Eden Ambulance Station: the early years

The official opening of the Eden Ambulance Station in 1964. Until the appointment of Jim Hunter in 1964, the local Service was run by volunteers including Allan, Jean and Wal Whiter, Kitch, Dora and Fred Lister, Neil and Kay Buckland, Doug and Phil Hepburn, Rene and Fay Davidson, Jack Phelan, Artie Viegal, Marion Turnbull and John Everingham.

The official opening of the Eden Ambulance Station in 1964. Until the appointment of Jim Hunter in 1964, the local Service was run by volunteers including Allan, Jean and Wal Whiter, Kitch, Dora and Fred Lister, Neil and Kay Buckland, Doug and Phil Hepburn, Rene and Fay Davidson, Jack Phelan, Artie Viegal, Marion Turnbull and John Everingham.

After 50 years, Eden’s paramedics have more than a few stories to tell.

But while there are many thrilling tales of their time on the job, the story behind the station’s construction and its early years is also quite fascinating.

Just months before he passed away late last year, Allan Whiter wrote a letter to station officer Steve Marks, recounting his thoughts on the Service’s early days.

Allan was one of the town’s original ambulance volunteers, and as a builder by trade, he constructed the station on the current site in Bass Street, in 1964.

“[The ambulance] was housed in a building on Eden’s main street, and our meetings were held in a small room adjacent,” Allan wrote.

“It proved impractical because cars would park kerbside, preventing us from coming out.

“[I] was tasked with finding a suitable block of land on which to find our own station, and Whiter Bros. Builders were asked to build a station from plans designed by [myself].”

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Allan and his brother and business partner, Arthur, built the new station for £3200, with the funds raised by volunteers through a number of different measures.

Fundraising was a priority in keeping the local Ambulance Service afloat in those days, and none of that changed when Jim Hunter was appointed as the first Eden station officer in 1968.

“On my second day in Eden, the Superintendent at Bega came to Eden and opened a bank account at the Bank of NSW with an amount of $850 and the advice that I was on my own and there were no additional funds for relief staff,” Jim wrote in an email.

“So I continued for the next two years without a day off, and [there was] no overtime.”

Jim organised fundraisers including bingo at the station on Friday nights, chocolate wheels at local caravan parks and activities at shows.

Perhaps most notable were three Olympic-size trampolines that Jim built with the assistance of Reneco Engineering, which were placed in the backyard and provided a constant source of revenue for the service.

“Thankfully, with a great group of volunteers we kept the bank balance healthy and never once went into the red,” Jim said.

Over the next few years, additions to the station were made, including relief quarters, funded by a poker machine donated to the service by the Eden Fishermen’s Club.

To save money, the staff also carried out all maintenance work on vehicles themselves, as well as painting and tiling parts of the station and residence.

“It was a team effort for the service and surrounding districts, and a great relief when fundraising ceased in 1977 and we could concentrate on being ambulance officers,” Jim said.

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