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Interview with Joyce Philemone Smith, January 25, 2005 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Joyce Philemone Smith, January 25, 2005
January 25, 2005
Joyce Smith, 1951 graduate of James Walker School of Nursing, shares details regarding her training and experiences at James Walker.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: Smith, Joyce Philemone Interviewer: Mims, LuAnn / Parnell, Gerald Date of Interview: 1/25/2005 Series: SENC Health Services Length 60 minutes

Mims: Today is January 25th, 2005. I am LuAnn Mims with Gerry Parnell from the Randall Library Special Collections and continuing our series on Health Services of Southeastern North Carolina. Today we are going to speak with Mrs. Joyce Smith who is a 19...

Joyce Philemone Smith: 51.

Mims: ...51 graduate of James Walker School of Nursing. Good morning to you.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Good morning.

Mims: We would like to start by asking you a little bit about your personal background, where you were born and what your family life was like.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Okay, I was born on Third and Greenfield, but I grew up at Monkey Junction. And it has changed so much know even the monkeys were still there when...I remember from my childhood. Ah, I'm a...from a family of six children and my mother and father, so it was a total of eight. And my father was a deputy sheriff and my mother was a stay-at-home mother. We were very, I guess poor, but we didn't know it because everyone else was pretty much in the same situation. But...

Mims: Why did you guys live all the way out at Monkey Junction?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Well, my father bought thirteen acres. I think he just wanted us to grow up out in the country.

Mims: Um hum. Were they still farming in that area at the time?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Ah, very little. Large...large gardens. In fact, we father raised most of the food that we ate.

Mims: Where...where exactly was the farm or the house you lived in?

Joyce Philemone Smith: It's, ah...well Walmart tore it down when they built their...their back. It faced Carolina Beach road.

Mims: Now, I've never had an opportunity to talk to somebody who'd actually seen the monkeys at Monkey Junction. They were at a service station, right?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Right. Mr. Spindell.

Mims: What do you remember about that?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Well, I remember the mother monkey, how she would hold the baby to nurse. That completely fascinated me. And I think he probably made as much selling people that stopped by peanuts to feed the monkeys, as he did in the store.

Mims: Were they in big cage or several...?

Joyce Philemone Smith: One large cage.

Mims: Outside?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Outside, kind of in back of the store.

Mims: Um hum. Wonder how he came by those monkeys? Did you ever hear about that, or...?

Joyce Philemone Smith: I...I really don't know. But I saw a picture in Burger King once on Monkey Junction...and it was not depicted like the real place was.

Mims: I've seen that picture.

Joyce Philemone Smith: It's not.

Mims: I understand that picture's down now.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Good. It goes against my grain when I hear people wanting to rename Monkey Junction. Because it was named because of the monkeys.

Mims: Exactly. And there wasn't too much of anything else down there. It was just like a stopping point.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Yea, well there was another store. It faced actually what would be called Piner Road now. This was before they widened the road and made the curve to Carolina Beach, and Mr. Sneeden ran it.

Mims: That was a gas station too, or a crossroads store?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Kind of a grocery...small grocery store.

Mims: Hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Mr. Spindell did not sell many groceries, it was mostly drinks and cigarettes and small things you would pick up.

Mims: Um hum. But they would have had some traffic going down to Carolina Beach, probably a...

Joyce Philemone Smith: But the road...they changed the road when they widened it. The curve was not there going to the right. don't understand this...

Mims: Well I...I've been here for a while. I remember it before Walmart, let's put it like that.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Okay, well they even...well the curve was, I think the road was widened in about 1938.

Mims: Um hum. I don't remember.

Joyce Philemone Smith: That's when they made the other curve. It was really a forks in the road.

Mims: Incredible! You don't have any pictures of that do you?

Joyce Philemone Smith: No. Only in my mind.

Mims: I understand. Um, what high school did you attend?

Joyce Philemone Smith: New Hanover.

Mims: And what led you into the field of nursing?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Well I think I had always wanted to be a nurse and then in 1939 my mother and my father both were in the hospital at the same time. And just seeing the nurses...and especially the student nurses, I thought that really made me know that's what I wanted to do. In fact, one of the student nurses...she was probably a senior at that time, was later one of my instructors.

Mims: Who was that?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Louise Yount.

Mims: Hum.

Parnell: What year was that?

Mims: 1939.

Parnell: 39?

Mims: Um hum. I...I've actually seen her picture in one of the annuals.

Joyce Philemone Smith: She was a red headed lady, strawberry blond I guess you would say.

Mims: Well, since you kind of had this idea all along, was there any particular subjects in high school that you tried to take to make sure you could get into the nursing program?

Joyce Philemone Smith: No really. I guess maybe algebra. You know I took algebra to help, and of course science program...subject. But other than that...and I did take some Latin.

Mims: Hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Which even now, you know Latin is the basis for a lot of medical terminology...Latin and Greek. So, you know, its been a big help all of my life.

Mims: Now they even have it in the high schools.

Joyce Philemone Smith: I think it's terrible. It was hard but you know well worth it.

Mims: Well, did you investigate any other nursing programs?

Joyce Philemone Smith: No, I only wanted to go to James Walker. To me that was the only hospital there was and I thought it was beautiful. Of course I know it was an old building and very hard to maintain.

Mims: Um hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: They really tried to maintain it, though we did need the new hospital. But I have a lot of special memories of it.

Mims: Did anybody else in your family...were they in nursing at all?

Joyce Philemone Smith: No. I did have, I guess they were step sisters, cause my father was married twice...had three children...and his first wife died from a ruptured appendix. That was probably 1928.

