Ambulance service was so much different in 1960 when Joe Barrett accepted a job as an ambulance driver.
Barrett has retired after being director of Bryan County EMS for 33 years. A retirement reception was held for him Friday at Hampton Inn.
He recalled some of these changes. Back then, all that was required to be an ambulance driver was to have a chauffeur’s license. Barrett received additional training by taking a first-aid course which was not required then. Four funeral homes in Durant operated ambulance services.
During that era, an ambulance was used to transport a patient to the hospital. In later years, emergency medical services became its own entity with ambulances evolving into mobile hospitals with highly trained medics.
Barrett was an ambulance driver for Murray Funeral Home from 1960-1964 when he was in college.
“It was a lot different world then,” Barrett said. “We had a station wagon for an ambulance and didn’t have all this modern equipment that we have in them now. We have hundreds of thousands of dollars invested in ambulances and equipment now. Back then, it was just a few thousand.
“Our ambulances have an amazing amount of medical aides and also equipment that enable them to stabilize a patient so that they’re in good enough condition to make it to the hospital where they can get more definitive care. Our people are highly trained now. Their training almost equals equals that to what it would require for a registered nurse to get their credentials.”
When funeral homes operated ambulances, it could be a competitive business to see who arrived first on an emergency call.
“When two funeral homes got in on a call at the same location, it could turn into a race to see who got there first,” Barrett said. “It was exciting. It was different.”
Barrett said the ambulance services closed in the late 1970s when Allen Wheeler had them at the time, operating out of a nursing home. The last four digits of the phone number, which was recently discontinued, spelled H-O-P-E on the dial pad.
“He (Wheeler) gave the city a couple year’s notice that he was going to get out of the ambulance business and that’s when it got turned over to the county.”
Bryan County EMS was formed on Jan. 1, 1980.
Barrett was named director of Bryan County EMS in 1984. He had served three years on the board of directors prior to that.
He says he will mostly miss the people he has worked with through the years. He plans to keep working.
I don’t plan to do anything for a few days and then I’ll gradually get back in the workforce,” Barrett said. “I still have some things I do part time.”
Bryan County EMS Deputy Director Brian Norton has been named interim director effective today until the EMS board makes a final decision to promote him to director.
“Joe has been a great boss, leader, mentor and a friend to me over the 20 years,” Norton said. “He always has something wise to guide us and make us a stronger service. I will miss the ‘joeisms.’ Joe always had something to tie everything together with a little humor. Joe is always there for us, from 3 p.m. to 3 a.m. he would come out to help.
“Joe has brought BCEMS from a struggling ambulance service that in the 80s would barely scrape by to one of the most busy services in the region. BCEMS is recognized statewide for many accomplishments under Joe to provide better care and to produce high quality very knowledgeable medics that have gone throughout the state as directors of other EMS services, to being state EMS directors, doctors, nurses, law enforcement, firefighters, nurses, and many more professions. No one will fill Joe’s shoes at BCEMS. We can only hope that our shoes can fill a void that will be left in Joe’s absence. I know he is always a phone call away and knowing that is a major source of comfort to know he will always be there to help.
“I want to wish Joe God Speed in his next adventures and thank him for instilling into all of us medics, pride in our job, compassion for our patients and the knowledge and wisdom to accomplish anything.”
Contact Matt Swearengin at 634-2160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.