PLEASANTON -- The days when buckets were passed hand to hand and water was pumped manually are being resuscitated by a group of firefighting aficionados.

The Museum on Main is paying homage to Pleasanton's firefighting past, which dates back to 1888, with a series of exhibits and events that will be highlighted with a Fireman's Muster reunion on Aug. 17 in the city's downtown.

The Fireman Muster was a popular Pleasanton event from 1969 until 1975. Firefighters from across Northern California would descend on Pleasanton and compete in firefighting activities using old relics and apparatuses of the past.

"We want to make it a fun competition, but we also wanted to ease into it," said George Withers, a retired Pleasanton firefighter who served from 1965 to 1997, his final eight years as chief.

The Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department and the LPFD Firefighter's Foundation are sponsoring the muster. Wither was in his fourth year with the department when then-Chief Jon Frudden and the staff organized the first muster to help Pleasanton celebrate its 75th anniversary as an incorporated city.

But firefighting competitions were not new to the department or the city. The department would compete with neighboring Livermore before the two departments merged and also went and saw a muster in the Sierra Nevada foothills town of Columbia, which had been hosting one for the past 50-plus years.

Pleasanton's former Chief Frudden was also a founding member of the California Firemens Muster Association, a collection of firefighters dedicated to keeping firefighting's history alive with competitions featuring antique apparatuses and methods.

When word began to spread this year about Pleasanton hosting a reunion for its muster, departments and firefighting fans from throughout the state began calling Wither about taking part. San Francisco is bringing an old rig complete with a 65-foot ladder, and a man from Menlo Park has signed up to bring four fire engines, including a 1926 Ahrens Fox and another from 1928.

The bucket brigade competition is also making an appearance. In that, firefighters and fans will have the chance to move water from one location to another by passing buckets of water from person to person. Old hand pumps will also be there for people to see how water was moved from tanks to a fire location.

"I love the hand pumpers because they are so unique," said Withers. "In the old days, they didn't have motorized pumps. They had pumps with big bars that looked a teeter-totter. The faster you pumped the farther the hose stream went."

Muster organizers have spent the past year planning. Joanie Fields and other staff and supporters of the Museum on Main have developed a series of events highlighting the Livermore-Pleasanton Fire Department. The planning began after the Firehouse Arts Center project was done. The building once served as Pleasanton's first fire station.

The museum has several exhibits related to firefighting. In addition to a photo display at the museum through Oct. 12, the museum will host "An Evening with Pleasanton Firefighters" at 7 p.m. Aug. 13 that features Withers, current Chief Jim Miguel and Fire Marshal Scott Deaver talking about their experiences.

"Firemen are just unique people," said Fields. "Their eyes when they start talking about fire engines light up. They are like guys talking about hot rods and are really into this stuff."

The events culminate with the muster on Aug. 17. The day begins with a pancake breakfast. In addition to the display of antique equipment and demonstrations, there will also be an interactive area for kids, live entertainment, a raffle, food and prizes. Admission to the muster is free. Any money raised will benefit the Museum on Main.

"I hope it is successful," said Withers. "For me personally, I really enjoyed (the musters) in the '60s and '70s and am happy to see it come back. I am anxious to see what we get to show up."

For details on the muster, go to www.museumonmain.org.

Fireman's
muster reunion
When: Aug. 17
Where: Downtown Pleasanton and Museum on Main, 603 Main St.
Activities: 8 a.m., Fireman's Pancake Breakfast at the museum. 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., activities downtown include bucket brigade competition, apparatus display, pumping demonstrations, children's simulated firefighting events, live music and a barbecue prepared by Tony Macchiano and the Lions Club (barbecue tickets are sold at the museum).
Cost: Free admission to muster activities
Details: Go to www.museumonmain.org or call 925-462-2766.
RELATED EVENT
An Evening with Pleasanton Firefighters -- join the fire chief, the fire marshal, and a former chief for an evening of shared memories and stories.
When: 7 p.m. Aug, 13
Where: Firehouse Arts Center, 4444 Railroad Ave., Pleasanton
Cost: $10, $5 for seniors and museum members, $3 for teachers and students with I.D.
RELATED EXHIBIT
Photos will be on display through Oct. 12 at the Museum on Main, 603 Main St., Pleasanton.
Details: Go to www.museumonmain.org, or call 925-462-2766.