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Interview with Sarah Spivey Mack, September 16, 2004 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Sarah Spivey Mack, September 16, 2004
September 16, 2004
The video taped oral history with Mrs. Sarah Mack took place at Randall library on September 16, 2004. It was conducted by LuAnn Mims for the Health Services Series. Mrs. Mack is a 1957 graduate of Community Hospital School of Nursing. She speaks about her time as a student nurse in Wilmington as well as her subsequent career in nursing at various locations throughout the US and abroad.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Mack, Sarah Spivey Interviewer:  Mims, LuAnn Date of Interview:  9/16/2004 Series:  Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length:  57 min


Mims: Today is September 16, 2004. My name is LuAnn Mims. I’m with the Randall Library Special Collections. We are continuing our Health Services series. Today we are talking with Mrs. Sara Spivey Mack who is a 1957 graduate of the Community Hospital School of Nursing and I’m so happy that you’re here with us today.

Mack: Thank you.

Mims: If you could get us started with giving us a little personal background. Where you came from, what your family did, etc.

Mack: I was born and raised in New Bern, North Carolina and came to Wilmington in ‘54. I graduated from New Bern…West Street High School in New Bern, North Carolina in…what year, gosh…’53.

Mims: What kind of work did your father do?

Mack: My father worked in the factory. I think they had fertilizer, something like that. And my mother worked at Cherry Point. And so, I guess cleaning…she cleaned schools and stuff like that.

Mims: Any brothers or sisters?

Mack: I had four or five brothers and two sisters. One died, but I never did know her. And that’s about all…oh, my extra activities…I used to sing a lot.

Mims: You did?

Mack: I was in the glee club and I played a little bit of basketball. And…I really cared a lot for school and decided I was going to be a nurse or a schoolteacher. So, I sent in two applications, I sent one to Fayetteville State and I sent one to Community Hospital. I said, “The first call…the first one I hear from, I’m going.” And I heard from Community Hospital and that’s how I wound up being a nurse.

Mims: Interesting because in this time period, not a lot of females were thinking about attending school after high school. What do you think it was in your life that made you want to do something else?

Mack: My mother. My mother says, “You’re gonna do something. I don’t want you to have to depend on no man.” And she said, “You’re gonna do something,” and she said “cause I want you to be able to take care of yourself.” “And if you have children, you can take care of them.” She was very dominant. She was a very dominant mother. That’s why I end up…I had to be a nurse or a teacher…back then that’s all blacks could be. Maybe…well probably, really was only thing a black woman could do…was be a nurse or a teacher. I don’t know…but now it’s a lot different.

Mims: Oh yea?

Mack: You can be anything you wanna. And so that’s why I ended up being a nurse.

Mims: And so, how did you know about Community Hospital here in Wilmington.

Mack: Well, we had a lady that was a nurse there, I think she was working here, and I heard it from her. And so I sent it in. I don’t know, I think that’s how but I’m not really sure, but I know she was working there because she was an operating room technician. And um, I think maybe that’s the way, but I’m not really sure.

Mims: That’s interesting because here you are, a young girl, you’re going to leave home and come to a town that…did you have anybody here that…?

Mack: No. Only her.

Mims: Only her? So how did you feel about coming into doing this?

Mack: Being a nurse?

Mims: Well, just coming and leaving home and coming into a new environment?

Mack: I didn’t feel bad. I wasn’t that happy to get away from home, but it was change. It was time. Anyway…tell the truth, New Bern was a little place, you know. And I knew I had to do something because you had to make a living.

Mims: Now, when you came into Community Hospital School of Nursing do you recall having to take any pre-qualifying tests?

Mack: Yes, we did. We had to take a test. I think we did have to take a test. I think we did. Right now its kind of vague but I think we did when we first came in.

Mims: Another thing that I’ve learned from talking to other people was that you came and you were assigned a room. How did that work for you?

Mack: With a roommate. Fine.

Mims: It was somebody you’d never met before?

Mack: No. But I’ve always been able to get along with people. So, and everybody was like me…country. We had a lot of country girls here. And everybody was very nice. Very nice. We had a few city girls. My roommate was from here. So she was considered a city girl. She was from Williston and she was, you know, she was help…she was supposed to know, you know, and I’m country, you know, and they made me know I was country. “Mack!” not Mack, but “Spivey, you country girl!” But I got along with the girls pretty nice. They had a few girls from Wilmington, but most of the girls were from away. West Virginia, Virginia, and…

Mims: Out of state?

Mack: Oh yea. We had girls from quite a few places. Southport, Bolivia…we had plenty girls. And everything was fine.

Mims: I’m kind of surprised in talking to people in general. The ones that were from here and had to live in the resident home actually found it a little tougher than the girls that came from away because they kind of knew what they were missing…their friends were out and able to go…like I heard some ballgames, or whatever.

Mack: Well, we could go, but we had to be in at eight o’clock. We could go but we wasn’t really allowed to go out of town. Unless you call Seabreeze…Seabreeze wasn’t out of town, so we could go down there. But we had to be in by eight. And on Saturday…was it on weekends?…I don’t know, we had to be in by eight or…we definitely had to be in by eight. So it might have been eight every night.

