The Harold R Greene Memorial Volunteer Ambulance Corps opened its doors in 1953 and remains open today after 60 years of service as an all volunteer department.
To understand the beginning years of the Ramsey Ambulance Corps, it is important to know some of the history of a few of the other organizations in the area, especially the Ramsey Fire Dept, the Ramsey Woman's Club, and the Allendale Ambulance Corps, without which the Ramsey Ambulance Corps may not have evolved.
For many years, the Ramsey Fire Department operated a First Aid Squad that would respond to medical emergencies in the Borough. During the 1930's, the American legion attempted to raise funds for an ambulance for this squad, however, after several years, there still wasn't enough for even one ambulance. So, the Legion decided to donate those funds to the Allendale Ambulance Corps, which had already been in operation, with the understanding that the Allendale Corps would respond to medical emergencies in the Borough. Dr. Harry M. Archer, an Allendale physician and a surgeon for the New York City Fire Department was instrumental in forming the Allendale Ambulance Corps.
At this same time, Harold R. Greene was an investment banker, residing in Ramsey, who commuted to New York City. Dr. Archer had taught Mr. Greene first aid skills, and he, in turn, trained the members of the Ramsey Fire Dept in First Aid. Consequently, for many years, Harold was know as "Mr. First Aid".
After several years of operating a First Aid Squad out of the Fire Dept, a need was seen for a separate ambulance corps. Eighteen Ramsey firemen banded together and incorporated the organization, deciding that fifteen of them would ride on five, three-man night crews and the remaining three would work with the civic groups, like the Ramsey Women's Club, to secure funding to purchase an ambulance and erect a building. Even though Harold had trained the founding members of the Corps, he never became a member, but when he passed, the Corps was named in his honor.
On April 9, 1953 Mrs. Dorothy Werger, President of the evenings Women's Club, presented then Captain George Schurter with the keys to a Eureka Cadillac ambulance. The ambulance had been a "demo model", and was placed into service that day. The following Monday and Wednesday, the Ramsey Ambulance Corps responded to their first calls in the Borough. The ambulance was painted tan and green and sported a red flashing light and electric powered siren. Although it had simple equipment, including a cookie salesman's tiered case as a trauma kit and an extremely heavy double oxygen bottle E&J Resuscitator, it had a two-way radio to maintain communications with the Ramsey Police Dept. The ambulance was housed in the Island Avenue Fire House until a suitable garage could be constructed.
Now that we had a new ambulance, there was still a need for a building and a garage. The Charter members leased a building lot, (on the corner of Island Ave and Prospect St), from the Borough for $1.00 per year. Many of the Charter Members were builders, roofers, plumbers, electricians and handymen. They built the original building mostly by themselves, with much help from some outside contractors, and a mortgage supplied by William F. O'Mahoney for $10,000. The Charter Members signed a note to First National Bank & Trust Company of Ramsey, which later became Citizen's Bank, for funds for the materials. Ramsey resident and architect, John Marinaro donated his time and talent and designed the building. The Napolitano Brothers, who were local contractors, provided the masonry work. The result was a one-story cinderblock structure with two bays, an office, kitchen, and a lavatory along one side. On September 6, 1954, our ambulance building was dedicated. And, in August of 1956, the first mortgage was cancelled.
The original building had an overhead door that was spring-loaded. One tug on a rope and it would fly up, but once in a while it would go up too fast, hit the stop and bounce down 8" to 10". One night a new member, a senior Pan Am pilot, didn't watch the door and sheared off the rotating dome light from the top of the S&S Cadillac. Perhaps he could fly a jumbo jet, but even the garage door proved to be a challenge to him!
In the late 1960's, a second lavatory and a furnace room were added; and, in the 1970's, a storage unit was added onto the furnace room.
Int the 1980's, when many ambulance corps were converting from Cadillac ambulances to the more roomy vans and boxes, the new, higher ambulances would not fit into the existing garages, including Ramsey's. So, plans were drawn to build new, taller bays behind the building and to convert the original garage bays into a finished meeting/training room. Member, Ford Beggs was the driving force behind the transformation, and in 1984, a new two-bay garage was constructed in the rear of the building and the new Training/Meeting room was dedicated to Leslie D. Wilding.
