LouAnn Stoker Dickson
Interviewed by Marci Farr
28 September 2010
Oral History Program
Weber State University
LouAnn Stoker Dickson
28 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
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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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permission to publish should be addressed to the Administration Office, Stewart
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It is recommended that this oral history be cited as follows:
LouAnn Stoker Dickson, an oral history by
Marci Farr, 28 September 2010, WSU
Stewart Library Oral History Program,
Special Collections, Stewart Library, Weber
State University, Ogden, UT.
LouAnn Stoker Dickson
Class of 1958
LouAnn Stoker Dickson
Abstract: This is an oral history interview with LouAnn Stoker Dickson, conducted by
Marci Farr and Sarah Langsdon, on September 28, 2010. In this interview,
LouAnn discusses her recollections and experiences with the St. Benedict’s
School of Nursing.
MF: This is Marci Farr. We are interviewing LouAnn Dickson. She graduated from St.
Benedict’s School of Nursing in 1958. It’s September 28, 2010. We are
interviewing her via telephone. She lives in Tempe, Arizona. We’re just going to
start by having you share a little about your family, where you grew up and where
you attended school.
LD: I was born in Ogden at the Dee Hospital. At about age six I moved to Evanston,
Wyoming. My father worked for the railroad so he went up there. I stayed there in
Evanston and attended public school in Evanston until I was thirteen at which
time we moved back to Ogden. I lived on approximately 32nd street and Quincy
Avenue, attended Washington Junior High School and graduated from Ogden
High School. Immediately after I went into nursing school at St. Benedict’s.
My father started out as a fireman and then progressed to being a railroad
engineer. He was born and reared in Roy, Utah. His father and grandfather were
instrumental in settling the Roy area and came west with the Mormon pioneers.
They were sent to Roy to settle that area by Brigham Young. My father only went
through eighth grade and then attended a business college. He had various
employment before becoming employed by the railroad and was employed by
Union Pacific until his retirement.
My mother was the daughter of a Danish immigrant to the Lehi/Cedar Fort,
Utah area. My grandfather’s family came from Hannibal Missouri to the Lehi
area. Mother was born in Cedar Fort and grew up there. She attended Junior
High School and some High School but did not graduate. She went to live in
Ogden with her sister and became a telephone operator there and worked at the
Ben Lomond Hotel where she met my father. They were married and lived the
rest of their lives basically in Ogden.
I was born in 1937. I have one younger brother who is about five years
younger than I am. My parents had been married for about twelve years before I
was born so they were very happy to see me. My mother-after she and my father
married- was a homemaker the rest of her life. She did not work. My family on
both sides were devout Mormons and I was reared in the LDS church. I always
did very well in school and worked very hard because early on I realized that the
only way I was ever going to get out of Wyoming and Utah and a very middle
class life was to have an education. So I always worked very hard in school and
graduated in the top 5 percent of my class from high school. We had a
graduating class of about 700 from Ogden High School that year.
MF: Wow. That’s quite a few kids.
LD: Yeah, there were a lot of kids there then. I was awarded the Utah State Nurses
Association Scholarship to go to nursing school. That basically paid for my
nursing education at St. Benedict’s. At the time that I graduated from high school
they were starting the two year nursing program at Weber College. It was an
experimental type program and I weighed whether to go to that program or to go
to St. Benedict’s and decided that I was not willing to go into an experimental
type program. At that point they didn’t even know if you could take the nursing
exam after graduating from Weber College. It was that experimental-they didn’t
know what was happening. So I applied to St. Benedict’s and was accepted and
went to school there for three years.
MF: That’s good. I’m sure, looking back, you were glad you decided on St. Benedict’s
instead of Weber. Do you think that would have made a difference?
LD: Oh, absolutely. I think I got a marvelous education at St. Benedict’s. I have
treasured the time I spent there. I never regretted going there even though a
number of years later I did return to Arizona State University and got a bachelor’s
degree and subsequently a master’s degree in nursing. I had no credits that I
could transfer from St. Benedict’s but I did get a marvelous education there. I
think they just turned out some outstanding nurses.
