In 1943 Georgie White, of White and Hire Lumber Company, bought a 1937 Chevrolet chassis for about $400 and gave it to the town of Lafayette to be used as the town's fire engine.
Hooberry, a local welder, took on the job of making the second- hand vehicle into a fire truck by adding a water tank, pump, and hoses. Insufficient funds slowed the progress of the job and it was not until 1944 that the benefit of having a fire engine was understood by all.
Late one afternoon a fire broke out in the old Baptist Church building which housed the Macon County Times on the square. The fire destroyed the Times office and the Sam A. Cothron Grocery and severely damaged the White Hotel and other businesses before the neighboring Hartsville Fire Department reached the square.
Fred Gregory with members of the then Lafayette Boosters, a local merchants group, raised $750 the next day for Hooberry to finish the engine. The engine, "Victory", was on the road by late 1944.
According to Lafayette Fire Chief Keith Scruggs, a bell was placed on the fire truck to ring when the truck returned to the station to alert the town that the fire was out.
Hooberry purchased the bell from a fire chief in Nashville and paid approximately $80 for the bell.
He brought the bell back to Lafayette and requested to be reimbursed for the purchase. The city claimed then that they had no need for the bell that it would not help them fight fires. So Hooberry paid for the bell out of his own pocket. When he left, he claimed he paid for it so it belonged to him, not the city.
The bell is the only original item left from the fist fire truck.
For approximately 28 years, Fire Chief Keith Scruggs has tried to find the bell.
He was able to speak with Doak Hooberry, the son of W.J. Hooberry several months ago and locate the bell. The son, who now lives out of state, said he would be happy to donate it, as well as the helmet worn by Hooberry.
Both will now have a permanent home at the Lafayette Fire Department. A case is currently being built to house the items. They will be on constant display for the public to stop by and view.
Chief Scruggs said, "I love history and to have a piece of the original fire truck is just amazing to me."