Mims: What do you remember about those first early days? What kind of activities did you do?

Mack: Well, used to be a bus come by from the Marine base. Camp LeJeune.

Mims: Was it Montford Point, do you know?

Mack: No…I don’t know. We used to go to the…what is it…YMC…

Mims: Yea, the YMCA.

Mack: YMCA. That’s where they used to have a lot of dances.

Mims: Downtown. The one that was downtown?

Mack: Yea. And they used to come and collect a busload of nurses and we used to go. I’m not sure how often but I know we could go there and we could come in late because we would be…we were always with chaperones and we could always be out real late then, but other than that we had to be in a eight o’clock.

Mims: I talked to some people and they actually married Marines because of this mixing…

Mack: Oh yea, they did because they used to hang around. But you still had to be in at eight o’clock. But they had to be gone, but they did, they didn’t mind, so...

Mims: Well, being in this environment, I mean, you’re living there by the hospital, you’re having to work during the day, during the evening, attend classes. You’re thrown totally in to this medical environment. Do you recall how you felt during those first couple of days? Like this was overwhelming, or interesting?

Mack: When I first came, I remember the first autopsy I saw. Then you know, they introduced you, they take you around to see the hospital and get you introduced to the hospital and everything. And I remember one Sunday morning we went to breakfast and they had all these eggs…half done eggs…you know, eggs, you know, when you…and I got really sick and so I say, “Well, I have to eat,” you know, cause they were cooking for the students and the hospital personnel and then the patients…so we ate down there but they was doing all the cooking there. So what we had to do…so I said, “I’m going to have to eat,” so I started drinking coffee, and that was the only way I could get the…keep the eggs down. But it was very nourishing. It was really nice. It was really nice. The people…everybody was nice. They was really nice…cause I guess they knew we were young and they knew we needed somebody.

Mims: I kind of got the idea that the student nurses were kind of like the darlings of the hospital and everybody kind of looked out for them.

Mack: Yea, it was something like a family. Because they really knew that we were from home. Like I said, a lot of use were from the country and a lot of us had not been away from our family before. So that might have been some of the reason.

Mims: Plus you’re put into this high responsibility situation.

Mack: Well, we were pre-clinical.

Mims: Okay, tell me about pre-clinical.

Mack: Pre-clinical…we go there and we just wear our regular clothes and stuff. We go to English, math, take all the educational programs.

Mims: Where?

Mack: We had a big classroom

Mims: There at the hospital?

Mack: We had two…right in the nursing home, downstairs. We stayed upstairs. The only person that stayed downstairs was the Director of Nursing and the housemother. They did have…around the area…seniors; they did have seniors students that stayed on the first floor. But most of the juniors and the first year students stayed on the second…the first year stayed on the top floor.

Mims: It was a two-story building?

Mack: Yes.

Mims: Do you remember ever taking classes at Williston?

Mack: Yes, we took classes over at Williston. Williston, I think Williston used to be a…they had college credits over there…it must have been a college, junior college or something over there. I think we took two classes, I know we took English over there, but I’m not sure what the other one…but I think we took two classes over there. And I know one of my teachers was Ms. Cooper, and she might have taught both of them…both the classes, but I’m not sure. But I know she taught English.

Mims: Do you remember a Ms. Wheeler over there…they called her Ms…?

Mack: Ms. Wheeler taught here…taught at the nursing home.

Mims: Okay.

Mack: Dr. Wheeler’s wife. Because he taught us about the eyes.

Mims: Yea, okay.

Mack: And she was a teacher too…had been a teacher anyway…she taught us. But I’m trying to figure out what did she teach, anyway…she was teaching something.

Mims: I know she taught Latin but I don’t know whether she taught it to you…

Mack: I don’t think she taught us Latin. I don’t think so…no we didn’t…we wasn’t taught Latin.

Mims: So you guys would just walk over the Williston for those classes?

Mack: Um hum, we were right across the street.

Mims: Its just, without a visual reference standing today, its very hard to picture a hospital there in that…

Mack: Right where that bus depot is.

Mims: Yea, its hard to imagine that.

Mack: You see that little building, they had that little brick building right there?…That…we used to call that the soda shop.

Mims: And so the soda shop is still standing?

Mack: Well, is it still standing?…It was standing, but now they have another building there, but I think the soda shop…there’s a building there now, but it was a soda shop, it was brick. It was standing there…it might of…I don’t know what it looks like now…but it was a soda shop there…nice looking, and that’s where we used to come hang out.

Mims: And this is back in the days whenever soda shops were a popular place, they gave you an extra place to go. And there was a recreation building too, or not? I’ve heard some people talk about that there was like an activity building, I guess, where you could play basketball…or was that over at Williston too, where you would do that?

Mack: I don’t remember that. But I know we did play basketball, because we saw some girls in uniforms…but look like to me I can’t picture…no we didn’t have one in the building…so they might have gone to Williston.

Mims: Because Williston would have had that facility?

Mack: Yea, Williston would have.

Mims: Right. How about the uniform? When did you guys get the uniform?

Mack: After we were capped. No. We was capped…when did we get those uniforms?

Mims: You were capped within the first six months; right after you did your pre-clinicals?