MF: I think they absolutely did too. I think it’s a great program. It’s such a strong
program because you are hands on and every department you’re able to learn so
you didn’t have to worry about going somewhere else. You would know what to
LD: Absolutely. I came out of there totally confident in my ability to do nursing
anywhere. Actually that proved to be exactly the way it was. When I went back to
Arizona State University, they really didn’t know at that point what to do with
nurses who had come through a three year program. I recall an incident when I
was first going into the hospital as a student nurse from Arizona State University
and I was assigned to the county hospital. The instructor there was a registered
nurse and a wonderful nurse named Connie Connell. She later became the head
of the State Nursing Department for Arizona. Connie was my instructor and I
went on the floor and I was supposed to take care of X number of patients, you
know, one or two and do these basic little procedures which I did. She was
watching me and she didn’t know what to do with me because she hadn’t had
very many nurses from three year programs. I could have been the first, I don’t
know. She was watching me quite closely. At the end of the day she pulled me
aside and said, “Well, I don’t know what we’re going to do with you. You
obviously know what you’re doing. I don’t know what more I can teach you about
MF: You’d pretty much learned it all.
LD: Yes. She says, “Now I don’t want you to just waste your time here. I want you to
be learning something.” I said, “Well, I’m not wasting my time. I’m taking care of
patients.” She says, “No, I want you to be learning something. What could you do
that you would learn something?” I said, “Well, I’ve never worked in a burn unit
before. I’d never worked in diabetic teaching before. Could I do that instead of
working on this floor?” So they gave me a pass after my first day on the floor and
sent me to the burn unit where I spent half a semester and then to the diabetic
teaching unit where I spent my last half. I learned a great deal and it was
MF: So your time wasn’t wasted.
LD: I think it demonstrated how well educated I was in nursing at St. Benedict’s. That
was basically the way it was all the way through the ASU program. I had no
problem. In fact, although I didn’t transfer any credits from St. Benedict’s, they
did have a program at ASU called the CLEP Program. If you could pass the final
exam for that class they would give you a pass on that class and you could have
the credits without taking the class.
MF: Oh, that’s good.
LD: They called it challenging the class and I challenged two semesters of anatomy
and physiology, a semester of microbiology and a semester of food and nutrition
and passed all of those classes at the university level without ever having sat in
the class and got the credits for those-all thanks to my education at St.
MF: That’s a great thing.
LD: I have never regretted going there. I think it was the best thing ever. Living at the
nurses’ home was an experience that I would never have wanted to miss. We
started out with twenty something in our class and ended up with nineteen in our
class that graduated. We have all remained the closest of friends. I can find any
one of those nineteen classmates today. We all communicate. It’s just been a 53
MF: That is a great thing. So who was your roommate while you were in training?
LD: I started out with a student nurse named Mary Shull. I believe she was from
Layton. She did not complete her program. She married and at that time we
could not marry so she had to leave the program. She married in the second year
of the program I believe, although she did come back several years later and did
graduate. She was my roommate initially and then after that I did not have an
official roommate because we had an odd number and they all had roommates
except me. I didn’t have a roommate the last year I was at the nursing home,
although I was very close friends with Debbie Crawford, and Carol Salmon. We
sort of wandered in and out of each other’s rooms all the time so I suppose I can
say I had two roommates.
MF: So was Pat Hopkins in your class?
LD: Yes, Pat was in our class.
MF: We just interviewed her last week.
LD: Oh, great. She’s was probably the best nurse I ever knew. I always said if I ever
got sick I wanted Pat to take care of me.
MF: We had a good time visiting with her. She’s fun. She’s a great lady.
LD: Oh, she’s wonderful.
MF: That’s great. Do you have any funny stories about any of your classmates or the
roommate that you had that you can remember?
LD: My roommate was always trying to take care of me and she was always checking
on me when I came in to make sure I got in on time. As soon as I came down the
hall I could hear her little voice saying, “LouAnn, come in here,” because I had a
tendency to visit some of the other rooms. She was very nice and fun. We went
on affiliations to Denver and Hastings, Nebraska and had wonderful adventures
there. Hastings was particularly interesting. It was a large mental hospital outside
of town that was the size of the town. It had its own railroad stop. The guy who
took care of the railroad stop had been put there for murdering his wife.
MF: Oh, no.
LD: He was kind of exotic. We loved that. Nebraska was so cold in the winter and it
was laced all underneath the whole complex with tunnels. We’d all go running
through these tunnels back and forth. One of my favorite things was that they
would send a couple of us student nurses on Monday morning to meet the police
from Lincoln who would bring a whole truck load in of people who’d been
arrested-mostly for drunken behavior and they were coming in for alcoholism.
