From what was…
As the Shepherdstown Fire Department prepares to dedicate new ambulances on Sunday, members of the community and the department reflect upon the start of ambulance service in town.
The year was 1962, July in fact, when members of the Young Homemakers Farm Women’s Club welcomed Fire Chief D. Lee Morgan to their meeting to discuss ‘Fire Prevention in the Home.’
While there, the topic turned to ambulance service, and Chief Morgan shared that the town did not have that service. They relied on neighboring Charles Town or Martinsburg.
It didn’t take long for the wheels to turn in the minds of the young homemakers. The discussion began that very day as Mrs. J. Arthur Prather, III?(Becky) asked the question, ‘Why can’t we have our own?’
The club members, under the leadership of Mrs. Clarence J. Wright, sought the opinions of townsfolk as to whether the project was a worthy one. While members of the fire department saw it as such, they were quick to say that the department could not take on the financial obligation.
The club members were not deterred. They sought help from the local paper at the time, The Independent, and solicited opinions from the residents. They held meetings to discuss the idea.
The Young Homemakers Ambulance Fund Drive was soon in progress.The goal set was $2,500.
Mrs. D. Lee Morgan (Mary Ann) remembers, “The whole town got involved. The College held fundraisers, the 4-H clubs and the Homemakers Club,” she said.
Morgan shared that Shepherd teacher Richard Judd was very instrumental in helping with the cause. In an article in the Jan. 30, 1963 edition of The Independent, it says Judd moderated a meeting concerning ambulance service for Shepherdstown.
“In the discussion the fact that Martinsburg in 1962 answered an additional 200 ambulance calls over 1961 and the service calls answered in Charles Town rose accordingly was brought to the attention of the group. Taking into consideration the 138 ambulance calls made to Shepherdstown in 1962 it should be concluded that Shepherdstown could well utilize an ambulance service. In addition, Martinsburg had reported that 88% of the ambulance calls made in Shepherdstown were paid calls,” the paper reported.
It shoud be noted that the Homemakers Club, who took on the task of raising the funds had only two stipulations in the purchase of an ambulance.
According to The Independent, Mrs. Wright told those at the January meeting that the Club would only raise the funds if it was clear that the ambulance would be bought outright and that the personnel must complete the training program necessary before the purchase was made.
Dr. Sara Cree, Shepherd College, assured the group that the college would see that the training was completed. A total of 26 volunteers were named to take part in the training by Fire Chief Lee Morgan.
The Homemakers worked and achieved the goal of purchasing the ambulance and handed the keys over to the fire department on May 18, 1963 after nearly a year of fundraising efforts.
An open house was held on the occasion, similar to the open house planned for this Sunday to place into service the newest ambulances at Shepherdstown Fire Department.
The operation of that first ambulance was handled by the men who underwent Standard and Advanced First Aid Course of the American Red Cross in ambulance procedure conduct in addition to specialized classes by medical personnel.