The bought its first ambulance – a used 1924 Kensington ambulance from Muhlenberg Hospital - for $250. That was the going rate in 1937 when 13 community members formed the first squad in Union County.
Seventy-five years later, now with more than 50 active members, the squad celebrated its commitment to the community and members who have served at the annual banquet Saturday night at in Scotch Plains.
“Over the years we have seen many squads go out of business due to lack of volunteers,” said Squad President Robert Speth in front of a room full of volunteers and their families. “Gladly, I can report that the Scotch Plains Rescue Squad is still going strong with many dedicated volunteers.”
For some, like Michelle Speth, it was her first banquet as a cadet. On her first call, she had to deliver a baby – something her father said most volunteers have never seen. She was awarded The Order of the Pin and Master of the Diaper.
For others like Harold Hill, Jr., this event has become a staple social gathering. He’s been active on the squad for 54 years, earning his lifetime member status.
“I swear it’s only been three,” he smirked.
His father, Harold Hill Sr., was one of the founding members of the squad in 1937, and received a round of applause when his picture came up on a screen commemorating members of the squad.
Some of the members were doctors and nurses, and some are lawyers and graphic designers. Some have served in the military; others have served in municipal offices.
But everyone in the room had a dedication to the community, Speth said, which has fueled the success of the squad and protected the community for 75 years.
“I would like to thank all of our members, both past and present, for all their hard work and dedication to this truly humanitarian service we provide,” he said. “I would also like to remember our members who are not with us tonight. They have all done their share to make Scotch Plains a truly better and safer place to live. You are truly missed,” Speth said.
Before the music came on and the dancing started, Speth distributed plaques commemorating the achievements and length of service to members who had served five, 10, 20 and 30 years as a volunteer.
Legislation from the New Jersey State Senate was announced, thanking the squad for continued years of service, answering more than 76,000 calls since the group’s conception.
A proclamation on behalf of the town’s council commemorated the growth of the group whose humble beginnings spearheaded other towns to follow suit.
Rob Krumm joined the squad in 1982 after his brother died in a car crash. The Scotch-Plains first aid squad was the first unit on the scene and tried to save him. After his brother's tragic death, Krumm felt compelled to join the squad in his brother’s honor to try and prevent others from going through what he did.
“I wanted to give back,” he said, in his first time back visiting the squad since he moved to Plainfield. “It was the least I can do to try and save someone else's life.”
Krumm was joined by his wife and other squad alumni – some who have travelled as far as Florida – to honor the anniversary.
He said it was because he wanted to celebrate the 75 years. But ask Deputy Mayor Mary DePaola, and her answer is a bit different. She filled in for Mayor Nancy Malool, who could not attend. DePaola has two children who serve on the squad.
“These guys know how to throw a party,” she said, which was met with a rousing applause. “Anytime I hear of a squad party, I’m there.”
And with that, the microphone was put away and the dancing shoes were put on.