PLEASANTON -- George Withers got a kick out of the vintage firefighting vehicles parked along Main Street during the Fireman's Muster Reunion on Saturday.
"Antiques?" said Withers, a Pleasanton fireman from 1965 to 1989 and fire chief from 1990 to 1997. "I remember when they were state of the art."
There was a little something for everybody at Saturday's muster. A 200-year-old pumper, which members of the Riordan High School band manned to physically pump water through a hose. A setup where kids could try to direct a stream from a fire hose through a cutout in a plywood board. Smokey Bear. Boys wearing "Future Fireman" T-shirts.
What Withers liked about the muster is that it highlighted "the heritage, and advances the fire department has made in a short amount of time."
Today's fire vehicles have gauges to measure flow pressure through the hoses. They carry medical equipment. And they start almost all the time. Withers recalled his days as a firefighter when a 1945 vehicle had to be pressed into service.
"Half the time it wouldn't start," he said. "We'd push it onto the driveway, which fortunately was downhill. Then we'd turn left, even though we wanted to go right, because that was downhill, too. We'd pop it into gear, then I'd circle the block and come around to pick everybody up."
According to an exhibit at the Museum on Main, fireman's musters were commonplace when firefighting forces were all-volunteer. Communities would challenge each other to contests of firefighting skills. Pleasanton revived those musters from 1969 to 1976. Saturday's event was a revival of the revival.
"It came from Patti Takens. She was the outgoing president of the historical society," said Joanie Fields, event chairwoman. "She came to me and asked me, 'What can we do that's something super special?' I always felt the firemen weren't given their due, that people need to understand that they do a lot more. So that's how it came about."
Fields was unsure if Saturday's muster would become an annual event.
Main Street was closed between St. John's Street to Neal/Rose. There were no outside vendors, Fields said, to encourage patronage of businesses along Main Street.
Local politicians were interested in speaking at the muster. "We said, 'This is not what we're here for,'" Fields said. "What we are trying to do is give an old-fashioned look."
However, local city councils were invited to compete in a bucket brigade competition. Both the Pleasanton and Dublin councils punctuated their efforts by dousing one another.
From the time he was a young boy, San Francisco native C. Dell Lindstrom wanted to be a fireman. But after the Army veteran returned from Vietnam, bad knees prevented him from passing the physical. So he joined every firefighters support group he could find -- fire preservation, active burn education, teaching first aid and CPR.
Lindstrom was in Pleasanton on Saturday with a San Francisco Fire Department battalion chief's car, a red 1965 Ford, that he restored himself.
"No air conditioning, no AM radio," he said. "It's rather a plain Jane."
Lindstrom has taken his car to events all over the western United States.
"I'm from the old school," he said. "I don't mind waving the flag."
Contact Gary Peterson at 925-952-5053. Follow him on Twitter at Twitter.com/garyscribe.