of past hospitals and jails…

Fortunately for me, my geriatric rotation in my Canadian nurses training of 2  years at TGH School of Nursing was mercifully short compared with my post The Hell That Is Geriatrics The Memorial Hospital.  Well, at least it seemed shorter and much less traumatic than my sink or swim days training as a State Registered Nurse in Woolwich.  Our rotations were closely interspersed with classes, ward instructors, group work.  I actually do not remember anything of my patients in the Riverdale Hospital,

an old photo of Riverdale Hospital c:1963

an old photo of Riverdale Hospital c:1963

1244, Item 1152).

The Don Jail, c 1950 (courtesy City of Toronto Archives/Fonds

which was a relatively new geriatric hospital in Toronto.  This is perhaps sad, but what I do remember about Riverdale is that one side of the hospital building looked onto the exercise yard of Toronto’s ancient Don Jail,

The Don Jail in the 1970's

The Don Jail in the 1970’s.  I believe that the old gothic looking building was closed and the inmates were transfered to the newer built jail on the left

Construction-cranes-at-the-Bridgepoint-hospital-construction-site-October-27-2010-IMG_5966

You can see the old Riverdale Hospital, now the Bridgepoint Rehab being renovated in 2010, and there is the Don Jail on the right…. the juxtaposition of the geriatric hospital to the disintegrating jail that I recall from 1974

which I believe at the time was more of a holding centre for prisoners.  At a certain time each morning, the male prisoners (I think it was just men) would be taking their outside break in the exercise yard.  This of course created much interest for a gaggle of student nurses, some of whom would wait at the window on those mornings, and be rewarded by a bunch of men looking up and waving.  That’s what I remember about my geriatric rotation in Toronto.  Perhaps after The Memorial experience, I blocked out the Riverdale experience…………. who knows??!

Aerial-view-of-Bridgepoint-hospital-construction-on-October-27-2010-

here you can see the distinctive curved hospital located very close the former jail

An interesting postscript to these 2 institutions is that Bridgepoint Rehab (physical not drug) took over the Riverdale Hospital in 2009.  The Don Jail was closed in 197xx?  Now the Bridgepoint has been in the process of building a brand new rehab centre around the curves of the Riverdale, the shell of which will be demolished when the new Bridgepoint building is completed.  Most interesting to me is that Bridgepoint people also own the empty Don Jail, will be restoring and  renovating it also into executive offices for the Bridgies.. and perhaps some more B Hospital ammenities..

I visited my kids’ former carer, a few winters ago.  She had broken her second hip and was at Bridgepoint for physical rehabilitation.  It still reminded me of the old Riverdale Hospital geography.Bridgepoint-Health-June-21-2011-IMG_0551

and below is  the new Bridgmount building in progress built at the side of the old hospital they took over…. I heard it and it’s jail abutment is supposed to be completed this fall.

urbantoronto-7188-24180..Interesting idea to convert a jail as part of a big downtown rehabilitation hospital…………………… I should go and see the finished product when it is done…

For the benefit of fellow Brook student nurse, Florence, I am showing this class photo of the student nurses that enrolled at the Brook General School of Nursing in September, 1972.  I am Carol the blond in back row.  A few first names I remember were Diane, Marion, Anne ( a lovely Welsh gal), Naomi, Jasmin, Sue, Jean, Wilma, David, Andrew, Pete and ‘Sprog’brook….  I met a wonderful lot of fellow-student nurses in my one year at the Brook..

Taggs Island & Glasgow

I hated moving to Canada at 15… I did not want to leave my home in Glasgow where we had lived for 10 years.  Unfortunately my dad lost his job at Scottish Television.  Uncle Peter, his brother had already emigrated to Canada and found work in television at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. He suggested that Dad try his luck there.  In 1967, Canada was welcoming a huge influx of immigrants.  So off we sailed in August 1967.

High school ………. yuch ….. .keep to myself ………. difficult because of extreme self-consciousness due to my dark passenger (my gammy leg)… and also undiagnosed chronic depression (as it was more often than not in those days – ‘snap out of it’!!) come by so honestly from my Irish side.  I just wanted to disappear into the ground…

Fast forward to January, 1971, I had graduated from high school and decided to take a year to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.  I got a part-time job, and saved up my money to make a trip back home (my parents kindly let me keep my money to do with what I wanted).  They say never go back in the first couple of years after emigrating.… As circumstances would have it, I went back, on my own, 4 years afterward.

