Phyllis Call Ball
Interviewed by Marci Farr
2 June 2008
Oral History Program
Weber State University
Phyllis Call Ball
2 June 2008
Copyright © 2009 by Weber State University, Stewart Library
The Oral History Program of the Stewart Library was created to preserve the institutional history of Weber
State University and the Davis, Ogden and Weber County communities. By conducting carefully
researched, recorded, and transcribed interviews, the Oral History Program creates archival oral histories
intended for the widest possible use.
Interviews are conducted with the goal of eliciting from each participant a full and accurate account of
events. The interviews are transcribed, edited for accuracy and clarity, and reviewed by the interviewees
(as available), who are encouraged to augment or correct their spoken words. The reviewed and
corrected transcripts are indexed, printed, and bound with photographs and illustrative materials as
available. Archival copies are placed in Special Collections. The Stewart Library also houses the original
recording so researchers can gain a sense of the interviewee's voice and intonations.
The Dee School of Nursing was founded in 1910 to provide training for nurses who would staff the new
Dee Memorial Hospital. The first class of eight nurses graduated from the school in 1913 and the school
continued to operate until 1955, with a total of more than 700 graduates. A new nursing school and home
located just east of the hospital was completed in 1917 and all nursing students were required to live in
the home during their training.
This oral history project was created to capture the memories of the school's alumni before their stories
disappear in the same way the Dee Hospital has disappeared. The oral interviews focus on how the
women became involved with the school, their experiences going through training, and how they used the
Oral history is a method of collecting historical information through recorded interviews between a
narrator with firsthand knowledge of historically significant events and a well-informed interviewer, with
the goal of preserving substantive additions to the historical record. Because it is primary material, oral
history is not intended to present the final, verified, or complete narrative of events. It is a spoken
account. It reflects personal opinion offered by the interviewee in response to questioning, and as such it
is partisan, deeply involved, and irreplaceable.
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the Stewart Library of Weber State University. No part of the manuscript may be
published without the written permission of the University Librarian. Requests for
permission to publish should be addressed to the Administration Office, Stewart
Library, Weber State University, Ogden, Utah, 84408. The request should include
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It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:
Phyllis Call Ball, an oral history by Marci
Farr, 2 June 2008, WSU Stewart Library
Oral History Program, Special Collections,
Stewart Library, Weber State University,
Phyllis Call Ball
Class of 1953
Phyllis Call Ball
June 2, 2008
Abstract: This is an oral history interview with Phyllis Call Ball. It was conducted
June 2, 2008 and concerns her recollections and experiences with the Dee
School of Nursing. The interviewer is Marci Farr.
MF: This is Marci Farr and I am interviewing Phyllis Call Ball. She graduated in the
class of 1953 from the Dee School of Nursing. We are at her home in Bountiful,
Utah. It’s June 02, 2008.
We’ll start with your early life. Tell us a little about your family.
PB: I was born in Bountiful, Utah in 1932. My father was a farmer. I was the fifth
child in a family of seven. It was the depression years. Our neighborhood was
just rural. We played with the neighbors; kick the can, hopscotch, Annie-I-Over,
baseball and board games. We had a good time. We didn’t have T.V. and there
were no telephones.
MF: Tell us about your education. Where did you go to school?
PB: I went to Stoker School in Bountiful for six years and then to South Davis Junior
High School, which is Bountiful Junior High now. I attended Davis High School. I
rode the bus everyday. I never took a car to school. I came right home with the
bus or else I’d have to walk and that’s too far to walk, no after school activities. I
went to all the football and basketball games. My grandmother Clark lived with us
from the time I was about sixth grade up into high school. She taught me how to
crochet. I had some close friends that I enjoyed playing with but mostly I worked
on the farm. Every summer I worked every day, we were so happy for Sunday to
come because we didn’t have to work.
MF: Tell me about your decision to become a nurse. What made you decide to
choose that career?
