Over 65 years ago, the San Marcos Fire Department (SMFD) said its farewells to Old Faithful, the first motorized fire truck for San Marcos. Now, as of March 29, she has been donated back to the SMFD, giving the opportunity for current and former employees from years past to appreciate and become more knowledgeable on an artifact that shaped the SMFD into what it is today.
Even though Old Faithful was not physically seen in action by many of the current and former living SMFD staff members, most are ecstatic to see her in person and see what the future holds for her.
Jack Mutschlechner, the former lieutenant for the SMFD for over 30 years, also never got the opportunity to see Old Faithful, but he's excited to see her to appreciate his love for old motor vehicles and their classy styles.
"I was young when the Mustang came out in '64, so I can remember those older vehicles and they were just classier then," Mutschlechner said. "The old fire trucks are the same way. I look at an early 60s American LaFrance and wow, they had some real cool stuff out back then. I can really appreciate that sort of thing; the design and the style."
In June 1914, tragedy struck the SMFD after a fire destroyed the San Marcos Fire Station, losing the horse-drawn fire apparatuses, equipment and killing the two fire horses. After being purchased in late December of 1914 from New York, Old Faithful, an American LaFrance Type 12 pumper truck, was put to service in early 1915.
For over 30 years, Old Faithful was the heart of the SMFD, taking out fires until 1926, when she was semiretired, but put to use for training within the department until 1946.
After putting out her last fire in 1946, Old Faithful was sold in 1954 to Edwin Smith, a former San Marcos resident that watched his dad, a former mayor of San Marcos, drive Old Faithful around when she was new. After being sold again in 1956 to Guam Governor Bill Daniel, Old Faithful was used as entertainment for the Daniel family who hosted large events for special needs children.
Along with entertaining, Old Faithful was displayed to meet governors, NASA astronauts and celebrities, including John Wayne, Hank Williams, Lorretta Lynn and more. After 35 years of entertaining, Old Faithful was placed in a barn in Waco, Texas in 1991 and has not been driven since.
After Daniel's granddaughter, Nan Headrick, and her husband John Headrick researched Old Faithful's history, they made the decision to donate Old Faithful back to the SMFD in March 2023.
"The family that had her had a long and sentimental history with it, so they weren’t initially very thrilled about the whole idea especially of just giving her away," Les Stephens, fire chief of the SMFD, said. "Luckily, what probably worked in our favor was that John is on the city council of wherever he lives, and their fire department wanted it and the more he thought about it the more he came to the realization that it was never their fire engine and it just wasn’t where it belonged. If it was going anywhere it needs to go back to San Marcos."
Since Stephens entered the SMFD in 2009, he has been in awe of Old Faithful's history and determined to bring her back. Now that she's back in San Marcos, Stephens is excited to do hands-on research and reunite her with San Marcos' second fire apparatus, Old Betsy, an American LaFrance pumper truck purchased by the SMFD in 1926.
As of now, Stephens is set to travel to the Dallas Fire Museum on May 13 to get an extensive evaluation on Old Faithful to learn more about her and to see the potential next steps to get her running again.
No matter the future, Stephens feels accomplished in checking off the major first step: getting Old Faithful back.
"It's going to take some time, it's going to take a lot of work," Stephens said. "I don't know that I've got long enough left to work to be the one to see it all come to fruition, but I think I did the biggest part in that I got her back. I mean if I could do more I absolutely will, but my biggest concern was just getting her back."
To keep up with Old Faithful and the SMFD, go to https://www.sanmarcostx.gov/154/Fire-Department.
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