Senior staff writer
Christmas came early Saturday for the Greenwood Fire Department and Southside Hallmark retailers.
The 2015 Hallmark Keepsake Ornament is a miniature version of the 1956 fire engine that was retired from service in 1998 and is used only in parades or special occasions.
The fire truck represents Hallmark’s tribute to the 1950s and marks the second time this year that the department has been honored. The greeting card company distributes a fire truck ornament each year as part of its Fire Brigade series.
Greenwood-based Oaken Barrel Brewing Co. produced a Firehouse Lager last month to commemorate the 125-year existence of the department.
“This is great for Greenwood,” said Teresa Dillard of Teresa’s Hallmark, where hundreds of customers flocked to the store early Saturday morning to purchase the ornament. “The enthusiasm for this ornament is tremendous.”
The retired fire truck was on display outside the store for two hours Saturday morning and then at Carol’s Hallmark in the afternoon.
Hallmark’s annual rollout of collectible Christmas ornaments is a two-year process from beginning to end. Researchers ran across Greenwood’s fire truck in an online photo. The 1956 Ford engine was part of the city’s annual Independence Day celebration. Photos of the truck are on the fire department website.
Greenwood Fire Chief James Sipes was contacted but was skeptical of the call. However, he was able to validate the request and became enthusiastic about the project.
Hallmark photographers came to Greenwood last year and took 1,000 photos of the truck to assure its accuracy as a replica ornament, according to retired firefighter Mike Hughes.
“They were searching for a fire truck with a long hood, which the ’56 Ford has,” Hughes said. “They wanted to make sure of the exact details so they took all the photos they possibly could.”
The truck was in use for more than 40 years as a viable part of Greenwood’s firefighting arsenal. Its home is at the fire station on Graham Road on the city’s Far Eastside.
Doug Kuhn, who serves as president of the retired Greenwood firefighters organization, said, “At first we didn’t know what to make of the request, but we’re glad we went along. It spreads the name of Greenwood around the U.S., and that makes us very proud.”
The fire truck is identified with the department, but, as Kuhn pointed out, “It does not say Indiana on the truck. This is great publicity for Greenwood.”
“They were very impressed with the condition of the fire truck and that it had been in service for so many years and was still being used today to commemorate the fire department and make the public aware of our department’s history.”