Station wagon ambulances

Martin Harvey

PCS Member
Getting back to the main thread..!

1958 Chevrolet Brookwood Station wagon ambulance.
Interesting extra brake lights on fenders. Chrysler?
Picture taken in January 1962 just before the new license plates. Note the H (Hearse-ambulance).
Entreprises Funeraires Ltee, Paul Bérubé Funeral Director and owner
Alma, Quebec.
 

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Steve Lichtman

PCS Elected Director 2019 - 2022
How would making a replica of one of these be any different than Jon Van der Mark's "replica" of a Military ambulance that he created from the combo that he had (67 Pontiac)? And how would you know that a station wagon ambulance presented at a show was the real thing as opposed to being a re-creation unless the owner told you?
Rick, I know you're not starting a war, and I'm just answering and explaining. In the particular instance you cite, the difference is that Jon's replica of a military ambulance really was, originally, a coachbuilt combination. He didn't change it from something it wasn't, his was just a repaint and some additional lights. And he was upfront about it.

If someone took a station wagon that was never an ambulance/hearse to begin with and made it into one now, that's what I see as different. It never was one originally.

How could you tell if someone didn't say so? It would be hard (not impossible) to create from new the split rear seat that was common to most (not all) station wagon ambulances. Beyond that, we would need to trust in the honesty of the owner to say that it was made by them. If someone wanted to "lie" about the history of their car, there really isn't anything we could do.

My comments have little to do with judging, if someone changed a car to "win a class" at a show, that's small potatoes to me. My personal interest is the history - like someone trying to make a Navy ambulance into the JFK ambulance and lying about it.

Not a war, just an answer. (Jon VanderMark's combo below.)
 

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Steve Lichtman

PCS Elected Director 2019 - 2022
Before anyone get's upset, I am not knocking anyone in particular. George Hamlin is creating a '62 Studebaker Ambulet out of a wagon that was not built as an Ambulet. But he has been upfront about it. And he was able to find an NOS Studebaker Ambulet "Protecto-Plate" for the floor, which is a feat.
 

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Rick Franklin

PCS Member
Steve, I appreciate and value your input and opinion. Thats why i asked. Ed Renstrom beat me to it: most of these were converted back to station wagons after being in service. I just saw this as a way to present an example of something that "was" that isnt commonly seen today. If I were to "clone" one of these, rest assured I would admit its a clone & I wouldnt be interested in competing for any award. All I would want to do is exhibit. But again, Steve, thank you for your input.
 

Bill Marcy

PCS Member
Super Site Supporter
This particular discussion is very interesting to me, especially since I no longer have a garage big enough for a full sized ambulance. I have been considering another station wagon ambulance in the future. Of particular interest to me are ACC Amblewagons and Ambulets. I have also been fascinated by the thought of a Rambulance based on the late 50's, early 60's Rambler Cross Country wagon, but nobody that I have talked to has ever seen a real one. To be sure, I imagine that there might be a few left, but where? With their unique rarity in mind, I believe that a replica Rambulance would draw lots of interest, just about anywhere, even at an International PCS Meet.

It is my opinion that a well done replica of a station wagon ambulance, represented honestly, should be acceptable. Even back in the day, all of the station wagon ambulances were not built by ACC, or a similar conversion company, were they? While I realize that history is a very important aspect of The PCS and obviously, a replica would have no history. But, as they are few and far between, wouldn't a thoughtfully done, period correct replica be interesting for people to see?

I have no interest in starting a war here, I am merely tossing out my personal thoughts for your consideration and discussion. I certainly recognize and respect the purpose and the values of our organization.
 

John ED Renstrom

PCS Member - Elected Director 2019-2022
Super Site Supporter
I like the biscane with the 4 snow tires on it. the extra lights in the rear are most likely the winking ones.

but nice to see one more amulet in the group. even if it is made after the fact. but for judging purposes who converted it would make no difference. you could have ordered the stuff to do it from any Studebaker dealer. doing it today is a feat
 

John ED Renstrom

PCS Member - Elected Director 2019-2022
Super Site Supporter
it would be something to find a survivor of those. they were factory built like the Studebakers.
 

Skip Goulet - Deceased 1945 - 2018

August 19, 1945 - July 26, 2018
How would making a replica of one of these be any different than Jon Van der Mark's "replica" of a Military ambulance that he created from the combo that he had (67 Pontiac)? And how would you know that a station wagon ambulance presented at a show was the real thing as opposed to being a re-creation unless the owner told you?

