Handtub Junction, USA

October Handtub of the Month

Congratulations to he Oko's VFA of Marblehead, Massachusetts for being selected Handtub Junction, USA Handtub of the Month

okos.jpg (386272 bytes)

The Okommakamesit was Built by Button & Blake (#551) of Waterford, New York in 1861 and  was  delivered to  Harrisburg, Pennsylvania and was given the name "Good Will". It gave valiant service in Harrisburg till shortly after the end of the Civil War when in 1869 it was traded in for a steam fire engine. From there the engine was sold to Marlborough, Massachusetts. In Marlborough it's name was changed to Okommakamesit #2 where it replaced a 5" Howard & Davis machine of the same name. The name for the engine came from the local Nipmuc Indian language and means "City of Hills". The engine house for the 10" button handtub was located at 110 Pleasant Street  close to the present day Pleasant Street Fire Station in Marlborough. While in Marlborough the engine attended it's first muster on October 7, 1869 at Milford, Massachusetts. The engine was retired from fire service in March of 1886.

On April 5, 1895 the Okommakamesit was sold to the Phoenix Veteran Fireman's Association of Marblehead, Massachusetts. 

One of the first things the engine did when it arrived in Marblehead was to help the Phoenix VFA celebrate it's first year anniversary.  In June of 1896 the organization joined the New England States Veteran Fireman's League. On September 7th, 1896 the Phoenix VFA got it's first muster win with their new engine.They beat out 11 other engines at a muster held in Essex, MA. with a stream of 216' 11 3/4".  In 1903 the Phoenix VFA won the New England League Championship at a muster in Salem, MA at which 51 engines attended. On August 20,1908 the Okommakamesit #2 participated in the largest hand fire engine muster ever held in Lowell, Ma.. 63 engines competed that day with the pumping beginning at 11:35AM and ending around 8:00PM under the lights, each engine was given 8 minutes to pump. The Oko's finished well in 13th position with a stream of  205'11". In 1909 the organization voted to change it's name from the Phoenix VFA to  the Okommakamesit Veteran Fireman's Association

The 1920's proved fruitful for  the organization including winning 3 musters in 1920 and 6 in 1922' winning thousands of dollars in the process. By the end of the 1920's musters along with much of everything else in this country took a turn for the worst. The country was plunged into a depression and the number of musters each year dwindled. In 1933 no muster were held at all and in 1934 and 1935 very few contests were held to due the countries economic problems. Just as musters started pick up again in the later part of the decade another ugly beast appeared that would halt musters for a number of years. On August 16, 1941 a muster was at Boston, Ma. and as the contestants left the field that day,  little did they know that they would not gather again for almost 5 years. We should all know what happened on December 7th 1941 and with the United States of America entering World War 2 the hand engine muster would take a backseat as many of it's supporters. Not only in Marblehead, but throughout the country these brave men would park their engines and pick up a gun to protect the freedom we enjoy today. Some making that supreme sacrifice and never seeing their beloved engine again.

In 1946 the soldiers returned form war to man their engines. Although they would never be the same musters once again became a frequent occurrence throughout the northeast and the Oko's were a big part of it. A new era was dawning for musters in 1946 for the muster game. For the first time the league split the engines into 2 classes with Class A having cylinders over 7" and Class B cylinders under 7".

During the 1950's, 60's and 70's the Oko's were a regular at musters all over New England. The 1960 were good to the Oko's winning close to $1700 in 1962 and 1962. The 1960's also so the emergence of the now famous Oko's Bagpipe Band. On June 6, 1961 the Oko's won a muster at Salem but this really was not the news of the day as Foreman Albert April of the Essex handtub was killed when the dome on his machine exploded.  As the 1960's came to a close the Oko's organization was on the decline. The interest in the Oko's was waning and it reached near extinction by the mid 1980's. By 1985 the organization was bottoming and almost lost it building when it fell in such disrepair that the Town of Marblehead almost had it torn down. Through the diligent efforts of a few good men the build and machine was saved and started a revival. On July 28, 1990 the Oko's were back, winning the League's Centennial Celebration Muster at Newburyport and bringing home $1000 in gold, one of the largest prizes in modern day musters. Since that win the Oko's have been been to just about every league contest and recently won tjhier first muster since 1990 at a muster in Georgetown MA. on September 19, 1998. The longest stream for the engine is 254' 8 1/4" and it has won $36,106.25 in muster competition placing it 3rd on the all time list of money winners.

If you would like further information on the engine or the organization you can contact them by email clicking here:  Okos VFA

I would like to thank Earl "Larry" Doliber, Secretary of the Oko's VFA for the history of the Oko's he sent.

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