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City Horn Blows Again

POSTED September 1, 2009 3:28 p.m.

It’s been a journey of stops and starts but the Oakdale City Fire Department horn is blowing again after nearly two years of trying to get the historic horn to continue its blaring at specific times during the day after it finally gave up the ghost and died completely.

As previously reported, a Massachusetts man named Eric Larson who was experienced in repairing antique clocks, repaired the historic 1920s clock and horn. The clock, which regulated when the horn went off, was cleaned and repaired and returned to Oakdale. But in transit, the clock was badly damaged and Larson traveled to Oakdale on his own time to repair it again.

It was a labor of love for Larson as he spent hours bent over the tiny cogs and wheels that kept the clock working but shortly after Larson returned home, the clock sputtered and chimed no more.

At this point, Oakdale City Fire Chief Michael Botto was at a loss how to fix the clock so that its sound would continue to blare through town as it has for decades. Botto would not accept defeat and put his ‘C’ shift on the task of finding the answers.

Fire Capt. Tony Miranda said of the task, “There were parts that were unavailable because it was so old and we just couldn’t get it to work.”

Thinking outside the box, Miranda and his team contacted the schools to find out who they used to regulate their bell system. They were put in touch with Nate Olsen with Delta Wireless, a company that specializes in cell phones, radios and other forms of communication.

“We ordered a new unit, which was a new clock and wiring and hooked it up to the original horn,” Miranda said. “And it worked.”

Old timers who had once structured their day to the loud jarring sound, no doubt smiled in memory when the horn came blaring back to life, chiming the 7 a.m., noon, and 6 p.m. hours.

Firefighter Daniel Bergquist, who was also on the task force, said, “The unit needed a new timer so we ordered one from Latham out of Atlanta, Georgia. We put in a lot of phone calls to get this done. Once we got all the parts put together it’s been working great.”

For the locals — perhaps the ones who’ve been sending emails and placing phone calls on a weekly basis to repair the horn — the loss of the horn was like the loss of an old friend who spoke too loudly at social gatherings yet was loved nonetheless. For the newcomers to Oakdale, the sound is enough to put their hair on end.

“We’ve been getting a lot of compliments from the community,” Bergquist said. “We’d get multiple calls a week asking when the horn was coming back. The old-timers love it…the newer people aren’t too sure about it.”

Bergquist had high praise for Olsen of Delta, saying, “He was great. He came in on his own time to see that this thing got wired right.”

The horn was repaired through station maintenance funds and cost approximately $350.

For those who missed the sound, the price was likely worth it. The horn — and its faithful blast — is a part of an Oakdale tradition, which isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

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