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There’s something magical about a nurse

Published on

Phil Egan

I have to admit that I’ve always had a soft spot in my heart for nurses.

After two years of university in the 1960s I took a year off, working in the Chemical Valley as an electrical apprentice to raise money for school. Three buddies and I lived in a rented house on St. Clair Street in Point Edward.

I have to confess, we partied a little.

Okay… a lot.

We had a permanent sign posted on the bulletin board in the Nurses’ Residence on Essex Street promoting an ongoing and permanent party at our address every Friday night. We kept the front door unlocked and our refrigerator full of beer. I’d come home late on Friday afternoons and find the house full of beautiful, partying nurses.


After a hard day’s work it was rapture. It was the ‘60s, after all.

Nurses have been trained in Sarnia since 1896, originally to work at the Sarnia General Hospital. In the late 1950s, the nurses’ building on George Street came down when the hospital expanded with a west wing addition. Prior to 1957, there were so many nurses in training that some were housed in a spacious home on London Road.

A new nurses’ residence was constructed on Essex Street. All nurses-in-training were required to be domiciled at that location, even if their home was in the city. The nursing students lived, studied and worked together, forging close and lifelong bonds during the three-year course, in which they worked in the various hospital wards and spent months training in hospitals in London and Detroit.

Following an initial six-month probationary period, they received their white caps.

As an interesting aside, a nurse may have already saved the life of a Boomer reader or two and they don’t even know it.

The Sarnia General Hospital nursery in 1953 was located on the third floor, facing Mitton Street. Natural light poured in from west-facing windows on the 10 to 30 infants located there at any given time. The daily routine in the maternity ward included feeding the mothers at 5 p.m. and then fetching their newborns to spend time with their mothers.

The last infant had just been removed from the nursery on May 23, 1953 when the vicious tornado of 1953 struck the city from the west at 5:45 p.m. Every window and the glass enclosure on the east side of the nursery shattered.

When it was time to return the infants to their bassinets, the nurses found every bed filled with broken glass. Might the nurses have rescued you from one of those little beds?

As I said, there’s something magical about a nurse.


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