SHOWCASING LOUISIANA: Old fire truck
BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - In a throw-away world, Audi Taquino is a throwback to simpler times. The corner of his air conditioning shop is a museum of rusty, gadgets someone has decided aren’t worth fixing.
“I love to tinker with all kinds of things.” Taquino said, looking up from the antique, gasoline powered washing machine motor he was tinkering with. “Forty or 50 years ago, you had little shops around town that would repair toasters.”
Old go-carts, pumps, and motors collect dust in every free space inside Taquino’s shop waiting their turn under his surgeon’s gaze. And then, there is Taquino’s latest project, on he took on with some friends for its historical significance more than anything.
Taquino’s eyes light up as he crosses the warehouse to a bright red fire engine.
“This is the second motorized fire truck the city of Morgan City had,” Taquino boasts.
The year was 1922. Townfolk here bought raffle tickets to help the city afford a state of the art, 1922 American La France fire engine, direct form Elmira New York. As an added bonus, the person who bought the most tickets got to name the truck. That honor went to Enola Eaglette. She dubbed the truck Enola E.
The Enola E. chased fires around Morgan City for 15 years before she was retired in 1937. When Taquino found her in 2004, the Enola E. was in an old building behind a fire station. She needed more than a little TLC.
“It was almost beyond repair.” he said. “Several others had looked at her in that building. When they saw the condition it was in, they more or less threw their hands up.”
The engine was in pieces in the back of the truck. The bed was completely rusted through. The old wooden wheels were broken, but Taquino knew that with the help of a few like-minded tinkerers, they just might save the truck from the junk yard. Taquino called his buddies from the Bayou Old-Time Engine and Power Association. They towed the truck back to Taquino’s shop and set to work.
“The truck was totally disassembled.” Taquino said. “Every nut and bolt was replaced.”
They could not run down to the local AutoZone for replacement parts. Where something was missing, the Old-Timers made it by hand.
“There’s not much the club members can’t fix.” Taquino said.
It took them 16 years, and more than $20,000, but the Bayou Old-Time Engine and Power Association resurrected the Enola E. Taquino and his buddies did it for the challenge, and for the men who clung to the running boards of the engine.
“The men who drove this truck were real men.” he said. They would have to have been to hand crank the 750 cubic-inch engine when the battery died.
“There’s a lot of pleasure in restoring something like that” he said. “Bringing it back to life, hearing it run once again.” Today, the Enola E. purrs like a 98-year-old kitten. “I don’t think there’s a truck made today that’s going to be around 98 years from now. I hope this one will.”
In a throw-away world, it sometimes takes people like Taquino and his buddies to remind us that just because we lose our shine, it does not mean we are ready for the scrap heap.
The club took her on her maiden voyage this month. It was a quick trip around the neighborhood, but the club hopes to have her ready for parades and car shows when those resume after COVID restrictions ease. And they hope to find a permanent home to display her for the public.
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