BELMAR — For decades, the Belmar First Aid Squad’s 1938 ambulance carried patients who needed medical attention to safety. On Friday, Ford Motor Company picked up the historic vehicle to take to its headquarters in Dearborn, Michigan, with the ambulance’s final mission being to carry the legacy of the first independent volunteer first aid squad to the masses.
It was a day of sadness and joy for members of the now-defunct first aid squad and residents who gathered at the squad’s former headquarters to say goodbye to a vehicle that helped save lives and spread joy during parades not only locally, but also in neighboring states.
“I feel sad, sad, but excited,” Stephen Hines, a lifelong member of the Belmar First Aid Squad who helped to facilitate the handoff of the ambulance from the Belmar First Aid Squad to Ford. “I am just excited that we found a good home. Since the Belmar First Aid Squad ended its service to Belmar and Lake Como on April 1, turning over operations to a borough-run squad, the squad has worked to get rid of its pieces of equipment.
For Mr. Hines, the 1938 ambulance was the “last of the Mohicans” in terms of equipment that the squad still had. The ambulance cost $1,500 when it was purchased by the squad, which dates back to 1927. Nowadays, Mr. Hines said, a new ambulance can cost around $200,000.
Representatives from Ford came to the first aid squad’s headquarters on Friday to have a look at the historic ambulance before loading it onto a trailer and driving it across the country to Michigan.
Ted Ryan, an archivist for Ford, said that the ambulance not only tells the story of the Belmar First Aid Squad, but it is also a part of the history of the company.
“Ford has been building service vehicles for police, fire, emergency rescue, almost back to the Model T,” he said. “This is our heritage and to have one that is so important to the community is just a perfect Ford story.”
The ambulance will be used for the Woodward Dream Cruise, an annual classic car show in Michigan that attracts hundreds of thousands from across the country in August. In the long term, the ambulance will be used by Ford as a model to be put out on display at various locations.
“We get so many requests [such as] ‘could we use a vehicle that represents x,y,or z’ and we’ll put it out on display,” Mr. Ryan said.
Greg Thompson, marketing manager for the northeast, said that the ambulance will have a working retirement.
“It won’t be static at one location, where people will have to go to it, it will go to the people,” Mr. Thompson said. “There will be times where it will be a little more static, other times it will be just getting moved around to events and major significant events.” When it is static, the ambulance will be kept in a climate-controlled environment at the Ford Motor Company.
Bruce Blattner, a 51-year member of the Belmar First Aid Squad, said he bought his home in Belmar across the street from the Belmar First Aid Squad headquarters to make volunteering easier for himself. Parting ways with the ambulance was not easy for him.
“It hurts. It’s a tradition and it hurts a lot to see it go, but it’s going out to a good home,” he said. “I just remember taking this thing to parades, wet-down-dedication ceremonies. An awful lot of good memories.”
The ambulance took one last drive out of the first aid squad headquarters before being loaded into a trailer. On the first attempt, the vehicle, driven by Mr. Hines, appeared to have difficulty ascending the ramp. With a jolt, the ambulance was able to make the climb, with those in attendance cheering at what was the last time the historic vehicle may be in Belmar.
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