Good Fellowship ambulance turning 65
On Dec. 3, members of Good Fellowship, friends, and local dignitaries will gather for the 65th anniversary.
WEST CHESTER >> The aroma of brewing coffee and sizzling bacon wafted over the dining room on the day the Good Fellowship Club of West Chester was founded.
That was 65 years ago. Eight friends sat around a table in a restaurant in downtown West Chester, discussing a serious automobile crash that had recently taken place in Westtown which involved another friend.
An ambulance had been summoned but, they agreed, it had taken an excessive amount of time to arrive on scene. “You know,” said one of the eight friends, Dominic Nick J. Mastrangelo, “we could avoid that kind of delay with a neighborhood ambulance.”
And that was how the Good Fellowship Club of Chester County came about.
On Dec. 3, members of Good Fellowship, friends, and local dignitaries will gather at the Westside Ballroom in West Chester to commemorate the 65th anniversary of the squad’s founding.
The first ambulance, a 1951 Pontiac stationed in a garage on North Walnut Street in West Chester, had its work cut out: it covered an area stretching from the Delaware state line to Pottstown, Newtown Square, Modena, and Coatesville. If an emergency occurred, someone had to telephone the garage for help. The member on duty would then respond to the emergency.
“Take paramedics and emergency medical technicians out of your mind,” said Anthony Polito, club historian. “They did not exist, this time period. We were good people with good hearts who wanted to save lives. What we had in our possession to aid the injured was a first aid kit and a canvas stretcher.”
Polito, who was active in the club from 1956 to 1988, became a member when he was literally picked from a crowd.
“I was a 15-year-old kid watching a baseball game when I got tapped on the shoulder. A member from the ambulance picked me out from the crowd and asked me if I would be interested in helping out when an emergency arose. I said sure. I never looked back,” recalled Polito.
This was not the first time Polito interacted with a health care professional. At the age of 9, Polito severely injured his eye, and spent a lot of time at Wills Eye Hospital in Philadelphia.
“I found what the doctors and nurses did was fascinating and cool,” he said.
Two years later, after the club’s formation, the fleet grew with 1953 and 1957 Cadillacs, a 1963 Corvair, and 1968 and 1969 Pontiacs. In those days “fundraising” for money to purchase ambulances and equipment consisted of members standing on High and Gay streets with tin cups and jars for donations.
In 1968, the first training certification made its debut; the recipient described as an “emergency ambulance attendant.”
Two years later the club moved to its present location on Montgomery Avenue in West Chester, where a three-bay building was dedicated. By 1973, the squad was responding to nearly 2,000 emergencies.
From that period to the present, the Good Fellowship Club of Chester County grew to 70 career and volunteer members who annually field 5,000 emergency calls from nine municipalities, including West Chester, West Goshen, Westtown, East and West Bradford, West Whiteland, Thornbury, Birmingham, and Newlin. The calls are handled by a fleet of vehicles: not just ambulances, but sports utility vehicles and rehab trailers.
One of the club’s achievements came just last year when it became the first Intermediate Advanced Life Support squad to be licensed in Pennsylvania.
Still another achievement followed shortly thereafter when the club created, funded and implemented Project Naloxone, a program that supplies every police department in Chester County with Naloxone for use in reviving opioid overdose victims and provides training to all Chester County law enforcement personnel on Naloxone use.
Good Fellowship ambulance crews train in this December 1968 photo.