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Interview with Hannah Nixon, December 8, 2004 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Hannah Nixon, December 8, 2004
December 8, 2004
Mrs. Hannah Nixon worked as a nursing assistant at Community Hospital from 1956-1967. Her memories include various aspects of her job such as making beds and recording vital signs, as well as hospital personnel and set-up. Later, she moved to New Hanover Hospital and became a Ward Clerk on the OB-GYN floor and stayed there until she retired in 1981. As a Wilmington area native, Mrs. Nixon offers an insight into the various medical facilities and staff of the 40s-80s.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Nixon, Hannah Interviewer:  Mims, LuAnn Date of Interview:  12/8/2004 Series:  Southeast North Carolina (SENC) Length:  60


Mims: Today is December the 8th, 2004. I'm LuAnn Mims for the Randall Library Special Collections Series on Health Services, and today we are talking with Mrs. Hannah Nixon. Good morning to you, Mrs. Nixon.

Nixon: Good morning.

Mims: Um...we have talked before and I know a little bit about your family history. I'd like to jump forward to you attending school. Where did you go to high school?

Nixon: Williston.

Mims: Williston?

Nixon: Williston Industrial High School.

Mims: And what year did you graduate?

Nixon: 1933.

Mims: 1933. And you continued to live in Wilmington, right?

Nixon: Oh yes.

Mims: Uh huh. What did your husband do?

Nixon: One thing, I was...I didn't come to Wilmington we...we call the town, I lived out at Porter's Neck, right on the entrance where they turned to go into Porter's Neck. That's where I was raised up after we left from down on the waterfront, right down in Porter's Neck.

Mims: Your dad brought you in to town to attend Williston?

Nixon: No, the bus did.

Mims: All the way from Porter's Neck?

Nixon: We had a bus going from...they call it all Porter's Neck now, but it's Kirkland...that's Kirkland up there now where all that shopping center is. And my daddy built this little house to take us from...keep us from walking three miles to school, because we had to walk from Porter's Neck all the up to the highway seventeen...and he put this little house there...little five room house. That's where we...I lived until I got married in 1935.

Mims: Now, what...

Nixon: ...came to husband was living uptown. Up here in the city, we call it.

Mims: What was he doing?

Nixon: He worked to a mill.

Mims: Which mill?

Nixon: I think it was Corbett. Corbett had a mill on the north side of town.

Mims: Right, the pack...

Nixon: One out towards Castle Hayne.

Mims: The box place, where they made the baskets and...Corbett's, up there at...

Nixon: I guess that's what they turned in to.

Mims: Uh huh.

Nixon: But it was a mill, they were doing lumbar and stuff at that time.

Mims: And we were talking off camera a little bit, and you know, the focus that we're talking about is medical services, and you remember that your first two children were born at James Walker Hospital?

Nixon: Um hum, yes.

Mims: What years were they born?

Nixon: One...first one, '36 and '38.

Mims: What do you remember about the James Walker Hospital?

Nixon: Well, see they built...annexed the one they called the colored ward, they had for us, it was just really a ward with beds just thrown...just like you push up in it. And I think they said it would hold eight...six or eight patients at the time.

Mims: Who was your doctor at the time, that delivered the babies?

Nixon: Ah...the...I can't think of their names now, but they were the hospital doctors at the time.

Mims: Well there was an African American Hospital...Community didn't have your babies at that hospital at that time.

Nixon: No. When I had the second one, it was born in '38, they thought they were gonna have to send me over to the colored hospital...over to Community at the time, but my mother-in-law was working there at the James Walker Hospital, and she found a bed for...and told 'em, "No, don't send her over there"...she wanted me to stay there because I was married to her son.

Mims: Um hum.

Nixon: So she found a bed and that's what kept me from going over to the Community Hospital.

Mims: Now when you had your other children though, you had them at Community, right?

Nixon: Oh yes. I had a doctor, Dr. Gray was my doctor.

Mims: And that was at Community.

Nixon: Well, from your experience, what was the difference between delivery at the two hospitals?

Nixon: Let's see...

Mims: Well, Community actually had an OB section, right?

Nixon: Yes, it did. And that made it much better for me. And too, they...with a private doctor at the time there... 'cause see I didn't have a private doctor over at James Walker. That's why the hospital doctor delivered it, and what their names...I never knew.

Mims: So they were like interns?

Nixon: Um hum, yea, that's what they were, just intern doctors there. There was lots of difference there, cause I had to stay in with the first one...they kept me for fifteen days because I had milk breasts just got so tight until they had to bring this to pump the milk, you know.

Mims: Um hum. Goodness, that seems like a long time to stay in for having a baby! Now you're in and out overnight.

Nixon: Um hum, I mean! See, I don't think they did this episiotomy on me, I think they just let me tear. And I had those stitches...

Mims: So recovery is a little more difficult in that situation.

