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Lake Bluff historic ice truck unveiling June 28

The 1931 ice truck thused make daily deliveries Lake Bluff was centerpiece flolast year's Fourth July Parade. This year restored

The 1931 ice truck that used to make daily deliveries in Lake Bluff was the centerpiece of a float in last year's Fourth of July Parade. This year, the restored truck, still a work-on-progress, will be driven. | For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: August 20, 2013 2:29AM

After spending thousands of hours helping restore the 1931 Lake Bluff Ice Truck, chief mechanic John Tiffany finally will get to drive it.

The historic truck that used to make daily deliveries in the village 80 years ago will venture through town — for the first time under its own power — for a restoration unveiling at 5 p.m. on Friday, June 28, at the Lake Bluff Fire Station.

Following the “reveal,” Tiffany will get behind the wheel and drive the piece of Lake Bluff history to Scranton Avenue overlooking the Village Green for a block party to support the efforts to bring the truck back to life.

“It sounds good,” Tiffany said of the replacement engine he found in Indiana to replace the original motor that was beyond repair.

It’s fitting the 22-year resident has the honor of driving the truck for the first time, since he is the mechanic who reassembled the engine and got the truck moving again.

Tiffany got involved in the project after he saw the rough-looking ice truck for the first time when it was donated to the village by the grandson of the original owner Stephen Meutescu. The entrepreneur cut ice from local lakes and delivered it to homes in Lake Bluff during the 1930s and into the 1940s.

After sitting for decades in DeKalb, Tom Wisdom delivered his grandfather’s truck on a trailer to the local museum.

Tiffany and others started working on what remained, disassembling it to see what was salvageable and what wasn’t, scouring the country for replacement parts and recently finding an auto body specialist who had the time and knowledge to complete the transformation.

The truck has appeared in the Lake Bluff Fourth of July parade in various stages for the past three years, but this year will mark the first time the work-in-progress will complete the parade route under its own power.

Though not completely finished, the truck has come far from when the community first saw it three years ago.

“There are no doors or fender, running board or the hood, but it will be functional,” Tiffany said. “There have been a lot of setbacks trying to get the body work done on it.”

Finding parts has been tough and required Internet searches, phone calls across the country and special delivery of parts from as far away as Washington state, where Tiffany found a goldmine of six similar trucks the owner was willing to use for parts.

“The big push now is to get the cab finished,” Tiffany said.

The truck frame is red, the wooden stake bed on the back is white, the radiator, fenders and running boards will be black, and the hood, cab and doors will be green.

Like Tiffany and others involved in the restoration, Ray Kracik, retired driver’s ed teacher at Lake Forest High School, spent countless hours on the project, working with Tiffany to find engine parts and getting the vehicle restored.

“I enjoy restoring cars and trucks,” Kracik said. “This is something that’s connected to the village of Lake Bluff and it should return home. We’re doing what we can to get it back to running condition so the museum can use it as a display and have it in various functions they support.”

Over the past three years, Kracik, like Tiffany, has lost track of how many hours he’s spent working on the restoration.

“This truly was a labor of love for these guys,” said museum board member and historian Kathy O’Hara.

She believes the truck itself — and what it represents — has played a large part in fueling volunteer and community interest.

“The whole concept of delivering ice on a daily basis to American homes dates back to an earlier time, perhaps a simpler time,” she said. Children used to run behind ice trucks as drivers made deliveries to pick up any ice chips that fell.

The truck, which she calls “a piece of history for our town,” recalls a Norman Rockwell painting, she said. “And I think we all wished we lived in the Norman Rockwell age.”

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