Ethel Booth

Ethel’s family moved to a farm between Woombye and Nambour in 1919. In 1930 she began her nursing training in Brisbane. She worked in nursing up until her retirement from Selangor Hospital in 1971

Ethel Booth

Date of Interview: 26 July 1985

Place of Interview: Nambour

Interviewer: Gillian Pechey

Transcriber: Heidi Scott

Ethel Booth’s family moved to a farm between Woombye and Nambour in 1919. In 1930 she began her nursing training in Brisbane. She worked in nursing up until her retirement from Selangor Hospital in 1971.


Ethel Booth oral history - part one [MP3 30MB]

Ethel Booth oral history - part two [MP3 30MB]


Pineapple farming

GP: So can you tell me a little bit about the farm and the house that you came to in 1919?

EB: Yes, the farm wasn’t a farm in those days. It was just the land which hadn’t been completely cleared. The house was a good house when you could get to it. Couldn’t get into it!

GP: So there were a lot of weeds around?

EB: Yes, weeds and logs up to the back steps which had to be cleared away.

GP: So it hadn’t been farmed, that land at all?

EB: No, it hadn’t been cleared or cultivated at all.

GP: What sort of forest was on it?

EB: Well there was not very much forest. It hadn’t been cleared. The trees had been cut down, but not cleared away, and the stumps hadn’t been cleared. So there was no cultivation going on. My father had to start from scratch with that.

GP: So he had to move the stumps and logs?

EB: Dug big areas around the stumps and cleared the roots, and then rolled the logs in and that ripped the stumps out. Filled in the holes again ready for ploughing.

GP: Did he do this on his own?

EB: Yes, he was on his own. No help at all really, only his tools, hand tools.

GP: How did the family manage in that period of time before you had your crops growing?

EB: Oh well, see he had a war pension from my brother who was killed at the War. That, and what he had saved before that, carried us through. Didn't have anything to spare.

GP: So, what do you remember of life in those days?

EB: Oh well it was hard perhaps, but still we were together. We had a happy home together, and everybody, you know, pulled their weight. Everybody worked and we got on all right, we managed.

GP: So you would all help to grow vegetables and do the cooking, and look after the house?

EB: Yes, everyone, you know, did what they could to help. We were not able to do much to help Father with the clearing, but still you know, we did what we were able around the place.

GP: You would have been going to school I suppose.

EB: Yes, I was still going to school.

GP: Yes. And your other sisters, did they go to school too?

EB: No, no. I was the only one who went to school.

GP: Did your sisters work or did they stay at home?

EB: No, they were at home. Well, one sister was dressmaking.

GP: Oh yes, in Nambour?

EB: Yes, in Nambour.

GP: So, did your father have any help from anybody?

EB: Only sometimes from the neighbours, annually perhaps that was.

GP: What was that for?

EB: When they, they were all farmers, pineapple farmers around, and they co-operated at planting time. When one man was ready to plant, he chose his day, notified his neighbours and they all arrived there early in the morning and they all helped to plant the crops. And that was done for each one who was planting. They co-operated there, and did their planting. Otherwise each man farmed his own land, but at planting, co-operated and everybody turned to and helped one another, got the plants in.

GP: Do you remember a day when everybody worked together at your place?

EB: Yes, because we had no land to be cultivated ready to plant pines, the neighbours all turned up one morning to give a day’s help with the clearing, make up for the help Father gave them when they were planting.

GP: So there was a lot of co-operation between the pineapple farmers?

EB: Yes, particularly at that time, but there was always a good, neighbourly feeling between them all through the years, and if anyone was really in need of help, well, he knew the others would come in and help him out if he needed it.


GP: So, was religion important in your family life?

EB: Yes, always. As long as I can remember.

GP: So how would you do this, would you just go to church together on Sundays?

EB: Yes, we always went. In those days we usually went twice Sunday - morning and evening. And besides that we were always brought up in the family worship, daily family worship, that was always a big part of the family.

GP: And what did that involve?