Mims: Um.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Of course there were not antibiotics then. And then my father married my mother and they had three children. And one of my aunts was a James Walker graduate too. Her name was Nellie Justice.

Mims: Nellie Justice?

Joyce Philemone Smith: And her father-in-law ran a grocery store on Tenth and Chestnut.

Mims: Hum. And she was your aunt. Well what I'm trying to get to is that you had personal connection with this hospital and that's why you chose it. How supportive was your family of you attending the school?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Very supportive. My mother always wanted me to be a nurse also. Now whether that influenced me or not, I don't know. But I remember knowing that's what I wanted to do.

Mims: So got accepted into the program. What are some of your earliest memories of...of the program.

Joyce Philemone Smith: The earliest memory was...after I was accepted, we had to go to the nurses home to be examined by a state examiner. We took a written test.

Mims: Um hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Mostly multiple choice. And then we had to go back for a physical which is before we actually started. So they were my first two trips to the nurses home.

Mims: Um hum. Did you have a...a chance to meet any of the other perspective students?

Joyce Philemone Smith: No.

Mims: It was done like appointment type...

Joyce Philemone Smith: Right. No, we took the test as a group.

Mims: Um hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: But all of the other students...we had eight hour, you know, days of work. We would either be in class or working for eight hours. If we were in class for six hours, we worked for two hours.

Mims: Um hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Because when we finished, we were perfectly capable of working in any area of the hospital.

Mims: That's what I understand. Um, where there any other Wilmington girls that you knew that had entered the program.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Yea, ah, I...two girls that I knew in high school that had moved to Roanoke Virginia, and...Jeanine.

Mims: Um, okay.

Joyce Philemone Smith: I believe you said you interviewed her...

Mims: Yes, I did.

Joyce Philemone Smith: ...last week.

Mims: Uh huh. Andrews, right. Um, I know that we talked to a good number of...of girls that came from local surrounding areas, but weren't from Wilmington, so I didn't know if they had any kind of mixers or anything so you guys could get to know each other, or...?

Joyce Philemone Smith: No. But when you live in a dorm, you learn each other, plus all the others in the building.

Mims: Well I had read, later on, like maybe in the sixties, they started having like welcoming teas and socials, like at the country club, and they weren't doing that when you were there?

Joyce Philemone Smith: No.

Mims: Okay.

Joyce Philemone Smith: They didn't...well I don't guess they had ever thought about that. But we really didn't need it to get to know each other. Cause like I said, when you live with someone...we had private rooms...

Mims: Um hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: ...but still you had your meals together and in a classroom together.

Parnell: What was it like living in the nurses home?

Joyce Philemone Smith: It was a great experience. They were very strict. We had to be in a seven and study hours were considered from seven to nine. Then you had from nine to ten to get ready for bed. Lights were out at ten. And what they were trying to do was make a good study time so that you could do well. And if you didn't take advantage of it, you know, it was your fault. There were a lot that did not. I think I started with a class of twenty six and probably about nineteen of us finished. I can't remember the exact number.

Mims: That's pretty good to remember though.

Joyce Philemone Smith: But I do remember the ones that were sent home did not utilize their time to study.

Mims: So it was an academic issue?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Um hum.

Mims: Do you remember any type of remedial help, or...they got extra assistance, or...?

Joyce Philemone Smith: I don't remember any of that.

Mims: You weren't involved in that. Hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: See, I don't think most of us that really went and applied ourselves really needed that.

Mims: Um hum. But...

Joyce Philemone Smith: The hardest thing was learning some of the metric system. And we did have to know...I didn't realize how much of that I knew until they were considering going to the metric system, an I thought "well I already know a lot of it".

Mims: Um, we know that around your graduation year the nurses started taking classes at Wilmington College. You weren't...your class didn't do that?

Joyce Philemone Smith: No.

Mims: all of your classes were there at James Walker?

Joyce Philemone Smith: In the basement of the nurses home. The cooking lab, you know for our diet therapy, and...when I first went nurses school, our class started two hour...with two hours of chemistry from seven to nine. So we has to get up early, you know, it was mandatory you had breakfast.

Mims: Um hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: If you weren't in the dining room, you were in trouble. So I still believe a good day starts with breakfast.

Mims: When you say dining room, was that in the nurses residence or in the hospital?

Joyce Philemone Smith: In the hospital.

Mims: So it was basically the hospital cafeteria?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Right.

Parnell: And you ate all your meals there?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Right.

Parnell: That was included in your tuition and didn't have to pay?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Well, actually the hos...I guess the hospital paid for that. Because the only thing we had to buy were our books and our cape...

Mims: You had to buy the cape?

Joyce Philemone Smith: ...and our uniforms. But I have a really good cape. I still have it. You've probably seen 'em. I think they were nineteen dollars, so, excellent wool, you know.

Mims: And they're real heavy and lined with the red and beautiful...they were beautiful! But, so your uniforms, they were given to you, or you had to go somewhere else...

Joyce Philemone Smith: We had to buy them, but the hospital, you know...

Mims: Furnished...

Joyce Philemone Smith: ...ordered them.

Mims: Right.

Joyce Philemone Smith: In fact we were measured for 'em because of course people are different sizes.

Mims: Who did that measuring?

Joyce Philemone Smith: I can't remember, some company...the same ones that probably that bought our...that measured us for our white uniforms when we finished.

Mims: Cause from Ms. Newton, we did get a print copy of the graduate uniforms, um, and I think if it's the same company...

Parnell: Probably is...

Mims: ...then they would probably...

Joyce Philemone Smith: They were called Standard.

Parnell: Right.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Now this is...these were the white uniforms...were called Standard uniforms. They were beautiful.