PB: It seemed like I always had the desire. When I was six years old I had
appendicitis and so my parents took me to Dr. Stocks at St. Marks Hospital and
had my appendix removed. I can remember when they put the mask on my face
and dripped the ether I felt like I was falling in space, never ending, just falling in
space. My neighbor brought me a coloring book and a book to read and I
thought that was really special. I didn’t like it because I was in a crib, they put
the sides up, you know, for kids and I was six and I didn’t want to be in a crib.
Maybe that started it, I don’t know. As I got into high school I decided that’s what
I was going to be. I took all the classes that would help me in nursing. I always
knew that I wanted to be a nurse. Most people don’t know what they want to be.
It was never a choice with me. I don’t know why I did that but I did, that’s what I
wanted to be. It was ok with my family because it was not an expensive
education. They wanted me to go to school.
MF: What was your decision to go to the Dee School? Was it because it was
PB: My friend, Elaine Hardy, and I visited L.D.S. Hospital and St. Marks Hospital, and
we also visited the Salt Lake County Hospital. They all had nursing programs.
We went to Ogden and visited the Dee hospital. There were three of us, Joyce
Hess Lambson, who lives in Farmington now, she was our other friend. We
went up to the Dee Hospital and we decided that would be a good place to go,
plus we had about three other friends from Davis High School that were going
into nursing so there were about six of us that were going there. That’s why we
made that decision.
MF: What sort of assessments did you have to do for school? You said you took
some from high school. Did you have to take anything to get into the school?
PB: Not necessarily. I took algebra, geometry, physiology, chemistry. You just had to
be a high school graduate.
MF: What was your first impression once you entered nurses training? What did you
feel when you finally were in school and you started at the Dee Hospital?
PB: It was a big fun time when we first went. The first quarter we walked down to the
Weber College campus that was downtown. We took the basics: biology and
chemistry, anatomy, and all those kind of things down at the college. The
second quarter we started doing basic things that they don’t do now, how to do
patient P.M. care. We’d go around to everybody and wash their hands and
faces, fluff their pillow, all these little things that nobody does anymore. We
called it Nursing Arts, and there were an instructors at the Hospital that would
teach us. We’d go to class, learn what we’re supposed to do, then we’d go
practice on the patients. After class, we’d come back to the nurse’s home and
there were two students to a room. First year you are called Probies, that’s
probationary, and you were on the top floor. Second year, you moved down to
the middle floor and the third year you got to be on the bottom. As the end of
the year came and you graduated you moved down. We had a lot of fun. We
were all in the same boat. Imagine that many girls. We were all friends. There
were little groups too, you know, close friends that had gone to school together
like our group from Davis High School. The Hospital furnished the food. If we
wanted to eat we had to go at certain times for breakfast, certain times for lunch,
and certain times for supper. Otherwise we didn’t eat, unless we bought it on our
own or ran to the grocery store but we didn’t have money so we always planned
They furnished our uniforms, they were always starched, really stiff, and
perfectly white, no stains. We looked just wonderful but we had to furnish the
white shoes and the white nylon hose. Those shoes had to be polished, we had
to look really good.
MF: Tell us about some of the teachers you had at your training that were in charge of
PB: That were in charge of the classes…well, one of them was Louise Scoville, she
was a single lady, short and kind of plump and just fun to be around. She had a
cute little giggle. We loved her. She was just really a fun person. She was also
the assistant director of nurses. We had Marie Donaldson who was an R.N. with
a Masters Degree. She was a pretty good teacher but she not so fun. Then we
had LaPreal Neville, Eva Jean Law, Lucille Bruerton, Helen Speierman, Patricia
Benard, Sumiko Fujki, and Leona P. Maas as our teachers over the three years.
When we got into the specialties, you know, this is basic nursing care.