Mack: We might have gotten uniforms then. Because I know when we started off we started of in just clothes. But I’m not sure…I can’t remember when did we get…when we got those uniforms. But I know when we got capped. That’s when we been on the floor and we used to go up there and make beds and stuff when we first went in…we could make a bed…learned how to make beds…we took nursing arts and stuff like that, you know. Learned how to make the bed and all of that stuff.

Mims: Now you said the words ‘nursing arts.’ I’ve heard other people use this.

Mack: Well, that’s where we went in…Mrs.…what was her name…Johnston. She taught nursing arts…it was a large room…about big as this, might be a little larger. They had beds in there and we gave baths. We learned how to give baths to Miss Chase and put the clothes on and give them bed rub…back rubs…and put their clothes back on…and do enemas…that’s where we learned how to do all that stuff. In nursing arts…enemas…and all patient care we learned that down there before we even went on the floor.

Mims: So by the time you went on the floor you knew some stuff.

Mack: Yea, we knew of…but they wasn’t human, they was just dummies, we used to say. But we learned all of that before we even went on the floor.

Mims: So, getting your uniform and your cap signified that you were ready to go on to the floor?

Mack: First year students.

Mims: How did you feel when you got all that?

Mack: I thought I looked nice. I thought I was cool!

Mims: What did the uniform look like?

Mack: Blue with…we had…they was stiff and white and they buttoned in the back.

Mims: The apron?

Mack: Just like these…just like the ones that’s at the hospital…and then you had…it was an apron. And then you had the one that…the bib that came down and it buttoned down here. And we had to have white shoes and they had to be spic and span all the time. They had to be tennis shoes…you had to wear tennis shoes all the time and they couldn’t be dirty, no, um um. You had to polish those shoes every day. And you can’t have no runs in your stockings. If you had runs in your stockings they had to be sewn up. You could wear them but they had to be sewn up. Because that Director of Nursing, Mrs. Moultrie, she’d say, “I don’t care if you…” I don’t know whether she was…I don’t know what her nationality she was, but she says “You sew those stockings, you know, “you sew ‘em up!” You know, they better…they probably look little better sewn up than…and we didn’t have money. My parents didn’t have no money and I’m sure a lot of the girls parents didn’t have no money. They just sacrificed to send us to school.

Mims: Did you have to pay for the uniforms?

Mack: No. Probably went into…maybe my parents paid for them.

Mims: Right. Part of the tuition?

Mack: Probably.

Mims: But, stuff like your stockings and, you know, like…

Mack: You needed to buy that.

Mims: Right. Where would you buy that kind of product from?

Mack: What the stockings?

Mims: Yea.

Mack: Just the white stockings.

Mims: I know, but where would you get them from?

Mack: I don’t know. Maybe Roses. Roses was there then. Roses and Woolco…Woolworth…

Mims: Downtown? Yea.

Mack: Yea, they were there. I remember Woolco, not Roses…Wool…was it Woolworth?

Mims: Woolworth was downtown.

Mack: I think Woolworth was here. It might have been from Woolworth.

Mims: How about your shoes? Where those given to you or did you have to buy them?

Mack: No. We had to…look like to me we had to buy those…I believe we had to buy those. We didn’t buy those uniforms though.

Mims: Do you remember where you got your shoes from? I saw an ad in the paper, that’s why I was asking…in the fifties…

Mack: No I really don’t. I really don’t know where I got those shoes from. See by being pre-clinical you could wear those shoes a whole year, you know.

Mims: Right. Right.

Mack: But I don’t remember…all I remember about those shoes is that they were polished because she would watch you. Because…most time when you coming out of the nursing building…coming out the nursing home, her room was right at the steps. And then if you coming down the hall she always kept her door open and she’ll see you now, and she see you coming down them steps…she would see you.

Mims: So there wasn’t like an inspection where everybody lined up?

Mack: No, no, no, no. It would be on the floor. You be on the floor.

Mims: How about your hair? What were the rules on your hair?

Mack: It had to be nice. Back then the girls had kept their hair nice…they kept their hair nice. They didn’t have braids and stuff like that. They just kept their hair nice.

Mims: Was there any restrictions on jewelry?

Mack: No jewelry. I don’t think we had jewelry. I don’t even believe we had earrings on as I remember…I really don’t, but I might be wrong.

Mims: Somebody mentioned the jewelry once because of the sterilization.

Mack: Um hum. No rings, none of that.

Mims: Right, because you couldn’t…

Mack: I think the only thing you could have on was a watch with a second hand.

Mims: Probably required.

Mack: Yea, we had to have that.

Mims: How about other personal equipment, like scissors and thermometer…

Mack: We had to have those because…so…we kept those in the back…you know you have a place back there you can stick ‘em right in. We always had to have our scissors because we were always cutting…we had tape and band-aids, and stuff like that…so we had that. So when we got our uniforms we had to have that.

Mims: It just seems like a lot, you know, you’re talking about eighteen, nineteen year-old young women who now they’re out on the floor, and they’re learning their career. Nurses today, I don’t think they’re that young going out on the floor.

Mack: I don’t think…it wasn’t that bad.

Mims: How about your rotations? I know you had to go to different…

Mack: Just like they do now. We used to…some used to go in three to eleven, after we were capped…three to eleven, eleven to seven, and seven to three.