Nixon: Yes.

Mims: Hum. But the care was different at Community.

Nixon: The care was very different.

Mims: But related.

Nixon: Um hum.

Mims: Okay, so after a period of time and your children starting getting older, you had an opportunity to be employed at Community Hospital. Can you tell me how that came about?

Nixon: I needed to work to help my husband, you know, with the bills, so one of the ladies that was working at the running the laundry at Community, came one day and asked me did I care to work at the hospital...and I told her I wouldn't mind it because I put in for nursing when I graduated, at Durham and at Raleigh hospital and during that time they could go in free, just take your certain things that they asked you to bring, and they were taking 'em in every six Saint Augustine in Raleigh, and at...what was the name of that one in Durham...that was taking Black students...

Mims: So you were interested in pursuing a career in nursing?

Nixon: A nursing career, sure was. I think that's what helped me so when I got over there, because I can remember Miss [Salome] Taylor coming through after I started working over there.

Mims: Why didn't you go to the schools in Raleigh or Durham?

Nixon: had to be on a waiting list and they never...when they did tell me I could come, that's when I was getting I never did make it.

Mims: Well, you know, Community had a school of nursing. Were you not aware of that?

Nixon: Yes, but I could not...for some reason I didn't care, I wanted to get away from home.

Mims: I hear you, I hear you.

Nixon: And I did not even attempt to go there because a couple of the girls did go there for that training and they were all in the frame building.

Mims: The fram building?

Nixon: I call it frame, you know, wood...the wooden building...frame, no brick.

Mims: Oh the frame building. Oh...the one on Seventh Street?

Nixon: Um hum, um hum.

Mims: Okay. Yea, the old Community Hospital.

Nixon: Yea, yea, the old Community.

Mims: Wow, that would've been neat though. So, whenever you did start working for Community, what was your job position?

Nixon: I went there to help in the laundry.

Mims: In the laundry? [dropping sound] Sorry.

Nixon: In 1956.

Mims: 1956. Laundry. And what were...

Nixon: And right during that time, you know, doing the putting out the linens for the hospital...and during that time that the county, or whoever, was in charge decided that the nurses needed assistants...cause all they had...there was the nurses in training and doing all of the work...that if they had an assistant...what I did start doing, such as going in and making the beds and keeping everything straightened out, you know, that the student nurses were doing. But Miss Taylor saw that they needed to be in class and they still needed somebody on the floor to help the RNs that they had. So, therefore they said Community Hospital could start training nurses assistants. And they asked me would I care to do that instead of what I was doing. And I told 'em I'd be glad to...because that was my feel anyway. I really wanted to be a nurse.

Mims: So, Miss Taylor organized a...a class to teach people how to assist the RNs?

Nixon: Um hum, um hum.

Mims: How many people were in the class, do you remember?

Nixon: Oh, I don' the time...didn't but two agree to do it...I think...was it two or three of us...anyway it was just such few until we couldn't...what I did do after I started, was to be around with the nurses while they were on the floor working. Then when they leave to go over in the other building to class, that's when I would have to do the things that those students would do, you see. And that's the way I got my training. That was my first nurses training. But after, we had to go over to the new hospital, I really many of us...we had to go to class, and I learned. In fact, I just went over everything I had already learned at Community because I really learned how to do the beds...recovery room...see, we didn't have a recovery room over there, so it's a certain way you fix the bed for patients coming back from surgery and I really had that down pat, Miss Taylor admired me about that, you know. And...

Mims: What were some of your other responsibilities?

Nixon: Oh, taking temperatures, blood pressures...I learned all that over at Community.

Mims: Um hum.

Nixon: the eleven years I was there.

Mims: So you were there eleven years?

Nixon: Um hum.

Mims: And they taught you how to do those types of things.

Nixon: All those, um hum.

Mims: So you had patient contact?

Nixon: Oh yes! That's what I worked...with the patients . . . taking their temperatures twice...see you'd take them in the mornings and in the afternoons, and did I take them at night...? No, that was after I started working three to eleven. But the time I worked seven to three...yes I did, cause three o'clock I had to start taking temperatures again for the evening nurses that was coming on. So I took those temperatures twice a day when I was working from seven to three...twice a day again when I was working from three to eleven because...before visiting hours...or right after visiting hours... one or the other, but anyway I took temperatures twice a day.

Mims: In this day and age they have that electric thermometer.

Nixon: Yes!

Mims: Tell me how you were taking temperatures. You were using a glass thermometer with Mercury.

Nixon: Yes! Those that you soaked...keep them in alcohol. And then we had the little tissue things like that...not tissues, little cloth...little square...

Mims: Alcohol preps?

Nixon: Yea.

Mims: Uh huh.