Mims: How about your shoes? Would you purchase those locally?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Yea, we had to get our shoes...mostly at the Cinderella bootery.

Mims: Cinderella.

Joyce Philemone Smith: They were called clinic shoes and I thought they were really pretty.

Mims: I've seen ads for those too. I think in the back of the yearbooks or something.

Joyce Philemone Smith: We were required to keep our shoes white and after I took refresher course in 1980, I was working, and I told one of the nurses...graduates, that I refused to polish my shoes more than every other day. And she thought that was hilarious because she said if she polished hers every three months, you know...

Mims: And here you were lightening up, huh! You took a refresher course? Where?

Joyce Philemone Smith: At New Hanover in the AHEC building with the AHEC.

Mims: Um hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: It was actually in the hospital.

Mims: Was that, um, for your registration, or...?

Joyce Philemone Smith: No. If you had been out of work so long. I always kept my RN, you know, my license, but if you had been out so long, um, you were required to do that to go back to work. And I really needed it.

Mims: Um hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Cause things had changed a lot in twenty years.

Mims: Oh, I imagine so...tremendously. Um, we know that there were rotations throughout the different departments at James Walker. What do you remember about that period of time?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Oh I worked. You know we had so many hours, or days, we had to spend in each department. And I thoroughly enjoyed all of 'em but I think my favorite was probably medical and surgical wards. And of course then, men were separated from women. You had floors for each of 'em and I still think that's a good idea. Ah, and the colored ward was separate. They still had a colored ward at that time.

Mims: What do you remember about that? Did you have any opportunity to work over there?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Oh yea, we had to over there too. Um, it was like a small hospital in itself. And it was under the place where the interns lived.

Mims: So there were dorm type rooms up there? Cause we understood at one time the nurses lived above the colored ward...the nursing students.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Now I...I've never heard that.

Mims: Hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Cause, you know the nurses the home was old too.

Mims: Right. I don't think it was as old as the colored ward though. I think that was built...

Joyce Philemone Smith: I...I really don't know.

Mims: So they were separated by sex and by race.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Um hum.

Mims: So in today's that...that's totally...

Joyce Philemone Smith: A no-no.

Mims: Totally

Joyce Philemone Smith: I mean, they had a delivery place, a place for babies, a pediatric department. And medical and surgical patients, and it was nice over there.

Mims: Now we understand that it was staffed by blacks.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Not all together.

Mims: Not all together?

Joyce Philemone Smith: The head nurse was white.

Mims: Okay. Do you remember who that was?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Ah, her name was Doris Woodcock. And she was a James Walker graduate.

Mims: Really?

Joyce Philemone Smith: From...I think she was from Atkinson or Ivanhoe, one of those...

Mims: Um, about the orderlies? Were they black or white?

Joyce Philemone Smith: I don't remember anything but black ones, black orderlies. And we had some good orderlies. One was named John and I remember he wanted a baby so badly and he and his wife never did have one, and finally about the time I finished he...they did have a baby. And I thought "what a lucky child".

Mims: It's just interesting that we have a hospital segregated in this way, yet male black orderlies are pretty much everywhere throughout. Because I've heard somebody talk about John before.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Yea, well after I took the refresher course, you know they did not have orderlies...maybe one that floated. And they...I really missed the orderlies, cause when I was, you know a student, and worked as a graduate too, there were certain things we did not do, like catheterize males or give 'em enemas. And after I took the refresher course and went back we were expected to do all of that. And I think for these older people especially, it was rather traumatic for 'em...male to be catheterized by a woman.

Mims: It's's a different culture.

Joyce Philemone Smith: So all the changes are not good. A lot of 'em are good, but...

Mims: What about doing away with the wards and people going into privates and semiprivate rooms? How do you think about that change?

Joyce Philemone Smith: I always enjoyed the large wards. The largest ward I've worked in, I think had probably six or eight beds. And those patients, when they came in, that's where they wanted to be. You know repeat patients if they had to go back for other things. And the wards were what they wanted. They thoroughly enjoyed it.

Mims: I've just had some people comment that the wards provided the nurses a more visual area to watch their patients, whereas if they're behind the closed door of a private room, that makes it harder to watch everybody?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Well, I guess maybe that's true to an extent, but when you were doing anything for a patient you had to pull curtains to give 'em privacy, so you really were not aware of what the other patients are doing.

Mims: That's true.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Except you know through hearing.

Mims: Um hum. Well, whenever you were ready to graduate, were there any type of parties that were associated with graduation?

Joyce Philemone Smith: We always had a prom, you know for the junior/senior. The first one was at the Cape Fear Country Club. When I graduated it was in the girls gym at New Hanover High School in the old Isaac Bear building.

Mims: Really?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Um hum. But we had fun. It was not...not as elegant as the country club but nice.

Mims: Cause I've heard some people talk about that they enjoyed the dance better than they did their graduation, that that was what they looked forward to.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Well I didn't. I...of course I had...was looking forward to graduation to work as a, you know, a RN, ah...

Mims: Well what did you do after graduation? Did you work at James Walker?

Joyce Philemone Smith: The first job I had is the only...James Walker is the only hospital I've ever worked in. I did work in New Hanover a little, but first job was in the emergency room, three to eleven. And I learned so much because we had such good interns that staffed the emergency room. Of course if you had a private patient come in, you would call the...their doctor, but usually they would want intern to cover it. And I think the cost for a private patient to use the emergency room was two dollars. Someone that just went in for an intern to treat was one dollar. So...

Mims: Big difference.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Big difference.

