SAN DIEGO (KGTV) -- A San Diego high school math teacher has figured out that investing in a souped-up fire truck has endless returns in smiles.
The engine rumbles and the siren sounds before a loudspeaker announces, "Happy Birthday to Pauley! We want to wish a Happy Birthday to Pauley!"
She's a 1947 International made into a hot rod fire truck named Lil' Red. Tricked out like the toy models kids love, the big kid at the center of this story is Mira Mesa High School math teacher David Watson.
"And up popped this fire truck," said Watson. "It's just about the coolest thing I've ever seen. It's a hot rod fire truck and I thought, oh my gosh, I need to have this."
Watson says he's long had a thing for classic cars and when he spotted Lil' Red for sale in an online post he plunked down a pretty "confidential" penny to make her his own. This from a man who gives lessons on the value of a buck.
"I also teach a class called financial math," said Watson. "I wrote curriculum for that. I changed the name to Math for Life because that makes more sense."
Watson says it's things like how to open a checking account and maintain a budget. So, what did his students think of hot rod expense?
"They thought I was crazy!" exclaimed David. "They thought I was stupid; don't spend your money on that. Why would you do that? At first, explained Watson for the pure joy of having a really awesome set of wheels, but then he got to know Lil' Red a little better.
"The siren works, it has multi sirens. It has a little warning horn, it has a big huge horn, big loud horn. I didn't even know it had it. I was like, I wish it had the loud horn but then I finally figured out, it's in the middle of the steering wheel."
Then it hit him right in the middle of his heart, he had a celebration machine.
"Baby showers, engagements, birthdays, and half my birthdays are for people who are 60 and older," said Watson. "The oldest person I did a birthday for was a hundred."
So far, he's added an unforgettable flair to more than 70 events — and he doesn't charge a dime.
"Some people will call me crazy," said Watson. "But it's a lot of fun. My brother usually goes with me and he brings his dog. and his dog is a wonderful, very friendly dog. And the kids love his dog."
I say to him, "You must get a great kick out of this."
"I never realized," Watson says. "I thought I would just love owning it. Every time I see it I say, wow, this is just so cool."
The unforgettable memories for those he visits are pretty cool too.
Watson says his presentations usually last 5 to 10 minutes and he's been keeping a safe distance with the pandemic. If you'd like him to stop by a special event for you, you can message him on his Facebook page.