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B. Gross Undertaker Ambulance, Hot Springs, Arkansas 1910

Undertaker Billy Gross of Hot Springs, Arkansas started the first commercial ambulance service in Hot Springs, Arkansas in 1910 with this horse-drawn ambulance, shown parked outside St. Joseph's Hospital, Hot Springs, Arkansas in 1910.

 

Between ambulance calls, the horses and ambulance wagon were kept in a nearby downtown livery stable. The firm was among the first Hot Springs businesses to get a telephone and their phone number of 29 was painted on side of the ambulance. When someone called for an ambulance, the crew would have to go to the stable to get the horses hooked up and ready for the call.

 

Beloved Hot Springs historian Gladys Hudgins once recalled being a patient who was taken in this ambulance to the hospital after she developed pneumonia as a child. She remembers it was during the cold of winter, and said that the Gross ambulance attendants came into her home with blankets and a portable stretcher. She was wrapped in the blankets along with pre-warmed bricks that were placed inside the blankets to keep her warm. In those days, privately-owned ambulances were painted white or light gray with a red cross and "PRIVATE AMBULANCE" decals over the side windows. She recalled that the ride was quite rough.

 

Notice the curtains, side lamps, and covered roof over the driver. Many undertakers in the United States started ambulance service as a side business around the turn of the century because their business was always open, always had people available around the clock, and had vehicles that could carry a prone patient.

 

This ambulance was really busy during the terrible 1919 flu epidemic in Hot Springs. The late W.R. Williamson was a young postman in Hot Springs during this time and often talked about the heavy death toll during the flu epidemic. Although he made many special deliveries during this time of widespread illness, he always claimed he did not get the flu because every time he left a crowded room, elevator or store after making a delivery he would force himself to make a hard sneeze "to blow the germs out." It apparently worked for him. < For an interesting and detailed overview of the deadly flu epidemic, click here. >

 

This ambulance served Hot Springs until 1923 when it was replaced by the firm's new motorized ambulance.

 

On July 1, 1973, Gross Mortuary ended ambulance service. Its final fleet consisted of three vehicles.

 

ALSO SEE: --Picture of Gross Mortuary, 1967

  

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Dr. Jim Moshinskie, OakCrest Funeral Home, Waco, Texas

 

Click here to view hundreds of historical photographs of undertakers, funeral homes, professonal vehicles, and early ambulances collected since 1967 by Jim Moshinskie (Dr. Mo), PhD, Baylor University, Waco, Texas, USA. This also includes Special Interest Groups for several individual states.

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Taken on May 28, 2007