Mims: Who were some of the interns you remember working with?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Let's see, Dr. Turner, can't remember names good...grew up...came here from I think Minnesota with one of his friends who was Dr. Waldorf and I...Dr. Patera from Spain, and he wanted me to go back home with him to be his nurse. Also, Dr. Turner wanted me to go to Minnesota to work for him. So I considered all this a good compliment. But I learned so much from working in the emergency room. And then I went to work for Dr. Donald B. Koonce, who was one of the leading surgeons here. He's long since died with cancer and he did a lot of work for the Cancer Society. I thought that was rather ironic. But office nursing was not my cup of tea, so I went back to James Walker after about six months.

Mims: Um hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: And worked on medical surgical ward. And then I worked in the nursery for a while. And from the medical and surgical wards I went to the recovery room. Of course when my children were born then I stayed home with them.

Parnell: How long did you work at James Walker?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Let's see, from 19...other than the six months that I was with Dr. Koonce...from 1951 until 61. Almost ten years.

Mims: And you worked in various different departments. We have, um...we know a little bit about these just from looking at the pictures, but as far as the set up goes, like how was the emergency room set up? Like um, when a patient presented themselves. Did a nurse come out and meet them, or...?

Joyce Philemone Smith: No, they just came into the emergency room. I know when...

Mims: Was there a clerk or what?

Joyce Philemone Smith: No. When I worked, I was clerk, nurse, you know, ordered supplies, we did it all. Sometimes you'd have a student nurse working with you. Or if you had a large accident, you know, with several people in, sometimes the supervisors would come down and help you.

Mims: Were you in the emergency room when the air show crash happened?

Joyce Philemone Smith: No, no.

Mims: That was around 61, wasn't it?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Um hum. No, that was about...maybe it was in the fall of 61.

Mims: Um hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Because my youngest child was then several months old. He was born in February, so...

Mims: Okay.

Joyce Philemone Smith: ...from then to whenever.

Mims: Cause I understand that was really big for the emergency room.

Joyce Philemone Smith: It was. I...we couldn't get a parking place over at the airport, so we went over across the airfield and I saw that plane come down.

Mims: Um.

Joyce Philemone Smith: It was horrible. You know I thought "he's in trouble". He looked like he could not gain any altitude.

Mims: Um hum. Um. Ah, the nursery...what was your, um, job in the nursery?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Just looking after the babies.

Mims: Would you take 'em out to the moms?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Oh yea, at feeding time and of course if the mother, you know, didn't feel like nursing, we would feed 'em in the nursery. And of course, one baby we nicknamed her Prunella and she really, I think, was four by the time she went home. She stayed in the nursery about three weeks. And I loved that little...little girl.

Mims: Cause this was before they had the neonatal intensive care situation.

Joyce Philemone Smith: No, they had...I had some training in the premature nursery also. But I don't...I can't remember why she stayed so long.

Mims: Um hum. Well, we're also trying to get a handle on, you know, why would a baby with difficulties be kept at James Walker instead of transferred to Babies Hospital.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Well now Dr. Sidbury, at the time, would take babies for blood transfusion, you know, concerning the Rh factor. He would take them down to Babies Hospital for, you know, to do that.

Mims: But he didn't really deal with the premature babies?

Joyce Philemone Smith: No. There were private, you know, physicians that did that.

Mims: Um hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: That cared for the premature babies. Let's see, I know there was Dr. Crouch and Dr. Reynolds, and Dr. Knox, Dr. Koseruba and Dr. Rowena Hall who was Dr. Sidbury's daughter.

Mims: Um hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: I think they were the main ones.

Mims: And you got to work with Dr. Koonce. I...we've heard nothing but just great things about him.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Oh, he was great, great to work for. I just did not like the office work.

Mims: Right. And his specialty was surgery?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Um hum.

Mims: As an office nurse, what was your role in that?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Well, to help him with the patients. You know, he had a secretary also to answer the phone and do the billing. I would help her with the billing, you know, once a month. And I did BMRs.

Mims: What is that?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Basal metabolism rates.

Mims: I'm not sure I know what that is.

Joyce Philemone Smith: I never felt comfortable doing that. They do not do that test anymore. Because you had to put an oxygen mask on the patient and connect 'em to a machine. And it was mostly through breathing.

Mims: Was this to make sure that they were okay for surgery, or...?

Joyce Philemone Smith: To see if they need a different, you know, drugs.

Mims: Oh, okay.

Joyce Philemone Smith: The youngest one I remember doing was on a boy. The day I wanted to schedule it, he had...was the night before his prom. So we decided that would not be a good time do it...or the day after his prom, I think is the way it was.

Mims: You didn't ever get to go over into surgery with Dr. Koonce?

Joyce Philemone Smith: No. I worked...did work with him as a student nurse to, you know, with surgery.

Mims: Um hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Scrubbing, and you know, other things.

Mims: Well you got to be all over the place and you worked in Recovery for a little bit.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Um hum. I worked in Recovery for several years.

Mims: Really? What was your job in Recovery?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Well looking after the patients and keeping, um, you know, supplies ordered.

Mims: just keeps sounding like you're doing like everything!

Joyce Philemone Smith: Yea, well, we...when I finished we could work all over the hospital with ease. I mean we knew, we fitted in, we knew what to do.

Mims: Well that's how it is...

Joyce Philemone Smith: But they don't. You know they learn know you learn from experience, from doing things.

Mims: Right. Well cause're jumping around within different fields. You're exposing yourself to new doctors and their routines. So where was, you know, how would you become interested...say you left medical surgical and you were going to go into your next job. Did you just look for a job opening or you...

