Projects,” the first hint of what SPAAMFAA might eventually become:

We are also investigating the possibility of incorporating SPAAMFAA as a legally-recognized, non-profit corporation.

That turned out to be several years away. First on the 1964 agenda was pooling modest amounts of “Share More” capital with similar quantities of my own, and engineering a three-way, two-for-one apparatus transaction worthy of a John Gambs.

The replacement Seagrave aerial was purchased for $450 and became my fifth machine – SPAAMFAA Truck 2. After giving up several of her goodies to the new girl, 1923 Truck 1 was traded to a collector for $400 cash and his stripped 1928 Seagrave 1000 gpm pumper (ex-Syracuse, No. 53716), which I intended to use as a future parts source for the two Seagraves running under the SPAAMFAA banner. Net expense, $50; net result, a far neater aerial ladder truck and a mobile Seagrave “spares” supply to boot.

That year, volunteers pitched in with our first hands-on engine rebuild project, and we paraded and pumped and polished to our hearts’ content. Seventeen new stockholders signed on – including Mary O’Brien’s champion Dalmatian, Margaret – giving us a 1964 year-end tabulation of 94 members with two legs and one with four.

No new rigs in ’65, but an active apparatus year during which six more shareowners climbed aboard, pushing the total to 101 (that’s 100 and a dog), which is where it stayed until the next step forward.

Most important for the immediate future is incorporation of SPAAMFAA as a wholly member-owned non-profit organization which can legally own the apparatus. As SPAAMFAA now exists, the apparatus are in Richard Horstmann’s name, and even though member’s contributions of time, effort and funds are real, in a legal sense their share of ownership is not. It is only fair at this be changed. Further, SPAAMFAA has grown to the point where more equitable distribution of responsibility is called for. (Soon) SPAAMFAA members will share equally in the ownership of rolling stock, and SPAAMFAA (will be) a genuine Society not at the mercy of any one individual’s whim.

That’s from my third SPAAMFAA Periodic Report, featuring Dave Sinclair’s creative head-on rendering of the Seagrave pumper on the front cover, and his meticulous pen-and-ink rendition of a SPAAMFAA badge (the same art we’re still proudly using today) on the rear. Inside, text and photo reviews of annual Fire Prevention Week and other activities through 1964 and 1965 set the stage for our first change in structure.

As the necessary steps toward reorganization were begun, we were equally busy with an active apparatus season. An engine overhaul on Truck 2 under the direction of Alex Black, Underwriters pump tests on the Seagrave and Ahrens-Fox conducted by John Corcoran, and plenty of parades near and far were highlights.

Still, the most significant events of 1966 took place on paper. The 799 outstanding shares (249 in the name of 100 individual owners, and 550 in mine) were retired in favor of a proposed new membership corporation, with four dues-paying categories: Founding members (anyone who’d been aboard from the shareowner days of 1965 and earlier) and Active members (anyone new, living in New York or its contiguous states or provinces), each $5; Associate members (anyone new, living elsewhere), $2; and Junior members (anyone new, aged 12 to 17), $1. Carl Schaapman became the first Active member in July, and 12 other newcomers, in varying categories, subsequently joined him.

Meanwhile, death, disinterest, distance and disqualification (I arbitrarily ruled Mary’s Dalmatian ineligible, creating a sore subject with her owner – one I’ve yet to hear the end of) had taken some toll of the 101 “old timers” on the 1958-65 list, but eventually 68 paid dues for the year and gained Founding status.

By Fall, a constitution and Bylaws suitable for a non-profit membership corporation had been completed, and at SPAAMFAA’s first annual meeting held at the start of Fire Prevention Week in October, 1966, members who’d been shareholders voted approval of the new organizational structure. They also elected the following to serve with me as president: John Corcoran, vice-president; Dave Sinclair, secretary; Carl Schaapman, treasurer; and Eric Sprenger, Jim Boynton, Don Chapman, John Salter, Mike Waters and Bill Robinson, directors.

After nine years we were actually more than just me, my fire engines, and my relatives and friends. An understanding of the need for change had placed SPAAMFAA on a new threshold, with plans for developing membership expansion, formal recognition of educational and historical status, broader assumption of leadership and responsibility, improved and regular communications, and new apparatus for our roster. As 1967 dawned, even chapters and musters were being discussed – and the growing pains, and pleasures, had only just begun.

By Walt McCall

In some ways, SPAAMFAA’s second twenty-five years weren’t quite as colorful or eventful as the first. But much has happened – most of it good — since Dick Horstmann’s recap of our first quarter-century concluded in 1966. We pick up the story in 1967 as the Society was planning for the event that would almost overnight transform it from a small, energetic local group to a national educational and historical organization.

On April 27, 1968 the Board of Regents of the New York State Educational Department granted SPAAMFAA’ application for a charter as a non-profit, educational and historical corporation – a major milestone in the organization’s history and a key to its future growth.

“Another milestone in our nine-year history was achieved in St. Louis, Mo. on July 9 when delegates to the 15th Annual Convention of the International Fire Buff Associates accepted SPAAMFAA’s petition for IFBA membership” Dick Horstmann reported in the July 1967 issue of the SPAAMFAA Newsletter. “Composed of over 40 fire buff clubs throughout the United States and Canada, the IFBA was formed in 1953 to further the cause of groups interested in the fire service”.

