The city’s first fire truck was a 1942 Ford model. It had been sold originally to the US Army for use at a supply depot on the south side of Atlanta, but after World War II ended in 1945 the depot scaled back operations and two of their fire trucks there were declared to be surplus. Norcross resident Gus Morton, who was an employee at the depot, was instrumental in arranging for the city purchase of one of these trucks for use by the Norcross Volunteer Fire Department.
Local legend has it that Morton was the one who drove the truck from the army depot to its new home in Norcross. That required going through downtown Atlanta on the city streets in those days, as expressways such as the Downtown Connector had yet to be constructed. It is said that Gus made liberal use of the truck’s flashing lights and siren to speed up his progress in congested areas. Morton is shown in the photo below.
The ’42 Ford served as the main piece of fire-fighting equipment for the town for many years. It was stored at first in the city equipment barn (then located off of Jones Street, near where Skin Alley intersects with Jones Street.) The city also had a siren that was mounted on top of the adjacent building (then Garner’s Store, today the Ironhorse Tavern). When a fire occurred the siren was used to alert firefighters in the area to report for duty.
In the 1950s the first Norcross city hall was built on South Peachtree Street, and a storage bay for the truck, with a slide-open door, was designed into the structure. The photo below shows a group of city dignitaries – Mayor Leon Maloney and the city council, Police Chief Grady Simpson and his officers, and Volunteer Fire Chief Reuben Gant Jr. and members of that organization – in front of the building, with the truck in the background.
The 1942 Ford truck is no longer used for fighting fires, but it is still owned by the city, and is now on display in the town’s fire museum on Lawrenceville Street. It was restored to running order by a group of local car enthusiasts, several of whom are shown in the photo below.