The original Ramsey Ambulance Corps flagpole was a former naval flag mast, which had been donated and placed by the members on the corner of Prospect St and South Island Ave. it had rusted considerably, was unsightly and definitely in danger of falling down.
Former Captain, Herb Daehnke, now deceased, who was the Commander of the Local VFW, decided that a new flagpole was a necessity in order to fly the American and POW/MIA Flags. Unfortunately, there were no funds for this project. However, after a lot of hard work in 1985, he persuaded a local flagpole company to donate a new pole and it's installation at cost. Herb was responsible for preparing the site and asked yet-to-be Captain, Mark Madsen, Public Works Foreman, if he could acquire a backhoe and dig a four-by-four foot hole.
Herb then convinced Raia Concrete Company to donate the necessary cement. He appealed to the Borough Employee's Union to use funds from their treasury to purchase the pole, since it was going to be dedicated to Jean Wicker, longtime secretary to the Chief of Police. Jean was also a police matron and had ridden on many of the departments ambulance calls.
Herb then asked Rich Scalione, a local electrician and former Ramsey Rescue Squad Chief, to install a spotlight. He also prevailed upon his son, Dave Daehnke, a local landscaper, provide shrubbery.
When Herb realized that there was an eighteen inch lightning rod on the bottom of the pole, which had not been figured into the four-by-four dimensions, he climbed into the hole shovel in hand, and dug out the additional eighteen inches.
September 21, 1985 was the day of the dedication and Herb asked Life Member, Mike Adams (now deceased) to be the Master of Ceremonies, with the stipulation that Herb's name not be mentioned for his efforts. Moments before the ceremony, as dignitaries were being seated; Herb started sprinkling white gravel at the base of the flagpole. Satisfied that the project was completed, he then attached a brass dedication plate to the pole and stepped back into the shadows.
In the 1990's, it became apparent that the building as it stood was becoming to small for all of our needs. We had grown from responding to 100 calls in the early 1950's, to over 1,000 calls in 1993. Then President, Larry Warner had a vision for our future, and although the addition of the second floor had not yet been discussed in detail, he created the Building for Future Fund. Much discussion followed over the news two years, but on sunny day, on a fishing boat off of the Jersey Shore, President Warner, long-time and now Honorary Member James Dougherty, and Life Member Mark Madsen, dreamt of a larger, more gorgeous building - one that would certainly meet all of our need - a crew room, an officers' office, a large commercial kitchen, a large multi-purpose room that could be used not only for the Ramsey Ambulance Corps, but for our neighbor towns as well for training.
Unfortunately, after two years of fundraisers that gave us some money, but not much, it became apparent that we had to seek alternate funding. Dougherty met with town officials, architects, builders, etc., and soon a working plan was developed including the need for a mortgage. Just as with the original building construction, members worked on this expansion, tearing out old walls and floor coverings and doing the finishing work. We hired local contractor, Lou Slierno of L&E Construction. L&E hired Eagle Contracting who did all of the framing and exterior work. This construction had to be done while school was out because construction equipment had to maneuvered in the parking lot, which is of course used by students who drive to school.
During the construction, not only did Corps members assist where they could, members of the Ramsey Fire Dept and the Ramsey Rescue Squad also helped. They were especially helpful when it came to putting up the sheetrock. There were several "work sessions" organized: installing the sheetrock, taping and spackling the sheetrock; and installing of Pergo floor in the all purpose room. On any given night during this period you would find Mark Madsen and/or James Dougherty at the building doing whatever they could to move the project forward. Other professionals that were hired (all from Ramsey) were Wiersma Plumbing, TCB Electric to run wiring, AFS Systems to install the security system, and Energy Management for HVAC. In addition to using the funds from the Building for the Future Fund, we tapped on our General Fund and signed for a mortgage There second floor addition, the final major improvement to our building, is a beautiful, large all purpose room, large kitchen with industrial-quality equipment, two smaller meeting rooms, two more lavatories, and a popular second-floor deck.