Joyce Philemone Smith: No, usually the Director of Nurses just assigned you. Now I did...when I started working in the emergency room I asked the director of nurses could I have that job, and ah, you know, she called me for it. And then I became head nurse, you know, changed from three to eleven to seven to three in the emergency room. And I think the recovery room opened in probable 1951...53, and I asked her could I...I worked...she had already talked to someone else. So then later when this girl was leaving she asked me did I want to work there. She didn't ask me, she told me she was sending me.

Mims: Who was your director of nursing?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Lucy Maston.

Mims: Hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: And the direct...assistant was Beadie Britt. If I ever did anything wrong, believe me she would catch you. Never will forget one time that we, you know, when we weren't in class, we could be out until ten. So this was sometime near the Christmas holidays. I never will forget being in the nurses home and my boyfriend was there (later my husband), so he kissed me goodnight and I did not know she was anywhere around. And she said "Miss Philemone, what are you doing?" Of course he ran! And I was there to face the music. And ah, she said "does your mother know that you do that?" (laughing) And then she said "I just can't see that, I would not do anything like that".

Mims: Oh my goodness! I have heard...we've heard a lot about Beadie Britt. That she was like the epitome of nursing.

Joyce Philemone Smith: She was, she...she has...the patients and the hospital were her primary concern. But she was...I don't know how to describe her. She was strict but she was fair.

Mims: We've heard some people were kind of afraid of her a little bit and some worshiped her from afar, but I don't think too many people...

Joyce Philemone Smith: I never did worship her, but she was hard to get to know, I don't think she wanted any close ties with the students. And maybe that was the way of protecting us and herself.

Mims: She oversaw the student nurses?

Joyce Philemone Smith: In certain areas.

Mims: Uh huh.

Joyce Philemone Smith: And Lucy Maston was really in charge of us, the director of nurses.

Parnell: Did Ms. Britt work in the hospital also?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Yes.

Parnell: She was a regular nurse too?

Joyce Philemone Smith: No she...she accidentally saw me in the nurses home the night of the episode with the kissing, but usually, you know, she...her room was in the nurses home on the first floor, so we always went right by her door, you know...

Mims: Yea, that's what we've heard about.

Joyce Philemone Smith: residence.

Mims: What about on the other end of the spectrum. If...if a student nurse was struggling, or you know, I don't know, would she stand up for her nurses? Was...was she that kind of person do you think?

Joyce Philemone Smith: I, I don't think so. I think she thought more of, you know, of the hospital. I do not remember anyone being in the situation like that. Um, later I could not be married, you know, and be student nurse. I do recall...this is after I was home taking care of my family, where five students were married. So someone reported them anonymously and they were sent home. Several of 'em went...several of 'em went to um, Southeastern in Lumberton and finished. Of course it took 'em an extra year. But that was, they were very strict about that.

Mims: Well they lightened that up, I think they allowed marriage during your senior year...

Joyce Philemone Smith: Um um.

Mims: 60, cause Carol Dusenbury was married when she graduated. So...but that was like, I think they were kind of pressed into that because there were so many secret marriages going on.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Yea, I have a classmate who was secretly married. But she went out of town and married and didn't tell anyone.

Mims: Um hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Only her family knew.

Mims: I talked to a secret marriage girl and she said she accidentally told a doctor but he kept her secret the whole time, so, but she lived in total fear of discovery. And so I was like "why did you do it?".

Joyce Philemone Smith: I know, I wonder.

Mims: That extra stress, you know.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Yea, you wonder why. I hadn' fact one of my classmates was married and she...we finished the end of August and she had a baby in January.

Mims: Oh!

Joyce Philemone Smith: So she was actually...but she really had a difficult pregnancy so I'm surprised that she was able, you know, to keep it secret.

Mims: Oh my gosh, that must have been really difficult! Well what did you girls do for fun besides dating? Would you get together and do anything?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Well occasionally someone would class especially, why I don't know, would treat us to dinner out. They would...they had a place on Carolina Beach Road called the Famous Club. A nice place.

Mims: Uh huh.

Joyce Philemone Smith: In fact, one of the men that ran it, his daughter later became a student and graduated from James Walker...would take us there for dinner.

Mims: Yea we...we're just coming to find out about this place. Cause it...the college did stuff with the Famous Club, so...

Joyce Philemone Smith: Oh did they?

Mims: Uh huh.

Parnell: Well, did...did your class get taken down to the beach for a week in the summer?

Joyce Philemone Smith: No. Now sometimes some of the doctors would take us fishing, Dr. Codington especially. Not the Codington that died, his father.

Mims: Oh, okay.

Joyce Philemone Smith: ...would take us. He had a large boat, and he'd take some of us fishing. And we'd have wiener roasts and always at special occasions, like capping service, we'd have a reception. They always served something called London Fog and I still love it. It's just lime sherbet with ginger ale.

Mims: Oh.

Joyce Philemone Smith: And the people from the dining...from the cafeteria would come and, you know, handle that...serve.

Mims: I never knew what that was called. I was like shower punch, you know. I'll bet that is good. Did you ever go downtown...ah, downtown Wilmington, to do anything?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Oh yea. We, ah, you know you could do anything you wanted on your free time. If you worked, say in the summer, we worked know eight hours, we weren't in class, so we worked the full eight hours. When you were off you could do whatever you liked.

Mims: Well what were some of the things you might do downtown?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Go to the movies. Just go window shopping. Just walking, you know, sometime, very rare we ate lunch downtown. People didn't do that then.

Mims: Reason why I'm asking is cause you're in school post war Wilmington...

Joyce Philemone Smith: Um hum.