Rick, you're right about Jon's '67 Pontiac (my old rig) being a replica of a Navy ambulance. He got special permission from the Navy to duplicate a Navy ambulance with that old combo. And if you've ever seen what the car looked like when he first got it, he really did wonders with the car. I had bought the car from a small funeral home in Littlefield, TX and did considerable work on it myself to make it drivable. But then it "disappeared" on me. An "acquaintance" of mine ran off with the car after having stolen the title from my house. This guy is one of those kind who can't stay out of the "pokey" for anything. So it was no surprise when he ended up behind bars shortly after taking off with the Pontiac. But he wouldn't say where the car went. So it turned out that he had sold the car to his son-in-law who went to Mo. with it. He eventually came back to TX and I bought it back from him. He had had an accident in the car, but that damage was minimal and easily repaired. But compared to what it had looked like before I lost it and when I got it back....that was terrible. But as I said, Jon did wonders with it with the "Navy conversion".
 

Rick Franklin

PCS Member
Don't get me wrong, I love what Jon did with the Pontiac. I was using that as an example of creating something that was from something that it wasnt. At this point in time though, there wont be any changes in fleet unless the 88 Town Car sells and the 71 Mark III also. For now, I'll just have to concentrate on the 86 Lincoln Hearse. Sure wish Ed Renstrom didnt have a backlog of projects to work on though. (As a side note, its great to see us having this discussion about replicas without the proverbial feathers flying!)
 

Wayne Krakowski

PCS Member
This was one of the better posts I have seen in a while,for the hundreds of town and villages that could not afford custom ambulances it was often dedicated citizens who pooled their talents and monies and built these station wagon ambulances,and if we are to tell our story of the history of emergency services they must be included and celebrated,Rick I hope the day comes when you do this project,it may not qualify for an award class,but will definitely be a winner for the medical historians :applause::applause:
 

Steve Lichtman

PCS Elected Director 2019 - 2022
it would be something to find a survivor of those. they were factory built like the Studebakers.
To clarify, no, these weren't "factory built". Rambulances were converted by ACC for Rambler (but sold by Rambler dealers). All the Rambulance part numbers are exactly the same as ACC part numbers.

Here is an ad for a '62 Rambler that has both the terms "Rambulance" and "Rambler Amblewagon" on the same insert page. The second item is the back of the insert card with the Rambulance part numbers, and the third is a sheet for '63 Amblewagons (not Ramblers) with the part numbers.
 

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Skip Goulet - Deceased 1945 - 2018

August 19, 1945 - July 26, 2018
This was one of the better posts I have seen in a while,for the hundreds of town and villages that could not afford custom ambulances it was often dedicated citizens who pooled their talents and monies and built these station wagon ambulances,and if we are to tell our story of the history of emergency services they must be included and celebrated,Rick I hope the day comes when you do this project,it may not qualify for an award class,but will definitely be a winner for the medical historians :applause::applause:

You'd get no argument, there, Wayne. The first ambulance I remember was Ellis Funeral Home's 1948 two-tone blue Chevy panel truck. I don't recall ever seeing inside it, but the sole piece of warning equipment was a roof-mounted Federal 78 doubletone siren with the PropelloRay light. It was replaced with a '51 Chevy sedan-delivery that they only kept for a couple of years, when they gave it to the predominantly black funeral home. It was replaced with a '54 Ford wagon, and it by a '59 Ford. When they finally got around to having a second ambulance, it was a very nice '58 Chrysler New Yorker wagon. The Chrysler was replaced with a '61 Chevy Apache panel truck, which would end up being their last emergency rig, as they exited the ambulance service in late '64 and sold the panel to a then-new private ambulance co.

Thomas Funeral Home which opened in 1956 started with a '56 Ford sedan-delivery and then added a '57 Plymouth wagon for second-out. But they were out of business by late 1959 or early 1960, but came back in 1962 with a then-new '63 Ford wagon. Their last station wagons were a '66 Pontiac and a '65 Dodge. They added Pontiac Consorts in '67 and '70, but by the time they were forced out of the ambulance business in 1974 when the Midland F.D. took over with a full EMS operation they had just gone to their first-and-only Type II Superior Chevy vans.

In recent years I've heard the station wagon conversions decried because of their lack of space, but with my small size, I managed to work quite easily with some of the station wagons, coaches and lowtop Suburban ambulances we ran over the years. And much to my delight when we bought a 1973 wide-bodied Superior Type II van in 1987, we had something I could actually walk around in!
 

