Good times and bad – life as a nu
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.
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