Yes, I planned to visit my former home, Glasgow, but I first wanted to check out London.  Luckily for me my Nanny had a flat in Muswell Hill, and my aunty Bee lived on a houseboat on the River Thames with her boyfriend Ken and her daughter, Sh.  So my plan was to find a charter flight to London and stay with my Nanny, and somehow at some point, take a train or something to Glasgow.

I loved my first taste of London as a teenager.  I had spent my first 5 years of life living in Hackney, but that’s different.

My aunty Bee and Sh and Ken soon came to drive me to the houseboat, named the Vernette which was moored on Taggs Island.

What an adventure! It was January, so everywhere was so cold and damp!  I can’t remember the logistics of my staying on a houseboat for a few days.  I do remember there was a paraffin oil heater in the kitchen to warm up the interior, and Aunty Bee had sprinkled some dried rosemary on it, perhaps to hide the smell of the paraffin.

Aunty Bee and Sh, my cousin and I went exploring.  On the shore, close to the Vernette, were the amazing ruins of an old hotel.  Bee told me that they filmed some scenes of a movie there.  Actually the movie was A Clockwork Orange with Malcolm McDowell………. wow, exciting!  Apparently Bee and Sh were watching filming from a distance and poor Sh was asking her mum ‘what are they doing with that lady’?  I am not sure, but Bee said it was a nasty rape scene that they were watching.  I had tried to read the book, but could not get into it.  I did see the movie and hated all the wanton violence, rape, and psycho-pathological acts of these yobo’s or whatever they called themselves?…’droogs’??

Recently I Googled Tagg’s Island and Clockwork Orange movie information and finally found information about a very grand old hotel.  I found this wonderful photograph of the Karsino Hotel, Hampton Court.  I was so excited when I saw that the stairway and pillars matched my photo of the hotel ruins…

I took the pic at the bottom of the Vernette by the old hotel ruins

I took the pic at the bottom of the Vernette by the old hotel ruins

I felt pretty growed up, especially when Bee and Ken took me around to visit their London friends.  Ken  had access to, or owned a motor bike with a side car.  It was so much glorious fun when Sh and I squeezed into that sidecar and Ken took us for a ride along the island roads……….Halfway through my 3 week visit Ken very kindly drove me all the way up to Glasgow.  We travelled all night and arrived in Glasgow at about 8am on a Sunday morning.  I was lucky enough to have a place to stay in Glasgow.  The family who bought our house in 1967, still lived there and welcomed me with open arms.

I must say that seeing Glasgow again was a disappointment.  Maybe because it was winter, but as Ken drove me into that big city, all I could really see then was big, grey, grimy and gloomy…  I visited my 2 school friends, June and Frances and we even went to the Kelvin Hall annual fun fair, where I had enjoyed all the midway rides, rollercoasters and handsome lads who operated the rides, as well as the loud pulsating beats of Brit Sixties pop.  Keep On Running by the Spencer Davis Group always comes to my mind when I think back on my blossoming teens spent on an annual outing every winter after Christmas at Kelvin Hall.  However, speaking with my school friends, in my mind, I felt that I still had the world at my feet and the possibilities were many… I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to be?  My pals had both finished school, but June was quitting her job as she was getting married soon and Frances worked as a secretary in an office.  So I think that moving to Canada really changed my way of thinking……….. not settling for any old job, or getting married when you leave school … which seemed like the common thing to do in the old City of Glasgow back in the late 60s….  To be perfectly honest, I could not wait to catch my train a few days later and go back to London.  No disrespect intended to my old home of Glasgow, which a few years later, demolished a lot of the slum areas and had a renaissance of reconstruction and won some European awards for design and architecture… My heart now belonged to London!

my cousin Sh & I waiting for the bus to Gatwick Airport, just down the road from Taggs Island. Look at all the stuff I brought back with me........ mainly lovely London clothes!

my cousin Sh & I waiting for the bus to Gatwick Airport, just down the road from Taggs Island.  Aunty Bee took the photo.   Look at all the stuff I brought back with me…….. mainly lovely London clothes!