SPAAMFAA took part in no fewer than 19 scheduled events that year, including its first “international” activity – a parade in Gananoque, Ontario. Some 20 members attended the group’s ninth Annual Meeting, an afternoon of training with the club’s rigs at the Syracuse Fire Training Academy followed by dinner and evening business meeting at the Syracuse Press Club.

“At no time has the future of SPAAMFAA and its companion Belle Isle Fire Company been brighter, with almost unlimited opportunities ahead for growth and the exploration of new ideas and territory”,Horstmann wrote in the group’s annual report for 1966 presented at the `67 annual meeting.

In the spring of 1967, Dick Horstmann had trekked to distant Washington State to take in the Seattle Fire Buff Society’s Second Annual Antique Fire Apparatus Muster & Grand Concours d’Elegance at the hydroplane pits on Lake Washington. Deeply impressed at what he saw, Dick was determined to stage a similar event back home in Syracuse. A seed had been planted….

“Perhaps the most exciting of all plans under discussion at present is SPAAMFAA’s proposed sponsorship of an antique fire apparatus show and muster in Syracuse in conjunction with our 10th Anniversary in 1968. We estimate there are at least 75 vintage rigs within driving range of Syracuse and based on plans followed by the Seattle, Fire Buff Society in running a similar event in the Northwest the past few years, it appears that we may well be able to initiate one of our own next year.”

A committee including Bob Potter, Alex Black, John Corcoran, Hank Manwell, Don Chapman and Nelson Husted was appointed to study the feasibility of hosting such an event.

Perhaps the most defining single event in the Society’s history, SPAAMFAA hosted its First Annual Northeast Antique Fire Apparatus Show And Muster in Syracuse on Saturday, August 3rd. On flatbeds and under their own power, antique and vintage fire apparatus began rolling into the Syracuse Fire Department Training Academy yard on State Fair Blvd. Friday afternoon and evening. The following morning – Muster Day — some 35 rigs paraded noisily from the Academy to the New York State Barge Canal Terminal on Solar St. There, suction hoses splashed into the water, aerial ladders sprang into the sky and thousands came out to see the old engines do their stuff. The event ended with a buffet dinner at Raphael’s Restaurant that evening.

“Muster Magnificent – At least that seemed to be the consensus of more than 100 SPAAMFAA members and 2,000 citizens who took part in or viewed with pleasure our First Annual Northeast Antique Fire Apparatus Show & Muster in Syracuse August 2 and 3”, Horstmann wrote in the group’s September newsletter. “Over 35 rigs from all parts of the East were on hand for the Grand Parade, some excellent pumping and other demonstrations and displays, plus a Dutch-treat dinner finale”.

That was the day SPAAMFAA was almost instantly transformed from a small local organization to a much more broadly-based one. Membership soared. Immediate plans were made to do it again the following year.


Some 75 rigs – more than double the previous year’s total – took part in SPAAMFAA’s Second AnnualNortheast Antique Fire Apparatus Show & Muster held in Syracuse in early August. This year’s muster program included a Friday evening tour of Syracuse fire stations. Members piled aboard the club’s rigs for the tour from station to station.

Membership had increased exponentially. Charters were granted to the Society’s first two regional chapters this year – the Delaware Valley Chapter and the California Chapter.


Some 65 pieces of apparatus participated in the Society’s Third Annual Muster held August 7-8 in Syracuse. Among the participants was a 1927 Ahrens-Fox tractor-drawn 75’ aerial Weedsport NY member Andy Henderson and his two sons drove non-stop from New Orleans to Syracuse. The 1,240-mile cross-country trek took four days and 541 gallons of gasoline!

The Society’s third regional chapter – Southwest Ohio – received its charter this year, and the firstWilliam L. Robinson Memorial Award was presented to SPAAMFAA apparatus and equipment chairman Robert H. Biel. “Established to honor our late former secretary — the original hard-working quiet man — the award goes to the member who has given the most of himself to the Society with the least recognition”, the May 1970-2 SPAAMFAA Newsletter reported.

Because Dick Horstmann’s Jasper St. mailbox could no longer hold the volume of mail the Society was now receiving, we got our own post office box – PO Box 450, Eastwood Station, Syracuse NY.


John R. Corcoran succeeded Richard A. Horstmann to become SPAAMFAA’s second President. Founder Horstmann — who had been president for 12 years – stepped down in order to devote his full attention to the club’s quarterly SPAAMFAA Newsletter.The typewritten, offset publication now included photographs and even had a real cover….

The Society’s Fourth Annual Muster, held at the Barge Canal Terminal August 6-7-8, featured our first full-fledged Firematic Flea Market. Up to now, sales of apparatus parts, antiques etc. had been conducted out of the trunks of member’s cars or pickup trucks. Our fourth regional organization – theChesapeake Chapter – was granted its charter.

The second William L. Robinson Memorial Award was presented to longtime local member Harold L. Post. Longtime Ahrens-Fox Fire Engine Co. employee Richard C. (Curt) Nepper was made the Society’s first Honorary Member.