When we got into the specialties, like obstetrics, then the doctors would teach the
class. Dr. Curtis in Ogden taught obstetrics to us. We learned all the basics and
we’d practice all those things, then they’d start sending you to a department like
the surgical floor. We didn’t have recovery rooms, they just brought patients
back to their rooms, had a cute little student nurse assigned to them, and we took
their blood pressure. There were no automatic blood pressure cuffs. The patient
would turn their light on if they wanted something, but there was no intercom.
We’d run down, find out if they wanted a drink of water, run back and get it, and
run back down with it; or to wind up their bed or wind it back down. There were
no automatic beds. Student nurses had a lot of little jobs to do.
Each thing we learned separately like how to do the nursing care, the bed
baths, the P.M. care, get them ready for O.R., straighten their bed and get them
ready at night. We replaced the water and juice or crackers. We also learned
how to give medication and how to figure drug dosage. We had to know grams
and milligrams, and sometimes we’d have to mix the medications. We’d have to
sharpen our own hypodermic needles with a little stone and we’d wash and
sterilize them in a little boiler container and boil for 10-15 minutes.
Our hot packs in that day and age were a quarter of a flannel blanket.
They’d use the blankets until they were old and then they’d cut them in quarters.
You’d dip it in hot water, ring it out and run fast and put it on the patient. You’d
come back, get another, dip it in and ring it out real fast. Then you’d take that
one in and bring the other one back. That was our hot packs. Things have
changed a lot.
MF: There were no microwave blankets like we have now.
PB: No, there was no microwave. We washed the thermometers and put them in the
alcohol to sterilize. The first things you learn to do were to take a blood pressure,
a temperature and pulse, and all those little things. You’d learn how to give
medications. We had little cards and little cups for each patient. Nowadays a lot
of the pills come premeasured and prepackaged. We had to wash all the
syringes and do all that.
We emptied a lot of bed pans. They had a little flusher thing you would
empty the bed pan and rinse it out in the hopper and flush the hopper. Then put
the bed pan in a contraption, shut the door, push the button and it would flush
and sterilize them with hot water. Then you could take it back to the room. If you
wanted to have fun with the bed pan you’d wait until it snows and the road’s hard
and slick and you take two or three and go to the top of a hill and ride down the
hill on a bed pan. It was very interesting. That’s quite a ride now. The hospital
bought stainless steel bed pans and the old enamel ones which were chipped
MF: That is fabulous, we like stories like that. Tell us about your work schedule.
What were shifts like?
PB: When we were first learning all these things, we had short shifts because we’d go
to class in the morning and go practice in the afternoon. The junior year, we’d
have regular eight hour shifts. When we’re in surgery learning to operate and
assist the surgeons we’d have eight hour shifts, same in obstetrics. When we
were learning how to deliver babies and take care of ladies in labor we’d have
the eight hour shifts. We worked forty to forty-five hours a week. That would
include our classes too but we worked full time at it. They didn’t like you to go
out. My boyfriend was in the service and he came home in April, I started in
September. I wanted to go to Idaho with him. Marie Donaldson thought that was
a bunch of nonsense. She wasn’t going to let me go because I would miss one
day of class and school . I cried some big tears and she finally reconsidered.
MF: You lived at the Dee Hospital? In the Nurses home? Tell us about your living
PB: There were two students to a room, twin beds, each had a set of drawers, that
served for a dresser and each had a closet. We shared the restrooms, there
were about four or five showers, some of them had bathtubs, four or five basins.
It was a community as far as the bathroom facilities were. We had a lot of fun
even on our off hours. Our room at Christmas time with a Christmas tree in it.
This is a picture of a group of student nurses, some just getting off shift at 11p.m.
We had scrubs on so we were probably scrubbing on something, some surgical
thing. We did work hard the last two years. We all had a schedule of where and
when to work. We went year round, we didn’t have summers off. We had maybe
a week at Christmas, and a couple of weeks in the summer. The rest of the time
we were on duty. My senior year we went to Provo to the Utah State for three
months to the Mental Hospital. They had a nurse’s home and we worked in the
state hospital for three months and were taught classes there by instructors. In
the spring of my senior year, we went to the Utah State Tuberculosis Sanitorium
in Ogden and spent six weeks there working with patients who had tuberculosis.
