Fifty Three Years and still friends. And still going strong! Back in January 1963, 12 young women came from around South Australia and Victoria to do nursing training. The training hospital was Mt Gambier Hospital – in the south-east of South Australia. Most of us were teenagers, with a big dream and little idea of what we would be doing.
It was three years and three months of gruelling training at the hospital and only three of our group graduated. Every three months a new group started. It was a place where many young women lived on their own for the first time in their lives. It was where they made new friends.
As student nurses, we all had to live in “the nurses home” a five-level building. It was high on the hill overlooking the town. On the ground floor, Matron and the very senior nurses were housed. The first floor was for the registered nurses. Up on the fourth floor lived the very junior nurses – the newbies – and each year you would progress down a floor.
Each nurse had a simple room with a single bed, wardrobe, and a desk/dressing table that took up much of one side of the room. We moved rooms frequently. When we had to do our 8 weeks of night duty, we moved all our belongings into more simple quarters in what was known as “the chalets” – more simple demountable buildings where we shared a room with someone who worked the same nights.
Our lectures were held at 8.30 am and 3.30 pm, and it was compulsory to attend. It didn’t matter if you had been on duty since 5.45 am (usual start of day shift), you had to attend the afternoon lecture. If you were on night duty – you could choose either one. We were continually exhausted working a 48 hour week with all the lectures and study too.
However, many of us managed. We even found time to have a great social life. As we worked different shifts, and new girls came, we made many friends over the years.
There was a dance every Saturday night just out of town at a place called The Barn, which has a fascinating history. It was not easy for us to get transport to and from the Barn, but somehow we managed it. Nurses were always popular with the young men of the town!
It has been a long time since those training days. Some of us remain friends. There have been several reunions over the time, and we know our friends are scattered around Australia. I am on the east coast of the country and my friend lives south of Geraldton in Western Australia. We meet up frequently. At the moment she is staying with me. We chat about old times, look at old photos, and wonder where the women are, that were our colleagues all those years ago.