Two classic motorized water towers – the Syracuse Fire Department’s 1923 American-LaFrance (with 1928 Seagrave tractor) and member Mel Wildberger’s ex-New Orleans 1919 American-LaFrance Type 31 – were among the more than 70 rigs at the Fifth Annual Syracuse Muster held August 11-12. Two more chapters – hometown Central New York and the Northeast Ohio Chapter – received their charters and joined the growing SPAAMFAA fold. The Society’s first Founder’s Award was presented (appropriately) to former (1958-1971) President Richard A. Horstmann.


Stephen G. Heaver, Jr. succeeded John Corcoran to become the Society’s third President. SPAAMFAA membership now exceeded 1,100. Two more regional chapters – Detroit-based Great Lakes and theCatskill Chapter — received their charters this eventful year.

After 12 years as a hand-typed, stapled and mimeographed newsletter, under Editor Richard A. Horstmann’s directon SPAAMFAA’s club publication blossomed into a full-fledged quarterly magazine. The first issue of Enjine!-Enjine! (Spring 1973-1)featured a classic Currier & Ives portrait of The American Fireman on its pink-bordered cover. The title came from a 1939 publication of the same name the late H.V. Smith wrote for the Home Insurance Company of New York City — which graciously granted SPAAMFAA permission to use it. Columns in the impressive new magazine included Alex Black’s Tool Box; Tom Scott’s Bookshelf and Ernie Jenner’s Tiller Seat.

The Sixth Annual Syracuse Muster held in early August would be the last one at the New York State Barge Canal Terminal on Solar Street in a gritty industrial area on the city’s east side.


SPAAMFAA’s Seventh Annual Northeast Antique Fire Apparatus Show & Muster moved to a bucolic new site this year on the leafy shore of Willow Bay on Onondaga Lake in the pleasant Syracuse suburb of Liverpool, N.Y. Also this year, the Society moved its Annual Meeting from April to February. A fund-raising campaign to help finance the switch from a typed newsletter to a full-fledged quarterly magazine was highly successful. No new chapters were chartered this year.


In addition to the big one held in Syracuse in August, major antique fire apparatus shows and musters were being held at a number of venues across the U.S. Sponsored by the local Fairchester Hose-Haulers, the Fairfield-Westchester Chapter Muster held in late June at the Kenisco Dam Plaza in Valhalla, N.Y. quickly grew into the nation’s largest, drawing upwards of 200 rigs. Other big musters were staged by the Chesapeake Chapter in Baltimore, Md. at Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan by Great Lakes, and at half a dozen locales in California (California Chapter). SPAAMFAA’s Eighth Annual Muster held in Liverpool NY this year was the Society’s largest to date. A souvenir Convention & Muster booklet was published for the first time at this event. The Indiana Chapter received its charter this year.


Many musters held this year took on a star-spangled bicentennial theme in honor of the nation’s 200th birthday. The recently-formed Central Pennsylvania Chapter staged its first Harrisburg Muster this year. To this day, the Pennsylvania Pump Primers’ muster site in Riverside Park on the Susquehanna River remains one of the finest and most familiar in the country. Three ex-Syracuse Fire Department Seagrave tractor-drawn 85’ aerial ladder trucks (1923, 1928 and 1930) were among the participants at the 1976 SPAAMFAA Convention & Muster in Syracuse.

For the first time an Owner’s Pride photo and story appeared on the back cover of Enjine!-Enjine! 1976-2. The inaugural subject was Morrisville, Vermont’s 1924 Maxim pumper. Two new chapters – Central Pennsylvania and Connecticut were chartered this year.


Tim Elder succeeded Stephen G. Heaver Jr. as SPAAMFAA President upon completion of Steve’s three-year term. “As I write my last Chief’s Chair (column in E-E) I can’t help but reflect upon the many changes that have taken place during the past four years”, Steve noted. “I would say the transition from a young Syracuse-based group to a maturing, ever-growing national organization has been the greatest source of pain and joy: the correspondence, telephone calls, travel, conventions, new chapters and new friends have all managed to make a stronger SPAAMFAA.”

The Central New York Chapter hosted the 10th annual SPAAMFAA Summer Convention & Muster in Syracuse August 11-13. Two more news chapters – Eastern Massachusetts and Florida – received their charters this year. Ownership of SPAAMFAA’s last two rigs – the 1923 “Big Bertha” Ahrens-Fox and 1925 American-LaFrance – was transferred to the local CNY Chapter.


For the first time ever, the SPAAMFAA National Convention & Muster was held away from Syracuse N.Y. The Great Lakes Chapter hosted the 1978 event at world-famous Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan July 20-23. The muster program included a parade of more than 100 rigs through the Village on Saturday and Sunday. Out on the West Coast, the California Chapter hosted its first “Pump-In”. Corresponding Secretary Helene (Lee) Soderbeck took on the daunting task of converting the Society’s mailing and apparatus lists to a computer format.

After 19 years, SPAAMFAA founder Richard A. Horstmann stepped down as chairman  of the Society’s Publications Committee. Canadian member Walter M. P. McCall took over as Editor of Enjine!-Enjine! –a position he would hold for the next 25 years. Horstmann had written and edited every single one of the club’s newsletters since its inception in 1958 through 1977. The Northern Illinois Chapter received its charter this year.


