Salute to the Girls
of Grace Hospital
is 6:30 a.m. on a cold and biting January day in 1946. The frosty
air has cleared the sleep from the heads of a group of breathless
young girls hurrying into a basement dining room of the Sally Anns
Grace Hospital on Crawford Avenue.
Tossing their navy blue
capes over the backs of chairs, they bolt their breakfast. Juice,
porridge, bacon and toast today. The clatter of silverware.
"Marge sure got
hell for bumping a patient in the O.R. yesterday."
"I hear she lost
6:50 a.m. Rushing down
the hall for morning prayers. Led today by Major Doris M. Barr,
Superintendent of Nurses. Finishing with a not-too-enthusiastic
rendition of "Whiter than Snow".
And now the 12-hour day
begins. With a two-hour break in the afternoon (if they arent
too busy). Student nurses dashing off (everything is done on the
double here) to duty in the Case Room, Nursery, Childrens
watch her backside."
A long day of thermometers,
bedpans, dinner trays, pills, injections, squaring of bed corners.
A severe floor "super" who will, while chatting with patients,
slyly run her finger along window sills to ascertain if our girls
have dusted them.
Betty is on duty in Second
South. Just a bit intimidated by the cantankerous old man in the
Eager Room. Not unexpected. At $5 per day he has the most expensive
room in the hospital.
Girls swishing about
in their blue striped blouses (pink in the third and final year
of training), highly starched white cotton aprons and bibs (no soft
feminine curves allowed to show), cuffs, collars and caps. Black
cotton stockings. Black, low-heeled oxfords. All very sensible and
Uniforms, one suspects,
designed to eliminate any hint of sexual allure. In this respect
they clearly fail in their purpose.
The day wears on for
the girls in the Grace Hospital School of Nursing. No one is allowed
to relax. There is a constant hum of efficiency. The hospital richly
deserves its reputation as one of the finest anywhere in Ontario.
Practical lessons from
nursing instructors such as Major Gladys Barker and Major Christine
This afternoon, down
to the basement classroom for one of the formal lectures. Dr. Arthur
Lyon is lecturing on gynecology. (One of the many subjects on which
the provincial examinations will be based.) Tired young ladies fight
off sleep. It isnt the doctors fault.
Seven p.m. Or 7:15. Or
7:30. The day finally ends. Back to one of the five old houses on
Oak, London [University] and Crawford, used as residences (before
the central residence was erected on London Street, just west of
the hospital, in 1954).
A few of the girls will
go out with boyfriends this evening. But not many. And those who
do will be careful to observe the 10 p.m. curfew. Well
And the weekend is coming.
Every other Sunday, time off from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. An entire four
hours to do whatever they please (within the limitations of decorum).
And, on the other Sundays, the coveted "two-off"
from 2 p.m. until signing-in time. Let the studying wait, its
Any emolument? Certainly:
$5 per month. For seniors, that is. For years One and Two, the stipend
is $3 and $4 respectively.
A tough life? Perhaps.
But when its all over, the march behind the Windsor Citadel
Band, proudly playing "The Montreal Citadel". The new
white uniforms. Capes thrown back over shoulders, scarlet linings
dazzling in the May sunshine. Down London Street and up Ouellette
Avenue to H.M.C.S. Hunter for the graduation ceremonies.
A dozen red roses on
each girls arm. The graduates pin proudly displayed.
The photographs by Josephine A. Smith. The provincial examinations
in September. The right to write Reg. N. after their names.
Joining the alumnae of
hundreds of girls trained under such leaders as Brigadier Alice
M. Brett from the time the Sally Ann bought the old Ellis home on
Crawford to turn it into a hospital in 1920 until the final graduation
A salute to you girls.
They dont make em like you any more.