Mims: Yea, you still had to be in class.

Mack: You had to be in class certain days…certain time…you come out of class and go.

Mims: So did that ever involve getting off work and then you had like maybe an hour to eat and then you had to go to class…or…?

Mack: Yea, it was just like they do now, I think. You just had to…you knew when your classes were, so you had to be to class. When you come out of class, you go to work. Or if its lunch time you go…you know, breakfast…you go to breakfast before you go or if you up in the bed and you want to eat, you get up out of bed and go to eat because they didn’t give you…you didn’t stagger along because they, you know how hospitals…you ate one time. If you’re not there you don’t get anything to eat.

Mims: How about if you were sick, what would happen?

Mack: You had doctors to take care of you. I think our doctor was Dr. Upperman…was the nurses’ physician.

Mims: Yea, I read that there was like a…they changed every year, or something.

Mack: I remember him being there when I was there.

Mims: Well, again, that helps take care of…

Mack: You don’t get to be seen that much, you might have a little cold, but…

Mims: Well, no, I would think, working in a hospital environment, you’d be sick all the time.

Mack: No, but you’d have a little cold and back then you really didn’t have that many colds. I don’t remember…I used to have sinus, hay fever. But I tell you when I came…when I was young, I had had it when I was growing up, but when I came to Wilmington, it went away. And when I went back home, I got the sniffles. But other than that, very seldom I had a cold.

Mims: How often would you get to go home?

Mack: Every time you get a break.

Mims: Like on holidays?

Mack: Like weekends. Oh you would work some holidays, it’s just, you know, like weekends, you maybe get the weekend off, you go home if you could get a ride or you mama had some money to send for you to go home.

Mims: Would you go by bus or train?

Mack: Bus.

Mims: You know, its just hard to imagine cause what you’re talking about is basically, when you started school- you started work.

Mack: Well, no, not really. We had to go to that Nursing Arts classes. We had to get some fundamentals like math, English, and stuff like that.

Mims: So you had a little lighter schedule at that time?

Mack: Yea, up until a certain time. Then they threw you on the floor.

Mims: Well, once you got on the floor, you had to learn the various aspects of the hospital like OB, and like surgical…did they take you…?

Mack: You get a lot of that stuff from the classes.

Mims: Okay, but you would like take a class in that and then you would be assigned to that portion…

Mack: Um hum. Yea, and then you would do hands on. But we had a lot of that in the classes.

Mims: What section do you remember liking the most?

Mack: Maybe Surgery. I never did like Medicine. But I always…even when I was working I liked Surgery. And then next I liked Urology.

Mims: Really?

Mack: Um hum, but that’s after I got older and got out of school. But I worked with the babies, OB/GYN for a long time.

Mims: Did you?

Mack: Um hum.

Mims: Who were some of the doctors you remember working with as a student nurse?

Mack: Dr. Roane.

Mims: I don’t know much about Dr. Roane.

Mack: Dr. Roane was something else. I loved it. Dr. Roane was a doozy I’ll tell ya, he was an OB/GYN guy. He was really nice. And Dr. Wheeler, we worked with him.

Mims: I heard he was a real character.

Mack: He was…uh huh, and Dr. Upperman, he was kind of subdued. And Dr. Eaton, Sr., he was always quiet because…but you always knew what he wanted. He was really nice to. But on the whole, I think all of them was nice. But Dr. Roane always stood out because he was the…he was head of the Community Choir.

Mims: Oh really? I didn’t know that.

Mack: He led the Community Choir and I used to sing in the Community Choir and then he was kind of comical in the birthing room.

Mims: Really?

Mack: He was something else, but that’s one of the doctors that really stood out.

Mims: They kind of mentored you when you went through that rotation, I mean, it’s like, I don’t know, they kind of like talked to you a lot more when you were with that or…? Today I see, it seems like more of a distance between the doctors and the nurses and it seems like what I hear about the time that you were in training, the doctors were a little more one-on-one with you.

Mack: They knew we were green. They knew we didn’t really know what was going on, but we wasn’t that…we did know something because like I said, they didn’t throw you, just throw you out there on the floor. You went through a lot before you got out there. Like I said, we knew how to make beds, give enemas, how to, you know, do bed baths and back rubs and stuff like that.

Mims: What kind of hierarchy was there on the nursing floors during your time? Like there would be like a charge nurse.

Mack: Yes.

Mims: And then who would be under the charge nurse? Just the floor nurses?

Mack: They would have an RN. They always had an RN. And the RN was responsible for the student nurses and the RN would be responsible for the medicine until we got…until…when was it?…it was the second or third year when we started giving medicine. I’m not sure what year, but she would give all the medicine, and most time we would take care of the patients. But we were directly under her.

Mims: Okay. Were there any practical nurses at that time?

Mack: Yea. And some of them…most of them was very good and we worked with them.

Mims: What was their function?

Mack: Look like to me they could give…they gave medicines. But I know the RN was in charge. And then they had a supervisor too.

Mims: Like a shift supervisor…or?

*SM: Yea, cause I remember Ms. Hatcher was a supervisor…at least a supervisor then when I was there.