Mims: ...which we know war year Wilmington was quite the boomtown. What was it like after the war? Was it settling down or was it still quite booming?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Well, they didn't have any shopping centers then, so everything was downtown. And of course they were busy. Even then it was difficult on Front Street or the side streets to find a parking spot. And it was all parallel parking. That was the challenge when I got my license to learn, but...we never felt like we were deprived of anything.

Mims: Um hum.

Parnell: Did you have a car while you were at James Walker?

Joyce Philemone Smith: No.

Parnell: No, it was after...

Joyce Philemone Smith: I remember one of my classmates got a car for graduation. People...young people just didn't have cars then.

Parnell: Right.

Joyce Philemone Smith: You know now that's first thing they want when they get their license. But then you had a car when you could buy it.

Parnell: Um hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: But I remember going to a movie one afternoon with a classmate and we knew we lacked a nickel of you know to...enough to get into the movie between us.

Mims: Um hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: And, ah, so we walked to town and then walked back. Most of the time we did walk rather than ride the bus. And it were safe then.

Mims: Um hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: And we got downtown and the lady selling tickets would not let us in. Bunnie asked her, you know, could we get in minus a nickel, and she said no. So she asked this young boy, he was probably eight or ten years old if he had a nickel he would give us and he said yea he'd give us one. So we went to the movie. I think we saw Roy Acuff in a movie.

Mims: Oh really!

Joyce Philemone Smith: No not Roy Acuff, it was Eddie Arnold.

Mims: Eddie Arnold? Which theater? Do you remember?

Joyce Philemone Smith: The Carolina. Which has since been torn...

Mims: Torn down. There's just nothing there anymore.

Joyce Philemone Smith: It was right after I went in nursing school that we...they had the fire on Front Street where there was a Royal Theater and it burned. And also...most of that block, you know, between Chestnut and um, Princess.

Mims: Well down on Front Street there was a hospital called Bullocks Hospital. Do you remember that at all?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Um hum. I was never it in. But it was down in the next block, but I think it was between Chestnut and Grace.

Mims: Um hum, it's still...they still have the façade of it, so...

Joyce Philemone Smith: Um hum. Also the Bijou Theater...

Mims: Was right across from it.

Joyce Philemone Smith: ...was a pretty...I mean, you know, the flooring is still there...

Mims: Um hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: ...the tile out front.

Mims: Do you remember going into the Bijou?

Joyce Philemone Smith: I rarely went there. I usually went to the Royal. When I was a child growing up, ah, my father...we lived next to the man that managed the Royal, so he would usually let us in.

Mims: Connections!

Joyce Philemone Smith: But then, of course, I went to the Royal until it burned...

Mims: Um hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: you know, the big fire.

Mims: Do you remember anything about the Community Hospital?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Very little. I do know they had a student nurse program.

Mims: Uh huh. But there was no association whatsoever?

Joyce Philemone Smith: None at all.

Mims: Um. And you didn't work at the Babies Hospital or go down there at all?

Joyce Philemone Smith: No. See we had a babies depart...a pediatric department at James Walker.

Mims: Um hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: And we did have some affiliates. I think they were from Woodard Herring Hospital in Wilson, that would come down for the obstetric training. They would go down to Babies for, you know, pediatric.

Parnell: Pediatric...I've seen that Wilson hospital...

Mims: Really?

Parnell: They'd come to Babies...

Mims: Did you guys do a psychiatric rotation?

Joyce Philemone Smith: No. They started that the year after I finished. They would go up to Dorothy Dix Hospital in Raleigh.

Mims: Uh huh.

Joyce Philemone Smith: I wish...that's one thing I wish I could have experienced.

Mims: Uh huh.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Because we didn't even have a Psychiatrist except Dr. Rodman would, you know, occasionally give people shock treatments. And he was just a, you know, a general doctor.

Mims: Ah, that's another thing that's changed. We're used to just nothing but specialists, but when...the time you were in training and your active time working, a lot of people were general.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Yea, we had pediatricians and, you know OB. Of course some surgeons did both.

Mims: Um hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: I think Dr. Mebane...I did help him deliver several babies. He was, you know, one of the ones with Bullock and then Cape, um...

Mims: Yea, Cape Fear.

Parnell: Cape Fear.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Yea, Cape fear.

Mims: Um hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Ah, he was a surgeon too. In fact, he treated everyone. In fact, that's one reason, you know, he died like he did, because he treated himself.

Mims: Do you remember Dr. Fales at all?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Oh yea, very well.

Mims: What do you remember about him?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Well, he was considered a hemorrhoid specialist. People got along so well after he did surgery. And he was a general surgeon, ah...

Mims: He had a lot of old timey ways, though, didn't he?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Oh yea. Well...some.

Mims: Um hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: He gave, in fact he talked to our alumni once at our homecoming and was telling this tale about before they had glucose. And see, glucose isn't that old. They always had it after I went into nurses school, but several years before, they did not. And so they gave retention enemas of milk and molasses hoping people would how much you would retain that gave you some nutrient, plus, you know, liquid. They diluted the syrup...molasses, I guess, with the milk. But um, he said he had one ordered for this old man, elderly man, and the man said "how...", I mean he asked him how he was doing and he said "fine, but I think it's too sweet". (laughing) But he was...I went to several of his programs, historical programs...

Mims: Um hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: ...over at...down at the library.