Skip Goulet - Deceased 1945 - 2018

August 19, 1945 - July 26, 2018
We should probably include sedan delivery ambulances in this thread as they are a close relative of the station wagon. Stretched wagons and deliveries, however, as well as those with raised roofs, qualify as standard limousine-style ambulances and should be posted to the appropriate threads. That said...

Wilson F.H. (Pond Creek, OK)
1957 Mercury Commuter
(old WFH postcard)

Lucas F.H. (Hurst, TX)
1952 Ford Courier sedan delivery
(note the Federal BR-2 flasher at the center of the roof)

Sidmon F.H. (Kansas City, MO)
1959 Ford Country Sedan
(from a matchbook cover)

Hough F.H. (Morrisonville, IL)
1967 Buick Sport Wagon
(SL photo)

I've looked at this post a time or two and had not realized until now that the '52 Ford sedan-delivery was from Hurst, TX. Before they remodeled the place a couple of years ago, a large print of that same Ford was on the wall along with a number of other nostalgic photos inside a McDonald's in Odessa.
 
Poe Elementary School bombing, Houston, Tx. 1959

Shared with permission via Houston History facebook:

A RIVETING EYEWITNESS ACCOUNT BY GORDON L. ROTTMAN: At 10:10 AM, On September 15, 1959 - On The Blackboard is Written - Our News: This is Tuesday, It is Sept. 15, 1959, It is Warm and Sunny, Cliff is Not Here Today...

Mrs. Kirby, our 5th grade teacher, stopped mid-sentence when the explosion boomed a shock wave through the school. Shattering glass rattled from the far side of the building. Our clock fell from the wall and a linear cloud of dust puffed around the room from the baseboards. One boy nearest the door leapt up and headed for it. Mrs. Kirby very coolly said, “Be seated, the fire alarm’s not gone off.”

The moment he sat the alarm sounded and out we went as we had practiced monthly. We filed down the 6th grade hall, each class in-turn, and though the building’s end doors onto the playground.

We stepped into hell!

To our right was the asphalt hard-surface area and the first thing that came to my mind was that it looked like a burned trash pile spread across the double-basketball court. Lying closer was a young boy, his clothes blown off, his intestines spilled (I promise not to be any more graphic—it’s just that that was my first realization that people were hurt.) I realized then the smoldering trash pile included people.

The 5th and 6th grade teachers quietly moved us to the playground’s far side and we sat by class on the softball diamond, backs to the carnage, not that everybody didn't turn to look. I saw a few injured kids staggering amid the ruinage along with a tall, thin teacher doing what she could.

Our class exited the school from the doors at the upper left. This is the body of the first child I saw. A desperate mother searches for her child.

The first on the scene were fire trucks, then police, and then more cops. Ambulances arrived, but not that many. These were old-style station wagon-like ambulances, not the high-tech EMS ambulances we know today. There were no EMTs then. Ambulance crews merely scooped up the injured and hoped they could get them to a hospital alive. Most belonged to private ambulance companies or hospitals. ERs were nothing like they are today and they certainly were not prepared for anything like what had just occurred. Fortunately the main county emergency hospital and other hospitals were within 15 minutes.

The hard-surface area with the school in the background. Miss Johnson was moving the kids to the building wing on the left behind the trees when the bomb detonated. I don’t know if it was confusion, shock, or the steadiness our teachers displayed that keep things under control. My parents were among the first to appear as they went into open their restaurant later in the morning. We lived three blocks away. Unlike today there was no lock down. Parents got their kids and went home. Some kids walked home on their own—everyone lived close—there was no busing then. We even took a neighbor kid home as his parents were at work. You simply told the teacher and left.

I wasn't rattled a bit and that perplexed me. My only confusion was that I didn't know what to do the rest of the day. I ended up going to Kemah southeast of Houston with my dad. He had a restaurant there and it was strange hearing customers discuss what I’d seen a couple of hours earlier.

Some ambulances had to park in the school's front circular drive to load the injured. No EMS ambulances in those days. The metal awnings had recently been installed to shade the windows as there was no air conditioning.

Okay, what happened? A somewhat mentally disturbed man, 47-year old Paul Orgeron, had divorced his wife and abducted his son, 7-year old Dusty. Orgeron had brought his son to the school earlier to enroll him, but was turned away. He had no birth certificate or immunization records. The staff hadn't felt he was a problem other than acting very confused and didn't know his son’s former school’s name or the New Mexico town it was in. He soon returned, but instead of entering through the front, he went on the playground while 2nd grade recess was underway. Some kids though were inside taking assessment tests. In fact two girls from our class were detailed to help the teachers on the playground.

