Good times and bad – life as a nu

Black Country Bugle - - YOUR LETTERS - By PA­TRI­CIA RUBERY

I was in­spired to write to the Bu­gle af­ter read­ing Gavin Jones’s ar­ti­cle in the Oc­to­ber 10 edi­tion, en­ti­tled ‘Smiles all round as staff and pa­tients say one last good­bye’.

This brought back many mem­o­ries for me, work­ing at the hos­pi­tal in the early 1950s. It was then known as the Stallings Lane Iso­la­tion Hos­pi­tal.

Fever Tents

I don’t know when the hos­pi­tal was built, but in 1904 it was well es­tab­lished as a highly in­fec­tious dis­eases hos­pi­tal. Later, in the 1940s, the name changed to The Iso­la­tion Hos­pi­tal, but it was known lo­cally as the Fever Tents.

I was told this was be­cause when the hos­pi­tal treated peo­ple with diph­the­ria, tents were erected over the beds, and large cop­per ket­tles were still at the hos­pi­tal in my day.

When I worked there we only treated pa­tients with scar­let fever and chicken pox.

I was em­ployed at the hos­pi­tal at the age of 17 years. This was af­ter I went with my mother to take fruit for my younger brother Ken­neth who had been ad­mit­ted with scar­let fever. We were not al­lowed to see Ken, but had to leave the fruit at the Lodge by the en­trance gates. I thought at the time I would like to work there. So I asked the nurse on duty if there were any va­can­cies. As one nurse was leav­ing, I was of­fered the job as Aux­il­iary Nurse.

I started work there in Septem­ber 1950, as I lived at Nether­ton I was re­quired to live in at the hos­pi­tal. I be­lieve there were four bed­rooms, one I shared with Flo Rankin, an Ir­ish nurse. Ma­tron Rout­ledge had the front bed­room, while Nurse Smith oc­cu­pied the other front bed­room. Ma­tron later mar­ried Ge­orge Ben­nett, and moved into the Lodge. I then had Ma­tron’s bed­room to my­self.

The hos­pi­tal con­sisted of a house with two wards at­tached ei­ther side, stand­ing in its own grounds. It was a self-suf­fi­cient hos­pi­tal, with Ge­orge Pow­ell from Wall Heath sup­ply­ing the veg­eta­bles and at­tend­ing the gar­dens. Chick­ens sup­plied the hos­pi­tal with fresh eggs.

Ho­race Or­ford from Pen­snett was the am­bu­lance driver and main­te­nance man. Also work­ing there were Sis­ter Laird, Nurse Smith from Lon­don, Nurse Cooper from Wall Heath, Welsh Nurse Thomas who lodged in Wall Heath, Nurse Fer­ri­day from Kingswin­ford, and Night Nurse Bates.

Other Aux­il­iaries were Mrs Tay­lor from Lenches Bridge, Flo Rankin from Ire­land, Miss Kee­ley from Brock­moor, Hazel Ed­wards from Nether­ton, Eileen Spit­tle from Nether­ton, and later Roma Palmer (now Winchurch) from Nether­ton.

The cook was Kath Ge­orge from Foundry Road in Wall Heath. Mrs Pey­ton, Mrs An­gel and Mrs Marsh, also from Wall Heath, cleaned the wards, and did all the laun­dry. Lily (sur­name un­known) from Gor­nal, was the maid who cleaned the house.

I have lots of happy mem­o­ries of work­ing at the hos­pi­tal, and a few sad ones.

My younger sis­ter Mar­garet was ad­mit­ted when she was three with scar­let fever while I worked there. I was given per­mis­sion to nurse her.

In my time there it was mainly chil­dren who were ad­mit­ted, with only a few adults. A 17-year-old boy by the name of John Fryer was ad­mit­ted. John wrote out the words for me to Le­gend of the Glass Moun­tain, and I still have this to­day.

I had not been long at the hos­pi­tal when I was walk­ing up Stallings Lane in the dark, re­turn­ing back from home. In those days Stallings Lane was a very nar­row road with only two street lamps, and when I passed the British Oak pub­lic house, I heard foot­steps be­hind me.

I turned around to see a man fol­low­ing me. I quick­ened my pace, he quick­ened his, I ran, he ran, and when I reached the Lodge I shouted Hazel; she came, and he ran off.

I then bought a bi­cy­cle and never walked up Stallings Lane again on my own. Hazel later left the hos­pi­tal to do her­train­ing to be­come a qual­i­fied nurse.


Some­times on a Christ­mas Eve we would go to the Chuch of As­cen­sion in Wall Heath for Mid­night Mass. One Christ­mas we were in­vited to the Bri­er­ley Hill Fire Sta­tion to cel­e­brate the fire­men’s Christ­mas party. A good time was had by all. We also got in­vited to a barn dance at Try­sull. Ho­race con­veyed us there by the

From left: John Fryer, un­named girl pa­tient, Flo Rankin and Irene Spit­tle out­side the hos­pi­tal en­trance

Roma Palmer, Pat Tay­lor (later Rubery), Ma­tron in the car, and Sis­ter Laird, with un­named pa­tient

Back row: Flo Rankin, Sis­ter Laird and Mrs Tay­lor. Front

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