They would get out of the van with their shackles and their handcuffs on and then
they would take those off. Maybe one or two student nurses would be escorting
all of these people who’d just been arrested to whatever wards they needed to go
to. It was kind of funny.
MF: That was an adventure, huh?
LD: I remember one time-we always ate in the dining room there and one time Ann
Marie Zaccaria-we were having liver and onions and her liver flipped over and
there was a cockroach right on the back of it. Oh, that caused quite a stir.
MF: That’s kind of a horrid image.
LD: We had wonderful times in Denver. Denver was a great city. We were at a
Children’s Hospital there. We did a great deal of partying there. Lowry Air Force
Base was very active at the time and most of us were dating airmen from the Air
Force Base and had a really fun time. We all looked forward to going to the
tuberculosis hospital in North Ogden because the food was so good. Everybody
knew that there was going to be wonderful food as the TB stand because all of
the tuberculosis patients needed to have good nourishment so we got wonderful
MF: That’s a good thing. So did you stay at the tuberculosis hospital or did you go
there every day?
LD: You know, I can’t remember. It seems to me that we just went there but it’s
possible that we stayed there.
MF: Tell us a little bit about the Sisters. What do you remember most about them?
LD: First time I saw Sister Berno I almost died. Going back, I lived in a little town in
Wyoming and when I was a teenager I came to Ogden. I was raised in a very
strict Mormon family and I do not remember ever having seen a nun before.
MF: That would be quite an experience for your first time.
LD: Yes. It’s possible I’d seen them in movies but I don’t recall. I just remember going
in to the interview by Sister Berno and was just absolutely thunderstruck as I
walked into this room and there was this lady. Now, as a Mormon, I’m used to
calling women Sister this and that and Brother this and that. So calling her Sister
Berno had not really registered with me that there was anything strange about
this. I was kind of blown away by it. Sister Berno was wonderful. She was in
charge of the nurses and she looked after us all like a little mother hen.
Probably my very most favorite sister was Sister Estelle, although it’s hard
to say favorite sisters here. Sister Estelle was just fabulous. She was one of our
instructors and she taught us anatomy and physiology and chemistry and
microbiology and all those classes that I passed at the university level without
ever taking them. There’s something about Sister Estelle. She was just a
wonderful woman-happy, always smiling, loved the nurses and always just great
to us. There was one incident. You asked about stories about the sisters. There
were a couple of us that used to climb in and out through the basement bathroom
MF: The sneak out stories, yeah!
LD: Yeah, because you know, we had to sign in and out. We would go out and then
we would be back on time. We would sign in. I think you had to be in at nine
o’clock your freshman year and the next two years we could be in like ten
o’clock. Now, you’re talking about eighteen, nineteen, twenty year olds. So we
would go sign in and then we would climb out through the basement window.
Then we would climb back in through the basement window when we got back
from whatever we were doing. One day Sister Estelle got up in class and she
said she had an announcement that she’d like to make that whoever was going
in and out through the basement window would they please be careful of her
shrimp plants because we were stomping them down and she really would like to
have them grow. We all knew, of course, who she was talking about and so we
did try and be careful of her shrimp plants after that.
Oh, and then Sister Bonafice in the diet kitchen. We did diet kitchen and I
was not her favorite. Debbie Crawford and I were in diet kitchen together and we
were not her favorite people. One of the things we had to do with the diet kitchen
was that you had to take nourishments around to the patients twice a day. One of
them was about seven o’clock at night which was visiting hours. It was also the
time when the Sisters were just getting out of chapel. You didn’t really want to be
hauling this cart around and taking these little treats to the patients. We went to
every patients rooms-they were ordered by the physician. Maybe it was an egg
nog or maybe it was ice cream or maybe it was a milk shake or whatever it would
be. They were just called nourishments. We would put them on a cart and each
one was labeled for the patients’ room and we would take it to the patients’ room
and set the patient up and get them going. Well, one of the problems with this
was that there are only two elevators in the old hospital. One was at the front and
all the visitors were using it and it was always tied up and you had to wait and
wait for it to come. Then it would go to the next floor and maybe you wanted to
go to the third floor or you wanted to go to the basement and all the visitors were
going to different places and it took you forever. Then there was another elevator
at the back of the building. That one wasn’t used by the visitors so much as it
was used by the Sisters who were coming and going from chapel. So you just
knew you were going to be there all night with these nourishments.
