Frances Dalpias Bird
Interviewed by Sarah Langsdon
15 September 2010
Oral History Program
Weber State University
Frances Dalpias Bird
15 September 2010
Copyright © 2010 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 St. Benedict’s School of Nursing was founded in 1947 by the Sisters of Mount Benedict. The school
operated from April 1947 to 1968. Over the forty-one year period, the school had 605 students and 357
graduates. In 1966, the program became the basis for Weber State College’s Practical Nursing Program.
This oral history project was created to capture the memories of the graduates and to add to the history of
nursing education in Ogden. The interviews focus on their training, religion, and experiences working
with doctors, nurses, nuns, and patients at St. Benedict’s Hospital. This project received funding from the
Utah Humanities Council and the Utah Division of State History.
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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It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:
Frances Dalpias Bird, an oral history by
Sarah Langsdon, 15 September 2010, WSU
Stewart Library Oral History Program,
Special Collections, Stewart Library, Weber
State University, Ogden, UT.
Frances Dalpias Bird
Class of 1954
Frances Dalpias Bird
Abstract: This is an oral history interview with Frances Dalpias Bird, conducted by
Sarah Langsdon, on September 15, 2010. In this interview, Frances discusses
her recollections and experiences with the St. Benedict’s School of Nursing.
SL: This is Sarah Langsdon, and I’m interviewing Frances Dalpias Bird, who was a
graduate from the St. Benedict’s School of Nursing class of 1954. Today is
September 15, 2010, and I’m interviewing her via the phone at her home in
Frances, thank you for joining me today. Can you share a little bit about
where you grew up, your family, and where you attended school?
FB: Well, I was raised in West Weber. I graduated from Weber High School. From
there, of course, I went to St. Benedict’s.
SL: Were you an only child?
FB: I had one sister and had three brothers; one has since passed away.
SL: What was your decision to become a nurse?
FB: I saw that question on there, and I really can’t pinpoint it. I guess I just wanted to
help others, and that was basically it.
SL: That was just it, you just kind of knew you always wanted to be a nurse?
SL: Did you take any classes in high school to sort of prepare you for nursing, or just
the regular coursework?
FB: Just the regular coursework.
SL: What made you decide St. Benedict’s?
FB: It was nearest to home.
SL: Nearest. Did you get a scholarship or anything to attend, or did your family pay?
FB: No, my family paid. I did get a scholarship while I was at St. Benedict’s.
SL: What were your first impressions upon entering the nurses’ home?
FB: Well, kind of scary I guess. You know, strange places and new people. That’s it –
it was very nice, everything was self-contained in the nurses’ home.
SL: Was this your first time staying away from home?
SL: Who was your roommate during training?
FB: Well, my first roommate – she didn’t finish because she got married six months
before. My roommate toward the end was Madalyn Berra.
SL: How did you get along with Madalyn and your other roommate?
FB: We did fine.
SL: Just fine?
SL: Do you have any stories to tell about either of them? The sort of trouble you got
into, or the things that happened while you were staying in the nurses’ home?
FB: You know, I was thinking about that, but you know, it’s been sixty years. How do
you remember stuff?
SL: Sometimes there’s those funny stories that stick out in your mind.
FB: No, not really. We got along, and we did things together, and we just enjoyed
each other’s company I guess.
SL: I know you didn’t have a lot of free time, working and going to school, but when
you did have free time did you stay mostly at the home, or did you go home, or
go down to downtown Ogden?
FB: I mostly went out to the farm.
SL: Did you bring any of the girls with you out to the farm?
FB: Yes, I think Madalyn went out with me, and my other roommate Vangie came out
with me one time too.
SL: Just sort of take a nice break away from the home. Do you remember any of your
other classmates other than your roommates?
FB: Oh, goodness. I’m trying to remember their names. I haven’t really kept in touch
with them, ‘cause once I moved away, you know, it was such a distance to travel.
I remember there was a Carolyn Barr; JoAnn Pincock; Marlene Peabody;
Barbara Grusonick, Marilyn Davis, Norma Cordingly, Maril Laute, and a Sister
Martina, and Carol Chidester, but she died fairly young.
SL: With Sister Martina, did she have a lot of interaction with the other student
nurses, or did she have to stay mostly with the sisters?
FB: No, there was quite a bit of interaction. I mean, we didn’t go places with her, but
you know, in the nursing home we had a lot of interaction with her.
SL: Did she get to stay on your side of the dorm, or did she have to stay on the other
FB: She had to stay upstairs.
SL: Upstairs with the sisters?
SL: Did you, or do you know of anyone else, who got caught breaking any of the
rules? Like curfew, sneaking in…?
FB: Oh, I’m sure there was, but like I said it’s been so long ago, and nothing really
sticks in my mind.
SL: Okay. What do you remember about the sisters?
FB: Well, it was really hard to get used to. But they were all really nice – some were
very strict – but other than that, you know, we would speak to them and they
were in class with us and they were teaching us.
SL: Did you have a lot of interactions with them outside of the classroom setting?
FB: No, not really.
SL: Not really? Because some people have talked about, you know, having picnics
and barbecues outside the home, or going up to the canyon, and sometimes the
sisters would come along.
FB: I can remember barbecues out back of the nursing home, but I don’t know if
everybody was there or not.
SL: What were some of your favorite classes, and why?
FB: Well, I guess biology was real interesting, or microbiology. Because we had our
own chemistry area in the nursing home downstairs, and the anatomy I really
enjoyed because we had Sister Estelle, and she was very strict, but boy did we
learn a lot from her.
