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The People’s Buick
Written by Larry Roeder, Editor

            The number of people and services we owe a debt of gratitude to during this pandemic is impressive.  The vocations and services provided by dedicated individuals are things we sometimes took for granted. 

The ambulance for the newly formed Upper Perkiomen

Valley Ambulance Association, purchased from the Paul

S. Spaar dealership in Chapel, arrived in April of 1948.

The president of the UPVAA, Stanley Snyder,  

announced, "The ambulance is the property of the people

of the Upper Perkiomen Valley."

            Our appreciation for all who take risks to protect and serve us must never be taken for granted again.

            One of those groups is our emergency medical service organizations: on call, 24 hours a day, every day of the year.

            We know and appreciate what they do today.  But every now and again it's worthwhile to take a look at their beginnings and the early days that started it all.

            The Upper Perkiomen Valley Ambulance Association (UPVA) began as a thought on September 6, 1944 at a meeting of the Upper Perkiomen Valley Lions Club.  President Milton S. Hummel urged the Lions to adopt a project to "raise $5,000 to purchase an ambulance and provide service to the Upper Perkiomen Valley and its immediate environs." 

            Later that year the Lions Club agreed that the project would be done in cooperation with the Upper Perkiomen Valley Community Chest.  Directors of the Community Chest agreed to contribute about $3,000 towards the funding of the new ambulance. 

            Representatives from the two organizations officially formed the Upper Perkiomen Valley Community Ambulance Association in December of 1944.  After two years of raising funds, the group was issued a charter by the Montgomery County Court. 

            Five months later, in May of 1947, they ordered a brand new Buick ambulance from the Chapel automobile dealer Paul S. Spaar for about $6,000.

            It was decided that the new ambulance would be housed in the Atlantic Gas

The new ambulance was originally housed in the Atlantic

Gas Station operated by Ken Freed (later by Ken Mohr)

at the corner of Fourth and Main Streets in East Green-

ville until 1972.  Calls for the use of the ambulance were

originally received through doctors, the local police and

the Community Nurse.  Later, staff at the service station

would take the telephone calls themselves. 

Station operated by Ken Freed, at the corner of Main and Fourth streets in East Greenville.  Calls for the use of the ambulance would be received through doctors, the local police and the Community Nurse. 

Later, staff at the service station would take the telephone calls themselves.  Special phones were installed in the homes of volunteers to answer calls when the station was closed.

            When it arrived, the new ambulance caused quite a stir in the area.  Before the ambulance service, doctors were called to the scenes of emergencies, or patients were taken by any means to the nearest doctor's office or hospital. 

            After being on order for nearly a year, the new ambulance arrived in April of 1948 and immediately the volunteers of the UPVAA took it on a tour of the area with stops at the East Greenville, Pennsburg, Red Hill and Green Lane firehouses, along with stops in Sumneytown, Perkiomen Heights and Palm.  At each location the ambulance was available for public viewing from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m.

            The president of the UPVAA, Stanley Snyder, announced, "The ambulance is the property of the people of the Upper Perkiomen Valley." He added, "Folks will find this ambulance completely modern and splendidly appointed; adequate in every respect for all needs of the present and no doubt for some years to come, with reasonably wide margins of extra quality such as a community of this size has a right to expect."            

            A first aid training class was held for volunteers expected to train as drivers.  Remember, back then the ambulance service was primarily for transporting patients to a hospital. 

            Life membership cost a one-time $50.00 fee.  Contributing members paid an annual fee of $1.00.  Members were provided ambulance service within 50 miles of the group's office.  An additional fee of 40 cents per mile was charged for service beyond the 50-mile limit.

            Over the next few weeks volunteer ambulance drivers were recruited and trained, and medical supplies were purchased with $260 donated by the Pennsburg Fire Company.  The ambulance went into service on May 15, 1948 with a roster of 17 drivers.

            Three hours after it went into service, the ambulance, along with volunteers Ken Freed and Charles Campbell, went into service transporting Mrs. Wilson Nestor from her home in East Greenville to the Allentown Hospital.

            The Upper Perkiomen Valley Community Ambulance Association completed its first year of operation by logging 105 calls.  The total mileage on those calls was 4,576 with the longest being a trip to a New York hospital.

            That was 1948.  Today, the group has grown from simple transportation to the hospital to the extensive care given through advanced life support provided by today's emergency medical services.

            The UPVAA is in the midst of its 2020 membership fund drive and it is an organization worthy of public and governmental support. 

            When we subscribe, donate, or volunteer to help our emergency services, we show that we care enough to help protect them while they serve and protect the community.

            Knowing that our area's modern-day emergency medical services grew from a 1948 Buick, two community service groups, and a dedicated band of volunteers is something to be proud of.





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