So Debbie and I devised this way of doing it quickly. One would get on the
front end of the cart and one on the back end of the cart and we would haul the
cart up and down the stairs without ever tipping anything over or losing anything.
We would be going up and down the back stairway with this cart and do our
nourishments and go to the next floor-up and down with it. One night we were
going up the stairway, one of us had to hold the cart real high because of the
stairway and one had to hold it real low. I believe Debbie was in front if I
remember. We got half way up the stair and the door opened and here came the
Sister’s out from chapel. Sister Bonafice caught us going up and down the stairs
with the nourishments. I thought she was going to have a heart attack. Debbie
and I did get quite a lecture.
Then it was just before Christmas. On Christmas, Sister Bonafice then
assigned Debbie and I a triple split, Christmas Day work assignment. So we
thought that was pretty much in retaliation for the nourishment cart episode. So
we had to work Christmas morning, Christmas afternoon, and Christmas
Evening. Sister Bonafice- we weren’t her favorite people. However, please note
that Sister Bonafice taught us about food and nutrition that I managed to pass
that University class without taking it.
MF: That’s good.
LD: Later on Sister Bonafice sort of forgave Debbie and I. I guess she figured we
were a couple of little twits anyway. She was fine. Let’s see. Sister Mary
Margaret was wonderful. She was just so regal. She was the administrator at that
time. I mentioned Sister Estelle. Sister Mary Gerald. Oh, Mary Gerald. Mary
Gerald trained in the marine corp school of discipline. To this day she is that to
me. She was the head nurse on the medical unit in the hospital. If there was
anything about nursing that Mary Gerald didn’t know, you didn’t ever need to
know it. She was the ultimate nurse. She ran second medical like a drill sergeant.
You better not be messing around and not looking busy if Mary Gerald was
around because the first thing she would do was send you to the linen room to
straighten the linens. The linens all had to be in a straight line with all of the
folded edges out. So all of the washed clothes had to be folded in one particular
way and all the folded edges had to be out. All the folded edges of the sheets
had to be out. All the folded edges of the towels. They all had to be in a straight
line. Now, if you come to my house today, guess what you will find in my linen
cabinet? All of my towels have the folded edges out. All of my wash clothes
would pass Mary Gerald’s inspection to this day. My husband who worked as a
orderly on second medical with Sister Mary Gerald still laughs to this day about it
because I have to make beds exactly the way Mary Gerald said to make them. I
think at least once a week I hear, “Okay, Sister Mary Gerald is not going to
inspect this bed. Just let it go.”
MF: She trained you well.
LD: Oh, she did. If a physician came in to the charting area we had to stand up and
one of the nurses took all of his charts and went with him on rounds. As long as
the doctors were in the area at the desk, you had to stand up. You could not sit
down when the doctors were there. Mary Gerald enforced that with an iron hand.
However, on the other hand, I also have to say that I had only been working on
Mary Gerald’s floor for about maybe six months when I had a patient who had a
cardiac episode and literally died in my arms before anybody got there to help or
do anything. He just had a massive coronary and died. It really, really shook me
up and Mary Gerald was wonderful to me. She took me aside, talked to me, let
me vent, let me cry. She was very understanding and very good about it. I don’t
think I had any lasting trauma from it mostly because Mary Gerald was so good.
In later years we would laugh about all of these funny things that happened. I
learned a tremendous amount from that woman. I just had so much respect for
Sister Mary Gerald. She terrified me at the time, absolutely struck terror into all of
our hearts and before we had been out of nursing school for a year, we all
absolutely worshiped the ground she walked on. I think as much as anybody
Sister Mary Gerald made us nurses.
MF: Was Jeane Barker Morton there at the time?
LD: Yes. Jeane Barker was one of the instructors. All of the nurses absolutely adored
her. She always came to work in a starch white dress, long sleeves with sleeves
that buttoned to her elbow and her darling little Massachusetts General Cap and
she left at the end of the day looking exactly like she did when she came in the
morning. There was not a spot on her uniform. There was not a wrinkle in it and
she had worked as hard as anybody else. I still remember one of her sayings that
I use so often in my life, she would get down on the floor and clean up a mess
right along with the rest of us. Mary Gerald would come and say “Oh, Miss
Barker you shouldn’t be doing that. Let the students do it.” She would just look at
them and she would say, “There’s nothing below the dignity of a nurse as long as
it’s done with dignity.”
