BIG RIVER AMBULANCE DISTRICT
By: Bill Haggard
The Big River Ambulance District was formed by the Jefferson County Circuit Court in March of 1975.† The district boundaries were determined to include 125 square miles that included House Springs, Cedar Hill, Morse Mill, Ware, Grubville, Dittmer and now Byrnes Mill.
Twenty-three people had been enrolled since January 1975 in a Red Cross Advanced First Aid course held at the Presbyterian Church in Cedar Hill.† Classes were held twice a week in the evenings from January until June of that year.† After the students had successfully completed their Advanced First Aid training, Chapel Hill Mortuary allowed the students to ride along and observe the handling of ambulance calls.† At the time, the mortuary provided the only ambulance service in the area.
Even though the district had been formed in early 1975 and a tax levy had been approved by the residents, there was not any tax money to run the district.† The original operating funds were obtained through donations.† The volunteers of the district went to area businesses and asked that they be allowed to place collection jars in the business.† People would put in coins and dollar bills to help support the district. The ambulance district literally was funded directly from peopleís pockets for the first six months of the districtís existence.
The original Board of Directors was elected on June 17, 1975, in a special election. The first district board was comprised of Alice I. Lee, Bob Sandler, John M. Samuel, Jr., Jeanne Kriegesmann, Richard Ford and Ronald Waller.† The Board of Directors set July 1, 1975, as the date for the operation of the Big River Ambulance District to begin.
The first district ambulance was a 1975 Cadillac donated by the Chapel Hill Mortuary. The mortuary also donated other equipment including stretchers, air splints, backboards and radios.† Although the operation of the district began in July of 1975, the district did not have a building to operate from.† The first district home was the basement garage of Mr. and Mrs. Doyle Ruble located on Ficken Road in Cedar Hill.† A telephone dispatch was set up in the homes of three different individuals to insure that someone monitored the phone at all times. The first three dispatchers were Jeanne Kriegesmann, Fran Ruble and Mary Ann Theiss.
In early 1976, the district began looking for land on which a permanent ambulance station could be constructed. Due to its central location in the district, the town of Cedar Hill was chosen as the site of the first ambulance station. †In February of 1976, the district also purchased the first ambulance, a 1975 Dodge van at the cost of $14,200.00.† In April of 1976, the district took delivery of two 1975 Chevrolet van ambulances at a cost of $3,5000.00 each. The two ambulances were purchased at a low cost through an ambulance purchase program from the State of Missouri and United States government.
The district located a building owned by Union Electric that had not been used by the company for several years. The company allowed the district to use the building free of charge to house the districtís ambulances.† The volunteers painted and remodeled the building to serve as district headquarters.† The district remained in this location for the next eighteen months.† Due to the growth in the House Springs, Cedar Hill and Dittmer area, Union Electric found them in need of the building.† The ambulance district was forced to search for a new location.
Mrs. Phil Schlecht volunteered the use of her building on Ridge Road and the ambulance district moved to that location in the fall of 1977.† Due to the distance from this location to other points in the district, the ambulance district moved to a new location in Cedar Hill after six months.† The new location was an old auto body shop that cost the district $150.00 rent each month.
At this time, the Board of Directors felt that a permanent location was needed to house the vehicles, equipment and the administrative offices of the district. In 1978, the Board of Directors placed a bond issue on the ballot for the construction of a permanent building for the district.† The bond issue was passed by an overwhelming vote of the people.† After this bond issue was passed, the Board of Directors immediately began looking for ground centrally located within the district.† A district station was built at Cedar Springs Road on Highway 30. On December 11, 1978, the Big River Ambulance District moved into its permanent location at 6321 Lorens Lane.