Nixon: ...that you wiped them down and take the temperatures...put it in their mouth, let is stay many minutes would it take...cause I know I had to get a watch again so I could watch the time of the temperatures. And of course same way...they take the blood pressures now kinda like they did then, but we didn't have anything that was gonna show us how it's just take it and watch when it hit a certain point. And even they put it out that I was the best blood pressure taker when I was working third floor at Community.

Mims: Goodness.

Nixon: The...the nurse...head nurse said I was the best blood pressure taker she had on the floor. That included the students and all that was...

Mims: So did you have contact with some of the student nurses?

Nixon: Oh yea! I worked...make me think about the time this patient had died...of course, I don't want to mess up your tape...

Mims: That's okay, just talk.

Nixon: ...well the patient...the patient had died and the nursing students was in there getting the patient cleaned up, you know, doing the...and I came on, I was working at three...they were glad to see me come in. "Mrs. Nixon, how are you doing?" I said, "Fine," yea, we just finished...worked on the patient there...was a man, I think it was at the time...and they had him kind of sitting up like, you know, pulling him up and three or four of 'em was around doing it... "Okay, you can have him." They went on cause they had to go to class. And I went in there and got ready to finish up the patient...come to find out he was dead and they was getting him ready...and they had to laugh...the sheets...what you call those sheets that you wrap 'em in?...they had them in the room just waiting for me...those girls! But the all loved me and I loved them...they were all so nice!

Mims: Well, I sense that it was a real family situation there ...

Nixon: Yes it was.

Mims: ...and that the training of these nursing students just bettered the situation. So everybody was kind of nice to them, not mean or anything.

Nixon: Yea, that's right.

Mims: Yea. It's kind of interesting.

Nixon: Got along beautifully, I'm telling you! All of them now, whenever they...I go any place and they see me, we call it...they scattered around. This one took over in New Bern and she was the head nurse up there at that hospital for a time and I went to New Bern for some reason...or Jacksonville...anyway, she was other words, she was... "Oh, Mrs. Nixon, you know what? I'm the head..." some kind of expression she used... "up there at that hospital, and you know where all that training come from? Good old Community!" I said, "Yes girl!"

Mims: Um hum. So they were...they were letting you do a lot of things to assist the RNs and...did you have contact with the physicians?

Nixon: No, not over there.

Mims: Um hum.

Nixon: I didn't run into them until I was a ward clerk at New Hanover. That's when I had to run into the doctors.

Mims: Well, tell me a little bit about some of the nurses you worked with. Let's start with Miss Taylor, what do you remember about her?

Nixon: Only coming through to watch you...and that's when she commended me on my work. Just that one time that I can remember her, you know, coming through and watching me. And I guess it probably was directly after I had had to be, and she was checking to see, you know, how I was doing. But she did commend me and said, "You could make a good nurse." Um hum.

Mims: What was she...what do you remember people taking about her, I mean, what was the feel at the hospital about her...surely you heard...?

Nixon: I know the students was...I never heard any of the main...I think they had a few...not RNs but...what's the two-year nurses?

Mims: Practical nurse?

Nixon: Yea.

Mims: Uh huh.

Nixon: We had about two or three, I think...they had three practical nurses that I remember.

Mims: Were those trained at Community Hospital?

Nixon: Um hum.

Mims: Who did that?

Nixon: It must have gone on with Miss Taylor. Because she had gotten two nurses...two of the nurses that was teaching, and they were the ones that had, you know, have me to go on the floor with them. There were two came from...I don't know where they came from, but they weren't Community nurses...they came...

Mims: Do you remember their names?

Nixon: I did at one time, I knew 'em real good, but I can't remember either of 'em now.

Mims: Um hum.

Nixon: But they were good, so that's the only thing that I heard them complaining about, cause they were rough now...those two young ladies. They were good nurses, I like 'em because they're the ones that taught to do blood pressures and temperatures and things. There were two young ones that had...I never even found out or, if I did, I can't remember now, where they had gotten their nursing training from. But they weren't RNs and they are the ones taught the students.

Mims: Um hum. You weren't ever...

Nixon: Miss Taylor wasn't doing any teaching.

Mims: weren't interested in going into the practical learn about how to do that?

Nixon: No, I couldn't because with my children and husband, you know...because the oldest one left home, went in the Air Force in '55. He graduated from Williston in '55 and I started over there in '56. Well, then I had the three here...the next one graduated and I was working over there, cause when David went in I hadn't started over there...went in the Air Force...I had to be here to...with the other three and my husband. So I...yea...

Mims: So there...

Nixon: ...I give up on trying to go and...

Mims: So it was a little more involved...the practical nurse program was a little more involved?

Nixon:, I don't think that they did any more...

Mims: Because they learned...

Nixon: ...because they had finished them up and they went to wherever they went to take their test. They were already the...the licensed practical nurses...

Mims: Right.

Nixon: ...when I started over there...I can remember three of them.

Mims: They dealt with...with medications. They could dispense medicine.