In accordance with its new policy, the SPAAMFAA Summer Convention & Muster returned to its original home in Syracuse, N.Y. in August, as it henceforth would every other year. The Society’s Annual Meeting continued to be held in Syracuse in February. Founder Richard a. Horstmann was the recipient of the 1979 William L. Robinson Memorial Award, and SPAAMFAA dues were increased to $12.50. One new chapter – Virginia – received its charter this year.


SPAAMFAA membership tops 1,800, with 18 regional chapters. More than 40 antique fire apparatus musters were held across the U.S. in 1980. Indiana member John R. Gambs succeeds Tim Elder as SPAAMFAA’s national President.

The California Chapter hosted the 1980 SPAAMFAA Summer Convention & Muster in San Jose, California July 17-20 – the farthest afield our main event has ever traveled. One of the muster events was a “church raise” – the raising of a 65-foot wooden extension ladder by members of San Francisco’s St. Francis Hook & Ladder Society. The extremely active California Chapter had also staged an early bird muster during the first week of January – something most of the rest of us can only dream about. Chris Cavette took over as Editor of the California Chapter Newsletter: he’s still doing it today, some 28 years later.

One new chapter – Colorado – joined our still-growing organization.


Tim Elder launches the Silver Trumpet – an inter-chapter communications newsletter designed to convey time-sensitive information between issues of Enjine!-Enjine!  Some 65 copies of the ST were mailed to SPAAMFAA board members and regional chapters. For the first time, muster insurance was available to all SPAAAMFAA chapters through Cicero NY member Robert N. Potter’s insurance agency.

The Florida Chapter held an Earlybird Muster in sunny Tampa on March 1.The 1981 SPAAMFAA Summer Convention/Muster returned to Syracuse, N.Y. August 6-7-8. The Indiana Chapter held its annual muster at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Rig owners were allowed to take their fire trucks on a leisurely spin around the fabled Indy 500 track. The just-chartered Genesee Valley Chapter held its first muster in nearby Rochester, N.Y. with a respectable 50 rigs in attendance.

Dexter and Edna Shilling began writing their Price-Wise column in Enjine!-Enjine! This new feature provided useful guidance for members looking to buy or sell a rig.


Maryland member Frank S. Tremel succeeded John Gambs as SPAAMFAA President. The Society’s 1982 Winter Meeting held in Syracuse in February featured an indoor “mini-muster” featuring a large display of toy and scale model fire engines. The Central Pennsylvania Chapter hosted the spectacularly successful 1982 Summer Convention/Muster in Harrisburg, PA. The Fairfield-Westchester Chapter was forced to move its famed June muster from Valhalla, N.Y. to Croton-On-Hudson after the event literally outgrew the Kenisco Dam site.

Enjine!-Enjine! got its first color cover – a great shot of a Great Lakes Chapter Muster at Greenfield Village taken by Don Abrahamson. No fewer than three new chapters received their charters this year –Greater Dayton, South Jersey and the Texas Gulf Chapter.


SPAAMFAA marked its 25TH Anniversary this year! Founder Dick Horstmann authored The Early Years – his official history of the Society (1958-1966) in the 1983-2 issue of Enjine!-Enjine! This important milestone was celebrated at the 1983 Summer Convention and Muster hosted by the Central New York Chapter in Syracuse August 5-6-7.

Also in 1983, national membership passed the 2,000 mark. Two new chapters — Land O Lakes(Minnesota) and the Thousand Islands Chapter in upper New York State came into being.


Again hosted by the Great Lakes Chapter, the Society’s 1984 Summer Convention & Muster returned to Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan for a second time, from July 20-22. Growth continued at a healthy pace, with three more chapters admitted into the fold this year – Albany (NY), New Hampshireand Mid-Michigan.


For the first time ever, SPAAMFAA’s Winter Convention was held away from Syracuse. The Southwest Ohio Chapter hosted the 1985 winter meeting in Cincinnati in positively spring-like 65-degree weather in mid-February. The Summer Convention/Muster returned to Syracuse. The Convention headquarters hotel was changed from the Sheraton Electronics Parkway to the Holiday Inn West, closer to the Onondaga Lake muster site.

Florida member Gary Rorabacher succeeded Frank Tremel to become the Society’s seventh President. By the mid-1980s SPAAMFAA boasted more than 2,000 members in 44 states, seven Canadian provinces and five foreign countries. Enjine!-Enjine! went to full-color covers for all four issues, instead of just for the Muster Review issue as had been the practice for several years.

Three new chapters joined our regional roster in 1965 – Mid-Michigan, East Texas and Western Pennsylvania.


The South Jersey Chapter hosted the Society’s 1986 Summer Convention/Muster at Wheaton Village in Millville, N.J. More than 100 pieces of antique and vintage fire apparatus took part in what was our first-ever Sunday muster. Central New York members Bob and Harriet Potter became the third husband-and-wife team to jointly receive the William L. Robinson Memorial Award. The others were Ken and Lee Soderbeck (1977) and Dan and Mae Martin, 1982.

This year proved a banner one for SPAAMFAA growth nationally. No fewer than five new regional chapters were charted in 1986. They included the Arizona Territorial Chapter, Central Jersey Chapter, Long Island (NY) Chapter, Western Massachusetts and Southern Chapters.


