The late George L. Gause created the first funeral home and ambulance service in the frontier town of Fort Worth in 1879. The funeral home originally had horse drawn hearses that could also double as an ambulance and later the funeral home transitioned to the early motorcars in the early twentieth century. The funeral home hearses were called “conversion cars” in that such vehicles could also be quickly converted from a hearse to that of an ambulance. The stretchers of that area were usually manufactured by either the Washington Mortuary Supply Company or the Bumgardner Company and did not elevate to a waist level position. There was no medical aid equipment in those days and portable oxygen bottles would later be included when they were introduced in the latter 40’s.
In 1922, R.D. Owen opened the Owens & Brumley Funeral Home and Ambulance Service and began serving the Fort Worth Area. In the 1940’s the funeral home started a dedicated ambulance service using custom built 40’s era Cadillac ambulances that were equipped with oxygen, wood splints and a first aid kit
The Meissner Funeral Home opened in 1933 and was located at Nashville Street and Avenue B in Fort Worth. The funeral home also provided ambulance service to its service area families by directly responding to their homes when called directly.
Like most other Fort Worth area funeral homes that provided ambulance service, Meissner could rapidly convert one of their hearses to ambulance duty which involved simply flipping the casket roller covers to the closed position, and sometime removing the “landau” funeral panels from the rear side windows. The hearses usually had two installed front bumper or grill assembly mounted sealed beam red lights and a siren underneath the hood. In the late 40’s this also involved attaching a removable rotating beacon to the roof, adding a portable oxygen tank and the vehicle also had a permanent installed stretcher bar.
In 1956 Joe B. Brown moved to Fort Worth where he began working as a funeral director/embalmer for Harveson & Cole Funeral Home. The funeral home, like the other Fort Worth Area funeral homes also provided ambulance service to its service area families by directly responding to their homes when called directly and to street calls. Mr. Brown became very active in the community which resulted in the Robertson-Muller-Harper Funeral Home approaching Mr. Brown and hiring him as their personnel director.
Mr. E.C. Harper Jr. was a stockholder of the Robertson-Muller-Harper Funeral Home which also provided ambulance service to its service area families by directly responding to their homes when called. In the 50’s, the funeral home only operated hearses which could be quickly converted to ambulance duty if needed and had oxygen. In the 60’s Brown made efforts to add Red Cross Standard First Aid training for funeral home personnel that might have to respond to ambulance calls.
In the 60’s E.C. Harper, Jr. and his family later expanded their funeral home and ambulance service by purchasing the Ray Crowder Funeral Home, at which time Joe Brown was appointed to manage both the funeral home and its existing ambulance service. The funeral home was located at Pennsylvania Avenue and 5th Street within the City of Fort Worth and only operated hearses which could be quickly converted to ambulance duty if needed.
Joe Brown made efforts to add oxygen, a first aid kit and to obtain Red Cross Standard and Advanced First Aid training for funeral home personnel that might have to respond to ambulance calls. He also began to purchase vehicles that could be solely dedicated to providing ambulance service response. Brown became very active in Fort Worth city government politics and had greatly expanded his reputation as a quality manager. Based on this reputation and greatly upgrading the quality of the funeral home ambulance service, he was then asked to contract and provide ambulance service for the entire City of Fort Worth starting in the latter ‘60’s and it was at this point that Joe formally created the Ray Crowder Ambulance Service which would be a separate company, but based out of the funeral home.
In the latter 60’s, the Ray Crowder Ambulance Service operated six ambulances which directly served the City of Forth Worth under a sole contract.
The Gordon K. Allen Company in nearby Dallas, had converted several earlier units for the Fort Worth service and was the foundation for the start-up of the Modular Ambulance Corporation or MAC, which converted five 1968 to 1970 Chevrolet “Suburban” model vehicles into ambulances.
MAC also converted an additional 1970 Chevy Suburban to an ambulance and added it’s first manufactured conversion and experimental 54” raised roof ambulances to the Ray Crowder fleet. Shortly after. MAC expanded its' product line to produce modular ambulances as we know them today.
The converted Chevy “Suburban” model ambulances were equipped with a two-level Ferno-Washington stretcher, a folding “stretcher with flip-down wheels and posts, oxygen, ambu-bag, foot suction device, Thompson half-ring splint, air splint kit, airways, a doctors medical bag containing first aid supplies and both wooden short and long backboards. The attendant was required to be certified in both American Red Cross Standard and Advanced First Aid. Ray Crowder ambulance attendants also began to complete the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) three-day Advanced Training course when it became available starting 1968 as well as the 24 hour State of Texas Registered Emergency Care Attendant (RECA) course that began to be offered in 1970.
In 1971, the Ray Crowder Ambulance Service continued to be contracted as the city ambulance service for the City of Fort Worth. But new evolving Federal DOT ambulance design, equipment and training requirements for the State of Texas would require that the Ray Crowder Ambulance Service operate new concepts of ambulances staffed with much higher trained personnel.
The Ray Crowder Ambulance Service was faced with the fact that they could not afford to replace their existing fleet under their existing operating budget. It was at this point that Joe Brown decided to seek financial funding support from the city. With the city council’s confidence that the ambulance service could effectively serve its needs under Joe Brown’s direction, the city provided Ray Crowder funding to purchase six fully equipped 1971 “Modulances” which were built by the Modular Ambulance Corporation in nearby Grand Prairie. The city later provided funding to purchase two additional 1971 Chevy Modulances for a total of eight ambulances being operated by the Ray Crowder Ambulance Service for the city as of the mid 70’s.