Nixon: hum...they could pass the medications.

Mims: But a nursing assistant couldn't, could you?

Nixon: Um um, um um, no, couldn't pass any medications. All I could do was to bathe the patient, take their temperature, take their blood pressure, and do any stuff like fixing pads or doing...Dr. Wheeler had me doing his patient's he was a mess.

Mims: He was a character!

Nixon: But I liked him though, he was good with that eye business...then he went back to...what did he go back to do?

Mims: His name comes up all the time with people.

Nixon: It does?

Mims: Yes, cause he was just so...I guess so indelible that people...if you knew him, knew him.

Nixon: Yea, that's right...he was a mess now!

Mims: What were some of the other doctors you can recall?

Nixon: Oh, Dr. Upperman, cause he was the one that delivered my last baby. Dr. Gray delivered the second baby...the third baby...Dr. Upperman did the last one, the boy...that I had. And there was Dr. Roane, now he was strictly OB/GYN. Although he...he worked on, I guess that was considered GYN...

Mims: Um hum.

Nixon: ...with the women and men, cause he was no separation there. But when he did get over there he just stuck with GYN and OB...obstetrics and gynecology.

Mims: How about Dr. Avant, do you recall him?

Nixon: Yea, he was old then, you know, and he didn't have too many patients, but he would come over and do a little patient care, but very little at that time. He was on the hospital board, you know...[coughing]

Mims: Do you want to get something to drink?

Nixon: No, that doesn't help.

Mims: Dr. Eaton, you remember him?

Nixon: Oh yea...oh yea, of course. Ah...he was good...with obstetrics and GYN, he was a good GYN patient...cause my sister and I goes...he had good many patients.

Mims: Now there were a number of white physicians that practiced at Community, do you recall any of them?

Nixon: Yea, Dr. Hooper, the kidney doctor...cause he was the one I had, when they thought they saw a lump or something in my stone...they thought I had a kidney stone...and Dr. Hooper was the one that attended that case. Dr. Perritt was the X-ray man...came over to X-ray.

Mims: Do you remember any of the pediatricians?

Nixon: Um...I think Dr. Crouch...

Mims: Oh, Auley Crouch?

Nixon: Auley Crouch came over...wasn't both of 'em...practicing together?

Mims: Um hum.

Nixon: They were two brothers. Let's see who was the other that tended to children...

Mims: I know Dr. Koseruba came after World War II and started practicing, but I'm not sure if he went to Community or not.

Nixon: I can't remember either. Would doctor...

Mims: Sidbury was down at Babies.

Nixon: Wait a minute...Dr. Sid...Dr...he lived right there on Dock Street between Sixteenth and Seventeenth...was a good baby doctor. I think more people used him than Auley Crouch.

Mims: I can't...I've drawn a blank, I can't think.

Nixon: Dr...Dr...shucks...

Mims: Reynolds? Not Reynolds...

Nixon: Yea, yea!

Mims: Frank Reynolds.

Nixon: Dr. Reynolds!

Mims: Okay.

Nixon: Yes sir! Good baby doctor.

Mims: I've heard a lot about him too.

Nixon: Yes...Dr. Reynolds and Dr. Crouch...

Mims: Well, um...when you were a nursing assistant, what type of uniform did you have to wear?

Nixon: White.

Mims: Just a white top and...or white dress?

Nixon: A white uniform.

Mims: White uniform?

Nixon: Um hum.

Mims: Do you remember where you bought your uniforms from?

Nixon: Let me see, where did I get don't think I got 'em from...might have gotten from Alexander.

Mims: Um hum, I've heard that. So they must have been the place to buy stuff.

Nixon: Yes, it was, definitely.

Mims: Did you get your shoes from there too, or...?

Nixon: No, no. I never bought any expensive shoes.

Mims: Did you have to wear white shoes, or could you just wear any shoes?

Nixon: I think we could wear any shoes, cause I don't remember them complaining about the shoes.

Mims: Um hum.

Nixon: I probably didn't wear white. I can't remember right now.

Mims: Do you remember if you had any pin or anything that said you were a nursing assistant, or was it just your name-tag, or how would you be identified as a nursing assistant?

Nixon: I think they gave us after we...I didn't have any at Community the whole pin. Of course you don't...nothing like that was compelling, but after we got over there and went through the nursing school, we all got pins.

Mims: At New Hanover?

Nixon: Um hum.

Mims: ...gave pins.

Nixon: Yea, we had to have those pins.

Mims: That may have been different because somewhere in that period of time nurses...nursing assistants had to become certified.

Nixon: Um hum, yes, that's right.

Mims: So you had to probably take a certification class at New Hanover, then.

Nixon: Yes, we did...went through all of that and got my certificate and all.

Mims: Who did the training over at New Hanover you remember?