That trip, on my own, to London, was a pivotal point in planning my future…

d4def46ef650e0efc18d3109af5f4ddfbibaI still have these 3 posters after, what is it??..THIRTY-SIX YEARS..……. oh lor………..a long time indeed. Actually considering how old these posters are they remain in great condition…having said that, you will notice them looking creased.  I had them stored away during my many years of motherhood and only retrieved them last year.  I guess I should have ironed them before I modpodged them onto bristol board paper.I don’t know the order of these posters, although I believe that the poster showing the lovely gal lying naked on lovely cushion-covered bed came after the 2 gorgeous iconic Ingrid Boulting by Sarah Moon posters…aadd4a8b67387a8026928570819af2e6bib3c

I paint all my pin-boards white...

I paint all my pin-boards white…

1970 crimpy...

It was 1970, I had graduated from high school, even though I had to go to summer school to get my math… now was it math A, math B, geometry, trig, algebra, new math????……….. I hated mathematics and only got a final mark of 35% in Grade XIII… which thankfully became 58% when I had completed summer school, so I did get my diploma.

As I had no clear direction of where I wanted to go with my life, I decided not to go to Teachers College or Brock University… even though I acutally got acceptance letters from both of them.

I got an afternoon job downtown at Teela Digest at Dundas Square, on the basis of my neat handwriting! I was to put the small Teela Digest insert into envelopes that I had addressed. From that day until this, I had no idea what this company did!!

I had finished work at 4:30pm on a Friday and decided to go to downtown Yonge Street to check out the goings-on. The big news was that Toronto’s busiest street, would be turned into a pedestrian mall for a long weekend.

It was hot and humid, and the busiest blocks of ‘downtown’, from Gerrard Street to Queen Street, had been converted into what I could describe as a big, busy very crowded street market. Most of the pubs and restaurants had spread out to the sidewalks. Smaller shops and boutiques had put out rails of clothes, all on sale! There was ‘live’ music in the street, although I could not tell you who! It was shall I say a very hearty scene!

Oh yeah, my hair! …  back to that!   I had managed to grow my hair just past shoulder length, keeping up my blonding every six weeks or so…. and hadn’t had a perm for a couple of years. But I still loved wavy hair. Somewhat by accident few weeks ealier, I had fallen asleep with my damp hair in 2 braids. When I took out the braids the next day ~ Yeah!  KINKY WAVY HAIR!! I more or less wore my hair this way for the next couple of years. Sometimes the waves were very good!, sometimes hit and miss.. and I could never figure out how to get the ends of my hair to curl nicely and not to stick out ( I tried hot rollers, bobby pin curls,  little perm rollers… none to my satisfaction).

In this photobooth photo, I am wearing a jumpsuit that my MuM made for me out of orange sailcloth. She added the shirring when the neckline bulged out a little… Oh what I really loved about this pattern was that the straps criss-crossed in the back meeting the rest of the suit just above my bra-line!  However, I could not go bra-less as my boobs were just not perky enough, (my sister had such nice firm breasts)…  But unless I wore my favourite jumpsuit with a tee, my bra and straps showed… and I really fancied wearing it as a summer jumpsuit like I had seen in my mags, especially as Toronto summers get so darned hot….what to do?? Guess what I found at the the drug store?… stick-on cups that you place under each breast. I know, they are still around. So I bought a pair and eagerly tried them on! They worked in that there was no bra peeking out the back… I did not particularly like the shape that they gave my tits, but under my jumpsuit, my shape was quite blurred from the front!

now if I continue and tell the tale of what I got up to that evening at the Yonge Street Mall 1970... i might have to kill ya….. later!

friends in the workplace…

friends

Image

Can you believe how exquisite Sue’s handwriting is!!!

