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Interview with Geraldine McGinnis, January 9, 2004 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Interview with Geraldine McGinnis, January 9, 2004
January 9, 2004
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee: McGinnis, Geraldine Interviewer: Mims, Luann Date of Interview: 1/9/2004 Series: SENC Health Services Length 30 minutes

Mims: I’m LuAnn Mims for the Wilmington University Randall Library. We are talking with Geraldine McGinnis about her experiences as a hospital volunteer.

Mims: Miss McGinnis, can you give me a little bit of your family background, where you came from, etc?

McGinnis: I came from Lee County, which is Sanford, North Carolina, and I was born in 1921. We moved here 50 years ago this month. We enjoyed living here a lot. We moved here when my husband went to work in the shipyard.

Mims: Where did you go to high school?

McGinnis: I went to Sanford High School.

Mims: After that you got married and came here.

McGinnis: I got married and we lived in Sanford for a while and then came to Wilmington.

Mims: How did you get involved with hospital work?

McGinnis: Well I had a daughter who went to college and worked at the hospital. She worked there for 36 years. I got involved that way. I liked it. I enjoyed the shopping cart that went around with the Pink Ladies so I joined the auxiliary. I think I gave them about 1000 hours, I enjoyed working very much. It was one to one contact with the patients. I think I got more out of it than they did.

Mims: What kind of training did they give you?

McGinnis: I think they just went around with me one or two times. It didn't take much to catch on to taking a shopping cart. Some things you wouldn’t sell. We sold cigarettes at one time so that was good.

Mims: What other items were on the cart that you can recall?

McGinnis: Candy, chewing gum, get well cards, little gift items.

Mims: There were no restrictions on which floors you could go to?

McGinnis: You wouldn’t want to go to the floors like ICU and so on. You could go to the waiting rooms but not anywhere else. I went in some rooms sometimes. People would really be down and you’d go in and you’d talk to them. Later on you’d meet them on the street, they’d tell you how much they enjoyed our service and what it had meant to them.

I can remember one lady. She was crying. She became a real good friend of mine enough even to bring me a plant from her yard. I made a lot of friends that way.

Mims: You said you had friend that you’d push the cart with.

McGinnis: Yes, we paired up. One of my closest friends, we took the cart together. She’d go in one room on one side of the hall and I’d go in on the other side. So we got through quicker. She was a dear friend of mine and she got sick, had to quit and I carried on by myself. Sometimes I would train the candy stripers. They would go in pairs.

Mims: Doing about the same thing?

McGinnis: Doing the same thing in the summertime. You would go with them for a while.

Mims: How did the auxiliary work? Did you sign up for so many hours?

McGinnis: You usually worked for four hours.

Mims: A day?

McGinnis: Just one day a week, that’s all I worked. I used to work on Wednesdays.

Mims: Did they have any benefits for you, social gatherings?

McGinnis: We had a banquet every year. We had a real good dinner and you could tell it was really good service and they appreciated us.

Mims: They had like recognition awards?

McGinnis: I’m not sure about that. Before I started taking the shopping cart, I would just be going to the rooms and things like that. It was a real rewarding job. I started getting older so I had to slack up a little bit.

Mims: When you would volunteer would you wear anything special?

McGinnis: Yes, we wore the pink uniforms.

Mims: Can you describe that to me?

McGinnis: At that time it was just like a pinafore with white blouse but now they were jackets and pants. At this time we wore something like a jumper with a white blouse. When I decided to give it up, I just gave my uniforms to somebody else that could use them.

Mims: Did you have to buy these?

McGinnis: You know, I’m not sure. I think we did, but very inexpensive.

Mims: But the uniform helped make you recognizable.

McGinnis: Oh yes, you were supposed to wear white shoes and you were not supposed to wear them away from the hospital. I had seen a lot of women go shopping in them, but you weren’t supposed to.

Mims: How many volunteers would they have when you would go to these banquets?

McGinnis: Oh it would be probably 100. We had a real good director. She was Mrs. Rivenbark. She worked there many years. Everybody loved Lola. We had a room that we worked from before we started carrying the shopping cart.

Mims: What was this room?

McGinnis: The auxiliary room and we worked out of that and they still have it. It’s in a different place of course now.

Mims: This is where the flowers would be delivered from?

McGinnis: Yes and we delivered the mail. We had boxes and we sorted out the mail and carried it to the rooms.

Mims: All on your cart at the same time?