Nixon: Ah, yes, Mrs...she was Dr. Johnson's sister...Pardue. Mrs. Pardue. She was good too.

Mims: Now, back at Community Hospital, after Miss Taylor left, do you recall any of the other supervising nurses, like...?

Nixon: Yes, we got one in...I was trying to think last night...

Mims: Seems like there was one named Whyte...a Mrs. Whyte, who was very...

Nixon: That was a man...

Mims: There was...yea, it was his...

Nixon: ...that was the superintendent of the hospital.

Mims: Right...but his wife, I thought ran a nursing school at one time. She didn't have the credentials, she didn't stay long, but I don't whether you know...remember her.

Nixon: No, I remember a Mrs...oh...

Mims: Parker? Mabel Parker, do you remember her?

Nixon: Oh yea! I remember Mabel. But before...did this lady come after Mabel or before...? It was a lady came from Washington DC, I think she still lives in Washington DC, after Miss Taylor did she come after Mabel Parker?

Mims: Mrs. Parker wasn't here but a few years.

Nixon: I know, cause she'd been a...what was she, an Army nurse?

Mims: I don't know, but...

Nixon: She was really...oh yes!

Mims: She was...I read some letters she wrote!

Nixon: (laughing) What did she write about?

Mims: Well she...I guess that they weren't consulting her with the...the budget of the hospital, and how could she pay her nurses more if they didn't include her in on these she wrote some rather, you know, scathing letters to.

Nixon: Yea?

Mims: ...I'm trying to think of who the direct...or the superintendent was at that time...maybe Mr. Grubbs...I can't think of what his name is. And then there was a Willa Hatcher...

Nixon: Oh yes.

Mims: Oh, Mr. Butler...

Nixon: Yea, Mr. Butler.

Mims: Um hum.

Nixon: At the time that Mabel was over there...

Mims: Yea, yea.

Nixon: ...the nurse...

Mims: And then Willa Hatcher was there for a number of years. I think she came up through the ranks, kind of.

Nixon: Yes, she did. She was a good nurse too.

Mims: 'Cause she went over to New Hanover as well.

Nixon: Oh yes, she was over there...she was in the office too with Mrs...what was that lady...? I think she was a...a Army nurse too...that we had over there at New Hanover.

Mims: Um hum.

Nixon: And Willa Hatcher was the assistant or assistant, or something, wasn't she?

Mims: Right.

Nixon: Um hum.

Mims: Let's see...cause some of the people that came out of the two programs, actually ended over at the college when the developed a nursing program at Cape Fear. I know Mrs. Paso, she was white though...I'm trying to think of some of the others...

Nixon: Uh huh. Was she a Foy? What was that girl name...she was married and I know, went over to the college to teach that one went over to the college...

Mims: Cause both of the diploma schools utilized Wilmington College for their academic pre-clinical times...even Community used it.

Nixon: What was that?

Mims: The...their academics were taken over at Wilmington College for a number of...up until the time that both of 'em closed. So there was a strong connection between the diploma schools and the university...

Nixon: Oh yes, yes there was.

Mims: ...from the very beginning. Well, I'm surprised that later on in life you didn't decide you wanted to become an RN.

Nixon: No, I just...

Mims: You were happy doing what you were doing?

Nixon: Um hum.

Mims: Now, what about the move to New Hanover Hospital? How did that take place?

Nixon: Well, one of the ladies that went from Community, she and I set up the books for the nurses. I think we made thirty-two big books of the whole program and got the...the RNs who worked each floor, the RNs and the LPN and...and the nurses assistant. We worked there first during the time we were getting everything set up for the school. And that's when this...I think this lady was a...a government nurse, come from, you know, doing...had been in service.

Mims: I'll have to look and see if I can find her name.

Nixon: There was about thirty...I think we set up...we made...fixed thirty-two books for the nurses...

Mims: Um hum.

Nixon: ...that was going to work there...and had those programs to match up...they fitted in...each shift would have a RN, a LPN, and an assistant...nurses assistant.

Mims: Now, when you were at Community, did you become a...a ward clerk at that time?

Nixon: Oh no, no. They had a class, you had to take class to do that.

Mims: Um hum.

Nixon: So they knew after I had gone and took the nurses assistant class over...

Mims: Uh huh.

Nixon: ...and this...decided that they needed the ward clerks, and that was, a ward clerk, and one...what did they call it? Had to be two clerks on the floor, one do the answering of the phone and checking...was it checking the charts? Anyway, I told them I would take the ward clerk part instead of the...I can't think what they called the other...

Mims: The unit secretary where you had to do the whole floor, or...?

Nixon: Yea...whatever floor you were on, and I worked the fourth floor. So they had to be two clerks, one for the OB side, and one for the GYN side...the

Mims: Well that must have been different, because you didn't have as much patient contact at that time.

Nixon: No, I didn't, um um...more contact...mainly with the nurse and the doctors.

