To the Rescue: The Tale of a 1951 Chevy One-Ton Panel Truck
To the Rescue
The fact that people are alive today because of rescue trucks is just mind-boggling, isn’t it? Asthma attacks. Burns. Lacerations. Trapped limbs. Heart attacks. Attempted suicides. Drownings. Shock. Smoke inhalation. Responding to emergencies like these doesn’t add up to a glamorous day, but it’s got to be rewarding. When every second counts, firefighters and rescuers rely on the right tools to get them to the scene and to get victims the help they need.
The digitized slides pictured here depict one example of a rescue truck that put in its time more than half a century ago. It’s a ’51 Chevrolet 1-ton panel truck, fully furnished for supporting both rescue crew and victims. She was ahead of her time, rivaled only by the equipment held by some large-city departments. The project was funded (think like $3,000, which covered the truck, materials, and equipment) by the Turlock Chapter of the American Red Cross, and the truck was dedicated on August 12, 1954 for use by the Turlock Fire Department. It was manned by a dozen Turlock firefighters who comprised the Rescue Squad under the leadership of Captain Jack Berlau.
After its glory days with the Turlock Fire Department, the truck journeyed on to some nearby cities until it finally landed in Mexico. Some time later, a Washington-based gentleman by the name of Greg purchased it in the San Diego area and began the quest to piece together the full history of the rig so he could restore it as accurately as possible. His efforts landed him direct contact with the man behind the truck’s origination, a 95-year-old guy named George.
Recounts Stanley T. Wilson in the September 6, 1955 issue of the Turlock Daily Journal: “The rescue truck was the ‘brain child’ of a volunteer fireman, George Tallman. He conceived the idea, he ‘sold’ it to the sponsors, he designed the truck, and he put in many man-hours in directing and working on the construction of the unit. All of this was done at no cost to the city.”
I can only imagine how quickly the hours flew by as the two delved wholeheartedly into everything related to the ’51 rescue truck—the nitty-gritty details, the fine print, the speculation as to what happened to its various gizmos and gadgets over the years. It must have been amazing for George to know someone out there was obsessed enough with this truck to track him down, and it must have been equally astonishing for Greg to have such a firsthand resource. Maybe someday Greg can cruise the rescue truck back to Turlock and give George a ride in the project he spent 18 months researching before investing countless hours of work once purchased.
As for me? These types of projects and reunions are always spectacular, but as for this story—George is my grandpa. I never knew such a truck existed—but then again, I never asked. The older generations in your life, too, may have some remarkable stories, achievements, and bits of wisdom to pass down. Don’t wait until it’s too late or for someone else to discover these treasures.