EB: Just Bible reading, and The Lords Prayer as a rule.

GP: Yes. Was that in the evenings?

EB: Yes, after tea, as a rule.

GP: Would you all read this or was is just your father?

EB: Father usually read and we joined in.


GP: Did your father make most of the decisions for the family or did you all comment and talk about things together?

EB: Oh, no. I mean if there was anything cropping up everybody sort of discussed it. It was a family affair discussed and worked out, which was the best way of going about things. I suppose it was more or less left to him, the final decision, but still he didn’t make a decision off his own bat, consulted everyone, what everyone thought.

GP: What about your mother. Did she have a say in the decisions about what you did?

EB: Oh yes, yes. She was a quiet little lady she was, but very much the centre of the home.


GP: So, when you decided to go and do a secretarial course and when you become a secretary, was that your decision or was it a family decision?

EB: No, I just thought that might be an idea to go ahead that way. My father was never one to set you back at all or anything. If he thought it was what you wanted to do, and he thought you could cope with it, well he was quite happy for you to go on and try it anyway. He said "Well if it doesn’t work out well we’re always here".

GP: So that was your decision?

EB: Yes.

GP: What other options did you have?

EB: Well I can’t remember if we had any particular options. It just seemed that suppose I liked figures, I always did like figures and I suppose, you know, just going on working along that line. Just go naturally.

GP: Did you ever think of just staying on the farm?

EB: No, well I didn’t think about it that way, I mean that was home and that just sort of went on from that, just stayed there. Oh I never particularly wanted to go away and start anywhere else. No fancy for going away, boarding anywhere else, you know, getting away from home, I was quite content there.


GP: What sort of things did you read in your early teens?

EB: I think I read everything I could get my hands on. [Laughs]

GP: So where did you get the things you read.

EB: Well we always seemed to have a good number of books in the home, there was always plenty of books to read and you know, just whatever. Don’t think I had anything to do with libraries early on.

GP: Yes, I was wondering, was there a fairly good library in Nambour?

EB: I don’t think there... I can’t remember that there was one at all at that time.

GP: So how would you have come by the books you read?

EB: I think we just bought them over the years, you know. Bought, or the books were given, prizes. It was like that, just collect them.

GP: So every year at school you got a book prize?

EB: Not at schools, I don’t think they gave prizes at school those days. Sunday school prizes or, you know, presents, birthday presents and that sort of thing they came in.

GP: Can you remember the names of any of these books?

EB: I can’t remember the names of any of them now, the books I read [Laughs]

Working for Maroochy Shire Council

GP: Where did you do your commercial training?

EB: Nambour Rural School, I was at.

GP: Was it right when you finished that you got a job?

EB: Yes, fairly soon after I finished I think.

GP: How did you get that job?

EB: Haven’t a clue. [Laughs]

GP: Was there an ad in the paper?

EB: No. I think it was just a hearsay, just a casual remark that a job was coming up, or there was a job offering.

GP: So there weren’t seventy applicants?

EB: No, there were none. I don’t know if they were talking to my father, and he said I was finishing and it went on from that. I didn’t apply for it really.

GP: You didn’t write out an application?

EB: No, not a written application, not that I can remember. Going too far back.

GP: So you went to work for the Maroochy Shire Council?

EB: Yes, I’d done just a casual job, it was just for a few weeks, the lass was sick I think, and I had just a casual job, at one of the business places, one of the auctioneers, I think. I knew it was only casual when I went there, because the other one, she was sick. But other than that it was the only permanent job I had really, was with the Council.

GP: What did you do in the Council?

EB: Mostly typing.

GP: You wouldn’t have had word processors or photocopying machines in those days?

EB: Not in the slightest. No, when there was thirteen copies to be sent out, it was thirteen typings. [Laughs]. Occasionally I managed some with carbon copies, but you couldn’t get too many clear copies that time. So it was full-time typing really.

GP: Did you ever do any exercises with your hands as you typed all day?