Mims: Um hum.

Nixon: And I mean the doctors, because being a ward clerk, you had to check that chart soon as he look it over, he'd written an order with the sheets, you know, just have everything that's supposed to be there, and if you mess up and keep those slips from the lab, make sure that the treatments were done. Just like if they write for you to have a X-ray or you got to have surgery, and what all to be done, and those slips that go to the lab to be checked out...check 'em out to see the shape they're in before they could pass for surgery. All of that...that ward clerk work was really something. Being an assistant was easy to doing that ward clerk! Cause you'd run in with those doctors if you didn't have those slips, or get 'em back, get 'em on the chart, so when he come in to check his patient the night before the surgery the next day, he's gonna run to that lab slip. It was a pink sheet on there that he places the...we placed the slips on that come from the lab, or whatever...from X-ray and all...they want to see that on that chart. And they go thumbing through 'em you see, and then they'll look up and ask you, "Where's the such-n-such slip?" know, "Is this done, is that done?" So, if you could make it with the doctors, you were sitting pretty.

Mims: Now this was over at New Hanover Hospital?

Nixon: Yes, over at New Hanover.

Mims: Well, who were some of the doctors you worked with at that time?

Nixon: Every one that dealt with...with...would allow their patients to come on GYN, you know, some didn't care to be mixed up with the baby...women having babies, so...but all of the ones that came on there Dr. Williams, Dr...oh...Dr. Upperman.

Mims: I can't remember what year he died.

Nixon: After...but I can't remember Upperman...

Mims: I hear the name Lounsbury...Lounsbury...something like that?

Nixon: Oh Lord, he was a good GYN, OB patient.

Mims: I heard he...

Nixon: Dr. Lounsbury was a good doctor!

Mims: ...kind of particular.

Nixon: And his wife was a nurse too, you know.

Mims: Really?

Nixon: Um hum. Ah...he and

Mims: Dr. Johnson was around at that time too.

Nixon: And Dr. Ficklen.

Mims: Ficklen.

Nixon: Did you hear of Dr. Ficklen?

Mims: I have heard is name.

Nixon: Oh boy! He was good! He was another strictly OB/GYN.

Mims: Um hum. Now there's so many of 'em you can hardly keep up with who's...

Nixon: I know, I know.

Mims: ...who's

Nixon: Um hum.

Mims: What was, you you went from being a nursing assistant at Community to a nursing assistant at New Hanover...what was the difference?

Nixon: Ah...well, I didn't do any of the nursing assistance at New Hanover. Because after I went through that course, you know, and then took that little test on the ward clerk deal, that's what I started out doing.

Mims: So you did it...

Nixon: Doing the ward clerk.

Mims: You didn't do assistant at New Hanover?

Nixon: Um um, um um.

Mims: But you took the assistant class, or...?

Nixon: Oh yea, I had to go through that, you know, to start with, because they hadn't even mentioned the ward...the clerks part...

Mims: Did they have...

Nixon: ....when we started moving over there. They didn't even mention the clerk


Mims: Well did they have clerks at Community Hospital?

Nixon: Oh no, no, um clerks.

Mims: This was something new at...

Nixon: This was new, yea.

Mims: Um hum.

Nixon: So we had to go through with it, that kind of course was easy because it all concerned what I was doing, you know, with the patient...dealing with patients there. Being ward clerk, all you had to do was take their order when the called for you to bring something, or they in pain and therefore, my problem was to get the nurse to go in...administer the pain pill or the shot or whatever they had to take.

Mims: So you're the one that answering the call lights.

Nixon: Yea, answered all the calls and fill...take all the orders off the doctors sheet, make out your tickets, all that kind of stuff. That...the ward clerk had to do that. And put them there so when the nurse do settle down, she can go over the work to make sure you've got everything off the chart that you should. If they take the time and do it...some of 'em just depend on you to do...

Mims: Well, it must have been crazy, though shutting down two hospitals and opening...

Nixon: ...up the hum, yea!

Mims: Right. So was you...did you have a sense of stress at all in getting that accomplished?

Nixon: Well I didn't, I imagine some of 'em did. Probably was a little more strain on some of the nurses that they have. Mrs. Privette, and she was so fat, bless her heart...but she was one of the supervisors. I...also,

Mims: Well the hospital was so big, it was hard to figure out who was working where and that kind of stuff, like...

Nixon: Yea, now I'll never forget that her name, what was her name? She had...she was a good nurse, second floor...this was a black nurse.

Mims: It wasn't Mrs. Lofton, was it...Helen Lofton?

Nixon: No, no.

Mims: Cause I think she worked second for a while.

Nixon: Yea, Helen worked second floor. Seem like Lock...her last name was Lock.

Mims: Hum.

Nixon: She had second floor...children was on one side of that hall and what kind of patient...just sick patient's, you know, that didn't have to have surgery or anything.