McGinnis: No, just working out of the auxiliary rooms when you did the flowers. The shopping cart was just one job. When I would be in the service room I would always take the shopping cart. It was parked in a different room and we’d stock it and then take off for different floors.

Mims: I remember something about a magazine cart that would come around. Was that something else?

McGinnis: Yeah the magazines were different.

Mims: You didn't do that?

McGinnis: No, I didn't do that. The things that we carried were all for sale.

Mims: So it sounds like they had a number of people doing different things.

McGinnis: Yes, different things, carrying the mail, magazine cart and the shopping cart.

Mims: How about any patient type service? Would any of the volunteers do any of that?

McGinnis: It was minimal. You didn't do too much, but if they needed a drink of water or something opened, you’d certainly do that for them. You made a lot of friends that way. Patients really appreciated it.

Mims: You were talking earlier about visiting the hospital nursery. You said that the nurses would come by.

McGinnis: You didn't go in where the babies were, but the nurses would come out. They were always looking for the shopping cart because they were ready for a little snack too.

Mims: Did you get to see the babies?

McGinnis: Just through the windows. They were so cute.

Mims: Because I know they have a volunteer program now where they have people go and rock the babies.

McGinnis: But you didn't do that then.

Mims: Do you think that’s out of the auxiliary program now?

McGinnis: I’m not sure.

Mims: You said you didn't get to go to the Intensive Care Unit?

McGinnis: No, we didn't go there.

Mims: How about the waiting area?

McGinnis: The waiting areas, yes, we could go there. A lot of stuff was always free in there though. They’d usually have coffee and things.

Mims: Because now they have that 24 hour area down there. New Hanover was the only hospital you did this at?

McGinnis: Yes, they had auxiliary at Cape Fear, but I never went there. I think they had the…

Mims: The Sunshine Ladies.

McGinnis: Right.

Mims: The pink ladies. You always hear about their work in the community too. Would the auxiliary ever do any other work?

McGinnis: No, didn't that turn into something like hospice where they could go and sit with people. That’s a great service too.

Mims: The hospice? I know they have volunteers that go out there. I’m not sure if they’re part of the hospital auxiliary now or not, but I think they did start that way. Who were some of the other people? You mentioned Lola Rivenbark. Do you remember anybody else you came in contact with?

McGinnis: Oh, I had a lot of friends out there. Elizabeth Williams was one of my main ones. Betty Hinkley…

Mims: Did you have any contact with any of the physicians?

McGinnis: Oh no, just speaking to them. They were always nice. They appreciated the work too.

Mims: Do you remember any of them in particular?

McGinnis: No, not offhand.

Mims: The nurses there, I know it was probably set up with a charge nurse on the floor. Would you ever have to have contact with them?

McGinnis: No, not really. They would always come out maybe from the lab. We didn't go in places like that, but they would come out and buy from the shopping cart.

Mims: Well looking back on your work that you did there, are you glad you participated in that program?

McGinnis: I sure am. Still got friends that I have met there.

Mims: If you had to do it all over again, would you have chosen nursing as a career?

McGinnis: I’m not sure about that. I always had too many children. I didn't do this until after the children were gone.

Mims: Do a lot of people that are involved with it; do you think they had considered a health service career?

McGinnis: Oh, I’m sure and I think some even went into nursing.

Mims: Or maybe were retired nurses.

McGinnis: They had the Red Cross nurses working too.

Mims: The Red Cross volunteers? I don’t know about them. Who were they?

McGinnis: Well I didn't know them really. I don’t know if they were paid or not.

Mims: What kind of uniform did they wear?

McGinnis: They wore gray.

Mims: So you knew who they were by what they were wearing. Did they work out of your auxiliary room?

McGinnis: No.

Mims: But you don’t recall another room that they had. I haven’t heard about them at all. Any other volunteer service that you can think of that was at the hospital?

McGinnis: Offhand no because it’s been a good while since I worked. In fact, we didn't go to the two top floors at the time. They were not even open.

Mims: Is this when they were constructing the extra top floors or you were there before that?

McGinnis: We were there before they had finished those. They had been closed for a while because they didn't seem to need them, but they were needed and now they need still more.

Mims: I think that one of the top floors was a locked mental ward at one time.

McGinnis: Oh, it sure was. I had forgotten about that. We would go down to the end of the hall and the nurses and all would come out and some of the patients would be standing on the inside and the nurses would get stuff from the shopping cart for them.