MF: Oh, that’s a great saying.
LD: Isn’t that great? I have remembered that over the last fifty six years and said it
more times than I can even count. She was a fabulous instructor right there along
with Sister Mary Gerald. We also had an instructor that was killed in an accident
up at Pineview. Our second year in nursing she was in a car wreck and the car
went in the Pineview Dam and we lost her. She was also very good. Effie
Etcheverry in OBGYN just gave us wonderful instruction. Helen Hopkins and her
sidekick in nursery were great instructors too. We just had so many. Everybody
was so outstanding.
MF: They seem that way. We did interview Jeane a couple weeks ago. She’s
wonderful. We had a great time with her. Do you remember any of the doctors
that you worked with?
LD: Yes. Orson Perkes was a resident who was there when we were there and he
was just great. He was just the funnest guy ever. He went up to Star Valley,
Wyoming so he could go fishing and hunting and practice medicine and last I
heard he was still up there. We also had Doctor Swindler. The nurses were
terrified of him. He was sort of like Sister Mary Gerald except the medical version
of her. He taught us orthopedics. He taught us anatomy and physiology also
along with Sister Estelle. We were all terrified of him. He had this habit of
dragging his heels when he walked so you could hear him coming down the hall
a mile away. You’d hear this clump, clump, clump and we all knew Doctor
Swindler was on his way- Charlie Swindler. He would walk into the room and we
would all be sitting there just absolutely board stiff with terror. I mean just stiff as
a board with terror. He would walk in and he would go, “You, you and you, go to
the board,” and point to three student nurses. And whoever were his victims of
the day had to go to the board and he would say, “Draw this on the board. You
draw this. You draw this. You draw this.” We were supposed to be drawing
anatomy and physiology and equations and anything else that he wanted. Then
we would stand there while he critiqued them. You did not ever want to not be
prepared. That was worse than death itself if you got called on by Doctor
Swindler and you did not know what you were talking about. He used the
Socratic method very well.
MF: Did you ever work with him in surgery?
LD: Yes. He was great. He was very compassionate in surgery-demanding but still
understanding of students who didn’t know much. He was also very nice because
he fitted all of us with shoes. He did not want any of us student nurses having
foot problems because we wore the wrong kind of shoes. Every year at the
beginning of the year he would come in and measure our feet and send off and
custom order us nursing shoes.
MF: Oh, that was nice of him.
LD: Was that just absolutely wonderful of him?
MF: That’s a great thing, how nice.
LD: Yes and to this day I have great feet and I don’t have any bunions. I don’t have
anything after fifty years of nursing thanks to Charlie Swindler, I do believe. He
was just wonderful. The nurses all adored him even though we were terrified of
him as an instructor. He was a very nice man. Kind of gruff, kind of a
curmudgeonly type old guy. He was old to us. He really was and he was
probably in his forties.
MF: Oh, how funny.
LD: He was kind of grumpy and demanding and we all loved him. Then I do
remember one thing with, I believe it was Carol Salmon, who was scrubbed with
him and doing a lamenectomy infusion. They had carefully cleaned the bone off
they were going to use for the fusion and she dropped it on the floor.
MF: Oh, bad idea.
LD: I think that was Doctor Swindler that Carol was scrubbed with where she dropped
the bone on the floor. Of course, not a good thing to do. They did make do and
she did live through the incident. I don’t recall that she had any broken bones or
severe trauma from it physically but emotionally she still talks about it.
MF: That’s a learning experience.
LD: Oh, yeah. I remember one time, the first case I ever scrubbed on in surgery. I
scrubbed with Doctor Wilson Hales on a tonsillectomy and right in the middle of
the tonsillectomy, I believe it was an instrument I dropped on the floor and quickly
picked up and put back on my mayo stand. The scrub nurse saw me and
immediately grabbed the whole thing, ripped my gloves off, gave me a new mail
stand, re-gloved me and the whole process went on from there. I was so
humiliated I thought I was going to die.
MF: I think we learn when we’re young.