This year’s winter meeting – traditionally held in Syracuse in mid-February — fled the icy clutches of upper New York State for the far balmier climes of Florida. The 1987 Annual  Convention hosted by our Florida members in sunny Coral Gables, featured our first winter fire apparatus muster. Yes, palm trees and old fire engines are compatible. The Summer Convention & Muster came back to Syracuse in August, as it did every other year.

But the big news this year was the establishment of the SPAAMFAA Archives at the Antique Automobile Club of America’s famed Library and Research Center in Hershey, Pa. Spearheaded by Central Pennsylvania member Ed Peterson and in the works for several years, the AACA/SPAAMFAA agreement was finalized this year. Our long-held dream of a safe, accessible repository for collections of fire apparatus photos, sales literature, owners’ manuals and other reference material had finally become a reality.

Two new chapters – Central Ohio and Metro St. Louis joined SPAAMFAA’s ever-growing family this year.


Connecticut Chapter member G. Marshall Sanford succeeded Gary Rorabacher as SPAAMFAA President. The Society’s national membership now totaled more than 2,400.

The Genesee Valley Chapter hosted the Society’s 30th Annual Convention & Muster in Rochester, N.Y from August 10-13. The four-day program included tours of the Eastman Kodak Museum and Kodak Park manufacturing complex, including its private industrial fire department. One of the educational seminars which had become an important part of SPAAMFAA conventions featured former American-LaFrance designer John Grybos, who styled ALF’s 400 and 500-Series fire apparatus, and the pioneering JO/JOX cab-forward aerials.

The 1988-1 issue of Enjine!-Enjine! featured a special four-panel color insert  — a panoramic view of a row of Ahrens-Foxes at a Great Lakes Chapter muster taken by Ken Soderbeck. A shelving unit for the SPAAMFAA Archives at the AACA Library and Research Center in Hershey, Pa. was purchased with funds from the Helene Soderbeck Memorial Fund.


The Arizona Territorial Chapter ably hosted the Society’s 1989 Winter Convention in sunny Phoenix, Arizona in mid-February. In addition to the novelty of a (for most of us) mid-winter antique fire apparatus show and muster, the three-day program also included a visit to George Getz’ Hall of Flame fire apparatus museum in Phoenix’s Papago Park, and the Sonora Desert Museum.

It was bound to happen, eventually. It rained on SPAAMFAA’s 31st Annual Muster held in Syracuse, N.Y in August. But the 1989 annual banquet was the largest to date. The summer convention program included a visit to the Saulsbury fire apparatus plant in nearby Tully, N.Y. Chicago member Barbara Connors became our Membership Secretary – a key position she has now held for two decades. Archives Chair Ed Peterson wrote his first Archives column in Enjine!-Enjine! And Tim Elder’s Silver Trumpet inter-chapter newsletter was now available to SPAAMFAA members by subscription.


The Central New York Chapter again hosted our Winter Meeting, which included a Taste Of Upper New York State tour. Winter or summer, the Society’s semi-annual meetings always featured three separate business sessions: a meeting of the Society’s National Board of Trustees; a Chapter Presidents’ Advisory meeting at which representatives of the chapters present gave verbal reports on their individual chapter activities and a General Business Meeting – usually part of the closing banquet.

The Eastern Massachusetts Chapter hosted the Summer Convention and Muster in Lynnfield, Mass. in late June. More than 160 pieces of apparatus took part in the big parade and muster, one of our largest ever. There was no Fairfield-Westchester Muster at Croton-On-Hudson this year, and the Great Lakes Chapter held its 19th – and last –Greenfield Village Muster.


Mustachioed Robert L. (Bob) Ward of Schwenksvlle, Pa. succeeded G. Marshall Sanford as SPAAMFAA’s National Presient.

The Great Lakes Chapter hosted the 1991 Winter Meeting in Dearborn, Michigan in mid-February. The program included a visit to the Toledo (Ohio) Fire Museum and its new muster site at Domino Farms in Ann Arbor. The 1991 Summer Convention returned to Liverpool, N.Y., near Syracuse. Ted Elder began writing the Tiller Seat column in Enjine!-Enjine!

A record seven new regional chapters were chartered this year – West Michigan, North Texas, Southern Ontario, Heart of Illinois, Southern California, Mid-Jersey and the Tucson-based Cactus Chapter. The new Southern California Chapter – locally known as the Crown Firecoach Enthusiasts – was the Society’s first chapter devoted to a specific make of fire apparatus.


For the first time in ten years, the Central Pennsylvania Chapter hosted the 1992 SPAAMFAA Summer Convention and Muster in the state capital of Harrisburg, Pa. The Pennsylvania Pump Primers’ busy program included a visit to the SPAAMFAA Archives at the AACA Library and Research Center in Hershey and tours of the Swab Wagon Co. plant in Elizabethville and Simon/LTI fire apparatus plant in Ephrata. Archives chairman Ed Peterson conducted the first fund-raising auction of duplicate material from the SPAAMFAA Archives. One new chapter – Southeastern Pennsylvania – received its charter this year.


For the third time, the Winter Convention/Annual Meeting was held in Florida – in Kissimmee – February 11-13. The busy program included a visit to the E-One fire apparatus plant in Ocala and a big Saturday muster. “The National” returned to its ancestral home in Syracuse in August. The Great Lakes Chapterhoisted the first full-fledged SPAAMFAA muster ever held outside the United States in Windsor, Ontario Canada,  just across the river from Detroit.

