Back home to stay
A 1930s fire truck that once belonged to the Lake Benton Fire Department was donated to the city this weekend
LAKE BENTON — The bright red fire truck had traveled a long way — to car shows all over the country and even onto the set of a Hollywood movie. But on Saturday, Lake Benton’s 1938 city fire truck was finally back home for good.
Tony Van Beek, a Colorado resident who owned the fire truck for the past 20 years, was donating the truck back to the Lake Benton community.
“I thought, if it goes anyplace, it needs to go here,” Van Beek said.
At an open house at the Lake Benton fire hall on Saturday, people gathered around the vintage truck. Some took pictures of themselves with it, or boosted children up to see inside the cab.
“It sure is nice,” one person said.
Gary Serie, a retired Lake Benton firefighter, said he remembered working with the fire truck.
“We didn’t take it out in the country,” he said, but the truck was in service up until the 1990s. By the time it was sold, “There was only 5,000 miles on it,” Serie said.
Serie said it was interesting to see the fire truck restored.
The city of Lake Benton originally purchased the one-and-a-half ton Chevrolet fire truck in the summer of 1938. By the late 1990s it was no longer operational. In 1998, it was sold to former Lake Benton resident Willis Overgaau for $2,000.
Overgaau brought the fire truck to his home in Ontario, Calif., and restored it. That was where Van Beek and his late wife Linda saw it and bought it.
“I had it 20 years ago, just before 9/11,” Van Beek said. After 9/11, there was a lot of public support being shown for firefighters, so the truck ended up catching a lot of people’s attention.
“I got a lot of thumbs-up, and a lot of four letter words — people would say ‘Cool,'” Van Beek joked.
Van Beek took the fire truck to classic car and truck shows around the country.
“I had a lot of fun with it,” he said.
The fire truck even had a cameo in the 2003 movie “Seabiscuit.” Van Beek said he was approached about renting the truck out for use in the movie.
“They wanted a 1930s fire truck that looked new,” he said.
The fire truck can be seen during a scene when a horse trainer in the movie asks a fireman about using the fire bell to train for the big race. The lettering on the fire truck was temporarily changed to “Baltimore Fire” for the movie, Van Beek said.
While traveling around with the fire truck, Van Beek also made some connections with southwest Minnesota residents. In 2006, Tyler resident Bob Johnson saw the fire truck at a car show in Colorado and recognized the Lake Benton name. Johnson later invited Van Beek to bring the fire truck to Tyler’s Aebleskiver Days parade in 2010.
More recently, Van Beek thought about donating the fire truck to Lake Benton. Karen Lichtsinn of the Lake Benton Area Chamber of Commerce said over the past year, the city of Lake Benton, the Lake Benton Fire Department and the Lake Benton Historical Society worked together with Van Beek to bring the fire truck back home.
“This is an awesome event for me,” Van Beek said to community members at Saturday’s open house. “I’m very happy to bring it back here where it came from.”
After Saturday’s open house, the truck will go on display at the Lake Benton Heritage Center museum, Lichtsinn said. The Lake Benton Fire Department also plans to drive it in the Saddle Horse Holiday parade each summer.