Mims: How about nursing assistants? Are they in the hospital at this time, or not yet?

Mack: Look like to me…I don’t really remember nursing assistants. There might have been, but then maybe we were the nursing assistants, I don’t really know.

Mims: You [as a student nurse] may have served that purpose.

Mack: They might have been, but look like to me I don’t really remember so I’m not going to say.

Mims: I think they come a little bit later on historically. The reason I’m asking about this is I heard a snippet of an oral history done many years ago and the lady, an African-American woman, who talked about when she was at Williston High School, she would go spend her afternoons over at Community Hospital and was being trained as a practical nurse. And I haven’t heard anybody talking about this program, but it sounds like it was kind of a one-on-one thing. Girls that were interested were trained, but I can’t find out too much, so I just wondered where…

Mack: I don’t remember anything about that.

Mims: There wasn’t any formalized training for practical nurses during the fifties. In the sixties is when that comes along, so I’m just…I’m really looking for that missing puzzle piece there. So what were other significant events as a student? I know that the capping and getting your uniform is a big event. What is the next big thing that you can think of?

Mack: Ah, we went…always went to affiliation…Psychiatry.

Mims: Oh, where was that?

Mack: We went to Louisville Kentucky for psychiatry…how long was that, was it three months or six months?…might not have been six months but it was a while. And we were there and we took training for Psychiatry.

Mims: I know at one time they went to Tuskegee.

Mack: Yes, we left Tuskegee and then they schooled me to Louisville Kentucky. And I think another group went…I think they didn’t go to Louisville, they came behind me, they went some place else, but I’m not sure…

Mims: Somebody talked about Oteen.

Mack: Somebody might of went there. But we went to Louisville Kentucky.

Mims: So that meant you were even away from Wilmington and out of the state for a while.

Mack: I think it was six…I think about six or eight of us went there.

Mims: About graduation time, what were the big events around graduation? Was there as dance or a social?

Mack: I don’t think so…I don’t know…there might have been. But right now I can’t remember. All I know, I graduated and got out of Dodge! That’s all I remember.

Mims: Do you remember taking any kind of counseling upon graduation as to what you were going to do after graduation? Did they offer that?

Mack: No.

Mims: They were just kind of like, okay, you’re getting ready to graduate…

Mack: Well, you had been out there for what, two, three years, and you had been really working with patients for at least two good years and you was running a floor, maybe you and a couple more for eight hours and…

Mims: So you knew basically where your interests were?

Mack: What was the experience of it.

Mims: Right, and where you were going to go…I didn’t know…what did you do after graduation?

Mack: I went to Roanoke Virginia.

Mims: Did you?

Mack: Um hum.

Mims: What did you do there?

Mack: I was an OB/GYN nurse.

Mims: How did you find out about the job?

Mack: Well, we had a director…super…what was…Mr. Whyte was the head of the hospital, what you call CA…CEO, or whatever. He was the head of the hospital. And he left Wilmington, he left Community and went to Roanoke Virginia and a group of us followed him.

Mims: Really?

Mack: Um hum. Maybe there was about four or five of us went to Roanoke.

Mims: So, why did you feel like in this experience, leaving Community and going to this new place? Did you feel like you were adequately prepared?

Mack: Um hum. Oh gosh yes!

Mims: Yes?

Mack: Oh yes. Community was something else. I didn’t have any qualms at all about being adaptive to going to another hospital. I don’t think any of us…I figure when you leave Community, I think you were prepared. We would do IVs; we could do all of that stuff. IVs, we could do everything. I really didn’t…I think Community prepared us for life’s work. You know, I worked about forty years.

Mims: Were you always in OB?

Mack: No, I was in OB when I went to Roanoke. Then I started to work in Surgery. Never did like Pediatrics. OB and Surgery…didn’t like Medicine either, and then I came here and then when we were over seas, I think I worked OB over there.

Mims: You worked overseas?

Mack: Um hum.

Mims: Where?

Mack: In Tehran.

Mims: Oh.

Mack: And then we came…I believe, I worked…did I worked in…?

Mims: Were you as a civilian?

Mack: Yea…I didn’t work in New Jersey. Then I worked in New Bern. My husband would go overseas, then I’d go back home…then I worked at Craven County Hospital. And I think I worked in Surgery then.

Mims: Did you ever work here in Wilmington as a nurse?

Mack: No. Um hum. Not until we retired in ‘72…then I came here. And I worked in Augusta Georgia and I worked in Medical Surgery there. At…what’s the name?…General Hospital?...what’s the name of that hospital?…but I worked there. ‘Cause we were there…I worked there about two years. And then we came…did I work any place else?…I don’t think so…I might have but I don’t remember that right now. Then we came here in ‘72…no, went to Goldsboro. I didn’t work in Goldsboro. We came here in ‘72 and I stayed home for about two years and I got bored and I got tired and Dr. Eaton Jr. told me, “Mack, go to work.” And he said, “Well just start off with two days and see if you…” Because I was really…I guess I was really bored. And I went on to work and started working three days and I worked three days a week until I retired.

Mims: It just sounds like a wonderful experience. Here you were able to travel and stay employed. You know, if you’d become a teacher, you wouldn’t have had it that easy because I guess once you’re an RN you’re registered throughout the country. A teacher, you have to be certified in each and every state.