EB: No, I just expected them to carry on.

GP: And they did.

EB: They did. Then perhaps I’m not doing as much as they do nowadays. I didn’t get any stress, strain, what ever they call it now.

GP: Was that ever heard of in those days, that kind of strain?

EB: No.

GP: When did you start work in the day, in the morning?

EB: 9 o’clock.

GP: And finished?

EB: Five.

GP: And how much time off did you have through the day?

EB: Hour for lunch.

GP: Did you get a cup of tea for morning tea or afternoon tea?

EB: No, no, nothing. Nothing like that.

GP: So, you ever have a chat to someone?

EB: No there were only two old men there. [Laughs]

GP: Who were the people, who were these two?

EB: The Shire Clerk and his assistant. And they were grandfathers.

GP: What were their names?

EB: A.H. Brookes was the Shire Clerk and A.H. Butler was the assistant.

GP: Do you remember anything about these people?

EB: Oh, nothing startling.

GP: Did you do up the Council Minutes?

EB: Yes. Mr Brookes usually typed them out. He didn’t dictate them, he would type out what was a rough copy. We found that was easier. I don’t think he fancied dictating and there was no dictaphone or anything like that so he did it. He would run it out from his notes, he would run out a rough copy and then I just carried on from there.

GP: But when the Council met there’d be a report from the meeting wouldn’t there?

EB: Well, no he’d only have the Minutes. I don’t think he had any other report, but he’d put it pretty fully in the Minutes.

GP: Did you ever get involved in any Council matters while you were working there?

EB: No, I was just sort of very junior typist.

GP: So you didn’t feel as if you had any role in commenting on anything?

EB: No, I don’t think I would have been popular if I made comments. What comments I had I made them myself.

Fire in Nambour

GP: Do you remember any big fires in Nambour?

EB: Yes, we had a succession of fires, one every year. The biggest one was, took between the tram-line and the Whalley’s building, between the tram-line and Low Street. They got that, that block there, about I think there was twenty-four business places burnt out in the one night’s fire. And each year there seemed to be another fire. Another one came up from the railway bridge up the other side of Whalley’s building. It stopped at Whalley’s building, Whalley’s was the only one that didn’t get burnt out. The hotel opposite it went and the hall

beside it. Every year there was a fire somewhere in the street, until practically the whole street had been burnt out.

GP: Was your office ever burnt?

EB: Council office, no, it wasn’t burnt out but there was a fire there. The hall, Shire Hall, it was on the ground floor and that’s where they ran the picture show, and they had a fire in the projection room one night and burnt out a fair area. Didn’t do a terrible lot of damage but it burnt out a bit.

GP: So the Council Minutes were never destroyed when you were there?

EB: No, I don’t think they were ever destroyed by fire at any time.

GP: Where was the Council then?

EB: Just where the Shire Hall is now, on the corner. The Council Chambers were up on the floor above. The old building had gone, it’s been replaced.

Commuting to work

GP: How did you get to work?

EB: Walked. Mile and a quarter each way.

GP: Did you ride a horse at all, ever?

EB: I rode a horse, but I didn’t ride it to work. No place to park the horse when I got into town. Probably the horse would have gone home and left me if it had half a chance. [Laughs]

GP: Where did you ever have your lunch? You know, you had an hour for lunch. Where did you go?

EB: I used to meet up with one of the other girls, you know, one of my mates was working in the Commonwealth Bank then, and we usually met and had lunch together somewhere around the town. Nothing much in the way of parks, we just found a spot and sat and had our lunch in the meantime, just mooched around.

Sports and recreation

GP: Could you play much sport, after work or on the weekends?

EB: We did play basketball.

GP: And did you go to the movies or dances or anything like that?

EB: No, not very much. There was not much in the picture line, but you know, might go to concerts, but they were not very frequent.

GP: Did you ever go to the beach?