SL: Yes, that’s what we’ve heard about her.
FB: Yes. Other than that, I don’t know – just went with the flow, I guess you’d say.
SL: What about the nursing arts?
FB: You know, I can’t remember her name – we had a nursing arts instructor – that
was also downstairs, you know, how to make beds and how to give shots. All the
basic nursing skills. But do you know, I can’t remember her name.
SL: Was it Jeane Barker?
FB: Oh, gosh, I really can’t remember.
SL: She still lives here in Ogden, we just interviewed her the other day. She was
nursing arts instructor from ’47 to ’57, I think.
FB: It might have been her, but like I said, I don’t remember her.
SL: Do you remember any of the other instructors?
FB: No, not really.
SL: What about the doctors? The doctors who came and taught special sessions, or
even the doctors who you worked with while you were on the floor doing your
FB: Oh, gosh. You know, this is – I’ve had this paper in front of me and I’ve been
jotting things down, but I really can’t remember any names that well.
SL: Was Dr. Swindler still there?
FB: Oh, yes, he was there. He eventually operated on my second daughter. He was
SL: What were your impressions of him?
FB: Oh, he was easy-going, a typical orthopedist. You know, he explained everything
that had to be done, because when I used to go to doctors after I graduated, I
didn’t tell them I was a nurse, because they wouldn’t tell you anything.
SL: Now, I know after you got your cap you were allowed to do rotations in the
hospital. What was your favorite rotation?
SL: Now, were you six months at OB because you did nursery as well, or just the
FB: I think it was three months, and it was all areas. Nursery and labor/delivery.
SL: Which was your least favorite?
SL: Psychiatry seems to be most everyone’s least favorite. Now, did you go to
Nebraska, or was this still when there was the basement psychiatric unit?
FB: It was in the basement at the hospital.
SL: Do you remember anything about that?
FB: I can remember that insulin shock treatment, and electric shock treatments, and
that’s about all I can remember. I know it was very uncomfortable down there.
SL: Yes. Do you know if you worked nights down there? Days?
FB: It was days.
SL: It was days for you. Do you remember any patients that you dealt with? Any that
sort of stuck in your mind?
FB: Well, there was this one man – he was considered a hobo, okay? He came in
and he had maggots all over his chin. His chin was gone, and we had to take
care of him. That has just stuck in my mind all these years.
SL: Yeah, I bet.
FB: That poor soul, you know, with his jaw all gone. That’s one I really remember,
that sticks in my mind.
SL: Did you go to Denver for your pediatric rotation?
SL: Do you remember anything about that?
FB: No, I really don’t remember.
SL: Where and when was your capping ceremony held?
FB: It was in the nurses’ home, in the lounge, and that was when I got a scholarship.
SL: To finish paying the other two and a half years?
SL: Was it like a full-ride scholarship, basically?
FB: No, it just – I don’t know, x amount of dollars, I can’t even remember how much it
was, but it helped, you know, because my parents were paying for all this.
SL: What do you think was your greatest challenge while you were in nursing
FB: Oh, goodness. I guess just being able to take care of people and being
concerned that I wasn’t doing the right thing. You know – that was a big thing,
just adjusting to working with people.
SL: Do you feel like the nurses’ training there prepared you for the rest of your
SL: Do you remember where graduation was held?
FB: I think it was at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church.
SL: Do you remember anything about that ceremony?
FB: I sure don’t. I remember wearing a cap and a cape, and that’s it.
SL: Did you have to walk all the way down?
FB: Yes. Walked all the way down the aisle.
SL: After graduation, did you stay at St. Ben’s, or what?
FB: Let’s see – I went to California for a few months, with Madalyn. Then I came back
and I got married in ’56, and I stayed at St. Ben’s until ’63, in labor and delivery.
After that, we went to Germany, and the past thirty years I’ve been working labor
and delivery, until I retired.
SL: When did you finally retire?
SL: So you worked most of your career in labor and delivery, most all of it.
SL: Was the forty years after you got back from Germany, was that down in Florida?
FB: No – it was in South Dakota and Florida; we’ve been down here in Florida for
SL: So you’ve been all over the place.
SL: Well, do you have anything else you’d like to share?
FB: No, I just wondered what happened to some of the girls. You know, I haven’t kept
SL: Oh – you know, I’d have to look at my list to see who else from your class we’ve
talked to. I don’t know. I’d have to let you know, because I don’t know exactly for
sure who else. We’ve got about fifty scheduled, and they range from 1950 all the
way through to the end.
FB: Well, all I can remember about my nursing experience – when I see the way
nursing is going nowadays, my experience was very valuable. There was a lot of
hands-on. That really means a lot.
SL: You were sort of there in transition from that hands-on to the technical side.
FB: What do you mean, the technical side?
SL: A lot of people, when we ask them how nursing has changed, they say, well, they
tend the monitors more than they do the patients. Things like that. It’s a little
different, I guess, with OB.
FB: Well, no, when I retired, they were into these computers – they have babies the
same way, but it was all electronic filing, and it just wasn’t like it used to be.
SL: You sort of missed that personal connection.
FB: The only thing I can really remember is, I went to Germany – I didn’t work while I
was over there, because I took care of my four daughters – I came back, and
took a refresher course in South Dakota, and that was the first time I was
exposed to disposable items. Boy, that was a shock.
SL: Because everything else you reused.
FB: Right, yes.
SL: Thank you, Frances, for talking with me today.
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