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1,096 Days
About the Nursing Residences
The Student Uniforms Over the Years
Nursing School Dicipline Over the Years
Student Stipends
Our School Song
Our Pledges
Past Alumnae Reunions

1,096 Days in Residence some quotes from the Alumnae's Nuns and Nightingales book 1982

First Class

Insert - Marie Caroline (Melitta) Berg, Mrs. Harry Francis Fletcher ( June 24, 1885 - April 2, 1979); Left - Alma Marie Martin, Mrs. Arthur W. McGuire (November, 1889 - April 7, 1988); Elsie Aurora Black, Mrs. Lorne Garfield McQuade (June, 1888 - May 21, 1974); Blanche Florence Currance, Mrs. John William McKay (October 4, 1887 - May 13, 1971); Margaret Ellen (Maggie) Brown (1884 - January 16, 1951) Maggie was also the first nurse to graduate from the Holy Cross School of Nursing in 1910 (six months ahead of her class); Ellen (Nellie Helen) Whalley, Mrs.. George Hunter (May 24, 1892 - October 16, 1957).

The Sisters of Charity, who founded the Holy Cross Hospital, were its only nurses until 1907, when the first lay students arrived to help the overworked nuns.

Student nurses' helping hands were a blessing, but lay students also brought a few more worries for the Sisters. For one thing, the girls needed beds and at least a modicum of privacy. Accommodations on the top floor of the hospital were prepared for the first six students.

Alma Martin Maguire, member of the long-ago first class, recalls their 1,096 days together. "We lived in the hospital library but slept in a dormitory with screened-off beds, upstairs in one wing of the hospital.

"We worked seven to seven. Got up, made our beds, had breakfast in the basement and then went up onto the wards. We worked seven days a week but, when the wards were quiet, we got a half-day a week off."

"The meals weren't too bad but we always had bologna on Thursdays for dinner. So I always tried to have a half-day on Thursdays so I could eat at a friend's."

Her happiest memories of training were of the close relationships that developed in their little group. "We had lots of fun. We'd go downtown on our 'day off' and look at every nose in town. Elsie Black was very conscious of her nose and we'd try to decide if hers was worse or better".

"We used to borrow each other's clothes when we went out. I had a white fox fur stole that all the nurses borrowed and one of the doctors finally said, "Who really owns that fur?"

"Luckily, things were very cheap then because we got poor pay. But movies were just 10 cents, and we could always go to church. Anyway, you couldn't do much with the hours we had - but, believe it or not, we were happy."

Tea at Rochon's, with it's home-made candy, was another favourite pastime of early Holy Cross students.

As time went on, more students were accepted into the School, and the dormitory overflowed into housing in the basement or billets in nearby homes.

During WWI, while renovations were being completed, all the girls lived away from hospital for a few months, either at their homes or in neighbourhood houses.

Florence Hill Fitzpatrick of the class of 1918 recalls those days. "Training was pretty hard and many didn't finish. We worked twelve-hour duty with an hour off every day and a half-day off, from two to seven, every week."

Like all student nurses, her classmates were exuberant and fun-loving on their off-duty hours. "We could go out for dinner or to a movie, and we always had a lot of fun. We used to walk downtown and come back singing, The Elephants Walked in Two by Two.

"In residence, we were always telling jokes and we shared food from outside, treats from home. We had no clubs or organized entertainment - we just together and told jokes and laughed. Oh, how we laughed."

"Oh yes, we did have one party - just one-all women. It was a costume party for the whole school on Valentine's Day in, I think, 1916."

As for food, a consuming interest of young nurses, "It wasn't too bad, though someone once sent a barrel of fish and we got awfully sick of fish, fish, fish."

The Sisters were very strict and even lectured the girls for standing with arms akimbo: smoking or cutting hair were even less ladylike and were punished by instant dismissal.

In 1921, Sister Alexina Houle was appointed "housemother", a first for the Holy Cross. Among her many residence rules was one requiring all students to wear high-necked, long-sleeved nightgowns. On one occasion, Sister called everyone together and told them that in the future, there would be no red light bulbs used in the girls' rooms. They might look cozy . . . but. . . Some of the more naive students hadn't realized the significance of red lights.

Sister, ever "on-duty", would visit the student's rooms to see if the girls were studying and to be sure they weren't trimming their hair - and that they were brushing it one hundred strokes nightly. In the twenties, haircuts were still strictly forbidden.

Classmates from 1923 remember that hospital meals weren't wonderful, but "we had the confectionery store on the corner of Fourth Street that made the best date pie with whipped cream topping, and hot chocolate. . . It was hard on the pocket book, and a little rich, since we weren't used to such food."