Mims: Um hum. Cause I...I've heard of some of his...I've heard some of his talks, and he talks about using, ah, like, I guess chloroform to set legs and stuff, and just...they had a specialist that would come and do that. So I didn't know how much you guys learned from him about how things were done in the olden days.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Yea, well he probably talked a lot, but I don't remember a lot of it. But he...he was really one of my favorite doctors, but he did get me into trouble one time. I was working the emergency room and this lady was a patient and her son came in with a compound fracture of his...I think it was his femur, and we were, you know, looking at him, and the intern had decided he needed a, you know, a bone doctor, orthopedic doctor. So the meantime my student nurse came from the mother and wanted to know how the boy was doing and I said he's doing okay but I feel like he needs orthopedic doctor. So she went back and told the mother. Anyway it was Dr. Fales' patient. But the mother sent word to me to call the orthopedic doctor since I had suggested it, and he really was a bad fracture, and so we called Dr. Brandon. He was the only orthopedic...well Dr. Wilson was, I can't remember whether he had gone or not, but Dr. Fales, you know, knew about it and went to see the mother, and she told him she had decided to call the orthopedic doctor. And he reported me, you know, for ethics. I violated ethics by calling. But you know, I still think I did right for the mother.

Mims: Uh huh. And this is a day in age where the doctors word was it, right?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Yea, oh yea. And of course I had to go see the director of nurses. And she told me not to do that anymore.

Mims: Um, I...we've heard some other nurses talk about whenever there was errors done while they were in training that their privileges would be revoked...

Joyce Philemone Smith: Oh yea.

Mims: ...or there would be some kind of punishment. Can you think of any of those?

Joyce Philemone Smith: We had...I was restricted once to the nurses home for two weeks for not giving some castor oil. But for a certain test, like IV pyelograms you gave castor oil the night before, and I didn't give it. And we had a procedure book on each floor.

Mims: Um.

Joyce Philemone Smith: You know to tell you what you did for each test, but for some reason I did not look it up. I think I thought I knew it...all. But anyway it was Dr. Fales patient. And of course he reported me to the nurse...he would run to the nurses office...nursing office, you know, for anything.

Mims: Um hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: And she reprimanded me and I had to be restricted. I could go to class and to work, but nowhere else. And one day I thought I'm going to the sandwich shop, this was during that two weeks. And then after I was over there, eating what I got, dawned on me...I'm not supposed to be over here. So I would go know went on back as soon as I could to the nurses home. But the sandwich shop was kind of a gathering place at times. They didn't...that was the only place you could get a

Mims: Where was that relation to the nurses residence?

Joyce Philemone Smith: It was under the pediatrics. You'd have to go through...go by the pharmacy to get there.

Mims: Um hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: It was down, actually the pharmacy was in the basement, the bottom part of the hospital, but um, the sandwich shop was not. It was right by the bus stop which was...faced the Tenth Street side.

Parnell: Did you ever have your hat taken away?

Joyce Philemone Smith: I don't think they removed...took caps away.

Parnell: Okay. Earlier we had someone say if they did something wrong they would lose their hat for a few days.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Yea. No, I...when I...that episode happened to me with not giving castor oil, you know I did not lose my cap. Cause your cap kinda identifies you, you know, as a...pre-clinical, when you first got your cap at the capping ceremony, it was plain white, and then your junior year you ordered, I mean you wore a...a narrow brim, I think about a quarter of an inch wide, and then when you became a senior, you used one about an inch wide. And of course then when you went, became a graduate, you changed caps. They were made basically the same but, um, these were hemstitched.

Mims: Um...

Joyce Philemone Smith: It was quite an honor. I always enjoyed my cap. So when the nurses stopped wearing 'em and they no longer have a dress know I was proud to wear my white uniform and my graduate cap.

Mims: Cause you are iden...

Joyce Philemone Smith: I felt like I earned it, yea.

Mims: We've had a lot of similar comments about that. Um, something...

Joyce Philemone Smith: But I think the...with the nurses being so sloppily dressed now, you know like the incident with the shoes where...I mean it was athletic shoes she was wearing and I just think they look better when the patients knew...

Mims: Well, now you...

Joyce Philemone Smith: ...who you were.

Mims: can't tell who's a nurse and who's the nursing assistant.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Only by their name tags.

Mims: Well if you're lucky enough to find any, so...

Joyce Philemone Smith: Yea.

Mims: ...they've got so much other stuff on 'em. We...we've been talking to some people and just figuring out that there were chores that sometimes the girls had to do. Like there...we have a picture of a girl having to wash dishes. Did you guys ever have to do that?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Only in the diet kitchen, you know we...we had three weeks, I think, we spent in the diet kitchen...which was part of the cafeteria where they cooked all the food. And the dishes we used we had to wash there. Not the serving dishes the patients ate from but the ones we used in cooking.

Mims: Hum.

Parnell: You didn't have to do the cooking did you?

Joyce Philemone Smith: No...oh yea! For the special diets, yea.

Parnell: In the diet kitchen you did the cooking too?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Um hum.

Mims: And that was part of your training?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Um hum. So it entail...I mean, every, you know, everything was covered.

Mims: basically had a very good understanding about those trays didn't just magically appear on the floor...

Joyce Philemone Smith: Right, these...

Mims: ...somebody did them.

Joyce Philemone Smith: ...these were for special diets.


Parnell: Right.

Parnell: You spent three weeks in the kitchen. How long were some of your other...

Mims: Rotations?

Parnell: Rotations?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Oh, let's see. Of course we spent more time on medical...

Parnell: Oh yea.

Joyce Philemone Smith: ...and surgical floors. And then I think I worked three weeks in premature nursery and probably six...this is just guessing...

Mims: Right.

Joyce Philemone Smith: ...about six weeks in the nursery. And um, about the same amount of time in labor and delivery. And of course then we had time on the OB floor too, you know after the patients had delivered. And usually we...people had preeclampsia and would be admitted. We looked after them. Um, and...let's see, what else was there? Of course pediatrics. I think about two months on pediatrics.

