Early Ambulances (and the Rising Corpse)

First Ambulance
First Ambulance

When Dr. A. W. Bridge had a patient in his 1914 Model T ambulance, he found it difficult to check on the patient’s condition unless he stopped the ambulance first. The patient’s cot was behind him and he couldn’t twist around and observe the patient and drive at the same time.

Custom Changes
Dr. Bridge came up with an idea. He would cut away the passenger’s half of the front seat and lengthen the steering shaft. The combination would put the patient’s head beside him and he could simply glance down from time to time to see how the patient was getting along. The idea worked, but the long steering shaft made the vehicle difficult to handle.

Dr. Bridge asked Dr. Claude E. Wiseman to take the ambulance calls, but after a trip in the altered ambulance Dr. Wiseman told Dr. Bridge, “It’s your invention. You drive it.” So, Dr. Bridge hired a young Clyde Williams as driver and Clyde drove the altered vehicle from 1914 to 1915.

Lumbermans Hospital - Mashell Ave.
Lumbermans Hospital – Mashell Ave.

New Ambulance
In 1915, Mr. Bridge replaced the Model T and Mr. Williams remembered the new Model T well. It had 40 horsepower and was so light that when a tire had to be changed, a couple of men could lift the vehicle onto blocks.

The vehicle’s body overhung the rear wheels to an extent that a heavy weight on the back caused the front wheels rise off the ground.

Like all Model T’s though, it had lots of ground clearance, which was important. Mr. Williams — sometimes accompanied by Dr. Bridge and sometimes alone — often drove where there were no roads or only a trail to reach remote houses.

The Corpse
Mr. Williams chiefly remembered the vehicle for the hair-raising experience when a deceased patient was loaded into the ambulance. Mr. Williams was half way to Eatonville when the dead man slowly rose to a sitting position. Rigor mortis had set in and the contracting muscles caused him to sit up.

“When I saw him start to sit up, I nearly went through the roof,” recalled Mr. Williams.

4 thoughts on “Early Ambulances (and the Rising Corpse)”

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