It was a varied education.
MF: You had to do everything.
PB: Everything. When we were seniors we could work any shift in any department in
the whole hospital. My last three months in the summer before I graduated, I
worked the preemie nursery nights, all by myself.
MF: What was your favorite out of all your training?
PB: Well, I ended up up in obstetrics, delivery room, working there and I think I did
work the nursery a little bit. I did work for Doctor Robert Budge in Smithfield for a
year in his office. Obstetrics was mostly happy. I didn’t like to take care of old
MF: What did you usually do on your nights off or when you got the chance to have a
PB: We were a part of the Mt. Ogden ward and they had singles programs during the
evening. It was like our single adults now. We went to church there. We worked
a lot of weekends and Sundays too after the first year. The first year pretty much
had weekends off but after that we didn’t necessarily have weekends off.
Student nurses dated and went to movies, tended children for the residents and
interns working at the Dee.
MF: How often did you get to visit your family?
PB: Oh gosh. Not too often. Christmas time, Thanksgiving time, I didn’t have a car.
I could sometimes ride with my friends but I didn’t come home a lot. We were
just busy and had our own fun with the girls at school.
MF: What about any traditions? Were there any traditions at the Dee Hospital that
PB: They initiated us. There was always initiation and they could do funny things
and all that kind of stuff. They were just kind of comical things they weren’t really
naughty things. We were initiated and we had a school song. It was kind of like
going to college only we were just all girls and all in a very, what shall I say,
regulated program. Each year we had a junior prom.
MF: Did religion play a part at the Dee Hospital? If you had the chance to go to
church was it required or was it a choice?
PB: It was a choice. You could go wherever you wanted; there was no religion at the
Dee Hospital. However we did graduate in a church. We could go to church,
didn’t have to go to church or whatever we wanted to do.
MF: Tell us about graduation, where it was held, what kind of ceremony?
PB: Since you mentioned this, let’s go back to that church business. Most of us were
L.D.S. but there were others that weren’t. Mutual Improvement Association had
a dance festival in 1952. Twelve of us girls decided to dance in the dance
festival. We needed dresses. When I graduated from high school, I earned one
hundred dollars that summer, and my mother went with me and we bought a
sewing machine. I sewed seven of the dresses and there were lots of ruffles. In
return those girls helped me with my school homework. This for the girls but they
had to like mine before. I don’t think all of them were L.D.S. but most of them
Dee Hospital was affiliated with Weber College and the University of Utah.
Dean Tanner, Dr. Tanner of Layton gave the invocation. A vocal solo by Austin
Favor, and Dr. Rich Johnston, an M.D. medical staff talked. A vocal solo, My
Creed, by Cleone Monson Jones. Address to the graduates, Elder LeGrand
Richards, Apostle of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
Presentation of the graduates, James M. Catlin, M.D. from Ogden. Awarding of
diplomas, Mr. Kenneth Knapp, hospital administrator. Presentation of the school
pins, Mrs. Verl Lesnon, director of Nurses. Acceptance of the pledge, class of
’53 honorary awards, Bishop Thorpe D. Isaacson, President of the Board of
Trustees. Class response, Elaine Harding, class President and she was my
roommate. Chorus, the school song by the student body. Benediction by
President Pratt Murdock and recessional was played by Mr. Wayne Deverol. A
reception was held in the recreation hall of the 29th ward.
MF: Sounds great. Did you ever get to meet Maude Porter? Did you ever get to
meet her at all?
PB: Maude Porter.
MF: Annie Taylor Dee, the lady that started the hospital, did you ever get to meet her
PB: No, I never did get to meet her daughter. In fact I didn’t know exactly how the
hospital was started until I read a newspaper article. It was always kind of a
doctor-patient-nurse situation. There was not the middle man like there are now,
that provide everything. Everything’s disposable now.
MF: Like rubber gloves?