The Board of Trustees made the decision to hold the Summer Convention and Muster in Syracuse everythird year from now on, instead of every other year. Also beginning this year, the Silver Trumpet was now mailed to all SPAAMFAA members giving them two quarterly publications as well as a semi-annualMembership Roster and a Resources Guide. Just one new chapter – Blue Ridge – was added this year.


Illinois member Mae M. Martin succeeded Bob Ward as SPAAMFAA National President – the Society’s first female chief executive officer. Heavy snow hampered attendance at the appropriately-named Winter Meeting in Syracuse in February. The Land O Lakes Chapter hosted the extremely successful 1994 Summer Convention and Muster in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota. Included in the busy programs was a tour of the Waterous fire pump plant in St. Paul. Two water towers – St. Paul’s 1917 Seagrave and an ex-Fargo ND American-LaFrance/Hale – threw water at the big Saturday muster.

On a tragic note, SPAAMFAA Founder Richard A. Horstmann was hospitalized with a brain aneurism suffered while shoveling snow at his home in Syracuse in February. One new chapter – Northern Nevada—joined our ranks this year.


The Northern Illinois Chapter hosted the Society’s Winter Convention in Chicago in February. The program included a narrated tour of Great Chicago Fire (1871) sites conducted by well-known Chicago Fire Department historian Kenneth Little. The Connecticut Chapter hosted the 1995 National Convention/Muster in Milford, Ct. in early September, in conjunction with the annual Engine 260 muster. Three Texas chapters – East Texas, North Texas and the Texas Gulf Chapter joined forces to stage an October muster in Tyler, Texas.

Central Pennsylvania Chapter member Dave Buskey completed the SPAAMFAA Muster Guidelinesmanual, which was subsequently made available to all of the Society’s more than 40 regional chapters. Five new chapters were chartered this year – Pacific Northwest, Green Mountain, Badger, Quad Cityand Metro Kansas City.


SPAAMFAA national membership passed the 3,000 mark, and another Ohio chapter –Akron-Canton –swelled our still-growing ranks. The 1996 Winter Convention was hosted for the first time by the Central Pennsylvania Chapter in Harrisburg. The meet program included visits to the SPAAMFAA Archives at the AACA Library & Research Center in nearby Hershey, and the excellent Harrisburg Fire Museum. TheCentral New York Chapter again hosted the 1996 Summer Convention & Muster in Syracuse. This year’s muster moved to a new site in Long Branch Park on the opposite side of I-90 a short distance from our former muster site on the shore of Onondaga Lake.


The Southern California Chapter – a.k.a. as the Crown Firecoach Enthusiasts – hosted one of our largest and most successful Winter Meets ever in San Bernardino in mid-February. The huge Saturday muster, which featured a big display of Crown Firecoach fire apparatus and the FDNY Super Pumper Tender, filled the downtown core all day Saturday. The program included tours of the Los Angeles Fire Department shops, the LAFD’s Old Plaza Firehouse museum and an authentic wildland fire camp dinner amid a special display of highly-specialized forestry firefighting equipment.

The Mid-Jersey Chapter hosted the 1997 Summer Convention & Muster in Toms River, N.J. in the latter part of June. One of the tours at this meet took us to the Lakehurst Naval Air Station, where the German dirigible Hindenburg exploded and burned in 1937. One of the rigs on hand actually responded to this historic disaster.

The SPAAMFAA website was now up and running. The North Texas Chapter manned a SPAAMFAA information booth and display at the 1997 International Association of Fire Chiefs IAFC Convention in Dallas. Three new chapters were born this year – Phoenix AZ, Delmarva and the Memphis Mid-South Chapter. And in a bit of good news, a wheelchair-bound Dick Horstmann attended the Western Massachusetts Muster at Hardwick, Mass. in August.


SPAAMFAA quietly turned “40” this year, with nary a sign of any kind of mid-life crisis. Robert N. Potter of Cicero, N.Y. succeeded Mae Martin as SPAAMFAA’S National President.

The Catskill Chapter hosted the 1998 Winter Convention in Middletown, N.Y. A broken leg sidelined President Bob Potter at home. The Catskill Fire Cats’ ambitious tour schedule included visits to the FDNY Apparatus Shops in New York City, the FDNY Training Academy on Randalls Island and the United States Military Academy at West Point. In June, CNY Chapter members manned a SPAAMFAA information booth at the New York State Fire Chiefs Expo in its home town of Syracuse, and the Great Lakes Chapter staged its first Frankenmuth Muster in this small Bavarian-themed city some 90 miles north of Detroit. The hyper-active Virginia Chapter participated in no fewer than 157 events this year.

The Southeast Pennsylvania Chapter hosted the 1998 Summer Convention & Muster in Trevose, Pa. in mid-September. The Gibson Road gang’s educational tour program included a day trip to nearby Philadelphia and the superb Philadelphia Fire Department Historical Museum.


As the 20th Century wound down, SPAAMFAA national membership exceeded 3,500. One new chapter – Southern Colorado – received its charter this year.