With son in tow and carrying a briefcase, Orgeron approached a 2nd grade teacher, Miss Patricia Johnson, and passed her two incomprehensible notes. She was concerned about his manner and noticed a doorbell buzzer on the briefcase’s bottom. Another teacher, Miss Jennie Kolter, sensed trouble and came to the scene. Orgeron wanted Johnson to gather the children around. Instead, she sent two kids to fetch the only adult male in the school, James Montgomery, the custodian, and the principal, Miss Ruth Doty. While Kolter talked to Orgeron, Johnson discreetly herded kids away. Doty, a very stern and strong-willed woman, feared and admired by us kids, took charge and began trying to get Orgeron off the school grounds.

It’s not clear what happened. Orgeron set the briefcase on his foot. It’s thought that it slipped rather than being intentionally set off. Six dynamite sticks detonated. Orgeron was disintegrated, his son shattered, Kolter and Montgomery blown apart, and two 2nd grade boys killed. Miss Doty was terribly injured and almost lost a leg. She had been standing behind the others. Two nearby boys each lost a foot and 15 other students were injured by blast and asphalt gravel including the two girls from our class who were helping get the kids away. They were among the most seriously injured.

At first, since they couldn't find Orgeron’s body, the police thought he might still be on the grounds. His car was located and found wired with dynamite to detonate if started. He had purchased 150 sticks in a New Mexico hardware store—you could do that then—which were never located. It took time to piece together events leading up to the bombing and some questions were never answered.

As I was able to leave early, I didn't see what arose when “every” fire truck, ambulance, tow truck, cop, reporter, and TV crew in the city showed up. Since there had been no preparations for such a catastrophic event, the teachers’ initial control evaporated. Frantic parents had to park blocks away as there was no place closer. Ambulances had difficulty getting through jam-packed streets. Parents ran all about trying to find kids who had been taken back inside. The National Guard was called to secure the school, as well as others that received bomb threats. Realistically, even if practiced to any degree, there’s little that could have been done to control it better.

How was it different from today? The next day school was open. About half the students attended with more returning each day. Mosquito-control trucks fogged the grounds to keep flies down as there were small body parts on roofs and in trees. We took a minute to bow our heads in silence. The following Monday all students were back. A couple of weeks later we had had a simple memorial service in the auditorium with Cub Scouts posting the flags. There was no army of counselors. No TV crews seeking interviews. No closing the school for the rest of the year or calls to tear it down. Not a single law suit. We moved on. The hard-surface area was re-blacktopped and a chain-link fence installed around the playground. In October the two boys who’d lost a foot led the Halloween Festival parade in a go-cart. Our two severely injured girls, Martha Jo Mullen and Leah Tomlinson, returned and were applauded at lunch. Months later Miss Doty returned as principal and remained until she retired. New elementary schools were named after Miss Kolter and Mr. Montgomery. Occasional bomb threats were phoned in and each class was assigned garages at nearby homes for shelter as winter was coming on. Neighbors left their cars out so we could use the garages. We moved on. Every few years the local paper does a brief write-up on the anniversary, virtually a copy of previous years.

As a personal note, the hero of the day was Pat Johnson who never received the credit she was due. Thirteen years later, after returning from Vietnam, I visited the school and looked up Miss Johnson. She’d been my 2nd grade teacher. She was still teaching 2nd graders. I had to tell her something. I’d seen some real heroes; real soldiers who kept steady no matter how bad things got. I told her she was a hero, she’d kept cool, did all the right things—recognized a threat, got the kids away, sent for help, and then took care of the injured and she was steady though out. It was her I’d seen on the smoldering hard-surface. Pat and I became close friends. It was an honor to have known such a woman.
 

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1966 Ford

I'll apologize in advance for not giving proper credit but I simply cannot recall what site I found these on. If these are your pictures please let me know and I'll either give proper credit or have them removed.

Now, that is one nice wagon!
 

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Steve Loftin

PCS Member - Elected Director 2020-2023
Site Supporter
We should probably include sedan delivery ambulances in this thread as they are a close relative of the station wagon. Stretched wagons and deliveries, however, as well as those with raised roofs, qualify as standard limousine-style ambulances and should be posted to the appropriate threads.

Just a reminder...
 
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