The first fire truck for the Village of Mundelein was a gift from our founder, George Cardinal Mundelein, donated in 1925 in gratitude for naming the town in his honor. The truck remained in service until 1945 and has since been restored, an icon of Mundelein history known as “Old No. 1.”
Thankfully, most of the fire calls to Mundelein Seminary in ensuing years were for small grass and brush fires. The call would be made, and the village would send a truck to put out the fire.
In the late 1960s, then-seminarians Father Tom Nangle (Class of 1970) and Father Tom Franzman (Class of 1970) imagined a more creative way to handle the minor blazes around campus and ease the burden on Mundelein F.D.
The procurator at the time was Monsignor Raymond Vonesh, who later became Auxiliary Bishop of Joliet. Not only did Vonesh give permission for Tom and Tom to form a small crew to take care of those campus fires, he surprised the men with an old 1949 Darley fire engine, purchased from nearby Countryside. Vonesh had called Nangle over Easter break, and Nangle picked up the truck on his way back to campus.
The truck didn’t carry water, so the seminarians put a big tank on it, and formed the seminary fire brigade. Nangle was named Chief and Franzman served as Assistant Chief, and they spearheaded the efforts of the brigade until they were ordained and assigned to parishes. The original members of this brigade also included Jack McKeever, who ended up leaving Mundelein and eventually becoming Chief of Police for Lindenhurst.
“In each of our rooms was a special phone line that would ring only to us from the switchboard when fire calls came in. We would all run over to the warehouse to get the truck and take off,” said Father Tom Franzman. “We would get called for different things, usually in the fall. Sometimes guys would be burning some brush and it would get out of hand so they’d call us to bring it back.”
The Mundelein F.D. invited the seminary fire brigade to drill with them on Tuesday nights, so the crews got to know each other and became friends over the years. After the Class of 1970 was ordained, other seminarians fulfilled the brigade’s calls, but eventually the crew was disbanded and the truck made its way to St. Michael the Archangel Cemetery in Palatine, where it was used as a tree sprayer.
Father Nangle continued his dedication to public service after his ordination, serving as Chaplain for the Chicago Police Department for over 25 years, now retired. As for Father Franzman, he served as the Provost of Mundelein Seminary for years, and you can spot him representing the seminary on his very own 1929 Fire Engine every year in the Village of Mundelein’s 4th of July parade.
Father Tom Franzman, ready for the 2017 Mundelein Parade on his 1929 fire engine