The Florida Chapter hosted the 1999 Winter Convention & Muster in Orlando in February. Among the attractions – including a full-fledged summer-style antique fire apparatus muster – was a tour of the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, with emphasis on the spaceport’s extremely specialized fire department. As in every third year, the Summer Convention/Muster returned to Syracuse, N.Y. The program included a pleasant day trip to Old Forge, N.Y. in the Adirondacks, and a tour of the modern Saulsbury Fire Apparatus plant in nearby Preble, N.Y. And Enjine!-Enjine! went to a new horizontal “landscape” format.


The Southern New Jersey Chapter hosted the Society’s first official meeting of the new Millennium in mid-February. The 2000 Winter Convention was held in Atlantic City, N.J. Although there was no muster as such, the Atlantic City Fire Department obligingly dispatched its apparatus in waves to the adjacent convention center for photography. Tours included visits to the Atlantic City International Airport fire station and Whitey Schwartz’s impressive South New Jersey Firefighters’ Museum in Pleasantville. Guest speaker at the closing banquet was legendary fire apparatus salesman Ernie Day. New awards now being presented included the Tom Buckle Award for the chapter signing up the most new SPAAMFAA members the previous year, and the Marie Ward Award for best chapter newsletter. In late June, the Eastern Massachusetts Chapter hosted the 2000 Summer Convention and Muster in Lynnfield, Mass. Some 187 pieces of fire apparatus took part in the huge Saturday parade and muster.

The Board of Trustees authorized the expenditure of $2,400 for a portable SPAAMFAA display booth for chapter use at conventions, musters and other special events. Another new chapter – the Greater Tampa Metro Chapter – was granted its charter this year. And Vermont member Rick Canfield took over the mailing of back issues of Enjine!-Enjine! from New Hampshire member Charlie Harrington, who had ably handled this important task for 30 years.


SPAAMFAA national membership peaked at 3,584 this year, and two more new chapters – the Carolinasand Oklahoma – were welcomed aboard. Hummelstown, Pennsylvania member Edward Peterson took over the President’s chair from Bob Potter, who had finished out his two-year term of office. Ed somehow managed to balance his national leadership responsibilities with his other position as SPAAMFAA Archives Chairman,

The Valley Of The Sun (Phoenix) Chapter hosted the 2001 Winter Convention in balmy Phoenix in mid-February. Highlights of this well-attended midwinter meet included visits to the Phoenix Fire Department Shops, Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport Fire Department and a return visit to the Hall of Flamefire apparatus museum. The Indiana Chapter hosted the 2001 Summer Convention/Muster in Indianapolis in July. The busy tour program featured visits to the Conway Fire Museum collection in New Albany, Ind. and the Indianapolis Speedway Museum and fabled Indy 500 track. More than 100 rigs participated in the big muster at the Wayne Township Fire Training facility, including Rodger Birchfield’s 1927 Magirus aerial and the Indianapolis Fire Buff’s 1927 ALF water tower.

Sponsored by the Catskill Chapter, the first President’s Award was presented to George Valrance, SPAAMFAA‘s longtime Corresponding Secretary and Special Events Coordinator.


A virtual repeat of the highly successful event held there five years earlier, the 2001 SPAAMFAA Winter Meeting returned to sunny San Bernardino, California for a second time under the auspices of theSouthern California Chapter in mid-February. The founding Central New York Chapter hosted this year’s big Summer Convention/Muster in Syracuse. This otherwise enjoyable event was marred by the first serious accident in SPAAMFAA history. A 1963 ALF tractor-trailer aerial ladder truck capsized on the show field, it’s extended 100’ ladder crashing down on a 1920 American-LaFrance pumper parked for pumping on the shore of Onondaga Lake. Although there were no injuries, the incident sparked a thorough review of the Society’s muster safety rules and guidelines.

After putting out exactly 100 issues over a period of 25 years, Walt McCall retired as Editor of Enjine!-Enjine! His final issue was 2002-4. Southwest Ohio Chapter member Steve Hagy of Edgewood, Ky. was appointed Walt’s successor – only the third Editor our club publication has had since Dick Horstmann put out his first hand-typed SPAAMFAA Newsletter 44 years earlier,


Raymond H. Pitts, of Beverly, Mass. succeeds Ed Peterson as National President. The Virginia Chapterhosts the 2003 Winter Meeting – which more than lived up to its name! Dozens of SPAAMFAA members were stranded immediately following the convention by a fierce winter storm that closed highways and resulted in the cancellation of many airline flights. The Metro St. Louis Chapter hosted the ’03 Summer Convention/Muster in the Gateway City, where delegates and visitors were treated to tours of the local Museum of Transportation and Grant’s Farm.

SPAAMFAA pledged its support to the National Fallen Firefighter Foundation in Emmitsburg, Md. Three new chapters – Greater Cleveland, Berkshire and the Cyber Chapter – the latter our very first women-only chapter – were chartered this year. Steve Hagy put out his first four issues of Enjine!-Enjine! Among the changes Steve initiated were the transfer of the Fire Flea Market classified ad column to the Silver Trumpet and a new Coming Attractions feature.


The Dalmingo Chapter (“Dalmatian”  + “Flamingo”) hosted the 2004 SPAAMFAA Winter Convention in sunny Treasure Island, Florida, near Tampa in mid-February. The program included an excursion to the Pierce fire apparatus plant in Bradenton and a buffet dinner at the Tampa Fire Museum. Some 290 attended the closing banquet…the Great Lakes Chapter hosted the 2004 National Convention/Muster in Frankenmuth, Michigan – proving once again that you can indeed stage a big muster in a small town. A near-record 187 pieces of apparatus paraded through the Bavarian-themed village to the muster site in Heritage Park.

