Rides to the hospital have been provided by dedicated volunteers in Hawley, Pa., for decades.
HAWLEY - Rides to the hospital have been provided by dedicated volunteers in Hawley, Pa., for decades. Before the present day Hawley Ambulance & Rescue Company was formed in the mid-1970’s, the ambulance service was provided by the fire department. Before that, a local undertaker “switched hats” to care for the living!
Teeters Funeral Parlor, along with Teeters Furniture, have been operated since 1849, by the same family, and on the same corner- at Main and Church in Hawley all these decades.
Dick Teeter, who is president of the funeral side of the two-corporation family business, stated that his father, Richard A. Teeter, operated a hearse that doubled as an ambulance.
Dick said that it was not uncommon in rural communities to have private ambulance service that was the same vehicle used by the undertaker. In this case the undertaker just “switched hats” so to speak. No medical training came with it; the patient was just picked up and given a ride.
They used a “combo hearse” which contained a bracket to hold a stretcher (as opposed to a coffin), and a jump seat for the attendant to ride in back with the patient.
He said that he suspects that Teeters’ started offering this service in the 1930’s. His father assisted Dick’s Uncle George Teeter, who operated the funeral parlor until 1941. Dick stated that it became too much for his father, and in the late 50’s, the Hawley Fire Department took over the ambulance service.
Started in 1958
In 1958, Hawley Fire Department organized their own ambulance service.
At that time, the fire department had two companies, Hawley No. 1 which was connected with the old borough hall on Spring Street until the devastating fire that destroyed the borough facility in October 1952, and Hawley No. 2, which operated out of Boote Wegge’s automotive garage on Paupack Street.
Following the 1952 fire, borough council held their meetings at the American Legion Hall on Church Street. Co. 1 moved operations to the former Hawley Garage building, next to the Baptist Church on Church Street.
Preparations for the ambulance service were underway in 1957.
By-laws were reviewed at a meeting of Hawley No. 1, February 27, 1958. President Ed Drake ran the meeting; 15 firemen attended.
Members interested in serving on the new ambulance service had to pass a course in first aid and rescue work, provided by the Wayne County Chapter of the American Red Cross. Dr. Raymond E. Murtha taught the class, assisted by George Casparian. Dr. Murtha practiced medicine in Hawley and chaired the First Aid and Water Safety Program for the Red Cross. The class ran from late October to late February. There were both a standard and advanced course.
The new ambulance service officially started April 15, 1958, with 13 members. An article, dated April 17, stated there were 10 members who received certificates from the Red Cross. Others had previously received first aid certifications.
The charter ambulance service members were: Edward Drake, Joseph Griffin, Eugene A. Krause, Eugene Krawitz, James McCabe, John McNamara, John Miller, Thomas J. Murray, George Reafler, Harry Ringleben, Andrew Shelp and Joseph Sheridan.
Andrew F. Shelp, a mechanic who lived at 105 Prospect Street, was selected as Crew Chief. Murray was named Assistant Chief.
The Pike Wayne Eagle, a predecessor to The News Eagle, carried a picture on the top the first page, April 24,1958, of the newly certified, charter members of the Hawley Ambulance Corps.
Public support needed
Their first ambulance was a 1955 Pontiac, purchased in early October of 1957. It cost the department $3,500.00. It came with first aid supplies, a resuscitator, four tanks of oxygen and a cot. (Counting for inflation, that amount would be equivalent to nearly $30,490.00 today.)
Blankets, sheets and pillows were provided by the Wayne County Chapter of the American Red Cross.
Six teams of two men each were set up, each team being on duty for one week, starting at midnight on Saturday.
Local calls would be of no charge.
“The public at large are reminded that the equipment aforementioned, and initially supported by Fire Company No. 1, will require complete financial cooperation from every citizen who stands to benefit from the ambulance facilities,” the Pike Wayne Eagle reported. “In fact, the pioneering fire-eaters went into debt to acquire this life-saving equipment.
Total support of the community is urged.”
Anyone in need of the new ambulance service was asked to call “Hawley 4549.”