Mims: Can you remember anyone complaining that they didn't get their choice of a job when they left Community to go to New Hanover?

Nixon: No. I remember Mrs...she was a Walker and she got married...what was her name?...cause she left. Whenever the supervisors...night supervisors had to be off they would call her...have her to do that. Let me see, what floor did...I think Mrs. Floyd worked...

Mims: Mrs. Floyd wanted to be in OB but they ended up putting her in education. She did some of the OSHA stuff that had just come out. She did the training of every...all the personnel, orient them on the...

Nixon: Oh, that's what she did!

Mims: Right.

Nixon: Cause I know...

Mims: At Community she was over OB.

Nixon: Oh yea, cause I worked with her with that...she was number one...

Mims: Right.

Nixon: this delivery...

Mims: She's one of the one that...

Nixon: ...cause I did all the prepping...

Mims: ...that didn't get what she...

Nixon: ...that's what I did at Community, I was the one that prepped those patients and got 'em ready for the delivery room, take 'em over to the delivery room, put them...strap them in the...I called it strapping 'em...getting 'em ready for the doctor. And then receive the baby and go in the room...wash them up and label them...I did all of that.

Mims: You got to do that!?

Nixon: I did all of...with that.

Mims: That must have been fun, to have the got to do their first bath!

Nixon: I sure did!

Mims: Wow.

Nixon: That's what I did over there, working under Mrs. Floyd. She was really good.

Mims: Well she's one of the ones that come to mind that did not get her choice...that she did not...

Nixon: No she didn't, cause she did not get in that...on that floor...third floor where the delivery room was.

Mims: Right. But I guess because, you know, she was so advanced in her degrees, that I think they better utilized her in know...that's what I was asking, if you could think of anyone that, you know, maybe didn't get their choice...cause I know...

Nixon: I know it, that's right, she didn't...

Mims: No.

Nixon: ...cause she really wanted to go on in...she had that down, just like eating a meal, I guess. I loved working with her.

Mims: And plus being with all those babies, that must have been lots of fun.

Nixon: Um hum, um hum. Them...and taking them out the mothers...

Mims: Oh...

Nixon: ...getting...going down to the room where they do the sterilizing and getting their bottles...filling them up, that was my job we left from over there.

Mims: Um hum.

Nixon: Ward clerk.

Mims: So when you went to New Hanover, did you think that that's what you were gonna continue doing, is that line of work...until they told you about the other, the unit...the ward clerk stuff?

Nixon: Let me see now. One thing I know...cause Mrs. Hatcher thought she was gonna be able to get out on the floor and be a nurse over the floor, cause that's what LPN, Bessie Funderberg...

Mims: Oh my...Mrs. Funderberg from the Democrat...yea!

Nixon: I'm sure you've heard of Bessie...I'm sure you heard of Bessie Funderberg!

Mims: Yea, I have! And she just passed away.

Nixon: Yes.

Mims: Right, uh huh.

Nixon: Had to figure that she was going to have Bessie Funderberg as her LPN and me as her assistant.

Mims: I see!

Nixon: She'd done figured it out, how she's working, because she's gonna pick the best that come from over there, and I was one person that she really wanted. Because at Community, some days if...when we were running short of nurses, Hatcher would come out on the floor and say "Send for...," tell 'em "send me Mrs. Nixon" and she and I would hit the floor...that main hall, Male Hall they called it, where most were men...and she'd say, "Mrs. Nixon, we're gonna start here and we gonna get these men up and get these beds made." And she and I would go through that and she would time it, you know, and tell me...she says, "Okay, now go check the floor," to see what we had done. And Mrs. Hatcher and I would be through, got those men up if they felt like it, fella was kind of shamed, he said he feels so bad with women having to, you know, handle him...and Hatcher would tell them "We're not women, we're nurses." (laughing) "So come on, stop complaining...Mrs. Nixon, you catch the feet"...and she'd get the head, like that, and we'd take 'em on that sheet and get em up over...oh that was a working woman. And she really learned me how to work. I loved it!

Mims: Must have been back breaking, though. I mean, just tearing up your back...all the work.

Nixon: No, it never bothered me.

Mims: Really?

Nixon: Now, when I first started doing those beds, and there was so many to make until one night, I said Lord I don't believe I'm gonna be able to get up and go to work this morning...that morning. But I did make it out of bed and kind of exercised myself a little and went on to work. But that first week, I just knew I was gonna get down and wouldn't be able to hold that job. But after then, I got to the place that...went just like clockwork to me.

Mims: And those beds were the old time beds too, they weren't the electric beds.

Nixon: No ma'am, um um!

Mims: What were the beds like, tell me.

Nixon: Just a regular...beds that you...

Mims: Did it have a foot crank?

Nixon: Yea.

Mims: To raise the head?

Nixon: Um hum, um hum, that's all.

