Peabody Singing Tower

 North Manchester, Indiana

Recipient of Indiana Historical Society's Awards--"2013 Outstanding Project Award" &
"2009 Outstanding Historical Organization".  Welcome to our web site!  Enjoy using this Portal to Our Past!

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Early 1880s
1890 Directory
1904 Advertisers
1920 Businesses
 Main St. 1923-1928
Beery Orchard
Blackmore Cigars
Cabinet Makers
Canning Factory

Cigar Factories
DeWitt Auto

DeWitt Building
Drug Stores
Excelsior Factory
Farm Implement
Flour Mill
Furniture Making
Grandstaff Rendering
Grove's Grocery
Hayes Motors
Heckman Bindery
Hotel Sheller
Howe Bait
Leedy Motor Co.
Louie's Candy

Mfg Industries
N.M. Airport
N.M. Foundry
Oppenheim-125 Yrs
Peabody Retirement
Peabody Seating
Planing Mill
Rex Windmill
Stickley Furniture
Telephone Cos.
Wagon Makers
Warner Brooder

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North Manchester
Historical Society
All rights reserved.

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our Center for History
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Source: NMHS Newsletter Nov 2006

The Care Givers of Long Ago--Northern Indiana Ambulance Service

By Larry R. Freels

I had the opportunity to grow up in rural Indiana during the wonderful era of the fifties and sixties. My father operated a small gasoline station in the community where I spent many happy and carefree hours as a child. Our town is a small one where news travels quickly when something catastrophic happens in the area. Many of these tales were of gravely ill community patriarchs and horrific vehicular crashes which had required ambulance transportation. What better place than a neighborhood filling station to hear, savor and share these stories.

It must be understood that the funeral directors had plenty to do, but they still offered to provide their communities with emergency ambulance service. The truth is that they were the only ones around with a vehicle long enough that the person could be transported, comfortably, in a supine position. During the fifties there were two funeral-home-based ambulance services in town. The Burgess Funeral Home had one vehicle that was used as ambulance and hearse both. For the day, it was an older vehicle, with red light mounted on the front bumper to warn drivers of its "speedy" advance.

The Bender Funeral Home had two matched combination hearse-ambulances that were switched after a year's use. The later was the prominent firm in the community and traded vehicles every two years. Both firms "always" used Cadillacs either gray or black in color. It was 1966 when Bendeer's got the first ambulance with a top-mounted, revolving beacon. One firm's owner said that he did not want a siren on his vehicles because it gave the drivers the "bighead!" The DeLaughter Mortuary brought the first medically oriented ambulance service to North Manchester (with a siren, even!) in 1968. LifeMed Ambulance Service now provides our area with emergency service.

As the sleek cars, with white side-walled tires and red spotlight came for fuel I remember looking and dreaming that I might be one of those who drove them. There was never a spot of dust on the shining vehicles. The drivers wore dark, two piece suits and spoke with slow, distinct speech. There was an aura of awe and respect that is hard to describe.

This was during the time before EMS training and vehicle requirements; thus the combination hearse-ambulance. General Motors Corporation held the trump card in the production of these prestigious automobiles. Cadillac was at the top of the list for use in northern Indiana followed by Buick and Oldsmobile. A fair number were produced on Pontiac and Chevrolet chassis as well. Many Buick professional cars were made right here in Indiana by the National Coach Company at Knightstown. This type of luxurious vehicles continued to be produced until 1984 when the last "Caddy" was put into service. Federal EMS regulations had gone into effect mandating the use of truck-type ambulances. An elderly funeral director who ceased running ambulance service was quoted as staunchly stating, "From where I come from, we haul cattle in trucks; we haul people in Cadillacs!"

I am very excited about the path that EMS has taken thus far. Every year there are new trends in care and in vehicles that make our care even better.

For more than thirty-five years I have been proud to drive these "prides of professionalism" in a number of different venues. My EMS career began in a 1964 Cadillac Combination and has continued through a 1975 Cadillac combo. The first van type ambulance that I served in was a 1974 Dodge Medicruiser. Other units have included Chevrolet and Ford Type I, II and III vehicles. Presently, Ford Marque Type III units are being used in our community.

When I no longer worked in the funeral industry, my interest in the professional vehicles continued. I was fortunate to find, and be able to purchase, a 1965 Buick Combination in 2000. This car was recently traded for a 1982 Buick hearse which has been modified as a "coroner's response/removal car." My family, friends and I enjoy taking "the '82" to nearby parades and Professional Car Society get-togethers.