Deputy Fire Chief Eugene E. Krause said that the ambulance was housed in a garage on Bishop Avenue, just off Church Street, across the street from the side of the former Church Street Hardware store. The garage is still standing.
A news item found in the same newspaper from 1960, gave a report of the Ambulance Corps from February. Tom Murray reported that they answered 10 calls, including one each to Philadelphia, Sayre and Scranton.
Dr. Murtha was planning to start an advanced First Aid course soon, held at The VFW Home (today, the Senior Center on Park Place).
Phil Hunt was driver
The editor of the Pike Wayne Eagle J. Vance Hunt, who was assisted by his son Phil, who together ran a print shop on Main Avenue. Phil also became very involved in the ambulance service.
Phil, who retired from the print shop several years ago, said that he was the driver on the ambulance crew.
He said that it was his understanding that the Hawley Ambulance Corps was the first volunteer ambulance company in Wayne County.
There were at least three ambulances in use during the years the service was part of the fire department.
Hunt said they first used a Pontiac. This was followed by a Cadillac.
Ann Morgan remembers the Hawley Ambulance Corps well. Working as a Registered Nurse for 43 years, including serving as Head Nurse at Wayne Memorial Hospital, she also volunteered with her hometown ambulance service.
She said she was the first woman to serve on the ambulance, and did so as a nurse to aid the patients on the way to the hospital.
Among the people she said she served with were Ed Drake, his brother Joe Drake, Kim Teeter and Jack Brown.
John P. Brown (known as Jack) was well known in town, operating Brown’s Pharmacy from 1962 to 2002.
Morgan shared one story of a time a new baby was about to enter this world. A woman on Paupack Street was about to deliver. The Ambulance Corps was called. Kim Teeter was there first, and told Morgan that this baby was about to arrive.
She said there were complications with the delivery, and could see that it was essential to get mother and baby to the hospital rather than let it arrive beforehand. Morgan kept the mother under control and worked on her breathing, while riding in the back of the ambulance. They were passing through Indian Orchard when Teeter asked how things were going- should they stop? “I said, ‘Keep going!,’” Morgan recalled, and they arrived at the hospital in Honesdale in time.
Overall, Morgan recalled it was a “lot of fun”- working and serving together. She had to be a member of the fire department to serve on the ambulance.
She said things are so much different today.
Morgan went on to serve on Hawley Borough Council and was Mayor for 28 years- again, the first female in both posts.
Gene Krause said that Charles Matzo served as Ambulance Chief, he believes, in the 1970’s. Matzo operated a go-cart track in the area where Barker Street Apartments is today.
Phil Hunt said it was “the best thing that happened” when the two Hawley fire companies merged. “There were a few hold outs, but we won them over.” The consolidation took place on the occasion of the borough hall moving to the former Monaghan garage, in its current location opposite Bingham Park, in 1964.
Hunt served as fire chief from 1969 to 1977. During that period, the ambulance service separated from the fire department.
Separate service in 1972
Hawley Ambulance & Rescue Company formed as a separate organization in 1972. President was Zara Olver; Vice President, Joseph Griffin; Secretary, Deitra Addvensky; Treasurer, Mary Mooney; Chief, Ruth Longmore; and Dispatchers. Michael Crump and John Brown.
In 1976 they purchased a new Chevrolet ambulance. In 1977, they leased/purchased the old Smergut Bee Distributor building at 219 River Street, from Harold and Anita Shook. This became their ambulance building, in use to this day (2017).
After much fund-raising, the non-profit Hawley Ambulance & Rescue Company built a large (40 by 100 foot) addition for a hall. This was dedicated on November 29, 1987. The hall became popular for bingo and other events, including rentals for private functions.
A fire in the ambulance garage in May 2012, led to an extended closure of the hall, but was finally back in use in late 2016. They were operating out of a garage in White Mills for much of the interim.
They work closely with Hawley Fire Department, which since 1999 has been stationed in its own building on Columbus Avenue, diagonally across the Middle Creek from the Ambulance Hall.
Today, Hawley Ambulance & Rescue Company operates with two ambulances. Susan Badwin is President. Bryan Utegg is Chief of the all-volunteer company.