Mims: So they could buy.

McGinnis: They could buy, but we didn't take the cart inside.

Mims: And now I don’t think it’s like that. I think the top floor is pediatrics, the children’s area. Do you remember the children’s area whenever you were out there where the little kids were?

McGinnis: Not too much because I don’t think they were allowed to buy.

Mims: Whenever you collected the money, where would the money go?

McGinnis: Well we would count the money and it would go back into the auxiliary room. We had somebody that was over the shopping cart and she’d go through that also. But we had to get the money together, so much in the box and stock the shopping cart when we would start out.

Mims: So they kept supplies there in the auxiliary room?

McGinnis: They had a supply room and we’d load the cart.

Mims: It’s like a little miniature business. Ultimately what would the auxiliary do with that money?

McGinnis: Well they’d do many things. I can’t remember all the things that they do, but they do a lot of good.

Mims: Any scholarships?

McGinnis: I think so.

Mims: I’m not sure if they contribute to that family house, the Ronald McDonald House.

McGinnis: I have no idea. Maybe the Hostess House, I’m not sure.

Mims: What’s the Hostess House?

McGinnis: That’s where families stayed if they were from out of town and had sick people.

Mims: The money ultimately went into probably buying more supplies and then excess went into an account because I guess they were doing a lot of different types of services.

McGinnis: They did a lot of services.

Mims: How about the gift shop? Was that run by the ladies’ auxiliary?

McGinnis: Yes, it was.

Mims: Did you ever work in there?

McGinnis: No, not really. We just worked out of the service room.

Mims: Well what was the gift shop like?

McGinnis: Well it was stocked with a lot of pretty things and people could go there and buy of course. If we saw something in there that we liked that we thought would be good for the patients, why we would get stuff from there.

Mims: If a patient asked you to go down to the gift shop and get something, you would do that?

McGinnis: Yes.

Mims: You wouldn’t have to get permission from anybody?

McGinnis: No, we would have the money and just buy like we were buying for ourselves. People who were admitted into the hospital would want to give flowers to somebody else or a gift to somebody else, we could do that too.

Mims: Can you think of any other memorable occasions where you helped somebody?

McGinnis: We had one on one contact with patients and it was really good. It was good for me and it was good for them. We made friends and felt like we were doing a good service.

Mims: Would you ever just sit and talk to the patients?

McGinnis: Well we had to get around, but we always took the time. If they wanted to talk, we had time.

Mims: I’m sure if you had friends or family out there, you’d make a special trip to see them. What were the restrictions on visitation back then?

McGinnis: I believe it was a little stricter then than it is now. There were certain hours that you visited.

Mims: So as a volunteer you were probably there at times when maybe visitors weren’t?

McGinnis: No, we were there. We would work four hours in the morning and somebody took over after 2:00. I think it was eight hours.

Mims: And they would go back around with the cart. How about dietary restrictions?

McGinnis: Well we had to watch that carefully also, but usually they’d have signs.

Mims: What floor do you remember liking to go to the most?

McGinnis: Well the ones that weren’t so sick (laughter). The new moms were good. They were always good. Sometimes we’d catch some of them crying in there.

Mims: But you could probably lend an ear.

McGinnis: Oh yeah, that was what was good about it. That’s where I made a lot of friends. I had had children and I could help them.

Mims: Are there ever any reunions or any open meetings?

McGinnis: They still have them, but I don’t go. I’ve always been busy.

Mims: Do you think anybody that you volunteered with is still volunteering now?

McGinnis: No because most of them were younger.

Mims: I think they do some of the work there at the visitor’s desk, don’t they?

McGinnis: They get paid though. I have a good friend and she works there.

Mims: Because I know there was at one time a Jewish auxiliary that would come in and volunteer on Christian holidays.

McGinnis: At Christmas and all, that was real nice. There were always people that stepped in at times like that and it was real nice.

Mims: And vice versa, whenever they had a religious holiday.

McGinnis: Sure.

Mims: But it wasn’t a separate group, it was just within the group. And you said Lola Rivenbark was coordinating at that time. What was she like?

McGinnis: She was a great person, good personality, loved everybody.

Mims: And she had to make sure that everything was working all together. Well I appreciate your talking to me. Can you think of anything else that you would like to add.

McGinnis: No, I just enjoyed it. I’ve still got my pin that I earned and you’d get a pin for so many hours.

Mims: Every time, you’d get new hours, you’d get another pin?