Mack: Oh yea. Yes you have…

Mims: A state that reciprocates but a lot…

Mack: Okay, yes, yes, yes, I understand what you’re talking about.

Mims: Yea, you see what I’m saying? Is that as a teacher you’d have to get new credentials every time you moved but here you are, you’re able to buy employment wherever you go and you’re just building experience and taking in everything…how did you keep up with new training? Was that something that you did on your own or did each facility offer?

Mack: Well, let’s see, when I came from…when I moved back here in ’72, I had to take a refresher course.

Mims: Where was that offered?

Mack: Right here.

Mims: At the University?

Mack: Right here at this University, in the nursing program.

Mims: Um hum.

Mack: And, ah, because I hadn’t worked…someplace…I hadn’t worked in a few years and I just had got outdated, just outdated…

Mims: Sure.

Mack: I came back and took a refresher course.

Mims: When you were in training…the…I think, vaccines were just coming into effect. I’m not sure…

Mack: Vaccines for what?

Mims: For like immunizations for childhood diseases, like, wasn’t Polio not a vaccine at the time?

Mack: No, I don’t think so.

Mims: I think it came in the sixties.

Mack: I’m not sure, but I know…I remember when tuberculosis came out of the sanatorium. We had…we were in Georgia. All of us had to take shots…for…in case you really do…somebody that has tuberculosis…you wouldn’t become infected. That’s about the only thing I can remember. Everybody…they brought tuberculosis out of the sanatorium and put them on the floors.

Mims: Um hum. So that was a big significant thing because then no longer were people just…

Mack: Had to go to a sanatorium, they would come into a civilian hospital. So all the personnel had to take immune against it.

Mims: Also the changes in, like, floor procedures. I know that, like, gloving changed. Like, now whenever you go and get a shot the nurse wears gloves. You probably weren’t trained to do that.

Mack: No, just wash your hands.

Mims: Right. So how did you embrace these new ideas as they just came along?

Mack: Well, it hasn’t out there been that long.

Mims: No.

Mack: In the last ten years. Because just before I retired, maybe a couple of years before I retired, they really started that, and so in the last ten years, that probably just started.

Mims: Also, changes in identification of hospital personnel. I’ve had, a relative in the hospital lately and I couldn’t tell which one was a nurse!

Mack: Well, you could tell, because most of the nurses wore caps.

Mims: But not now!

Mack: You have to wear caps. And you had to wear tennis shoes and you had to wear white. Now you can wear anything.

Mims: Right. So as far as staffing is concerned you’re not sure whether you’re talking to an RN or if you’re talking to a nurses assistant because they look the same.

Mack: But back then you knew, and we didn’t have those badges and stuff on either. You just knew who they were with a cap on and they had that uniform on and they had on white socks and them tennis shoes. And the nurses were…everybody knew the nurses.

Mims: When do you remember when you stopped wearing your hat?

Mack: Since I’ve been here.

Mims: Really? But up until that time you wore it?

Mack: Um hum.

Mims: Were you…was everybody still wearing their caps?

Mack: When I came…when we came…when I came here everybody was wearing their caps up until about the last maybe ten years…people were wearing their caps.

Mims: So something that was significant to you personally and also identifiable…

Mack: To nurses…I think it was all…I think the nurse’s profession…just about everybody at Hanover was wearing their caps up until maybe about that year…that time.

Mims: How about your nursing pin?

Mack: I got that some place, yea, I got it, um hum, some place.

Mims: Each school has their own pin, so wearing that pin showed that you graduated from the Community Hospital.

Mack: Community Hospital School of Nursing.

Mims: Right. Did you ever have an occasion to see somebody else wearing it that you didn’t know?

Mack: The pin?

Mims: Yea, with all your travels, did you ever come across…?

Mack: Yea, most nurses…if they from a different hospital…they always have their pin.

Mims: But did you find anybody else from Community?

Mack: No. They wasn’t working with me, unless in New Bern, I might have seen somebody down there because New Bern is just up the road. But very seldom I ran into anybody that had gone to Community.

Mims: They graduated over three hundred students in a forty-some year time period so there was a number of them out there.

Mack: They’re out there, oh they’re out there, they really are.

Mims: Well in retrospect, would you have gone into nursing knowing what you know today?

Mack: Well, probably not. If I had got that letter from Fayetteville State I would have been a schoolteacher. So I would have been a schoolteacher instead of a nurse.

Mims: Yea. You think you would have gone that path instead?

Mack: Probably. Because I said whoever…

Mims: Got you first.

Mack: Got me first, I’m gonna go. And that’s what happened.

Mims: What about Wilmington during the time that you were here. This is the beginning of civil rights when you’re out here. Brown vs. Board is in ‘54, so by the time you’re coming here to Community the civil rights issue was starting.

Mack: Wilmington was not…we didn’t run into it too much stuff, cause like I said, we had to be in at eight o’clock and about as far as we could go was to Seabreeze. Now you could “slip” and go someplace out of town, but they wasn’t supposed to know about it and nothing was supposed to happen…but when you’re young you don’t think nothing’s going to happen so we did slip out of town a few times. And but that’s about it.

