A humorous story about a trick pulled off by the Almonte firemen in a contest at Brockville in 1874, is told by Mr. Robert Young, 240 Fifth avenue, who was then a resident of Almonte. In 1874 the town of Almonte having secured a large new fire engine (hand pump), the amateur brigade decided to take part in a pumping contest at Brockville.
The new engine was larger and more up-to-date than any in the Ottawa district and great things were expected of it, particularly with the husky Almonte brigade of sixty men to man the pump. It appears that at that time the Almonters were an unusually husky lot. There was not a man of the sixty who did not tip the beam at over 200 pounds, while several went around the 240 pound mark.
The nozzle used with the new engine was a 2-ring nozzle which was something new then and had not heretofore been used in contests. Capt. J. S. Stephens expected that his use of the 2-ring nozzle might be questioned and prepared himself for the possibility by procuring a second 2-ring nozzle and blackening and scratching it up to look like an old nozzle.
It should be explained that a 2-ring nozzle had an advantage over a 1-ring nozzle, in that it caused a more solid and even stream to be thrown, thus causing the attainment of greater distance. In due time the Almonte brigade arrived at Brockville with their new engine gaily decorated and their men outfitted with fine new uniforms, making an imposing appearance. In front of the engine there was pulled bv the brigade a float decorated with evergreens and flags, setting forth the merit of Almonte as a community center or place to live.
It was the first time a brigade had attempted any propaganda, other than such as their prowess would bring, and the Idea was widely commented on. The engine and the float had been brought down on the St. Lawrence and Ottawa and Grand Trunk railways on a flat car. The people of Brockville took quite a fancy for the Almonte outfit and began to back them both morally and financially. It was Almonte’s first appearance at any contest, but the favorable Impression.
While the brigade were getting ready for the contest an American from “the Burgh” came up and said: “I like your boys and I want to give you a tip, which will help you. Before you start pumping pour a gallon of oil into your hose (rubber hose). It will make the water flow more easily. Keep it quiet though as there is nothing in the rules preventing you using oil, some of the other fellows might think you used oil.
The Almonte brigade gathered tightly around the man who was to pour the oil in. The crowd tried to find out what was going on around the Almonte engine, but did not. As soon as the oil was poured they revved up the old engine. It had so happened that the only sort of oil the Almonte men could get was what is known as engine oil of the black summer variety.
When the water came out it looked black, as though, it had come out of a mud puddle. “What dirty water!” the crowd said, but nobody, strange to say, suggested oil. Whether the oil caused the Almonte stream to go farther or whether the heavyweights of the team pumped more effectively is hard to say, but anyway the big Almonte team with their big new engine won, amid the cheers of the crowd.
Almonte got a great reception when they got home and the story now told was kept in the background for many years. Now you know the rest of the story!
The Almonte Mississippi Fire Dept. 1998