As was ever the case, students visited each other to share food packages from home. Perhaps the cake crumbs accounted for a visitation from mice, which Sister ruthlessly trapped. A nurse's day started when she heard the hand bell that was jangled outside her door. If you were late for 7 a.m. shift in those days, you couldn't use the excuse that your alarm hadn't gone off.

Students in 1923 still worked twelve-hour shifts with a half-day off a week and one late leave until 11 p.m. once a month. Their usual curfew was 10 p.m. In the late 20's, privileges included two 11 o'clocks a month.

Residence was an unhappy place in July 1926. Bobbed hair was the latest fad, and one the nuns were very much against it. A special meeting was called and students were "asked" to sign a promise that they would abide by the current rules, which stipulated that hair couldn't be cut during their three years in training.

Later that evening, the girls rebelled. "Rules are meant to be broken", was their rallying cry, and many congregated in one room to defy the nuns. According to one witness, "One by one they sat at a high stool, two students with bandaging scissors, one on each side, took a handful of hair and-Whack! The tresses fell on the floor. Brown, black, blonde, red, straight and curly locks all fell in a sad heap."

It was late when the defiant deed was done and there was no room for trimming or styling before going on duty the next morning.

bobbed Hair

Breakfast prayers were a disaster; the Sisters were furious. The bobbed-hair girls were not allowed to go on duty and many were dismissed outright. Others were allowed to go home until their hair grew out, then return to the hospital, making up for the time lost at the end of their training. The hospital was short-staffed for many months following the short-lived rebellion.

Discipline became more lenient in the 1930's. Sister Chauvin was in charge of the residence and Miss Gorrie was the housemother who checked the girls in and out of residence and inspected their rooms. It was not uncommon for the nurses to find slightly cryptic notes regarding the condition of their rooms when they came off duty. Written in familiar hand were messages such as "Dust board around room side of dresser you can see for yourself" or "Your floor requires to be dusted' or "Tuck the blanket in at back of bed don't leave them hanging on the floor" or the dreaded "You must stay in tonight and give your room a thorough clean. It will be inspected after".

At this time, late leaves had been extended to 11:30 p.m. Duty hours were 7:30 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. with two hours off, which was often spent in class. Free time was too precious to waste it on housecleaning!

Isabel Sandeman, a 1932 grad, was housemother for 6 years during the 1930's. Those who trained during her days of velvet discipline agree, "She was a real doll".

It was found that uniforms were becoming very soiled from the oil in students' long hair, so, in the spring of 1937, the girls were at last allowed to cut their hair. Another first in the annals of Holy Cross.

Video 100 years of nursing - "Haircuts"

In the '50's, changes were many and rapid - and shocking to grads of earlier years. Big sisters were assigned to welcome the incoming probies. They provided a shoulder to cry on, advice, and someone to share treats and successes with. It was a real departure from the rigid discipline of "respect all seniors".

When the 1970 class came into training in 1967, they were on the Honor System - no curfews, but a responsibility to maintain good grades.

A tradition was broken in 1978 when the Holy Cross had its first male student graduate. This called for a few adjustments in the residence rules. A second male student graduated with the last class in 1979.

Liz Stileman
Liz Stileman Residence Director, 1969

The sale of the Holy Cross to the Province in 1969 brought major changes to the residence. Doris Stevenson became the first lay Director of Nursing Education; Liz Stileman was appointed Residence Director. The House system, or Student's Advisory Council, which had paid advisors and assistants from each floor, was used to direct residence activities. The council also did good works on behalf of the students - collecting for Christmas hampers for the needy, and adopting a child from Lesotho. Policy changes and punishment now came from this group, which was at least as tough as any nun. The social traditions of the School continued, the first-year parties, second-year parties, 100-days-to-go parties, pizza parties, coffee parties, Junior and Senior Banquets, and hootenannies.

In 1969, the sixth floor was opened for rental to college students: later, the interns had rooms in the residence. Nursing students objected to a double standard for the interns and, after much discussion, men friends were allowed in the girls' rooms, and liquor could be consumed by of-age students. More raised eyebrows in Alumnae!

In order to compete for students, rules at the Holy Cross were relaxed even more. Holidays became first four weeks, then eight, then twelve. Marriage was permitted at any time (most waited for three years). Students could live out (few did). However enrollment continued to decline and it was decided to close the School with the graduation year of 1979 class.

By 1970, the faculty no longer supervised the students' health. Students reported illnesses to the hospital health nurse and were responsible for their own general health.

Although the final classes came and went with little fanfare from the hospital, they too graduated with enough happy memories of residence life to last a lifetime.

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