River Red, Riverbank’s first fire engine, rolled down the streets of Modesto along with other fire engines and floats during the Veteran’s Day Parade last week honoring Veterans in Stanislaus County. There were six veterans from Riverbank that were passengers on River Red that represented the armed forces including the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines throughout the parade. The veterans are Riverbank community members Charlie Neal, Allen Trawick, Craig Ethier, Eddie Jones, Ed Tabacco, and Cal Campbell. These veterans were also survivors of World War II, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War.
The Modesto parade was Wednesday, Nov. 11 at 9:30 a.m. The route began at M and 10th streets and proceeded down 10th to O Street to Needham and then went around Graceada Park where it ended. A special presentation at the park hosted by Modesto mayor, Garrad Marsh followed the parade. The Riverbank Historical Society selected the veterans who rode on the engine. Trawick is an Army World War II veteran and a former mayor and council member for Riverbank. Jones is an Army Korean War veteran and a resident of Riverbank. Neal is a Navy Vietnam War veteran as well as a former mayor and council member for Riverbank. Ethier is an Air Force Vietnam War veteran and grew up in Riverbank. Tabacco is a Marine Vietnam War veteran and a resident of Riverbank. Campbell is an Army Reserve veteran and a current council member for Riverbank.
River Red was the oldest fire engine that cruised down the streets of Modesto in the parade. The fire engine is a 1919 Model T Ford and was acquired by the city in 1924 for the Riverbank Volunteer Fire Department. During the 1970s River Red was restored by the volunteer fire department.
Parade fans took many pictures as River Red proceeded through the parade route. Ethier operated the hand-cranked siren as Campbell drove the engine down the streets in the parade. Trawick was the official bell ringer while the other riders waved to the crowd. The six veterans had many laughs and much fun with the crowd throughout the parade.
“Driving River Red is very different from any vehicle I’ve ever driven. It’s not an automatic or stick shift. It has three speeds, high, low, and reverse and is driven by positioning a lever on the driver’s side, which also is the emergency brake, in different positions and then pushing the low-high pedal, or the reverse pedal, or the brake pedal,” noted Campbell. “The throttle (gas pedal) is located on the steering column along with the spark advance lever. Top speed is 15 to 20 mph. There is no windshield or mirrors on the engine and the only gauge is for temperature and it is located in the radiator cap. I find it a challenge to drive and enjoy it very much.”
The Riverbank Historical Society and Museum are the official caretakers for River Red. The fire engine was in storage for several years until the Society sponsored needed repairs in 2014 to allow it to be used in community events. Taylor Antique Motors of Riverbank donated the labor for these repairs.