In the late 1960s, one Alaska town had a desperate need for a fire truck but did not have enough money in the city coffers to buy one. Homer’s volunteer fire department, established in 1954, only had a few old fire-fighting relics at its disposal. And the nearest fire department from Homer was in Kenai, 80 miles away.

General Mills was having a special promotion during the mid-to-late 1960s. The nationally known company offered a program in which people could turn in coupons for large household items. For instance, an $800 piano could be purchased with 160,000 coupons redeemed at one-half penny apiece. 

Some folks in Homer thought it might be possible to collect enough coupons for a fire truck because the Copper Valley School in Glennallen had organized a campaign and collected 1.5 million coupons to trade in for a new school bus in 1964.

It was not an easy task. In 1968-1969, the Homer Volunteer Fire Department women’s auxiliary set out to purchase their fire truck on the power of coupons found on sacks of flours, cans of Campbell’s soup and Betty Crocker cake mixes.

As word about their efforts spread, other communities began saving coupons for them. An Elmendorf Air Force group sent a giant garbage bag full of coupons to the little town on Kachemak Bay. And soon coupons from all 50 states began arriving at the Homer Volunteer Fire Department from school children, Boy Scouts, Lions Clubs, military families and locals.

It was not an easy task. In 1968-1969, the Homer Volunteer Fire Department women’s auxiliary set out to purchase their fire truck on the power of coupons found on sacks of flours, cans of Campbell’s soup and Betty Crocker cake mixes.

As word about their efforts spread, other communities began saving coupons for them. An Elmendorf Air Force group sent a giant garbage bag full of coupons to the little town on Kachemak Bay. And soon coupons from all 50 states began arriving at the Homer Volunteer Fire Department from school children, Boy Scouts, Lions Clubs, military families and locals.

By September 1970, the auxiliary had five million coupons to redeem for a fire truck – although they were not prepared for the avalanche of mail, nor the cost of postage to send thank-you replies to all who donated and to box up and ship all those coupons to General Mills.

Those five million coupons had a value of $25,000 at the time – $170,000 today – and that was enough for them to get a bright-yellow fire engine. Built in Orangeville, California, it arrived just before Christmas 1971. And throughout the next 25 years, Engine No. 2 – which they called “Betty” – responded to numerous fires in the area. She was retired in the mid-1990s.

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