(The following was read by then-President Desi Smith at the time of our 50th anniversary dinner in 2002. Thanks for documenting this for everyone to enjoy.)
Back in 1951, the Matawan First Aid Squad approached Joseph Lanzaro, Sr. (There is a plaque to Mr. Lanzaro in the front hallway). There was an increase in calls in our area, and they were having difficulty responding. Could he find out if Morganville could start their own Squad? Joe went door to door to see if people would be interested in helping out. After he had a group of people, he went back to Matawan, and they set up the training for the new recruits. The Town couldn’t provide funding for the Squad, so they raised money for their first ambulance, a La Salle, by having a picnic that was held where the Bell Tell building currently sits.
Matawan First Aid donated equipment to us as well — most of it brand new. It was decided that an ambulance would be housed at the Volunteer Fire Station on Tennent Road.
There was only one officer in the town — Charlie the Cop. If you needed him you called the State Police and they would try to reach him. How would the members know there was a call? The person would call the operator, and then the operator would call either Mrs. Howardson, Mrs. Farrell or The Ville. It would then be their job to activate the siren from their home. Once the members arrived at the Fire Station, they would pick up the phone, which would ring back to whomever activated the siren and find out what type of call they had.
On July 13, 1952, they were officially incorporated. The charter members were [click here], of which two, Martin Smith Jr. and Pete Peterson, are with us tonight. If you were a woman, you could join the Auxiliary. However, one woman was permitted on the ambulance because she was a registered nurse. She rode on maternity and trauma calls, and is also with us tonight — Chip Konowala.
When they needed a second ambulance, they held a Minstrel Show and bought a Miller ambulance. Time went on and eventually they decided to build their own building on a lot next to the firehouse. Since there weren’t any real assets, in order for them to get a mortgage, each member had to sign personal notes with the bank using their own homes as collateral. I don’t think you’d find that type of commitment today. The building was built by the members, and still stands across the street from Skip’s Garage on Tennent Road.
Over the years, more ambulances were bought — Oldsmobiles, Cadillacs, and a Crash Truck. Since more people were moving in to the town, a sub station was needed. In the late 60s another rig was stationed at Nievison’s Garage on the corner of Tennent and Route 520. It’s still standing in the trees down in the hollow, by Route 18. The town continued to grow and more members followed. A few years later, another sub station was added, this time in Marlboro Village at Tilton’s Garage on Hudson Street. In the early 70s the Marlboro substation decided to form their own Squad, and broke away.
Funds were raised by going door-to-door and the ever popular “coin toss” was held on Route 9 and Route 520. Route 18 came in, and a rig was housed in Robertsville Fire House. More women were joining and we also began an Explorer Division under the Boy Scouts. Bob Jessen spearheaded the committee to watch over, as Joe Lanzaro referred to them, “those youngsters” and John Stark taught them first aid. They participated in an annual event called the Klondike Derby. This was a Boy Scout function in which teams of 5–6 pulled sleds around Cheesequake State Park and they ran around barking like dogs, to different stations where their skills were challenged. The Squad oversaw the “First Aid” section. It seemed it was always held on the coldest, windiest day in November, and this station also had the pleasure of “sampling” the lunch they had to make — mmmmmm.
Meetings were long — usually lasting after midnight and were interesting as Joe tried to keep the men from using any cuss words when ladies were present; Mike Costura sat in his, and only his, recliner; Boards of Review were a common occurrence; and no one will ever forget Roger Sassin drilling us on that new piece of equipment — the HLR.
In 1980, the Squad elected their first ever female Captain and President — Paula Alexander and Desi Smith. Joe Lanzaro would later remark that although he never liked the idea of ladies being on the Squad, he was proud of these two.
The Explorers changed to our Cadet Division, and in 1983 they participated in a first aid competition. They came in number 1 in the Harriman Division, and number 2 in the country, and went to DC to visit with the President. Morganville was finally on the map — still located between Frenue and Wickatunk.
Larger ambulances were being built and couldn’t be housed in our building, so the original building was sold and a new one built on Tennent Road, by Crine Road.
Today, we have 3 ambulances, a First Responder unit, approximately 25 riding squad members, and 16 Cadets.
Each of us have our own memories, whether it be your first CPR call; or being hit with change during the coin toss; or that time you backed the rig in to or over something; or when Andy Harris and Corky Dixon helped us “remodel” the new building; or that time when RC told me I needed to get a rocking chair. We’ve developed friendships that we probably wouldn’t have had if it weren’t for being members of the Squad.
Joe would be proud. At this time, I would like to have two of our Charter members come up for the toast — Martin Smith and Pete Peterson.
Tonight, as we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Morganville First Aid and Rescue Squad, we thank you for your dedication to the community. May we be able to serve them as well in the future, as you have, in the past.