1969: The Beginning of the Modular Ambulance Corporation
In 1969, foreseeing the need to manufacture ambulances that would meet evolving Federal standards, Gordon K. Allen formed the Modular Ambulance Corporation (MAC). He realized that larger facility would be needed in order to improve the Chevy “Suburban” model ambulance conversion process with more enhanced cabinetry and electrical systems and for the manufacturing of a fiberglass raised roof for a 54″ headroom model ambulance to meet the new federal minimum standards. MAC moved into the new facility which was located at 3020 Sargent Road, Dallas.
In 1969 MAC improved the interior bulkhead and left side cabinetry design and offered a right side cabinet as well for the ’69 “Suburban Zephyr” low-roof ambulance. For the “Zephyr” line, MAC introduced the Unity combination spotlight/red flasher lights installed at the corner front door posts as an option. If the customer did not want the Federal Q2B siren, then a Federal PA15 “Director” model 75 watt siren was installed and two chrome Federal CP-25 siren speakers were mounted on the roof with each right and left side speaker flanked on either side by a DORAY “pancake” warning lamp for a total of four roof mounted lights. There was also an option of adding two “Tunnel” lights in lieu of the four DORAY red “pancake” style lights. This was interesting because the tunnel lights were a unique warning light for the Superior Coach Company at the time. MAC continued to use the GKA designed side rear “ambulances cross” and striping on all ambulance conversions. In 1969, MAC, through GKA, delivered four 1969 Chevrolet ambulances to the private funeral home based (and city subsidized) Fort Worth Ambulance Service, which was owned by the legendary Joe Brown; Brown was a pioneer in the Texas funeral home industry. Brown was well aware of the evolving new Federal standards and believed in operating well designed ambulances with highly trained attendants well before it became mandated. (See the Museum’s “Fort Worth Ambulance Service” article.)
In 1969, a vehicle of this configuration was also sold by MAC to the Community Chapel Funeral Home in northeast Houston (HPD Ambulance Zone 1130). Some Houston funeral homes desired more siren capability to the ambulance that already had the Federal PA15 siren and twin speaker combination. For example, in 1969, both the Fair Funeral Home (owned by Woodrow “Woody” Fair and located at 5416 Bennington Rd. at Hoffman Street in the N.E. Acres Home area) and the McCoy & Harrison Funeral Home (owned by Homer McCoy, Sr. and located at 2817 Nagle Street) ordered identical 1969 solid white model Chevy MAC low-roof conversions with both the Federal Q2B and electronic siren. This required the Federal Q2B siren to be mounted in the center hood near the windshield. However, the McCoy & Harrison Funeral Home also ordered a Federal PA20A “Interceptor” electronic siren in place of the PA15 Federal Director and also had a foot siren switch installed on the attendant’s seat floor.
It is interesting to note that the McCoy and Harrison Funeral Home was the busiest ambulance service in Houston in that it served the expansive Third Ward of the city and its ambulance zone extended several miles east of the downtown area and southeast down almost to the Texas Medical Center. (See the Museum’s article “Houston Ambulance Service”). Both McCoy & Harrison and Fair Funeral Homes were African American owned facilities and their owners believed in equipping their ambulances with a multi-level stretcher, folding road stretcher, portable oxygen, long and short wooden spine boards, air splints, Thomas half-ring splint, OB kit, bag/mask/valve (AMBU-BAG) manual resuscitator, airways, and a well-stocked emergency first aid kit. They also assured that all attendants had completed both the Red Cross Standard and Advanced First Aid courses as well at the State of Texas 24 hour Registered Emergency Care Attendant (RECA) course that was first introduced in July 1968.
The 1969 McCoy & Harrison MAC ambulance was designated as unit “1121” by the Houston Police Department which dispatched all ambulances at that time. It was not unusual for “1121” to average 18 to 25 calls per day. At the time, there were over twenty-five funeral home and commercial ambulances throughout Houston and each service has a specific zone assigned and were licensed by the city and inspected by the Houston Police Department. Each Houston Police dispatched ambulance displayed a city issued small red with white lettering “medallion” metal plate which was attached below the front and rear license plate. The “medallion” denoted the HPD ambulance zone and radio unit number.
In 1969, MAC also delivered its first raised roof 54″ “Zephyr” prototype ambulance on a 1969 Chevy chassis to the Fort Worth Ambulance Service and delivered another prototype to the Superior Ambulance Service (Unit 1129) which served the expansive Houston Police Ambulance Zone 1129 in South Houston which included the Medical Center, Astrodome, and Astroworld.
During this time, there were several other ambulance distributors in the Greater Dallas area. The A.G. Solar & Company sold and converted Chevy “Suburban” low-roof vehicles into ambulances. They were the distributor for both Miller-Meteor and Cotner/Bevington hearses, flower cars, limousines and ambulances and were located at 3410 South Texas Avenue in the Dallas suburb of Bryan, Texas. A.G. Solar & Company also used different designed side rear “ambulances cross” and striping than that of GKA or MAC. Summers Coach which was another ambulance conversion company in Duncanville, Texas who was the distributor for Hess & Eisenhardt S&S hearses, limousines, flower cars, and ambulances.