Some time ago, I sat down with my father, J. Paul Snyder, and talked to him about the vehicles that his father, Ora Otis Snyder (“Poppo”) utilized in the funeral business. It proved to be a very interesting conversation and I thought I would share it with you. Until about 1965, Snyder Funeral Homes provided ambulance services in each of their locations. Over all the years, all of Poppo’s ten (10) sons helped him on ambulance runs from time to time.
Poppo’s first car was likely the 1926 Ford Model T that he drove to and from embalming school in Columbus. He was initially a “Studebaker man.” He owned Studebaker hearses and sedans. Poppo had the first car in Johnsville with hydraulic brakes. After the Studebakers, he had a black 1928 Cadillac Sedan Ambulance that loaded from the side. Dave and Don Snyder drove this ambulance and Poppo also used it as a family funeral car.
Poppo then had a black 1936 Flexible Buick combination vehicle that was manufactured in Loudonville. A “combination car” was built on a “professional car” chassis and could be used as either a hearse or ambulance. He then used that vehicle until he bought a black 1940 Flexible Buick combination car. Poppo had a black 1937 Ford service car. That car had a siren on it. My Dad recalls that one day he and his brother Phil were moving chairs back to Bellville after a church funeral. Phil was driving and had the siren on. He went too fast around a curve and put the car into a ditch. The first person to stop and offer them assistance was a state trooper! They declined assistance and were able to get the car out of the ditch. Fortunately, the car was not damaged. Dad does not think Poppo ever found out about that incident. The 1937 Ford Service car was traded in on a white 1948 Mercury woody wagon that was used as a flower car.
Other flower cars included a medium brown 1951 Chrysler Windsor station wagon and a white 1957 Chevrolet Corvar Greenbriar station wagon that had a 4 cylinder engine and so little power that it “could barely pull itself out of a mud puddle.” Poppo had a gray 1939 LaSalle straight ambulance that was kept at Bellville. He also had a 1937 LaSalle combination, gray with black fenders, that was kept at Lexington.
My dad recalls that one Sunday he, his brother, Phil, Poppo and Gong-Gong drove to a funeral home in southern Ohio where Poppo purchased a used black 1940 Buick seven passenger limo to match the 1940 combination car. However, he found he could not use it on funerals because the rear brakes would lock up. Dad remembers his brother Pete crawling under the limo and beating the transmission with a hammer to try and get it to loosen up. Poppo had that car until 1948. His next vehicle was a blue 1948 Meteor Cadillac combination. He traded that in on a 1954 Meteor Cadillac combination. The Meteor vehicles were manufactured in Piqua, Ohio. Poppo also had a gray 1949 Meteor Cadillac combination that was used and/or kept at the Butler funeral home. At that point, the family funeral business had funeral homes in Bellville, Lexington and Butler.
Sometime before 1954, Poppo purchased a yellow 1950 straight Cadillac ambulance. My Dad recalls that one day he had just finished washing that ambulance at the Bellville funeral home and it started to rain. Cars were washed on one side of the garage and the ambulance was kept on the other side of the garage that was heated. As he went to move the ambulance from one side of the garage to the other, he backed the ambulance out into the alley and backed it into a 1937 Chevrolet being driven by his buddy, Zeke Ziegler. The impact was enough that Zeke was knocked unconscious. My dad pulled Zeke out of the car and laid him on the alley. Zeke recovered but it cost $400 to repair the ambulance.
Poppo had a black 1948 Buick combination that he kept at the Lexington funeral home. He traded the 1954 Superior in on a 1956 Superior Cadillac combination, white with a gray top, that was kept at Bellville. He later had a black 1959 Superior Cadillac combination with big tail fins and a matching black 1959 Cadillac Sedan DeVille. The funeral home also had a white 1966 Superior Pontiac combination that was kept at Fredericktown. During the 1960’s, the funeral home also had a 1965 Superior Cadillac combination, white with a black top. At about that same time, a white 1964 Cadillac combination was kept at the Mt. Gilead funeral home.
In 1951, my Dad and Phil were on an ambulance run on Route 13 north of Bellville. They were driving a blue 1948 Meteor combination with the lights and siren on. . Another car suddenly pulled out in front of them and they were unable to avoid striking that car in the rear, knocking it off the road. They kept going on and reported the accident when they got back to the funeral home. . Fortunately, the Meteor combination only sustained minor damage.
Another accident occurred when Poppo and Uncle Bob were at an accident scene south of Lexington on Route 42 on an ambulance run. They were loading a lady into the ambulance when a tract0r-trailer came over the hill and struck the ambulance.
Another time, Poppo and Uncle Bob were in an ambulance taking a lady from Lexington to the Cleveland Clinic in the winter time. They were in a 1941 yellow Packard ambulance and were traveling north on Route 42 on Ashland Hill, just north of Mansfield. They had just crested a hill on a snowy day and there sat a salt truck sideways in the road. They could not get stopped in time and could not avoid striking the salt truck, totaling the ambulance. Poppo had purchased the Packard ambulance in Bowling Green–Uncle Dave had found it there when he was attending college at Bowling Green State University.
The personal cars that Poppo had included a black 1941 Buick Super, a black 1946 Buick Roadmaster, a 1948 navy blue Buick Roadmaster, a 1951 dark green Chrysler Saratoga with a hemi engine, a gun metal gray 1952 Chrysler New Yorker, a blue 1953 Lincoln Capri, a charcoal gray 1957 Chrysler Imperial, a black 1959 Buick Electra, a white 1964 Cadillac Sedan DeVille, and a white 1970 Oldsmobile 98 with a black padded top.
During World War II , Poppo had to take the ambulance west of Lexington during a snowstorm to take someone from their residence to the hospital. Poppo got the ambulance stuck in a snow drift in the driveway and it took several hours to get the ambulance out of the snow drift with the assistance of a man from the residence. After they worked several hours to free the ambulance from the snow drift, Poppo asked “where is the man I need to take to the hospital?” The man who had been helping Poppo said, “well, that would be me!”
When Dick Snyder ran the Butler funeral home, he had a number of occasions where he made emergency runs to transport a pregnant mother and her doctor in the ambulance to the hospital. My Dad says that Dick “lost several races with the Stork,” with babies being born in the back of the ambulance before they arrived at the hospital. On one occasion, the happy mother named her newborn son after Dick!