LD: Rulon Howell was a surgeon that all of us were just terrified to scrub with. He
wasn’t very nice to the nurses. He was really well known for ripping you up one
side and down the other for any kind of mistake and being completely
unsympathetic to the student nurses. We were all terrified to scrub with Doctor
Howell. He was a fine surgeon. There was no question about that. I remember
one time I gave him a scalpel and he made a cut with it and threw it back on my
mayo stand and said it was dull. I gave him a second scalpel and same result.
Now by this time my mayo stand is practically all over the patient. All my
instruments he’s messed up. I gave him a third one and he threw that one again
and it just barely missed me. He was not real fun to scrub with but I guess we
learned a lot from him.
MF: I’m sure.
LD: I think maybe he was the reason I didn’t ever want to be a scrub nurse.
MF: Probably so. You don’t need any more of those experiences.
LD: Then there was Lindsey Curtis. He was an OB and he was wonderful. We all
loved working with Doctor Curtis. He was OBGYN. I’m trying to think of some of
the other doctors. I can’t remember too many of them. I do remember the
psychiatrist that used to do all of the lobotomies-pre frontal lobotomies. I don’t
remember what his name was, but he was the psychiatrist that worked at the
psych unit at St. Benedict’s. I worked a lot in the psych unit by the way.
MF: Oh, okay.
LD: He used to do a lot of free frontal lobotomies which I clearly hated and did not
think this was a good procedure at all but nobody asked me so, okay. I worked a
lot in the psych unit and I worked a lot in the orthopedic unit. When we had the
last two years of polio epidemics I got in on those. We had the iron lungs and the
respirators and the hot packs and the hot pack machines and that kind of thing. I
was very happy to see polio go away.
MF: That would probably be a challenge.
LD: Yes. It was heart wrenching.
MF: Which unit did you like the best while you were in training at the hospital?
LD: I guess I liked orthopedics really well and I liked the psych unit really well. Of
course OBGYN was always a wonderful place. I ended up working in OBGYN for
years and eventually I got a PhD in psychology and became a psychologist
probably because I worked so much in the psych unit. I like the nursery. You
know there wasn’t really any place I didn’t like. I loved the pediatric unit at
Denver. I liked the psych units at Hastings. I don’t think there was any place that I
didn’t really like. I was learning so much and growing so much and I just got such
an appreciation for things I’d never seen before.
MF: That would be the way to do it.
LD: I learned all about the Catholic Church. I didn’t know anything about nuns or
Catholic Church or anything else.
MF: That’s true and that’s probably nice to have that appreciation for them.
LD: Oh, yes. I remember the sweet little Father that was there. I don’t remember what
his name was but he used to do chapel for us every morning. He was just the
sweetest man and every day he would hike up to the waterfall. Maybe not every
day but two or three times a week he would hike that canyon up to the waterfall
and back. He was just like this little bundle of energy and was very sweet. I got a
real appreciation for a whole different religion than what I had been brought up in.
It gave me a whole different perspective on that. In fact I feel like I have one foot
in the Catholic Church, one foot in the Mormon Church, and one foot in all the
churches by now.
MF: Well, that’s a good thing. That’s great. Was there anything that your roommate or
your friends would do if you had a night off?
LD: Oh, yeah. When we were in Denver we’d go to the USO and dance and party.
When we were in Ogden we would go to the USO and dance and party and
everybody had friends. Several of us grew up in Ogden so we knew a lot of
people and everybody was making dates for their friends. This is the kind of stuff
that twenty year olds do. We went to a lot of movies. Probably some of the kids
did way too much drinking. I guess I was always the designated driver because i
was one of the few Mormons around who didn’t drink. We’d go to Salt Lake and
do stuff down there. We’d go up to Huntsville. There was always something to do
in Huntsville. That was fun. We’d just go out and about and do a lot of fun things.
We were always dating and always finding guys who wanted to date nurses.
There’s never a shortage of guys who wanted to date nurses. They all figure we
had varicose veins and lose morals. They were always happy to date the nurses
but they’d find out that wasn’t exactly true. Especially when you had to be in at
nine and ten o’clock at night and had to be at work or chapel at six o’clock the
next morning. You were working eight hour shifts plus going to school four or five
hours a day you didn’t exactly have a lot of energy. That was the trouble.
MF: That’s true. Do you want to tell us a little bit about your capping ceremony and
where it was held?