Mims: Now the...the classes that you had during these times coincided with what you were doing on the floor, right? If you were in pediatrics working, your classes would be geared towards pediatrics?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Not necessarily because there were too many of us.

Mims: Okay.

Joyce Philemone Smith: I mean, they didn't need sixteen students on pediatrics.

Mims: Um hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: So we...

Parnell: Divided 'em up.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Yea.

Mims: Um hum. Cause we...I think the training the girls get now it's not so much hands on, it's a lot more classroom. So when they come out to the floor, you know, they're not as totally trained that...that you guys were.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Well, I know. I think back when my, ah, I was married two times, my first husband died at the age of 37 from a heart attack.

Mims: Um.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Just literally dropped dead. He worked for the railroad. And my second husband was an airline pilot and he um, worked for Piedmont. But anyway he had pancreatic cancer and um, we only spent...all that time we basically went to Duke for his treatments and during all that time he only spent one night in the hospital and that was for pneumonia. In fact, he died after that night. But the student...well she actually was a graduate, it was her first day on the job. And she came in, she was a UNCW graduate, came in and listened to his lungs and she said "they sound good to me". Well, I thought, well I don't believe they do. But anyway, the girl in the next bed was with her father and, I mean, was with her father who was a patient, and she said "you might...", she was a medical technician, worked on one of these ambulances...she asked me if I minded if she listened to his lungs. And I said "sure you can". And she said "it is not good".

Mims: Hum.

Joyce Philemone Smith: So, you know, the student...the graduate did not know what she was doing.

Mims: Um hum. That's the difference between hands on...

Joyce Philemone Smith: Someone...someone to have pneumonia...of course we weren't taught, we didn't listen to chest sounds.

Mims: Uh huh.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Ah, the doctors did that. And she did not know what she was doing and of course he died the next day from the pneumonia.

Mims: Um. That's incredible. Well you've certainly seen a lot of changes in the nursing field. If you had to do it over again, would you still go into nursing?

Joyce Philemone Smith: I would want...if I could...that's why I took the refresher course because I missed nursing so much, and my children were, you know, in college. And so I went back but it had changed so much, it just wasn't nursing, ah, what I call nursing. But if I could go back to a diploma school like James Walker was and you know have some of the same experiences, yes I would do it again. I have no desire to be a nurse now. Um, I did teach nurse assistants down at Cape Fear Community College for...

Mims: You did?

Joyce Philemone Smith: ...for several years. And I...while I was there we started going to nursing, to Davis Nursing Home for our clinical work. I would take 'em up there and um, I enjoyed that, more than I did working after the refresher course.

Mims: Well that's interesting because we're trying to also figure out how nurses assistants were trained. When you were in training, there was no nursing assistants?

Joyce Philemone Smith: They had what they called division helpers. And we had some really good ones. I never will forget a Ms. Savage that I worked with. She...I could not have worked on...without her because I...after I worked for Dr. Koonce, I went to South Wing III and worked, and that was women's private rooms. And I think we had a census of about twenty two patients, you know, with full house.

Mims: Uh huh.

Joyce Philemone Smith: And a lot of times I was the only nurse working. But then I had to do treatments, give medications, check temperatures, you know and look after the patients and it...believe me, you didn't have any trouble sleeping.

Mims: So what...what did these division helpers do?

Joyce Philemone Smith: About the same thing assistants do. I mean you're the...CNA's do. But they did not take temperatures or do blood pressures.

Mims: So they did like bed work.

Joyce Philemone Smith: Bed work, um hum. Bed pans and you know p.m. care, rubbing backs.

Mims: Um hum..

Joyce Philemone Smith: Also, then, every patient had their back rubbed, you know, at night.

Mims: Um hum.

Parnell: With alcohol.

Joyce Philemone Smith: And ah they...they really worked.

Mims: So when did the nurses assistants start having to become certified? Do you recall?

Joyce Philemone Smith: I really don't know. I know at the time I was working, you know, teaching CNA's at Cape Fear, ah...College, I think the hospital hired a few people off the street to be nurse assistants, trained 'em on the job.

Mims: Um, I know they have to be certified now.

Joyce Philemone Smith: They do now.

Mims: Um, what years were you teaching down at Cape Fear?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Let's see, I finished...the last class I had was in 91. Ah...

Mims: So a few years...

Joyce Philemone Smith: ...I worked there about, I guess about three or four years. So from 91 to 87 maybe?

Parnell: Ms. Ambrose was gone by then, wasn't she?

Mims: Blanche Ambrose?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Yea. A Sandy...

Mims: Dumond?

Joyce Philemone Smith: Dumond was teaching the nurses then.

Mims: I talked to her.

Joyce Philemone Smith: I think at that time they only had um...ah...practical nurse program.

Mims: Uh huh. We're about to run out of tape here, so we want to just kind of wrap anything up, um...certainly we've covered a lot of ground here, really appreciated you talking to us. Gerry, can you think of anything else?

Parnell: I think she's pretty well answered everything, I really do.

Mims: So is there anything else you want to say?

Joyce Philemone Smith: No, I will say that I thoroughly enjoyed nursing and some of the best coffee I ever had was when we served breakfast trays and we'd check on the patients, and if they were all okay, we would sit on the edge of the bathtub and drink leftover coffee. Then they took food on food carts to the floors and, you know, someone from the kitchen would fix the trays so the food was hot.

Mims: Um.

Joyce Philemone Smith: And they'd usually have leftover coffee and that was the best. And there again, Ms. Beadie Britt would frequently caught us. "What are you doing? You know you're not supposed to do that." And this was as a graduate. (laughing)

Mims: So she still kept...on you! Well this has been super, thank you.

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