A History of the Hoags Corners Ambulance

By George and Louise Jahn, with thanks for Denise Hart's 1988 notes.

As published in the 50th Anniversary Celebration book produced in 1998.



In the year 1948, if you were a very sick resident of the tiny hamlet of Hoags Corners and needed emergency transportation for care at an area hospital, a 1937 Packard hearse would pull up to your front door.

This was the first transportation vehicle provided by the Hoags Corners Volunteer Ambulance Association. And its purchase came about through the community-minded spirit of a small, insightful group of volunteers.

The dedication of these individuals also led to the Hoags Corners association being the third volunteer emergency service established in the county of Rensselaer. The incorporation was in November of 1948 and the charter is dated March of 1949.

The first treasury consisted of $51.00; no doubt from dues of the volunteers themselves and donations from patron grateful for the service provided. Meetings were held in the Hoags Corners Hotel for lack of a building at that time. The first chief was the local barber, Frank Prince. His wife, Elizabeth, a nurse, was his attendant. John Udwary, Arnold Ried and Fred Bates were also members.

Shortly thereafter, in response to the need of the community, land of the Town Garage Road was donated by Mr. and Mrs. Erhart Jahn. To clear the parcel, squad members cut down the trees with saws and axes. The trees were then dragged to the nearby saw mill by teams of horses where Hiram Bates and John Udwary sawed the trees into lumber slabs to build the meeting hall and adjoining garage. Leroy Wood and his father were contracted to construct the new building. Ambulance members aided by laying the floors and doing much of the finishing work.

Donations and fund raising became the means of successfully continuing the services to the community and of providing the funds necessary to maintain the organization and purchase the used Packard hearse. Members donated their most valuable assets; their time and skills. Fresh turkeys were purchased, cooked, carved and served. Amateur shows and fairs were presented and well attended.

At that time, the ambulance district covered a much larger area; the towns of New Lebanon, Stephentown, Averill Park and Nassau. Only a doctor or law officer had the authority to call the ambulance to a scene. Fortunately, unlike the present, each town did have its resident doctor; Dr. Swartz covered East Nassau, Dr. Lancaster, New Lebanon; Dr. Greene, Stephentown; Dr. Reid, Averill Park; and Dr. Panich, the Town of Nassau. Dr. Swartz provided an invaluable service by teaching first aid classes to the founders and members of the squad in the East Nassau Grade School building.

Succeeding chiefs during that period were: Joe Meisinger, Charles Strauss, Gene O'Brien and Walt DeWalt, owner of the general store in East Nassau where the dispatching of emergency calls originated. Presidents during that time were John Udwary, Arnold Ried, James Murdock and Simon Udwary; George Schrump was the first treasurer followed by Charles Strauss, then Evelyn O'Brien who served faithfully for more than two decades.

As time went on, the old Packard became beyond repair and the association was forced to purchase a used GMC suburban truck that they converted to an ambulance. Rensselaer County provided a radio so communication with the fire department, police and other ambulances in the area was possible. Surrounding areas had started their own ambulance services. Averill Park started Sand Lake Ambulance Association; New Lebanon, the Lebanon Valley Protective Association; Nassau, the Nassau Fire and Ambulance Association. All these new squads had modern, well-equipped rigs… the Hoags Corners membership realized there could be significant benefits to the community provided by a new authentic ambulance vehicle.

A committee was formed to look into the feasibility of purchasing a new rig. Most of the members were doubtful this could be accomplished due to the cost versus the existing treasury balance. Karl Nurenberg, an active member, suggested a coin card drive fund raiser … again, the community responded and it was a success! Bankers Trust of Albany provided a loan of $13,606.20 to purchase the new Dodge rig decided on by the committee. George Jahn and Mike Cornaire traveled to Knightstown, Indiana, to pick it up and drive it home. At the time this new rig was put into service, the old gurney (stretcher) was given to the Petersburg Ambulance squad; they were just getting started and lack of funds made this donation very much appreciated.

With the new rig in service, Chief Frank Lukovitz felt the attendants should have the knowledge to better treat their patients and encouraged them to attend classes for EMT (Emergency Medical Technician_ training being offered at Hudson Valley Community College. Among the graduates were: Chief Lukovitz, Mike Cornaire, George Jahn, Karl Nurenburg, Rudy Jahn, Doris Benson, Len Impastato, Laurie Berry, Len Berry, Guy Diana, and Karl Gellotte. As a follow-up to Frank Lukovitz's accomplishments, under Chief George Jahn, Hoags Corners became the first ambulance service in the county to be state certified (the requirement being every call responded to must have an EMT on board).

As mentioned, dispatching was through the East Nassau General Store. Eventually, Lorraine Henderson purchased this business from Walt DeWalt thus inheriting the ambulance dispatcher role, which she carried on unselfishly for the benefit of the community. However, due to raising a family and the inconvenience of needing to be available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week (since emergencies are not scheduled in advance), after a period of time it became necessary to search for an alternate method of reporting and responding to the numerous calls.

Chief George Jahn and Mike Cornaire researched for a solution that led to the establishment of the minitor system and base station repeater. They leased a telephone line from Taconic Telephone's main station to the Fire Control Center in Troy. Emergencies could not be reported to 794-8484, a non-toll number. The Hoags Corners Fire Department and the Tsatsawassa Fire Department agreed to share in the cost of the line accessing the same emergency number. Four other ambulance squads were allowed to use the additional spots on the encoder by paying HCVAA a one-time charge of $50.00 each. As time went on, several more squads wanted to get on the system; to facilitate them, the entire system was sold to Rensselaer County for the amount Hoags Corners had originally spent. There are presently nearly 20 different squads utilizing this system.

Since Paul Glasser has been chief (14 years), among the many accomplishments of the association, two stand out; Hoags Corners is one of the four associations in the county to reach the level of Advanced Life Support, and a pilot program for the use of defibrillators in the field was started.

Fifty years of minutes would need to be reviewed to include the numerous contributions and improvements of the organization that have benefited our community and those surrounding it. In the early days, the membership even went beyond the call of duty and arranged to have a complete house moved from outside the area and set up in Hoags Corners to provide a home for a burned out family.

Happenings of historical significance are represented by the statistics and records kept of the responses to each emergency call. At present, 37 riding squad members handle around 250 calls a year. Figures by themselves serve a comparison purpose but can mean little to a non-member; however, such incidences as represented by these same figures become alive when you know they mean a life was restored, a baby was born in whose birth you assisted, life and limb was saved, a child got relief from difficulty breathing, and on and on for 365 days a year for the past 50 years.

Unrecorded happenings, but those that are still in the hearts and minds of members, will give the best insight of each of them "having received something invaluable in return" along with the greatest feeling of fulfillment and purpose a person can have.

The HCVAA is deeply indebted to its considerable number of dedicated people; all chiefs, presidents, secretaries, treasurers, other officers, crew members, social members, friends, and caring individuals past and present, along with the community spirit and financial support displayed throughout the years since its inception.

This same dedication for the next 50 years will assure the hamlet of Hoags Corners and its neighboring communities of continued quality emergency medical service as put forth and experienced these past 50 years..

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