Good Fel­low­ship am­bu­lance turn­ing 65

On Dec. 3, mem­bers of Good Fel­low­ship, friends, and lo­cal dig­ni­taries will gather for the 65th an­niver­sary.

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Gil Co­hen Spe­cial to the Daily Lo­cal News

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.

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