EB: Yes we used to go down on excursion. It was a long way to go. That time we didn’t have a car, long track down to go by horse and sulky or anything like that, but sometimes they’d run an excursion down. Go by tram down to Deepwater, which would be I’d say where Bli Bli is, and then go on the boat the rest of the way down to Maroochydore.

GP: So that was like a day’s outing?

EB: Yes, it took nearly all day. Not very long down there. By the time you got down, and then back again. A few other excursions. Went to Dunethin Rock, around that area, that was where they used the fancy brakes on the tram.

GP: What was that about?

EB: Well at the foot of the range, the driver stopped, and they collected a whole stack of stakes and loaded them on to the tram. We all wondered why. We chuffed off to the top of the range and stopped again, and they took the stakes off the tram and put them in the wheels so that we slid down the other side. [Laughs]. That was the braking method for the tram.

GP: And that just got the right speed to turn the corners?

EB: Yes, when they had the wheels locked, they could control it the rest of the way. Same thing happened on the way back. They pulled out of the foot of the range then, we picked them up on the way back, took them up the top, put them into the wheels again, slid down the other side.

GP: Was this called a sprag?

EB: I don’t know what they called it. It was fun and games.


GP: What sort of clothes did you wear?

EB: No slacks for the ladies at that time. But skirts I suppose went up and down with the fashion. They were either short or long whatever the fashion was.

GP: And stockings?

EB: Ah yes, stockings. Very few went without stockings.

GP: And boots, what sort of boots?

EB: Well I wouldn’t say much of a muchness because they were a stronger type of footwear I suppose, not so much sandals or things like that. Lace up shoes or button ups.

GP: And hats. Did you wear a hat?

EB: Oh yes, always wore a hat. Straw hat or a fabric hat, whatever. And gloves, something that’s gone out of fashion now, which is a good thing.

GP: Where would you wear gloves?

EB: Oh you weren’t dressed. If you didn’t wear gloves, you weren’t properly dressed if you went out.

GP: Would you wear gloves to work?

EB: Oh no, but if you were going to a party or church or to an outing or anything, gloves were a part of your outfit.

GP: So definitely there was dressing up and there was working clothes.

EB: Oh yes. In fact more I suppose, in a sense more dressing up than there is these days, cause there’s more casual wear these days. If you were going anywhere well you know, you were dressed in your Sunday best. Didn’t go out in jeans and a T-shirt.


GP: I suppose in those days there was a lot more mud?

EB: Yes the roads were not... well they were formed but they were not sealed. A lot of them not even gravelled. There’s one of our neighbours - this was not long after they’d bought a car or a utility - and the wheel tracks were all rutted. The centre of the road was built up, and they were driving in there and the wheels were right into the ruts, but then the centre of the road caught the differential on the ute and they were stuck there, and that was how she was lost and how she described it. She didn’t have the right words, she couldn’t remember differential, she called it the referendum, and she said, "There we was stuck, the referendum was sit on de ground, the wheel was go round, we sit in the car and we was go nowhere". [Laughs]. And that was her description of the road and how they managed with their truck.

Functions and meetings

GP: Do you remember any community functions or meetings, or weddings in your childhood?

EB: I suppose there were plenty, I don’t remember particularly about them.

GP: Were most of your friends of the same religion as you?

EB: Yes, a good number were. You got to know the church people where you were attending. You got to know them, possibly because you had more contact with them. You made friends there most amongst them, than perhaps with others, unless, you know, neighbours, or folk you met outside, but on the whole you had more contact with folk you met there.


GP: We didn’t talk about the school, the Nambour State School. Do you remember the first day you went to school?

EB: Yes I wondered if the class was always going to have to stand up.

GP: What do you mean stand up?

EB: Well, I suppose like the present day school, they had more children than accommodation. In this one room I think they were coping with five classes in a room which normally held three classes, so it meant that two classes would have to have their lesson outside the room. While the others were seated, two classes would be standing. One was out under the trees, and the other I think was on the verandah of the class room, and I landed out under the trees.

GP: And you had to stand all day?