Funny thing, I didn’t think that I had any friends when I lived with Ty, as I was so absorbed in him.  I found these old letters from 2 people I do remember from JJ.  We continued to correspond after I left London and went back with my tail between my legs, to Toronto.  The letter above was from Sue B.  She had worked at JJ longer than most.  She was one of 2 head cashiers, younger than me and when I started at JJ, she showed me the ropes.  I thought she was really cool, but she also seemed somewhat cool (read dipped temperature interaction) toward sensitive old me.  She was so pretty, had long blonde hair parted in the middle and was always sweeping one side of her growing-out fringe out of her eyes.  I envied her swaggering walk. I loved her London (not sure which part of London) accent and thought she was so self-assured.  Turns out in reality, she was not so confident (like most of us I suppose), but she always managed to project a ‘what the hell, I don’t give a fuck what you think about, don’t mess me!!’ personna.

As I gradually got to know Sue at work and after work at the pub… sometimes the Argyle (close to the London Palladium) and other times the Phoenix, which seemed to be the JJ local… I realized that she was a really nice young woman with self-confidence issues (What!! her too??) and anxiety about her future.  She had completed school, but did not want to work in a shop for the rest of her life!  She had spent a year in Greece, learning the language as she worked in touristy pubs or clubs.  I told her she was amazingly brave to have been able to work in a foreign speaking country like she did!  Unfortunately we did not keep up our correspondences… (probably my fault, but who knows?)

IMG_2255

This letter was from Bill… a (younger than me … it seemed they all were as I reached my 25th birthday working at JJ) young man of about 23, who had hailed originally from Lebanon.  He had been brought up in London, but would occasionally pay a visit to relatives still living in Lebanon.  One day, after returning from a flying visit to Lebanon, which at that time was always in the news for death, bombs, destruction, shelling, smashed buildings…  (I dont remember the cause of the strife back then other than it degenerating into a civil war), Bill handed me a cassette tape and asked me to put it in the tape deck.  Thinking it was music, I did, only to be assaulted by the sound of loud machine guns, explosions and general mayhem!  Of course, Dennis (I think) the manager rushed over and exclaimed ‘what the hell is that??’  Billy, dark and swarthy, was full of male bravado, but once I got to know him, he was really a pussycat!!   Again, I don’t know whose fault is was that our correspondence ended.

You may  notice the self-fulfilling prophecy noted in both letters…………… that no-one from the old JJ days, writes back!

Of course if we had had smartphones back then…..   who knows.

sink or swim NHS student nurses

Learning the hard way…

To illustrate the ‘sink or swim’ method of being a student nurse in a British hospital in 1972, here is the tale of the stoma. I don’t remember much about how we were assigned patients during the day and evening shifts or if we were given particular tasks in order to broaden our ward experiences?

.A staff nurse told me to change Mrs. X’s dressing.  I guess I might have tried to ascertain information about my patient’s chart or maybe not.  More likely I was directed to change a dressing on a patient I knew nothing about!   We already had been taught how to do a basic dressing in class. So I gathered up a disposable dressing tray and headed to her bed. She had an abdominal dressing, so I proceeded to take it off following aseptic technique.  To my utter shock, under the dressing was a dark pink fleshy bulge protruding out of her skin! I quickly told the patient that I had forgotten something and would be right back.; of course I covered her ‘wound’ with a couple of sterile swabs, before I left.  I had never seen anything like it and had no idea what had happened to her. I found the staff nurse and expressed my concerns. She looked at me as if I was a nincompoop and stated that Mrs. X had had a colostomy and that meant part of her bowel was exposed and that is what her ‘wound’ was!

4 weeks of classroom training had not prepared me for that!  I had never even heard of a colostomy!   Well, live and learn.

my guardian angel….

Oh, the rigours of being young…. It wasn’t easy, but at 53 and as I confess that I have not been overly good to my body, I wonder what it was like to move with ease, no creaking bones and aching muscles.  Of course, when one has the gift of youth and a strong adult body (even the right leg must have been relatively strong), one would not even notice facile activity.

Anyway, enough rambling on… Here I will recount some lucky strikes.  I can only but wonder at the escape from injury or death!