Mims: So no real issues as far as being in this black environment…

Mack: No, no, because we had always lived with black. And we didn’t see, you know, didn’t feel any different, you’d always been around black, we went to…when we went to school the street was totally black, so we always was in black…in a black environment, so it didn’t make any difference. Now Wilmington environment was a lot different than it is now. You could walk in Wilmington anytime a day, anytime at night, up and down Castle Street anytime. You never see nobody. You could have your door open…you just wasn’t afraid. And then we went to…we went in the service…and we came home when we was going through…I think we was going through…going some place, to Georgia or Texas or somewhere. Oh, I worked in Texas too! El Paso Texas. I worked OB/GYN…you talk about the babies…!

Mims: That’s got a large Hispanic population.

Mack: Those babies…those women come in gravida five and six and seven…they had them babies…come in…I said, “Don’t prep ‘em, put ‘em on the table and call the doctor!” They just had to spit them babies out!

Mims: Wow!

Mack: Aaah, I went to El Paso General Hospital. That’s where I worked. Them babies, girl, them big babies, honey, they…them women come in pushing, I said, “Please don’t push!” You couldn’t even get them on the table. I liked there, I liked them, I liked that OB/GYN. We…sometimes we’d have eight babies in one eight hours.

Mims: Oh God, that’s a lot of babies!

Mack: Yea, but I was young. I could do…you know, when you’re young you can do a lot of stuff.

Mims: Yea. Do you ever remember going over to James Walker Hospital?

Mack: No.

Mims: Never any contact with them?

Mack: No, never.

Mims: But you knew they had a nursing school there?

Mack: Oh yes, we knew about ‘em.

Mims: Some of the doctors that worked at Community, the white doctors, also worked at James Walker.

Mack: They worked here…they worked here and some of the doctors that worked over there, they taught here and taught the Community…the taught us. Like Dr. Mebane, Dr. Marshburn, Dr. Warshauer, Sinclair…all of those were over there at James Walker. They came over here and taught.

Mims: They was also Bullucks Hospital at that time.

Mack: I don’t remember Bullucks, I heard of it, but I don’t remember it.

Mims: Right. That was downtown.

Mack: Yea, I remember that…downtown.

Mims: Right downtown.

Mack: Seemed to say Bulluck…they had a big old sign up there.

Mims: It’s still there, yea.

Mack: Okay.

Mims: It just recently got purchased and they’re going to keep that block lettering.

Mack: Yea, it’s been there for a while, hasn’t it?

Mims: Yea, for a while…so…ahm, anybody coming into nursing today, what kind of advice would you offer a new person coming in?

Mack: Don’t ask. I’ll pass.

Mims: Oh, you will…okay, because I’m was looking for a certain personality…it seems like…

Mack: My daughter. My daughter, oldest girl, oldest daughter, is a nurse.

Mims: Really?

Mack: Um hum. She worked about a year.

Mims: Really, it just wasn’t for her?

Mack: She graduated from East Carolina and she’s a little bitty girl, but I don’t know if she really wanted to go…she really wanted to go into lab technician or something like that, so I was surprised when she went into nursing. But she end up being a nurse and getting a BS and she worked, she worked in two or three hospitals, but then she worked to get…she was going back to school to get her Masters, so she went back and got her Masters and that’s the reason she worked at the hospitals, maybe to get some money. And she went into Business Administration, so she has a degree…a Masters in Business Administration. So she worked maybe a year and a half. I told her she didn’t work…until she’d been…I said, “Girl you don’t know nursing.” She said, “Don’t worry about it,” she says, “cause if I have to go back, I’ll keep my license active and I’ll go and get some more”…what is it, get a refresher course?…”and go back to work.” But no she didn’t work to long. I never did tell her anything cause I was always a nurse, so that’s what…

Mims: She saw.

Mack: Yea.

Mims: I’ve seen a lot of mother, daughter, you know, granddaughter.

Mack: Yea, see Lofton got two girls that are nurses.

Mims: Yes, yes, Helen is one of those I’m thinking about because the baby…

Mack: Her baby girl went into nursing too.

Mims: Yea, cause we talked about that. It just seems like there’s a certain personality that gravitates towards this medical field. I was just trying to find out if its maybe genetic or something, you know.

Mack: Well when she was…my daughter was in high school; they figured she was going to go into some type of medical profession. That’s what they said. They said that she would go…and she did.

Mims: Did you ever go and get your BSN?

Mack: No.

Mims: So what you learned at Community is your training?

Mack: That’s right.

Mims: Well, gosh, we’ve talked about a lot. Can you think of anything that we have overlooked?

Mack: Nope.

Mims: Let’s see…do you remember Ms. Taylor at all?

Mack: No.

Mims: Was she there? What kind of legacy did she leave? I know you’ve heard about her.

Mack: I know she was the first…what was it, the director?

Mims: Director of Nursing.

Mack: And they talked about her some. But I really don’t…

Mims: But by the time you got there…

Mack: Yea, we knew her. We knew about her. But they didn’t elaborate on her that much so I don’t really know too much about her. She was one of the founders of that…of that nursing home. So I’m very glad of that and…

Mims: She set the standards. She’s the one that says…

Mack: Yes, yes, yes…had the following of Community Hospital nurses…

Mims: And never let that ball fall.

