Now, Why on Earth Would Anyone Need an ARMORED Ambulance?

Photo courtesy MUS

I believe I've pondered this issue before, but I was reminded to ponder it again while looking through the curious old ads in the back pages of a Memphis University School yearbook from the late 1920s. Pretty much how everyone else in Memphis spends their Saturday nights, I presume.

I was struck by this handsome ad for J.T. Hinton & Son, promoting their armored ambulance service. I just don't understand why anyone would need such a thing.

Now look. As a Lauderdale, I have to be more security-conscious than regular citizens of our city, what with our family's coveted collection of bowling trophies, roller-skating medals, and assorted other treasures. But even so ...

Let me give this by way of example. Let's just say, hypothetically speaking, that I find myself lying semi-conscious in the neighborhood gutter after imbibing several gallons of Kentucky Nip on an empty stomach. I'm not saying it hasn't happened; I'm just saying it might. And let's say that a Good Samaritan happens to find me in this helpless state and — after relieving me of my wallet and pocket watch — calls 9-1-1.

When that ambulance arrives, to whisk me away to either the hospital or the funeral parlor (I'll leave that up to the driver), all I really care about is if the vehicle is sanitary, well-equipped, speedy, and staffed with the best-trained emergency medical technicians in Memphis. As a Lauderdale, I deserve no less.

But at no point in this crisis would it cross my mind to ensure that the vehicle was armored, or bulletproof, or burglar-resistant, or whatever they mean by "armored." It just seems rather unnecessary, especially since I hope they are driving fast enough to escape any neighborhood hooligans who may want to get to the spare change still left in my pockets.

But, judging by the ad, Hinton did indeed offer this service — in fact, they were the only ones in the world to do so. And they also provided you with the best-dressed ambulance attendants I've ever seen. Not a speck of blood on those spiffy white uniforms!

"Safest — Best"?? It just boggles the mind.

Reader Comments:
May 1, 2012 06:21 am
 Posted by  Anonymous

J.T, Hinton was also one of the largest funeral homes in Memphis at the time. Talk about monopolizing the market, ambulance AND funeral services. If one doesn't work, the other will.

May 1, 2012 02:11 pm
 Posted by  warbirdali

No no you are missing the point... this is an ambulance for your MONEY... for instance if you were frolicking in piles of $100 bills (as you do) and spilled the booze all over it, you could call 9$$ and the armored ambulance would pile all the money (or damaged bullion/ ripped Rembrandts etc) on the stretcher and whisk it away for repairs. I mean it's not like you could put all the soggy money in a Kroger bag and walk to Suntrust with it.
All that aside, I hope someone DOES shed light on this, I was hoping at the end you would explain it all to us.

Jun 13, 2013 12:10 pm
 Posted by  Anonymous

The EMS responders in Israel (MDA) today DO in fact operate armored ambulances. However they also work in what is effectively a war zone and some very dangerous situations.
But America in the 1920s??? I cant think of a reason they would need this!

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Ask Vance is the blog of Vance Lauderdale, the award-winning columnist of Memphis magazine and MBQ: Inside Memphis Business.  Vance is the author of three books: Ask Vance: The Best Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History and Trivia Expert (2003), as well as Ask Vance: More Questions and Answers from Memphis Magazine's History Expert (2011) and Vance Lauderdale's Lost Memphis (2013). He is also the recipient of quite a few nice awards, the creator of several eye-catching wall calendars, and the only person we know with a vintage shock-treatment machine in his den. 

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