Home­made am­bu­lance was town’s first

Cost­ing $800, this built-in-Ber­lin ve­hi­cle was ready to get rolling for emer­gen­cies

Waterloo Region Record - - Arts & Life - rych­mills@golden.net RYCH MILLS

Next time a paramedic ve­hi­cle roars by, sirens scream­ing, en­gine roar­ing and lights flash­ing, think back to 1901.

That’s when the Ber­lin and Water­loo Hos­pi­tal’s brand-new am­bu­lance went into ser­vice. It fea­tured two low-wattage gas lamps, no sirens, and a pow­er­ful eight-legged, two-horsepower en­gine.

Eight hun­dred dol­lars had been raised by the B & WH Ladies’ Aux­il­iary to equip the hos­pi­tal with its first am­bu­lance. In 1978, when am­bu­lance op­er­a­tions ended, K-W Hos­pi­tal was proud that it had be­come the long­est-run­ning ser­vice in the province.

Con­structed in Louis Timm’s King Street East black­smith and car­riage shop, this first am­bu­lance was a Ber­lin-built ve­hi­cle and re­mained in ser­vice un­til 1920.

Louis Timm was one of those thou­sands of Ger­manic im­mi­grants who ar­rived in Ber­lin, Canada in mid-19th cen­tury, es­cap­ing from life un­der the ab­so­lute rule of the Grand Duke of Meck­len­burg. Chris­tened Lud­wig, like his fa­ther, he even­tu­ally dropped that name in favour of Louis. He was just four years old in 1869 when he, three broth­ers and a sis­ter boarded Prinz Al­bert, one of those ap­pallingly-packed im­mi­grant ships at Ham­burg.

Par­ents Lud­wig Jo­hann and So­phie (Graf ) Timm must have had a hand­ful dur­ing six weeks at sea with five young­sters un­der 14 (in­clud­ing a new­born). How­ever, they even­tu­ally landed in New York and trav­elled to Water­loo Town­ship.

By age 15, Louis was a farm hand and over the next few years, as the Timms set­tled into life in the flour­ish­ing town nick­named Busy Ber­lin for its in­dus­trial growth, he picked up enough ex­pe­ri­ence to be listed as a black­smith in the 1891 cen­sus.

Ge­orge Huck hired Louis in the early 1890s to work in his King East black­smith shop. Fol­low­ing Huck’s Jan­uary 1894 death, Louis bought the busi­ness. Huck had also been Ber­lin’s fire chief since 1889 and helped his young pro­tegé be­come one of the vol­un­teer fire­fight­ers. Af­ter Huck’s pass­ing, Timm took over as fire chief — which was a part-time, as-needed po­si­tion.

Kitch­ener Fire De­part­ment his­to­rian Tim Forsyth de­scribed in the 2015 Water­loo His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety’s an­nual pub­li­ca­tion how Timm’s pub­lic ser­vice ca­reer came to an end af­ter a con­tro­ver­sial fire at Daniel Hib­ner’s fur­ni­ture fac­tory in Novem­ber 1896. He was hounded out of of­fice and from then on, stuck to black­smithing. The sin­gle-storey shop of­fered cus­tom metal work in ad­di­tion to shoe­ing horses. It was also one of Ber­lin’s sev­eral ve­hi­cle man­u­fac­to­ries turn­ing out wag­ons, bug­gies, sleighs and at least one am­bu­lance.

Away from the shop, Louis and wife Sophia (Sass) had three chil­dren: Al­ton, Marie and John C. (also known as Jack). Louis died in 1905 at the young age of 39 and Sophia out­lived him by 44 years.

John Chris­tian Timm was born in 1893 and, for much of his ca­reer, was a me­chanic. He worked for Klein­schmidt Mo­tors be­fore land­ing a job with the City of Kitch­ener. On a pleas­ant win­ter’s day in 1946 or 1947, John Timm (left) stood with two other mu­nic­i­pal em­ploy­ees as they took pos­ses­sion of a brand­new Dodge truck for the city’s San­i­tary De­part­ment. Stan­ley Shupe (mid­dle) was the City of Kitch­ener’s en­gi­neer and John Ruther­ford was ea­ger to be­gin driv­ing his new work truck around town, flush­ing sew­ers and streets. Proud­foot Mo­tors was op­er­ated by Dou­glas Proud­foot at 10 Wa­ter St. N. from about 1944 to 1952 sell­ing Dodge and DeSoto cars and Dodge trucks. The still-stand­ing Bell Tele­phone build­ing sits at right.

John C. Timm and wife Nel­lie Bis­sett had a daugh­ter named Mar­garet and it is through Marg and her hus­band Jack Ea­ton that these Louis Timm pho­tos are avail­able. Long­time Water­loo His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety mem­bers, they had in­di­cated their wish that the pho­tos go to WHS. Marg and Jack passed away in 2012 within months of one an­other, some 14 decades af­ter her fouryear-old grand­fa­ther, Louis, be­gan his At­lantic cross­ing.

I was happy to know the cou­ple over the last decade or so of their lives. Jack, a gen­er­a­tion older than me, grew up in the same part of the city as I did and told many won­der­ful South Ward sto­ries from the ’30s and ’40s. He worked most of his life at nearby Cana­dian Blower and Forge.

1901 PHOTO BY CHARLES SCHNEUKER

RYCH MILLS COL­LEC­TION

WATER­LOO HIS­TOR­I­CAL SO­CI­ETY

WATER­LOO HIS­TOR­I­CAL SO­CI­ETY

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