Mack: I know, I know it. And I know she had to be very good because the Community Hospital put out good…very good nurses. Those girls were able to work anyplace. Some of them went in to the military and they did…when we left Community, we really knew…we really did. We knew how to get up there and we could work any hospital.

Mims: You’ve proved that with your career here.

Mack: And we…so, they did, they really put out some very good…when we graduated we knew how to do everything.

Mims: Did you ever hear that they were closing the school? Did you get word about that?

Mack: I heard about it because this is my husband’s home and I heard about it.

Mims: What did you think about that?

Mack: Well, I heard that they were going to open up a new hospital so I knew they had to combine the two, they wasn’t going to keep three hospitals open. So I didn’t think anything about that.

Mims: A lot of the comments have been that with that school closing, it seemed like it was closing a specific era because it was, like you said, a neighborhood situation and they knew that that was going to be lost.

Mack: Well, they knew it was going to…was integrated…and it was going to be integrated and Wilmington really couldn’t afford to keep three hospitals. And I knew it was eventually going to have to close down and James Walker was going to have to close down.

Mims: How about alumni association? Has there been any formalized group?

Mack: Yes, yes, we did. We did about three, but it’s been a good while. And we have quite a few girls to come back. We have had some very nice ones. It’s good to see a lot of ‘em. But I don’t think we have had one in the last eight or nine years.

Mims: That’s what I was told; it’s been a long time.

Mack: Eight or nine years, because I was one of the secretaries and the one I was working with, she passed about three years ago. And I just…that’s why everybody calls me, cause I used to write letters and come do a lot of the corresponding and say… “Ask Mack”…I say, “No don’t ask me girl,” I don’t know all that stuff. But I knew quite a few of ‘em cause I got…used to…I got a letter from a lady…I think the lady’s about eighty something now…and she’s in Detroit. What was her name?…I know I got a letter there from her from somewhere…in there someplace…I got a drawer right by my bed and I got junk…I got junk…my husband say, “Why don’t you throw that stuff out?” But I don’t. It just sits there…I clean it out but I put the stuff right back.

Mims: Well, I’m finding that this alumni association does fulfill that…you know, you guys can still get together and no matter what year you graduated, there is a common ground.

Mack: My classmates, we went to…I think it was five of us went to Maryland a couple of years ago to see another classmate and a lot of girls…one came from Wampee, South Carolina, Southport, one came from Boliva, and I, we went up there, we stayed a weekend. We met three or four or five of them up there and we…this girl had a big house and we just stayed downstairs in the basement, you know, in the basement…

Mims: And had, like, a slumber party!

Mack: Yea, it was very nice. It was really nice and we just talked and had clam fillings and fish and all…and seafood, and shrimp…it was really nice, it was really nice. We stayed a whole weekend. It was nice.

Mims: It sounds really nice.

Mack: Those were some of my classmates. And then some of the girls that had gone and left, they just didn’t finish…so of course you have some of those too. But…

Mims: Oh, I know what I was going to ask…Helen talked a little bit about the ‘big sister’ program. Like when you first came in you were assigned a big sister. Where they doing that in your year?

Mack: Um um.

Mims: Okay.

Mack: But you get attached to an older girl. They didn’t assign them to us when I was there but you usually got attached to one or two girls and they kind of take you under their wings. But we wasn’t assigned to anybody.

Mims: Do you remember anybody dropping out that had some academic problems?

Mack: No.

Mims: There was always help for that?

Mack: Yea. I don’t remember anybody.

Mims: How about anybody leave because they just couldn’t handle the pressure?

Mack: I think we did have some to leave, but most time you never know why.

Mims: And then there’s always the guy issue.

Mack: Oh, they hang around that place.

Mims: Right, but how many people snuck and got married and got caught or something? ‘Cause I read in one of the brochures that you could actually get married your senior year.

Mack: Well, we did have…I think when I first went in they did have…one of my classmates was married. Her kids were older, but I think they stopped after that year. They stopped us from being married. But they got married but they could not stay home. They had to come every night. They had to stay in the nursing home every night.

Mims: And you have to admire them to try to balance the two.

Mack: Yea, they did, they had to stay in the nursing home every night. They knew they could be married but they had to come back home to spend the night at the nursing home…and take them classes…and go on that floor.

Mims: I heard that there was a, like a, either a music box or a piano in the floor of the residence home.

Mack: Yea. That was something…that was kind of a recreation area.

Mims: Right. Okay. And they said that even if you, like, had a male visitor you could dance there.

Mack: Yea, it was something like a recreation area.

Mims: So it must have been fairly large.

Mack: It was big.

Mims: Pretty big. I hate that the hospital is torn down, cause I, you know, I don’t have anything to look at.

Mack: It was about as large as this room and maybe a half.

Mims: Wow.

Mack: It was long, it wasn’t just wide but it was long.

Mims: So a nice big social area.

Mack: Yea, it was big and then right on the back we had…sometime you could pull the…and you could have classes back there…a divider…you could have classes…but you could open it too.

Mims: Well this has been very interesting to me and thank you so much for doing this for me. I appreciate it.

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