PB: We’d have to wash them and dry them. Use them again.
MF: Lots of recycling.
PB: Major recycling. We were good for washing everything. That’s why they had to
have so many little nurses there…
MF: Once you graduated did you stay on at the Dee Hospital?
PB: No, I got married three months before I graduated. My husband went to Utah
State. I worked at the Budge Hospital in the nursery for a month I think. Dr.
Robert Budge from Smithfield said, “Don’t you want to be my office nurse?” So I
said, “Yes, just days and not nights.”
MF: He was obstetrics, right?
PB: He was a general practitioner but he did deliver babies. He delivered my first
child. The bill was 50 dollars. He told me it was the worst delivery he’d ever
done. That should tell you what kind of patient I was. I thought I knew everything
about having a baby, but I did not.
MF: When you were at the nurses school you got paid, right? Did you get paid after
your second year?
PB: No, we received no pay.
MF: When did you retire from nursing?
PB: I retired in 1997. My last day I helped to deliver my grandchild, Allison Ball.
MF: Where were you at?
PB: I was at Lakeview Hospital in Bountiful.
MF: Tell us about your greatest challenge and maybe your greatest success as a
PB: Well, I think you have a good feeling when you help people, trying to make them
comfortable, or relieve their pain. It was a challenge sometimes to go to work
and leave your children at home. I worked a lot of night shifts. I had a lot of
challenges, you know, when a lady would come rushing from Morgan down to
Bountiful to have a baby, stop and leave her kids at her parents house and come
in the hospital, I never even had time to call the doctor, and you would deliver a
baby. That’s kind of some of the challenges being prepared for any emergency,
comforting those who are mourning the death of a baby. I want to make sure they
get the best care they can have.
There was constant training. As the years passed I would have you go
back to class you were constantly learning new things. When I was in nurses
training, oxygen was administered with a plastic tent over you. There were no
plastic nasal tubes to give oxygen, it was just a big tent over them. No recovery
rooms. It was just a lot of hands on care. Things now are more up to date.
Pitocin to start labor was just a shot in the arm, just a minimum of pitocin, a little
bit every so often, now it’s all done by I.V. and regulated by the monitor. Just to
give good care is rewarding and when someone rushes up to you in the grocery
store, “Oh! You helped me deliver my baby!” You feel like, “Well, you know, I
guess I’m appreciated, it was a special experience.” I think the hard times
working labor delivery is when you don’t have a good outcome. You lose a baby.
That’s so hard to comfort the grieving parents.
MF: Did you go back for any education or did you use the training that you had?
PB: I never went back to a the university. We went to a lot of seminars. We went to
California to a seminar, went to Denver to a seminar. The hospital would have
them routinely. They kept track of how many of these educational meetings
nurses went to.
MF: That’s good. It kept you up to date…
PB: It kept us up to date. We renewed our registration.
MF: For every year? Did you have to do that every couple of years?
PB: I think it was every three years? I can’t remember now. I didn’t work for about
eight years but I always sent in the money to renew my license.
MF: Janessa do you have anything? Any questions for her?
JK: What is the one thing that has been with you through the years, that has been an
influence on you that you learned in nursing school?
PB: I think that nursing, maybe made me a better mother. I sometimes thought that
my children were dying of some horrible thing because I knew about horrible
things. But they never did. I think I’m a better person because it’s a service field
and you’re serving others. I think that kind of builds your self-esteem when you
have helped someone. When I first graduated I could do anything. At the TB
sanitarium I helped the current cardiac lung surgeon from the L.D.S. hospital
operate on a lady. I’m trying to think of his name right now. He said if I needed a
job when I finished, let him know. I was a scrub nurse and handed him the
instruments, you know, an assistant. I did like to scrub on surgeries. I scrubbed
on a lot of c-sections at the hospital. Family-wise, I think it helped me to be a
MF: That’s all my questions, did you have anything else? Thank you, Phyllis. Thank
you for letting us come and interview you.
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