In a surprising burst of expansion, four new chapters joined our ranks this year – Derby City, Inland Empire, Seven Rivers and the Rhode Island Chapter.


In mid-February, the Texas Gulf Coast Chapter hosted our first-ever meeting in the Lone Star State. Based in Houston, the Winter Meet program included tours of the Houston Space Center, the Houston Fire Department Museum and the chapter’s impressive rig restoration shop and storage facility on the fringe of Hobby International Airport. A highlight of the mid-February meet was a massive display of truly exotic industrial firefighting apparatus owned by members of the regional Channel Industries Mutual Aid group.

Once more, the Central New York Chapter welcomed us back to Syracuse (Liverpool) for the 2005 Summer Convention. A highlight of this event was a bus trip to the magnificent American Museum of Firefighting in Hudson, N.Y. – the largest repository of original hand-drawn fire apparatus and memorabilia in the country.

Lynnfield, Massachusetts member Paul Romano succeeded Ray Pitts as SPAAMFAA President. One new chapter – Maine – received its charter this year.


This year was unique in SPAAMFAA history in that for the first time in many years both of the Society’s semi-annual meetings were held in the same state. The Southwest Ohio Chapter hosted the 2006 Winter Convention in Cincinnati in February. Four months later the Central Ohio Chapter presented the 2006 Summer Convention and National Muster in the state capital of Columbus.

While the winter meeting didn’t include a muster as such, the varied program included visits to the superb Cincinnati Fire Museum downtown and tours of member Chip Lytle’s large fire apparatus collection and workshop and the rural Brothers Three Museum. In addition to a huge muster at the Ohio State Fire Academy in suburban Reynoldsville, the Summer Meet program hosted by Central Ohio in late June offered visits to the United States Air Force Museum near Dayton, a pilgrimage to the former Seagrave Corporation plant on the south edge of Columbus and tours of two of Sutphen’s plants. Tom Sutphen – father of the Sutphen Tower – showed us his private auto collection at one of the locations.

Two new chapters – West Virginia Panhandle and the Black Diamond Chapter were chartered this year.


For the first time, SPAAMFAA members and delegates headed for the Pacific Northwest, where thePacific Northwest Chapter proudly hosted the Society’s 2007 Winter Convention in Puyallup, short distance south of Seattle. It’s rainy out there this time of year, so the PNW folks kindly arranged a bigindoor fire apparatus display that was open throughout the four-day meet.

The Land O’ Lakes Chapter hosted the 2007 Summer Convention and Muster in the Twin Cities’ suburb of Burnsville, Minnesota. A fun feature of this event was Friday night pumping under the lights followed by a big fireworks display. The educational component of the program included tours of the Waterous pump plant in St. Paul, the fire/rescue stations at the Twin Cities International Airport, the Rosenbauer America fire apparatus plant in Wyoming, Minn. and the Custom Fire apparatus plant across the river in Osceola, Wisconsin. The big parade Saturday morning and the muster which followed were part of the long-established local Burnsville Muster.

After 25 years, Tim Elder stepped down as Editor of the Silver Trumpet. Ken Buohl stepped up to the plate, launching a thoroughly redesigned version of this important supplementary communications publication.

Following the death of Robert N. Potter the previous year, the Society switched its chapter insurance program to the J. C. Taylor Agency. One new chapter – Southern Connecticut – was welcomed into the fold this year.


SPAAMFAA’s Golden Anniversary year! It’s hard to believe that half a century has passed since Dick Horstmann cajoled his friends and family into putting up $182.50 to save an old fire engine! The rest, as they say, is the history recorded on the preceding on these pages. As you can see, we have much to be proud of!

The North Texas Chapter hosted the 2008 Winter Convention in Dallas. The mid-February program included a tour of the Dallas Fire Department Shops and several stations, and the fire and rescue apparatus at the huge Dallas-Fort Worth (DFW) International Airport. Instead of the usual Saturday muster, the North Texas members hosted a full day of educational seminars in its North Texas Fire Museum – the former Dallas F.D. shops which the chapter acquired for the token sum of one dollar. One by one, various pieces of apparatus were rolled outside for pictures.

Fifty years later we head back to Where It All Began. We’re coming home to Syracuse!

What an incredible 50 years it has been. Here we are in 2008 with more than 3,000 members from coast to coast, in Canada and overseas, members of more than 50 regional chapters. Between them SPAAMFAA members own more than a thousand pieces of antique and vintage fire apparatus. But what’s really relevant here are the countless number of retired and neglected rigs SPAAMFAA members have saved from the scrap heap, and have lovingly restored and maintained for future generations to enjoy.

Preservation and Appreciation…..that’s what SPAAMFAA is all about. As true in 2008 as it was when Dick Horstmann coined our tongue-twisting moniker away back in 1958.

Thanks, Dick. May our next 50 years be as eventful and enjoyable. On to our Centennial in 2058!

The Society for the Preservation and Appreciation of Antique Motor Fire Apparatus in America (SPAAMFAA) is an organization of people dedicated to the preservation, restoration, and operation of antique fire apparatus.