The year was 1929. Luis Armstrong was playing on the radio. The roaring twenties had come to an end with the failure of the countries financial system and the stock market crash, which forever will be remembered as Black Thursday. Yet in our sleepy town of East Moriches, a profound movement would shape our communities health and well being for years to come.
It all started when the need for emergency healthcare was recognized when the American legion post in Center Moriches founded the Moriches Community Ambulance. The nearest hospitals were Southampton, Greenport, and Mather in Port Jefferson. Transportation to the area hospitals was extremely tough especially in the winter when snow removal equipment was not readily available. Salt spreaders, and sanders had not been invented and there were no major highways, as we know them today. Southampton was the closest. The trip could take up to 4 hours as they would drive down Montauk highway, through Hampton bays, and along the southern most road, which was affectionately, called the scenic trip. The secondary choice was Mather.
In 1929 the term “Emergency Medical Technician” was nonexistent as well. The volunteers had a simple procedure or, basic first aid, scoop and run. There were no radios, and the hospitals were never ready for the arrival of the ambulance.
The Ambulance was one of the first in the area, created and operated by a small group of community members. Harold Chapman, LH Smith, Gibson Howell, Mr. Cook, RV Croker, Walter Gordon, Walter Chapman, Harry Baker, and Wess Sinnickson. The ambulance served the communities in the area from the Moriches, to Hampton Bays in the East, Brookhaven to the west, and North all the way to Wading River. The dedication to service was unimaginable.
Our first ambulance was donated in 1938. It was a 1936 Cadillac with suicide doors and a spare tire mounted in the wheel well. Walter Chapman, who was affectionately called “Frog Chapman” because of his small stature, and others, modified the vehicle. They devised a way to remove the center post so that the stretcher could be placed in the vehicle, and then replaced before the vehicle would proceed to the hospital.
The vehicle was kept at Chapman’s garage in East Moriches, now the current home for Roadside Autoparts. Mr Chapman kept a houseman on call 24 hours a day. The houseman would keep a list of volunteers and would contact each one until he had a full crew to respond to the call. After getting a call you would pull the ambulance out of the bay doors on the east side of the building, which still can be seen today, turn on the bubble light and wait on Montauk highway for the rest of the crew.
To fund the ambulance basic needs such as gas and insurance, the members formed a committee, which sold yearly subscription tickets. Members went door-to-door selling tickets for $2.00 each or whatever donations a resident could afford. Later in the 1940’s Walter Kanas would remind residents to purchase their tickets when they would pick up their mail at the post office. He would collect the money and forward it to the company.
In the late 1940’s the Sinnickson family took over all dispatching. Beginning with Mr. and Mrs. Wess Sinnickson, Mr. and Mrs. Tom Sinnickson, Mr. and Mrs. Lee Sinnickson and other family members when needed. The Sinnickson family made sure that someone was available to dispatch, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Some dispatching was done from the offices of LH Smith, which was the small white house of the northwest corner of Pine St and Montauk Highway. The Sinnicksons continued to dispatch until the 1980’s.
When Marie Sinnickson would call a volunteer, and that volunteer would answer, she would tell them the nature of the call and the call location and hang up. You didn’t dare say that you couldn’t respond. It was understood that you would.
In 1949 a new blue ad white Buick was purchased at cost from Frog Chapman. This Buick was also housed at Chapman’s Garage.
In the 1950s’ Dr Calabro opened a hospital in Mastic Beach, called Bayview Hospital. The proximity saved the company valuable time and money.
Harry Baker, John Leary, Walter Bishop, Clarence Penney, and James Tuffley incorporated the company in 1953.
During this time, LH Smith opened a gas station on the southwest corner of Atlantic and Montauk, where the Pit Stop gas station currently resides. Larry Smith, managed the station. Larry maintained the ambulance, kept it at the station during station hours and responded from the station when needed. He would close down the station if necessary, and at times when a community member noticed the station closed, they would temporarily reopen the station, collect the money in his absence, and continue until he returned. Larry Smith could be found at almost 90 percent of all calls.
Before the nation knew of Baby Jessica, the child who fell down the well in the 1980’s, the Moriches Community ambulance made national headlines because of a boy who fell down a well on May 16th, 1957. Countless resources were utilized to bring little Benjamin Hooper up from a 21 foot well just dug by his father at their home on Ryerson Ave in Manorville.
In the 1960’s the ambulance functioned with the leadership of its first president, Eddie Stypulkowski, who served for 5 years followed by George Dunlap, Billy Golembeski, and Reverend Gordon Dickson.
In the early 1970’s we went further than first aid. We had members take an EMT course. The first members to take an EMT course was Jeffery Frey, Rev Dickson, and a few months later Gary Hinrichs. All members paid for their own schooling and equipment.
In 1973 LH Smith donated a piece of land across from the East Moriches Firehouse, which became the home of the East Moriches Community Ambulance. For the first time in 44 years, we had a home.
We continued to where we are today, a volunteer organization and community oriented ambulance service that provides twenty-four hour a day emergency medical care to the hamlets of East Moriches, Eastport and southern areas of Manorville.
To truly understand where we go from here, we have to understand where we came from. To the dedicated members who persevered since 1929, We congratulate you and thank you from the bottom of our hearts. And Congratulations to the East Moriches Community Ambulance for 90+ years of service.