A contract stipulation specified that the City of Fort Worth could repurchase the vehicles if it decided to create a government owned and operated system after its contract with Ray Crowder Ambulance Service expired. In 1975, most of the ambulance service’s attendants had completed the 81 hour basic EMT course, became certified and assuring at least one EMT to treat patients on each ambulance call. The average response time in that year was a respectable 5.8 minutes and the ambulance service averaged 66 calls per day. The John Peter Smith Hospital was the trauma center serving the city and averaged approximately 6000 emergency room visits annually. These six newly delivered Modulances would replace the six “low roof” Chevy Suburban ambulances that were being operated by Ray Crowder to serve the city which would become reserve units only.
The newly delivered ambulances represented a great improvement over the six low roof Chevrolet “Suburban” vehicles they had replaced. The “Modulances” especially had the ability to transport four stretcher patients as demonstrated by Ray Crowder Ambulance Service personnel in the photo left.
The ambulances were equipped with the latest ambulance equipment that had been recommended by both the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons and the United States Department of Transportation (DOT). New generation equipment included a modern medical “jump bag”, aluminum short and long spine boards, demand valve resuscitator/CPR valve, Hare adult traction splint, RICO vacuum on-board suction, on-board piped oxygen with humidifier administration sets, basic vehicle extrication equipment and other evolving equipment items.
Ray Crowder Ambulance personnel became both National Registered and State of Texas certified basic Emergency Medical Technician-Ambulance (EMT-A’s) and VHF HEAR system radios were later installed in the rear compartment of each ambulance with a dial encoder to allow direct radio communications with Fort Worth area hospitals who had also received HEAR system radio. These radios were purchased pursuant to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Grant. The Ray Crowder Ambulance Service successor would later evolve into a paramedic program by the latter 70’s to keep pace with paramedic programs that had emerged in nearby Dallas, Houston and San Antonio.
Two additional “Modulances” purchased by the City of Fort Worth was on a 1971 Chevrolet chassis instead of a 1971 Ford, and featured the newly introduced Federal Sign & Signal Corporation’s “TWINSONIC” light bar which replaced the four corner beacons while still retaining the center Federal Model 184 red/white bulb rotating beacon.
The service operated both van and “Moduvan” ambulances to serve contracted areas
In the 70's Turner Ambulance Services also provided emergency ambulance service to many Tarrant County cities surrounding Fort Worth. In the 80's, the Turner name was changed to Regional EMS which provided mobile intensive care unit (MICU) level paramedic service to fourteen-(14) Tarrant County cities using sixteen-(16) MICU paramedic level ambulances. Regional EMS was also one of the few companies with city issued EMERGENCY AMBULANCE permit's in order to operate iwithin the City of Fort Worth. corporate limits. Daniel EMS was also a city ambulance contractor during this era. This continued until MedStar became the city contractor in 1986. In May of 1974 Joe Brown, being a successful funeral home and ambulance service manager, purchased the Fort Worth Meissner Funeral Home which was located at Nashville Street and Avenue B. Brown along with his wife Alma Brown and their son, Monte Joe Brown, purchased the business and changed the name to the Meissner-Brown Funeral Home & Ambulance Service of Fort Worth. While remaining successful in both the Fort Worth area funeral industry and ambulance service, and continuing the Fort Worth city ambulance contract,
Joe Brown became very active in the Texas Ambulance Association. This eventually led Brown’s ambulance service to be selected to provide the primary ambulance/EMS service for the communities of Hurst, Euless, Colleyville, Keller, Watauga, Haltom City, Saginaw, Haslet, Blue Mound, River Oaks, Burleson, Cleburne and all of Johnson County. The funeral home and ambulance service relocated out of its eastside location and into the heart of Fort Worth’s Medical District.
In 1986, Joe sold the Meissner-Brown Funeral Home Ambulance Service to Texas Lifeline. In 1988, Brown happened to meet with the late attorney Robert G. (Bob) Ware, the great-great grandson of the founder of Gause-Ware Owens Funeral Home which had also acquired the former Owens & Brumbly Funeral Home. Mr. Brown along with his family purchased the building, name, and assets of Gause-Ware Owens & Brumley Funeral Home and created the longest name in the Fort Worth area for a funeral home which became Brown Gause-Ware Owens & Brumley Funeral Directors.
Texas Lifeline, to which Joe Brown sold the expansive Meissner-Brown Ambulance Service in 1986, later became Paramed and then Med Star EMS. Today MedStar is the 911 EMS provider for the City of Fort Worth serving 421 square miles and more than 860,000 residents in both the City of Fort Worth and Tarrant County, Texas.
MedStar responds to about 100,000 emergency calls a year with a fleet of 47 paramedic ambulances. MedStar is also the exclusive emergency and non-emergency ambulance service provider to 15 Tarrant County cities including: Blue Mound, Burleson, Edgecliff Village, Forest Hill, Fort Worth, Haltom City, Haslet, Lakeside, Lake Worth, River Oaks, Saginaw, Sansom Park, Westover Hills, Westworth Village, and White Settlement.
In the summer of 2000, Joe Brown unexpectedly passed away while directing a funeral for a close friend. He will forever be remembered as the founding father and pioneer of today’s EMS system in the Fort Worth Area.
Special thanks to Dr. Jim Moshinsky for his courtesy use of the Gordon K. Allen photo from his collection. Dr. Moshinsky is a highly respected historian of the funeral industry evolvement in America and has also been active in EMS from its inception in the 60's. Also thanks to Charles Hooker for historic information on Modular Ambulance Corporation. .
Keywords: Ray Crowder, Gause, Med Star, Paramed, Modulance, Modular Ambulance, Fort Worth, Joe Brown, Gordon K. Allen, Dr. Jim Moshinski, Dr. Mo, Ft. Worth
External Resource Link: http://www.medstar911.org/
Last Revision Date: 4/27/10 - 8:37 PM