Back in 1975, when I lived with my drunken amour, and worked down Oxford Street, I had an afternoon off, so rather than go home, I thought I would go to Selfridges which was just a short walk past JJ toward Marble Arch.  I was at an intersection of xxxx (I cant recall) and Oxford Street where the big store was located.  The light was green, but as I was not situated bang on the corner, I crossed between cars (about 3 from the crosswalk (!)).  As I almost reached the pavement I stalled.  Somehow my mid-length blue trench coat had become stuck in the back bumper of the car I was passing.  So I gave my coat a pull…. nothing… a bloody great yank! … Somehow the hem of my coat was well and truly wedged in that bumper.  To my horror, I seemed to notice that the light had turned amber.  I continued with my struggle to free my coat and in those split seconds a few thoughts went through my mind…. I could take off my coat….. I could jump on the back of the car and pound on the rear window, or I could be dragged to horrendous injury or worse.  In those minute nanoseconds, I realized that I actually did not have time to take off my coat as the line of traffic had begun to move.  The next thing I know I had hurled myself onto the back of this car (I have no idea what make, I believe it was big, posh and black) and pounded on the rear window.  An older woman turned and with a mortified look on her face she must have instructed her chauffeur to stop the car.  The uniformed man approached me.  I was on my feet as thankfully the vehicle was stopped.  He gave my coat a tug… nothing!  Then he pried the bumper from its position tucked so tightly against the car, and finally I managed to extricate the offending corner of my coat from this car.  Knowing what a polite woman I am, I am sure I thanked him.  He returned to his front seat and rumbled off.  I, in shock, completed my crossing to the safety of the pavement.

I entered Selfridges and immediately sought out the ladies’ loo where I entered a stall, sat shaking and sobbed.  I did not accomplish my mission to Selfridges, whatever that was.  I made my way home, thinking of how horribly injured I would have been if I had not managed to grab that woman’s attention.  I also thanked my lucky stars that I did.

my future husband??

London and my future husband…

I was again doing my London thing for the 2nd time in 1975 when Alan and his then live-in love, Amy popped into my jean junction store.  I was in the Oxford St. store closest to Marble Arch then.  Chris P (I think)was the manager (more about him aat (at another time)).

Alan ended up buying a horrible pair of dungarees which cost him £14.99, pretty expensive back then.  He told me years later that he really did not like them, but felt he should buy something because I worked there.  I remember the dungarees were tight (like all the denim that guys and gals wore back then), with flared bottoms in a mid blue wash.  As I was the cashier I was not on commission unlike all the other young souls who worked there.

He asked me if he and Amy could spend a night at my place so they could save money.  I had moved out of Ty’s place  and was  living in a bedsit in Kilbourne.  It was a brutal breakup (for me).  However, I lucked out when I had poured out my heart to Lyn. another cashier. about what a scoundrel my Ty was and she kindly suggested a very viable solution!,  Lyn who was from Wales, lived in this bedsit, but she lived most of the time with her love, another JJ salesman, Zeev, who like me was in my 20’s (I think he was even older than me) and was from Israel.  She suggested that I move in with her and as she would hardly ever be there, it would be like my own place, and it would be helping her out by halving her rent.  It was a win-win situation for both of us and of course I accepted.

Lyn also became a head cashier.  She was such a nice, kind, bubbly gal!!

Lyn also became a head cashier. She was such a nice, kind, bubbly gal!!

Speaking of Lyn’s Israeli boyfriend, JJ, like many other boutiques on Oxford St was staffed by a sort of United Nations.  I met people from France, Italy, USA, Malta, Lebanon, Portugal, just to mention a few countries of origin.
I remember the day I moved into the bedsit.  It was a beautiful summer’s day, Lyn was as usual at Zeevs and I put on my music.  Funnily enough, I have no recollection of how I moved my stuff that day!!  What the day even more delightful was that I had a fresh bottle of codeine linctus (Maat) to make me even happier!    Sad isn’t it, or maybe pathetic is a better description!

Back to Alan and Amy: either I gave them directions and the key, or else they arrived after I had finished work that day.  My bedsit consisted of a big living/dining/sleeping area, a separate kitchen (probably communal) and a communal bathroom and toilet.  Alan and Amy slept in Lyn’s bed, me in mine.  Both were single beds.  I did not hear a peep out of them once they were in bed (thank God)!

The significance of this occurrence is that there was my husband-to-be sleeping with his girlfriend in the same room as me, years before we got together and wed!  Get It?  Aww well…

In the end after 3 or so months, I gave notice to Lyn and moved back in with Ty (no great surprise to me…).  The ending of the story of me and Ty is quite predictable…..(Maat)