Adus F. Dorsey II
If you were to ask a modern day nurse she/he would most likely be able to tell you that there were many important advances that took place in medicine during the 1950’s, including, but not limited to the first human aorta transplant, the discovery of Hepatitis A, as well as the synthesis of the world’s first wonder drug, Penicillin. But in Wayne County, Utah, boxes full of rubber gloves, proper fitting face-masks and a siren on a real ambulance were still a long ways off.
Transporting the ill, injured or anyone needing urgent medical care always posed a problem in Wayne County in the early days. Steve Brown (deceased) remembered, we looked for anyone who owned or had access to anything long enough we could fit a body comfortably into, people as long and lanky as Dunc Taylor always created a medical challenge. At the time it was well known that Barlow Pace had a new station wagon and he was pressed to put it into service many times.” Dee Hatch, as well an many others recall Bill Wells, affectionately known as the “Flying Bishop in Hanskville,” was also very cooperative and used his small plane as an air ambulance, precariously landing and taking off on fairly short, unleveled roads and carrying more weight than he often should have.
When absolutely necessary and without hesitation Steve Brown of Loa loaded patients into his patrol car or his wife Allie would faithfully transport them to medical facilities over the mountain in her families sedan.
Steve Brown said, September 1st1956 was a “big day” when Wayne County made the executive decision to purchase and “equip” a surplus vehicle for an ambulance. The ambulance turned out to be a 1953 GMC panel truck, equipped with a patched and aging army stretcher that had the handles sawed off so the doors would close, and a stash of medical supplies that consisted of a Montgomery Ward first aid kit, a box of Band-Aids and a four battery flash light that you had to hit sometimes to make it work. The Loa volunteer Fire Department members, the Wayne County Sheriff’s posse, and or their wives, and anyone who had taken advanced first aid classes and wouldn’t pass out at the sight of blood were immediately sworn in as Wayne County’s own mobile medical team.
Steve Brown also remembered another “Red Letter Day,” when he received word from the Utah Health Department through Mr. Dewey Brodbeck, that if 25 people were willing to take 25 hours of First Aid training the health department would provide Wayne County with $1,500.00 to equip another ambulance. Again, those willing to slide into the back of the ambulance were the members of the Loa Fire Department and their wives, and even some of the Sheriff’s posse members agreed to climb in from time to time to go along to assist any way they could on the ride.
It was a cold and dreary day when Steve and Warren Taylor went to Salt Lake to pick up “Jewel”, a 1960 Pontiac ambulance previously owned by a U. S. Navy recruiter. Steve goes on to remember that the day became even darker when they got their first peak at what would be Wayne County’s first real ambulance. Jewel was parked rather flat-footed out back of a dilapidated chicken coop in muddy barnyard, looking dirtier than any Wayne County farmer’s pick up truck after a January thaw. Jewel had three flat tires, a missing battery, and was covered up to the top of the fenders in snow and chicken poop. With a new battery and lot of elbow grease, along with some chosen words not found anywhere in a Webster dictionary, Steve and Warren were able to nurse “Jewel” all the way to Gunnison where it was left to recuperate for a couple of days until Steve’ wife Allie could get over to Sevier County to retrieve it.
With a wooden carpenters box full of tools Warren Taylor, the Wayne County maintenance man at the time, worked his magic, and with some help from members of the volunteer Fire Department they transformed the “Grey Ghost” into a fairly decent looking “wagon of mercy”. They installed two-way radios that provided constant communication with other law enforcement and medical personnel, which in time would surely save many lives.
Just about every person on the Fire Department took turns manning Jewel on emergencies but problems did exist. With no one actually charged with the responsibility of properly maintaining the ambulance and its where abouts, in most cases the “Grey Ghost” could be found parked in the driveway of the last person that drove her. It was a well-known fact that when there was a call you should take along a decent pair of battery cables, a quart or two of motor oil, a gallon of gas and give the tires a quick kick and shot of air in order to get the old girl rolling.
In Haleyville, Alabama, in 1968 it was Robert E. “Bob” Fitzgeraldand his colleagues who implemented the first 911system. In Wayne County in the 50’s and 60’s it was Allie Brown’s phone that rang at all hours of the day and night when there was an emergency. Throughout Wayne County it was a well known fact that if emergency response was needed the responsibility dropped directly into Allie Brown’s lap. In the 60’s and 70’s and on a moments notice Allie Brown was charged with locating a willing ambulance crew in the event of an emergency, considered not so much a chore as much as it was a community service obligation.
Still running in local parades and on special occasions and owned by Big Bart; rest his soul, is the pumpkin orange1973 Cadillac dubbed “The Ghostbuster” that made ambulance runs for many years, along with many other ambulances that have come and gone since the “Grey Ghost” was first put into service. And many, many EMT’s have been trained and have served Wayne County well over the years.
More times than not it is a nervous vibrating and frantic beeper call, an electronic message sent overt the Wayne County air waves from the Richfield dispatch, that continues to lift eyebrows higher than they should be and raise adrenaline above normal levels throughout Wane County when a call comes in. The calls sometimes involve a life threatening circumstance, situations so dire that it requires everyday Wayne County citizens; locally trained as EMTs, to drop their forks on the supper table in the middle of a bite or immediately set aside everything they are doing to respond to an emergency.
Today in 2019, Wayne County sports top notch and well-equipped ambulances and a crack team of professionally trained and well-educated EMT’s to staff them.
At age 83, Allie Brown she is still very much forefront in the Wayne County picture performing all sorts of community related services. She has achieved the status of lifetime member of the Harold Brown American Legion Post 92, sometimes still ensuring that the American flags, the M-1 rifles, World War II era guns are in working order and aging American Legion members are rustled up and at Memorial Day remembrances and at every veteran’s funeral through out Wayne County.
Allie Brown has served and continues to serve Wayne County diligently, a finer human being you will never find. Thank you Allie Brown for your lifetime of service to Wayne County.