EB: Stand for the half hour, half hour lesson you see, we'd be standing for half an hour, then you’d change with one of those who were seated, they'd take their turn at standing.

GP: What happened if it rained?

EB: Well, you were packed onto the verandas. One of the classes had an area underneath, it was concreted underneath and they were able to hold one class under there. And the third classroom was walled in underneath, and that was used for the domestic science and the shorthand typing classes, they were held there.

GP: How many typewriters did they have?

EB: I think they had about four, something like that.

GP: Do you remember any of the teachers?

EB: The head teachers, one was named Fisher and the next one was Steel.

GP: What were they like?

EB: Don't remember very much about Mr Fisher. But Mr Steel was a very big man, well built man, rather stern perhaps, he looked stern anyway but on the whole I think he was not too bad. He had quite a few ideas that he tried to put in for the school, improve things.

GP: Was the discipline very strict?

EB: Oh yes. Had everyone under control.

GP: Did you see much corporal punishment?

EB: No, very little really for a school that size.

GP: Do you remember a Miss Hilliam?

EB: Yes, she was teaching there almost all the time I was going I think. I was in her class for a term or two, I'm not just sure how long. She was a very good teacher too.

GP: So you enjoyed school?

EB: Yes, I did really. Times I would of given it away, but on the whole I enjoyed it.

GP: Were you bored very often?

EB: Don't think I was ever bored.

GP: And I suppose you were able to do the things that were set.

EB: Yes, I think I managed to cope pretty well, and also felt that if I couldn't, that I could approach any of the teachers, and know that I'd get help. I wasn't afraid to go to them and ask or say that I couldn't understand this or that. Not afraid to ask them to explain it. I don't think I was ever knocked back. What I remember they were all ready to help, if you wanted help they were ready to give it.

GP: Did they give you encouragement to learn?

EB: Yes, well that was one of the things Mr Steel, Headmaster, had suggested, sort of an encouragement scheme for every class. He had special cards printed, like first, second and third award for each half yearly exam. Whoever came first, second or third in the class they were given these cards, the first one was marked a special merit and I've forgotten what the others were now, and he gave those, to try and encourage the children to work in their classes and try and get one of these cards, which I think seemed to answer quite well.

GP: And did you play a lot of sport at school?

EB: Oh, just the ordinary, every day sport each day I suppose. I was in the basketball team there, they did play basketball there, and I was in that. I didn't play tennis much.

GP: Swimming?

EB: Yes I went swimming, I had swimming classes every week, I was never much good at swimming, couldn't hold my breath long enough.

GP: You're suppose to not need to hold your breath.

EB: No you're supposed to breathe, but that didn't work with me. I was no Olympic swimmer that's for sure. [laughs]


GP: So at some stage in your secretarial working life you decided you'd rather be a nurse.

EB: Yes.

GP: Can you tell me how you arrived at that decision.

EB: No, not how I got the first idea, but when I put the idea forward at home, everyone was in favour of it, but my brother. By then I was beginning to lose interest in the idea and then when he opposed me, I went ahead out of sheer cussedness.

GP: What did he say to put you off.

EB: I don't know particularly what he said but he was against it. I think because I was his baby sister, he was on the look-out that everything fell into line for me, and he didn't think that was the line that I should be in.

GP: Why not?

EB: Oh, he'd been in the ambulance and seen a lot of accidents and he knew perhaps what hospital life could be like. But once I got started he was okay. He was quite pleased with things then.

GP: Did you know what you were in for?

EB: I suppose not, not wholly, but then you don't come on to it too quickly, you come onto it so gradually that you don't know just what's coming ahead really. By the time you get to anything that's very hard to take, well you're more or less ready for it.

GP: What are your earliest memories of nursing?

EB: Oh....I don't know.

GP: You were put in a ward?