McGinnis: I think 500 and then 1000 and then you’d get a little chain attached to the pin when you got more.

Mims: And you would get this at your recognition banquet?

McGinnis: Yes.

Mims: Can you remember anybody getting more than 1000 hours?

McGinnis: Oh yes, people worked many, many hours.

Mims: Mr. McGinnis wants to say something.

MR. MCGINNIS: She was a volunteer at the Seamen Center for a long time too.

Mims: What’s the Seamen Center?

MR MCGINNIS: The ships that come into Wilmington from foreign countries had a meeting place.

Mims: Where was the building located?

MR. MCGINNIS: Down there, the old shipyard.

Mims: There was a Seamen’s Hospital over there in the Sunset Park area. I was wondering if it was in that same….

McGinnis: No.

Mims: What was the position that you did there?

McGinnis: We sold things there also, books, mostly placing calls. It was some good times and sad times at that place. Some of the boys would call home; we’d place the calls. Now they use calling cards. We would place the calls at that time and I’ve seen boys learn about their new babies and they were happy and then I’d see them break down and cry when they’d learn about a death. Even their mothers had died and they didn't know about it.

Mims: What was this time frame that you were doing this? Was it when you first came into Wilmington?

McGinnis: No, it’s been since the hospital was built.

Mims: Oh, I didn't realize they were still functioning there.

McGinnis: Oh yes, I worked two different times. Now they have a nice building. I worked 15 years at that.

Mims: Was this in conjunction with like the Red Cross service.

McGinnis: I think it’s completely different.

Mims: And this was mainly dealing with civilians.

McGinnis: Yes, the seamen. It’s a real good service also. A lot of times you couldn’t understand their language, but you could wait on them and place calls for them.

Mims: How would you get through that language barrier?

McGinnis: Well they would have their address and phone numbers. We had the codes for different countries.

Mims: You don’t think they do that much calling now?

McGinnis: No, because they use calling cards now. We had machines that would go through and give the charges and so on and now they buy cards.

Mims: Would you ever have to take anybody anywhere in town?

McGinnis: Oh yes, we had a station wagon and we had a chaplain down there. We had church services. We had bibles in many foreign languages. We would take them magazines and they loved National Geographic. They really liked those and you can still take clothes down. We sold clothes. There was a clothes closet and they would buy clothes.

Mims: I know that they have a program that like when a visiting ship comes in, they’ll have the Adopt a Sailor program where you invite a sailor over to your home for dinner.

McGinnis: Yes, you can do that, but the chaplain always went on every ship.

Mims: Act as a liaison for the port. Would you ever invite anybody to your house?

McGinnis: Well no, I never did.

Mims: But you found that work equally as rewarding as the hospital.

McGinnis: Oh yes.

Mims: Did hospital volunteering help you do this other?

McGinnis: I think it did. They had a room that they played pool and they would sing. It was heartwarming to hear them sing. They had a reading room. You wouldn’t think that they’d buy the flags, but they bought a lot of flags, the United States flag.

Mims: With this group, was there a banquet or any kind of social function?

McGinnis: Every year. I’m still invited to that.

Mims: Do you go to that one?

McGinnis: Sometimes.

Mims: Did you get any recognition pins there?

McGinnis: I got a 15-year cross that they gave me.

Mims: How long do you think somebody has been doing this?

McGinnis: It’s been going on a long time.

Mims: How did you find out about the program?

McGinnis: Just from friends. I had a friend and she invited me to go.

Mims: Again, you paired up with somebody to do this?

McGinnis: No, well my husband would go. Two could work it.

Mims: And you always felt all right being down there?

McGinnis: Always felt good. They were really, really nice. The foreign money was interesting and I have a lot of coins from different countries.

Mims: A lot of them were Asian or Oriental?

McGinnis: Yes, lots of countries.

Mims: Just whenever ships would come and unload and move back out. Can you think of anybody in particular that you met, a story?

McGinnis: Well we met a girl, the captain of one of the ships, his wife was with him and we invited her to our homemaker club and we heard from her just about every year. She would come to our meetings. She could speak broken English and we enjoyed her a lot.

Mims: Would she ever share any of her craftwork from her country?

McGinnis: Oh yes, she brought beads and things and I think she gave us all some beads and showed us how to make things.

Mims: So it was a way to open up your world to an international level. That’s interesting. Again I thank you for sharing all this with me today.

McGinnis: I enjoyed talking with you.

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