LD: Oh, absolutely. That was just the highlight of our life. I remember that it was at
the nurse’s home and it was beautiful. Jeane Morton capped us-she and Berno
did the capping ceremony and it was just beautiful. You know, the Catholic
Church-nobody can do a ceremony like they can. It was just very beautiful and
we were all in our white uniforms and we came in and we had our red and navy
blue capes on and we just looked so beautiful. The place was filled with red
roses and it was absolutely gorgeous. I believe the Bishop was there but I could
be wrong on that.
MF: From Salt Lake?
LD: I believe the Bishop came up for our graduation.
MF: What do you think was your greatest challenge in nurses training was?
LD: Probably for me the greatest challenge was gaining some confidence in myself. I
did pretty well academically but I had never done anything like nursing-work like
that. I didn’t have a lot of confidence in it. I had to laugh because my
grandmother knew I was going in to nursing school-my grandmother was an old
mid wife from Cedar Fort and of course she had worked all of her life down there
and lived with us at the time. I remember I announced to my mother and dad I
was going to go to nurses school at the dinner table much to their stunned
surprise because they thought I was going to go to the University of Utah and
become an English teacher. All of the sudden I announce I’m going to go to St.
Benedict’s and go to nursing school and my grandmother went into a fit of
laughter. She said, “Well, you’re now going to make news. You don’t have an
idea how to work.” She was a pretty smart old lady. So for me that was hard.
I was very afraid initially of the Sisters. They were so strange to me that it
was scary. It was my first time living away from home and that was scary. The
doctor’s were scary. There was just a lot of scary stuff and then things like this
guy dying when I was taking care of him. All those things were really frightening.
Looking back on them I wonder now whether eighteen year olds today could
even be handling that.
MF: That’s probably the question we’ve liked to asked everybody-how it’s changed
and the type of training that nurses receive now compared to then. I think there’s
no way. I think some maybe but I don’t think to the degree you had it at.
LD: You know, basically the student nurses ran St. Benedict’s when we were there.
The Sister’s were in charge and there were always RN’s to back us up but
basically the student nurses did the nursing at St. Benedict’s and we were
basically in charge of St. Benedict’s.
MF: That’s true.
LD: I know that’s sounds haughty and presumptuous of me but a three to eleven
night supervisor at St. Benedict’s could only be in one place at a time. There
might be one nurse on the floor on second medical in case anything went wrong.
You always had them as a backup and you always had the supervisor there but
you were on your own and you had eight to ten patients and you took care of
them and you did everything for them. It was a horrible amount of responsibility
for a bunch of young girls to be doing and yet we did it.
I remember one night I was working three to eleven on the orthopedic unit.
At about nine o’clock at night the power went out. I had three people in iron lungs
and two of them were in a room together and one of them was in a room next
door. I ran in as fast as I could because you had to pump those iron lungs by
hand. They had a pump on them, just like a bellows pump.
MF: Oh, wow.
LD: I pulled them together and I was pumping the two of them and I didn’t know what
was happened to the patient in the next room and one of the residents came
running by and said, “I’ll get it.” I knew what he meant. He ran in there and he
pumped and I pumped until the power came on. But you know, there I am a
nineteen year old girl with three patients’ lives in my hands and I could only
handle two of them.
MF: That’s true.
LD: I was trying to figure out what I’d do. I thought I’d pump these two for a minute
and then I’ll run in there and pump that one for a minute and then run back here
and pump these two. That was my game plan. Fortunately the resident realized I
was down there alone and I was running the orthopedic unit.
MF: Wow. That would be scary.
LD: It was an awful lot of responsibility but you know what? Every one of us rose to it
somehow and when we got out of there we could work anywhere and do
anything because we had simply had to. When I went to school and got my BSN
at ASU there was nothing remotely like it. The students that were getting their
bachelor degrees at ASU had nothing remotely like what we did. They didn’t
have any responsibility until they got out of nursing school.
MF: That’s true. That probably made the difference when they were on the floor as far
as being able to handle things. There was probably no comparison.
LD: Yeah. I guess those were the scariest things.-the total amount of responsibility
and work that we had and the discipline that we had to impose upon ourselves. I
certainly have to say I learned a lot and I don’t regret a minute of it.
MF: That’s great. Well, we appreciate you letting us take a few minutes of your time
and interview you.
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