EB: Yes I started in a ward, we didn't have any prelim school at that time , we went straight into the ward. Six o'clock in the morning we started and just someone showed you what, you know, showed you around a bit and what to do, and the first thing it is that you seemed to be cutting loaves and loaves and loaves of bread and butter. [laughs] For breakfast, racing round to get the breakfast out to patients before you went to your own. It always was just one continual rush until you got into the way of things and learnt the quick way to do it. But you never at any time I suppose had a lot of time to stop and think of what you'd like to do or what you wouldn’t want to do.

GP: So you were very busy?

EB: It is a busy start really, like that, especially when you don't know what to do next. You were jolly soon told. You weren't left wondering for too long.

GP: So you started as a junior and how were you treated at that stage?

EB: Oh I think the nursing conditions very pretty good really. A lot of same routine sort of things to do and the same with I suppose what was handed out to us was a lot of routine too, not much variation in things. But you got through, you struck good patients and bad patients, and I suppose they thought they had struck good nurses and bad nurses too. But on the whole, well starting I found the patients were very tolerant really. They’d say "If she's new she doesn't know too much yet". If they could give you a help or put you wise to anything, they'd do it.

GP: Did you ever have things like drips in those days, in the ‘30s?

EB: Not in the wards very much.

GP: What did you do most of the time, what sort of work?

EB: Oh well, it depended on your seniority, not so much in the hospital, but in a particular ward. You see there might be perhaps nine nurses on the roster in one ward, well they wouldn't all be on duty at the one time, of course, that was spread over all the shifts, and the senior nurse had certain duties and the second on would have others that she'd cope with. The junior on had the pots and pans, and meals and you know, just general things like that, putting linen away and that sort of thing. But depending on what your position was in the ward as to what your jobs would be. When you, you know, as you got up a bit more senior, well you'd have a bit more responsible work, or individual work to do.

Some of the senior nurses were very good to work with. They would come along if they were finished, they would come along, giving you a hand to get yours finished so you'd get off on time. Others wouldn't, they would only you know, do their own and that was that, didn't have much consideration perhaps for the juniors but, oh no, I think the ones I struck anyway, I had no complaints about. We worked pretty well as a team really, because anyone would give a hand to the others to get work done, whether it was their particular job or not. As long as they were finished, and did what they were responsible for, well there was no reason why they couldn't do anything else then. There was a lot of fun.

GP: How would you treat someone say, who had pneumonia in those days?

EB: Well they, they hadn't the drugs those days as they use now. I suppose the most common treatment there was poultices, either antiphogistine or, I've forgotten the name of the other, some like that, and linseed perhaps. Linseed might have been all right, but it made an awful mess, when it dried out a bit, it slipped down in the bed and wasn't very nice to lie on, crumbs or the linseed.

GP: So that was to bring the temperature down?

EB: That was to sort of localise the area where the infection was and other than that it was just sort of general nursing, giving them the fluids and care.

GP: Yes, and what about infections like, where now they use penicillin and antibiotics, what did you use in the 30s?

EB: Well they could only, might have been some mixtures that they could use, but they had certain drugs but nothing as dramatic as they have now. The old ones perhaps took time to take their effect, where these modern ones, the effect is much quicker.

GP: Were people’s diseases very different when you began nursing, from what they were like, when you finished?

EB: No, just the same.

GP: More or less the same.

EB: There was always an odd one, of course that was different, but on the whole they were just the same sort of complaints and mishaps.

GP: Did you notice any differences in the way an operation was conducted?

EB: Well, it might be different techniques now perhaps, but I don't suppose there wouldn't be that much difference in the general technique. Might have a few more gadgets now that are much more effective. But I think the basic treatments the same.

GP: And the anaesthetics, they would have changed.

EB: The anaesthetics have changed out of sight, Yes they were very different now to then. Cause early on it was only ether or chloroform or sometimes a mixture, but now there's I suppose, very little of that used now, they've got so many other modern ways for anaesthetics now.

GP: One of the things I've noticed changed a lot is the attitude of nutrition, did you notice this change in the hospitals you worked in?

