Capt. Tilden Fifield and the Knox Engine

Back in the ’30s and early ’40s all our mail and most of our supplies came by steamboat from Rockland. The boat usually got here by late afternoon, and by the time all mail and cargo had been discharged, it was early evening. So, with the quarries going full tilt and everyone having had supper, downtown was pretty busy. The mail had been sorted out, Charles Brimigion’s hotdog stand was busy as could be, and there was the usual gathering at Jewett Noyes’ drugstore for the evening paper and of course the usual daily conversations.

One night the “Knox” engine salesman was also in attendance. Some years ago he had sold a Knox engine to Capt. Tilden Fifield, and the results were somewhat disastrous. Many’s the time Tilden was hauling his traps only to have the Knox quit on him—and he had to call for help and be towed home. (“Calling” back then did not mean using a cell phone or radio. It usually meant yelling, waving, or blowing a horn if you had one.)

Tilden could be outspoken, and he also had a loud, high-pitched voice, so he usually got command of his audience when he started talking. The Knox engine salesman, standing there amongst this group of men (including Tilden) there in the drugstore, announced to Tilden that it might be about time to consider buying a new Knox engine. Tilden wasted no time in telling his audience what he thought about that engine.

Says Tilden, “Mister, if a Knox engine was falling out of the sky and headed right for me, I wouldn’t move an inch, cause that damned engine would stop before it got to me.”

All, except one, got a big laugh out of “the Knox engine story.” 

Deer Isle-Stonington Historical Society ✦ P O Box 652 ✦ Deer Isle,  ME  04627 ✦ 207-348-6400