Altamont Volunteer Rescue Squad

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On Saturday evening, March 3rd, Altamont Rescue Squad President Elaine Martin
and Board of Director member Rich Perras convened the Altamont Rescue
Squad’s 75th anniversary celebration. Current volunteers, employees, and
honorary members of the Altamont Rescue Squad, along with representatives of
the community, local service organizations, and representatives of federal,
County and local government met to celebrate the diamond jubilee of the Squad’s

Congressman Paul Tonko, Knox Supervisor Michael Hammond, County
representative Travis Stevens, Albany County Sheriff Craig Apple, Altamont Justice
Neil Tabor, Guilderland Council Member Patricia Slavik, Guilderland Receiver of
Taxes Jean Cataldo, and many other dignitaries joined in the celebration.

Seventy-five years ago, when villagers were taken ill and needed to be
transported to a medical facility, the luxury of summoning a local ambulance
service did not exist. You either had to be driven by relatives or placed on one of
the hourly trains bound for Union station in Albany to be taken to a hospital.

Fortunately, those times no longer exist because 75 years ago, a collaboration of
Altamont’s residents and organizations established what has become the oldest
volunteer ambulance service in New York State. In June of 1937, after a ten-week
series of first aid classes provided by the American Red Cross, fifteen members of
the Altamont Hose Co. were awarded their First Aid Certificates. A First Aid
Ambulance Squad, the precursor of today’s Altamont Rescue Squad, was born!

This effort was accomplished due in large part because of Assistant Fire Chief
Edmund Lape and department member John P. Ogsbury in collaboration with the
Red Cross Chapter of Albany County. A National Guard ambulance was put in
service through the efforts of Lape. It was soon replaced by then Mayor Harry
Fredenhall’s used-Hudson hearse and his generous donation of four new tires. In
those first years, the organization was inextricably bound to the Altamont Fire
Department, the Helderberg Post of the American Legion, and the Village Board,
which also authorized the purchase of an inhalator in that first year, adding to the
equipment already in use by the department members and by the County nurses
who were stationed here.

At the time of the birth of this organization, there was a great increase in traffic
accidents, as more and more people acquired automobiles. The new ambulance
service’s very first call was to Thompson’s Lake for a drowning victim, and in the
first week the squad was dispatched for a cliff rescue of a Schenectady boy at
Thatcher Park, and a transport call for a heart attack victim, Dr. Cullen of
Altamont. Many may remember him, but the ambulance corps’ transport of the
good doctor played a significant part in his survival from that heart attack, I’m
sure. Dr. Cullen provided 17 more years of outstanding service to this community

In those first six months, the first aid squad treated 27 cases, 14 accident victims,
seven burn victims, and two drowning victims. The ambulance-hearse was used
for the three cases, and the inhalator was employed once. Countless citizens
survived injury and possible death due to the work of the Rescue Squad. Few of
us can go to sleep telling ourselves: “Someone lived today because of me”.

In early 1939, the first aid squad became an official unit within the Altamont Hose
Co, with continued support by the Helderberg Post. Due to realization that one
organization was needed to sponsor the Squad, Post 977 relinquished its role
entirely to the Fire Department, but actively fund–raised when it was time to buy
new equipment or a new ambulance. A Certificate of Incorporation was issued in
1952 to the Altamont Rescue Squad, Inc. of the Altamont Fire Department.

In 1983, the rescue squad finally separated from the fire department when the
state enabled volunteer rescue squads to form tax-supported districts to alleviate
the ever-increasing economic problems with maintaining the service. Thus the
Altamont Ambulance District was established in February 1983, including
Altamont, Guilderland Center, and part of the town of Knox. In January 1984, a
new building was erected on Main Street to house the Rescue Squad personnel
and equipment.
The Altamont Rescue Squad has a place in New York’s history as the oldest
volunteer ambulance service in the State, thanks to the early donations of an
ambulance vehicle, setting it apart from most rescue services at the time, and the
collaboration of the Altamont Volunteer Hose Company, nurses, the American
Legion, and the municipality of Altamont itself.

Since its inception, its members have spent countless hours training for
emergencies. The number of calls and hours of service has increased yearly and
amounts to many thousands since those first 27 calls in 1937. Throughout, the
dedication to keeping their skills sharp is a testament to the professionalism these
individuals had and still have. The support of their family members is vitally
important as it is their involvement which makes that middle-of-the-night
response call endurable. I speak for all the residents of the long-felt positive
impact the volunteer service has on the life and health of the Village of Altamont.
Saturday was a night for us all to remember its beginnings, honor the long list of
area residents who have given their time and dedication to us all, and celebrate
the community’s support and involvement in its history.

On behalf of the Village Trustees, the Village staff, and the residents of Altamont,
I salute the Altamont Rescue Squad for a job well done for seventy-five years of
distinguished service to our community. The Village of Altamont pledges its
continued support and joins with other organizations represented at the event
Saturday night in congratulating the Altamont Rescue Squad for all its

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