Museum Celebrates 50 Years
By Mike "Rookie" Billingsley, Former Museum Manager
Fifty years ago this year (2017), we opened the doors to the Museum.
Byron Hollander, OCFD, Stanley Hawkins, Tulsa, Don Froese, Enid, Bassill Tunnell, The Village, Jimmy Martin, Lawton, Clint Taylor, Tulsa, John Nidiffer, Miami, Wm. G. Maddux, Stillwater, Nathan Stufflebean, Pauls Valley, Ben Dancey, OCFD, Jack Sanders, Tulsa and Andy Miller, OCFD were all board members or past presidents of the OSFA board that made the museum happen.
As Executive Directors, Andy Miller, Bill Liebegott, Louis Bunch, Bob Hollander, Jim Minx, Chris Bain, Herb Bradshaw, and Phil Ostrander have all given their leadership through the guidance and direction of the OSFA board members over the past Fifty years.
Sam Oruch, John Knupple, John Esposito, Jim Sanders, Eldon Forrester, Tippy Pierce, Jimmy Edwards, Mike Billingsley, Mike Brown, Buddy Lummus, Quintin James, Bob Noll, and Gene Brown, have all given tours over the last 50 years.
Each one has made their mark on the history of the museum. The legacy they have started and handed down is the same effort we are trying to pass on to future generations.
Comments from all over the world have been the best compliments we could receive.
“I have traveled all over the world and seen many fire museums and this is by far the best I’ve ever seen,” says David Allero of the London Fire Brigade. That is just one of many similar compliments from the visitors who come here.
Changes made over the years are shouting, “Come and See” what’s going on! We have tried to keep everyone informed about the new things happening here, but some of the “big” changes are worth talking about again.
Sixteen years ago, the staff and volunteers worked long hours to “remodel” inside the museum. Ione Brown and Elaine Griffin hanging wall paper, painting the stage area where Sam and Don (the horses) are and the rest of the interior walls along with Denita Bennett putting up signs like “SAM’S Blacksmithing” and “DAVE’S Café” made the museum look completely different. Taking out the entry room and moving the gift shop, “opened” the front room and made it inviting to our visitors.
The Audio Tour makes it possible to hear more than one person talk about the museum. And with the music and background sound effects, it has brought the museum to life. Visitors seem mesmerized while they listen about the history of the Oklahoma State Fire Service.
Part of our new educational theme is having fire safety messages inside and outside the museum. Outside the museum is the “Junior Firefighter Activity Center,” which has been a BIG draw to the museum. You can see it from I-35, when children see it they immediately tell the adults they want to stop. They really enjoy playing on it and learning the fire safety messages that are all over it.
Flat screen TV’s in the museum continually play Fire Safety DVD’s. The new display stands each have a different fire safety message to share.
We are in the process of designing a “children’s area” with computers full of educational software for children. The idea is to teach them our history and their safety, because we are PROUD and we CARE.
Changes and upgrades have continued over the last 16 years since the last large remodel to continually improve the museum for our guests and members. And we are currently in the beginning phases of the process of a major expansion of the museum that will double it in size. This is an important and necessary expansion since we have outgrown our current facility and have many artifacts that cannot be displayed due to space restriction. We will also continue on the theme of education and interactivity for the kids and adults alike.
FIFTY YEARS… That’s a long time…
Congratulations to the Oklahoma State Firefighters Museum and to all Oklahoma Firefighters.