Before there was 9-1-1


Way back in the year 1975, the state of Georgia decreed that each and every county must have an ambulance system, whether it was paid or volunteer.

Forty hearty Fayette Countians volunteered with about half of them going to school for six months in the evening and the other half during the second half of the year.

I was in the second class and am proud of my EMT number, 5025, indicating that just over 5,000 people in Georgia completed classes that first year. Currently the EMT numbers are reaching the 50,000 mark.

When it came final exam time, we needed to practice our CPR. The others had a spouse at home to watch their children, but I did not have a spouse. So practice every evening was at my house.

My son will tell you that when he sometimes goes to sleep, he can still hear, “Are you alright? Are you alright?” At least that’s what we were told to say at that time.

We had to buy our own uniforms but were each given a two-way radio, which was about 5 to 6 inches in length and, yes, it was a little unwieldy.

All calls came into the sheriff’s department and fire trucks or ambulances were dispatched from there.

I had to work during the day to feed my two children so I was on duty one week a month from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., seven days a week. Those who owned their own businesses would lock their doors during the day to go on ambulance runs.

The state provide Fayette County with two ambulances that first year with one being stationed in Fayetteville and one in Peachtree City. We were loaned the use of an empty building in Fayetteville to store ours.

When I would come home from work during the week I would immediately change into my “uniform.” If my daughter and I were at a restaurant or a grocery store and a call came in, I had to leave my grocery cart or quickly pay for a half-eaten dinner and head for the sheriff’s department. This is where I would have to leave my daughter.

Because the whole county was on one radio frequency, I would announce where Julie had been left, and head to the ambulance. Sometimes she would still be there when I came back from the run, or sometimes someone would come and get her, and radio me where I could find her.

When I was on duty, I would sleep in my uniform in case I got called out. All of us had to go from our home to the ambulance and then to the site of the call-in. This took several minutes and as we all know, time is of the essence.

However, if one of those on duty was closer to the site, we would go there directly from home.

Speaking personally, this was my routine for six years and my family and I are proud of our contribution to the system now in place.

[Carolyn Cary is the official Fayette County historian and the editor of the county’s first compiled history, “The History of Fayette County,” published in 1977. She lives in Fayetteville and her email is]