Emergency Crew History Remembered: Current crew donates $25,000 to help with future museum

By: Adrienne Wallace | Email: Click Here
Posted: February 2, 2020 | 12:30 p.m. 

PRINCE GEORGE – It’s a history worth preserving and though much of it still exists, the Prince George Emergency Crew is aware that tradition could one day be lost.

To help preserve it, the volunteer crew donate $25,000 to the Prince George Heritage Center for the development of the Prince George Volunteer Fire and Emergency Crew museum.

That big check, literally large in size, was presented to the Historical Society board members inside the old courthouse in the museum.

Prince George emergency crew Capt. Norman MacArthur presented the check with several others including Will Robertson the deputy chief along with some charter members of the crew that started 50 years ago.

Crew President Kathy Petik said between three of the members, including her husband Andy Petik, Brenda Skalsky and Ed Harvanek  150 years of crew history was represented. While that presence is strong today, MacArthur, says they realize it may not last forever.

“Our history started 50 years ago, and we care deeply that this will be part of the museum,” he said. “We realize that someday this history could be what is left of our organization.”

It was more than 50 years ago when a group of citizens decided that relying on funeral homes or neighboring cities’ rescue squads to supply ambulance services for county residents was no longer going to work, and 22 men started off the crew with commitment and dedication even before there was land, a building or transportation equipment.

With declining volunteer numbers and an increase in paid EMS personnel, there is a chance, current crew members admit, their future may rest in the hands of museum curators who help tell their story now and for years to come.

Museum executive director Carol Bowman said she was surprised by the amount of the check through the presentation that was formally set up.

When asked if she expected that much, Bowman’s eyes widened and she passionately said, “no,” especially from a non-profit. “We don’t normally receive donations in this amount. You just can’t imagine what this means – It puts us on a whole different plane.”

“What a way to start the year,” Historical Society member Ann Easterling said as those gathered last week cheered following the donation.

“This will cement the history of the organization – how we got where we are today,” MacArthur said of the decision to provide such a large donation. With that, the crew plans to donate other items it’s kept for decades, including old equipment, newspaper articles, and photographs. 

This money will go a long way to moving forward with the museum that will be housed in the old jail which served as the first county fire station. The crew’s history also has roots in the county’s complex area. Those early volunteers used a call tree that began when the siren alerted from the old Sebras. The crew operated out of the former jail building when the men slept on canvas cots, and when a call came in, “the dispatcher in the next room came in and shook us by the shoulder and said, ‘Hey, you’ve got a call,’ ” Andy Petik recalled.

The crew’s next home was a camping trailer donated by a member of the Board of Supervisors at the time, Billy Williams. That meant the dispatcher had to come out and knock on the door to alert them to a call.

Members of the Prince George Emergency Crew donate $25,000 to help with the development of the Prince George Volunteer Fire and Emergency Crew museum. (Adrienne Wallace)

Then they later had emergency equipment including the Seagrave Company 1’s first truck that will be displayed in the new museum. Then they slept in the back of two ambulances and when a call came in darted up, changed the sheets to heed the call for help ready to care for patients and transport them to medical facilities. They operated out of the firehouse where the crew station was under construction. Billy Williams donated that land that needed work. “There was a mud hole and after contacting the Corps of Engineers, and in one day, the volunteer crew members filled in the land getting it ready for construction.

“We did what we needed to do, got it done and really had fun doing it,” Petik said. “In the beginning, I was green as a butter bean, but we made a stab at it and I think we did pretty good.”

Training at the time consisted of getting certified in the advanced first-aid many classes were taught by the volunteers who had certifications from their jobs at the plants in Hopewell.

Their wives, before being permitted to officially join the crew, helped with fund-raisers with everything from  Brunswick stew sales, dances to one of the top draws, donkey races.

Petik remembered when the crew had two donkeys and they would race, bringing in crowds and funds.

“We really had a good time.”

Some of the first women to serve on the crew as EMS providers included Carole Lee and Barbara Allin. Also, Brenda Skalsky joined the group of volunteers.

In Disputanta, the Yancey brothers used a phone system, the old switchboard type, to connect emergency calls when there was a party line connection.

Some “old-timers” as John Leonard, a former Carson Volunteer firefighter, and crew member said, fondly referring to the group as they reminisced about some of the early days when Sheriff Atwood, George Glass, and others served on the first Board of Directors with the first Capt. Wayne Bennington. The Emergency Crew was established in 1969 by citizens who realized the need to provide emergency services to the community.  

Many of them are gone now, unfortunately, but their memories will live on at the museum and in the hearts and minds of those who remain to tell the story.

When asked why the board made the decision to donate a whopping $25,000, Crew Board President Kathy Petik said, “It’s really an honor. This will give others a chance, students, county families, and those traveling through a chance to learn about those men and women who started the crew and how they did it.”

Her husband said that the county has always been good to the crew, bringing by food, offering donations and working with them to continue their important mission.

“What a proud moment for the Center and all County citizens,” Bowman said of the presentation. “We truly are honored to have been entrusted with these funds and to be able to create a lasting legacy for all the selfless volunteers among us.”

Copyright 2020 by Womack Publishing
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