Mims: Would it raise or lower at all, I mean to elevate...the whole bed, would it come up so you could do a bath at like normal level, or did you have to bend over all the time.

Nixon: Ahhh, let me see, did they have any that we could...elevate the feet? I think they could elevate the foot of the bed...or can I remember any...yea I think just wind the head up or the foot.

Mims: Um hum.

Nixon: But it wasn't...wasn't the kind of bed that you could fix so that you could just prop your legs up like this under could just bring 'em up or either bring the head up like

Mims: So way different...

Nixon: ...wasn't easy.

Mims: No.

Nixon: Was nothing easy about it.

Mims: Uh hum. And then hear about making a hospital bed, what...tell me what was special about that.

Nixon: Well it's the way you had to make it, and I just loved that part of it! You had to...although you know you always put that draw sheet over the main sheet. There was a sheet that you fold and throw it across there after you put a leather pad. You put that leather pad down, then you throw this sheet across it...double sheet...tuck it on each side. And then the top sheet, you had to...and the spread...let's see now, we fold...fold the come up at the foot and you come up with the head...put the...kind of in the take that side and put it in there some kind of way. When they bring those patients from...and you take the whole thing and fold it all over to one when you bring that patient from the operating room and they would just be...all they'd do once they kind of get 'em awake, the...and since we didn't have a recovery room to put 'em in, you bring them back in their room and you take that and put 'em in the bed. Soon as you do that, you can throw that cover over 'em right can pull that cover like that...throw that trunk back over their feet, then over the head of the bed, and it was easily done. But some of 'em could not get on to making that...that...they call it a surgical bed...make it for surgery patients.

Mims: It sounds complicated!

Nixon: It was to some folks, you know, but I could really do that.

Mims: And now with the disposable pads and...

Nixon: Everything now...

Mims: ...the rubber and...

Nixon: Yea.

Mims: ...the don't have to do as much prep as they...they used to have to do.

Nixon: That's right. Everything is easy...even the ward clerks...boy they can...

Mims: They have to know that computer stuff now.

Nixon: Oh yea. I was glad I was away...I was wondering could...would I ever learn...maybe I would have.

Mims: I'm sure you would have.

Nixon: work the computer.

Mims: Seems like you're pretty adaptable.

Nixon: Yes I was.

Mims: Well, let me ask you one more thing about Miss Taylor. Do you remember any retirement party for her, or celebration...?

Nixon: No, that's what I can't remember...I'm sure they had one for her when she retired, because I can't even remember...

Mims: Now she died...

Nixon: ...when she passed.

Mims: She died in January of 1964 and she was a patient at Community Hospital. So she died there. Do you remember any of that?

Nixon: Um um...that's what I can't remember.

Mims: And her service was conducted at St. Marks.

Nixon: Oh yea...know that church. I can not remember Miss Taylor...I'm sure I knew it then, but I've lost all memory of what happened to her. All I can think of...the other supervisor of nursing coming in.

Mims: The lady from DC that we're still trying to figure out what her name is...okay.

Nixon: She was a good friend of Bessie Funderberg's and Bessie lived right down here on Fourteenth Street.

Mims: Um hum.

Nixon: And she would always come in after dinner...I don't think she stayed here but two years.

Mims: I'll have to see if I can find her name.

Nixon: Because she had a lot of confidence in me too. Cause I know some nights the nurses had gotten so short until she would ask...have me to come on second floor, where the babies were...and that's right...Mrs. Wheeler...we had a Mrs. Wheeler that worked second floor pediatrics for years.

Mims: Um hum.

Nixon: She was tough too.

Mims: Well I understand that whenever the student nurses had to do their three month rotation away...I think it was psych rotation they did up at...I'm not sure...Cherry Hospital maybe, or...anyhow it was...

Nixon: Yea, Cherry.

Mims: they...they were really short handed during those periods of time.

Nixon: Yea, yea...maybe that's when it was, but I know she would come on the floor and set up the little trays, you know with the names...the little tickets there for the...for the children...the babies, and she had worked that day and that evening, and she said she was going over to the nursing home and get her something over there. And just left me on that floor by myself, and come time for the medications...and she told me if I wasn't back, just pass it. So I appreciated that...a little scary, but that she allowed me, an assistant, to pass that medicine that night. But, it turned out okay.

Mims: Well, it was a real family environment if she had that trust in you.

Nixon: Yea, she did.

Mims: Then you know it was...that overcame a lot of training that, you know, she probably never even thought about

Nixon: Yea.

Mims: Well we're about to run out of tape. I want to thank you again for talking to me.

Nixon: Yea, I enjoyed it!

Mims: Okay, good.

Nixon: But I just couldn't tell you so much about Mrs. Taylor.

Mims: Well, I mean, every little bit helps.

Nixon: Um hum.

Mims: Every little bit...

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