EB: Well there was not much stress laid on that side of it really, it was you know, particularly in the General Hospitals, it was just a basic diet, more or less for everyone. It was just divided up a bit. Some could eat anything others couldn't have meat, you know, just a few limitations on things, but there was not a great deal of stress laid on extras, as it were. There was no actual dietician in the hospital, not in those days, if there was we didn't sight them. But now I think in practically every hospital, every big hospital now, they've got someone wholly in charge of diet, to work out what's going to give them the best what ever diet, particular diet they're on. Course there's always certain diets, like a diabetic diet, that was pretty strictly adhered to, it had to be and it still has to be for that matter. Though there's a big change in that to, cause there's a change in the treatment of it, so that allows perhaps a wider area of diet than there used to be then. There's big advances in a lot of those things on a diet.

GP: Has there been a change in the role of the nurse over the years?

EB: Well that might be a corny one. I think these days that perhaps the nurses are more.... their training takes in more... their training takes in more than just the actual care of the patient. I think that they're taught more of what treatment could be used in this and that, where we were just taught how to nurse, but we weren't given so much opportunity to learn the why and the wherefore of what was done as they are now. They're more involved in the medical side of things perhaps than we were in those times, we were wholly and solely nurses, just carrying out doctor’s orders, that about what it amounted to there, where now I think they're co-operating more between the two.

GP: The doctors aren't so all-powerful now?

EB: No, well they're still the final say of course but they depend perhaps more now on the nurse’s observation and what they think is happening, than they did in those times. Those times you wouldn't tell the doctor what you thought, if you thought it was wrong you wouldn't tell him so.

GP: But you might now?

EB: I would now, because I lost my respect for doctors long ago, I don't think that they were the end all and be all as I did then.

GP: When did you lose your respect?

EB: I think when I was doing out-patients.

GP; When was that?

EB: Doing my training, doing out-patients.

GP: What did you see there?

EB: We had one of the physicians, he was doing the clinic and he became a bully to us and I got mad one day and I didn't take it just quietly as I had been doing and I told him my side of it, what I thought. I think he was rather shocked - it was a shock to me too - but we got on very well after that, but I thought " Well that's the last time I think you're sort of something out of the box". From then on I began to sort of, look at the others, and think, "Oh yeah I don't think you're so good after all either".

GP: You would have had a lot to do with doctors wouldn't you, especially when you were a Matron.

EB: Oh I suppose, saw a good number of them, but saw the same one often perhaps to put it that way, there were not so many, not round the smaller hospital, there were not so many.

GP: And in your work you would have seen a lot of younger nurses come and go.

EB: Yes

GP: And you would have been training them I suppose.

EB: In private hospitals of course, they're not training schools, they're not there as trainees, they’re only more or less assistants in nursing.

GP: I see, yes. So you didn't actually train nurses?

EB: No, well we trained them in a sense, because we trained them in our ways, you know as to what to do. But it wasn't a case of lecturing them and you know keeping them to a standard, a certain standard of lectures or anything like that. That was only done in the training schools. But we had a number of girls who didn't want to go on and do their training, they were quite content to stay on in the private hospital. It was a great pity with a lot of them that they didn't do their training because they really were excellent girls, excellent nurses and they would have done very well, you know, had they gone on and done their training but they were content to just work on as they were doing. So it just had to be their decision whether they went on or not. A number did go on and did their training, some came back to us as trained nurses then. Course it was up to them whether they carried on as they were doing, or whether they trained.

GP: Did you see many changes in the conditions, and the hours and the wages?

EB: Yes, oh yes, there was quite a… over the years there was quite a change in conditions, working conditions. Mainly for the better I would say, in all cases pretty well the changes were for the better.

GP: So what hours a week did you work when you started nursing?

EB: I think we did forty-eight, forty-eight I think a week when I started, then I got to forty-four, then down to forty.

GP: Did you ever feel as if you'd like more time to yourself?

EB: No, it didn’t worry me really. Once I was on duty, it was just sort of getting up and going on duty that was the catch, but once I was on it wasn't worrying me, I wasn't watching the clock seeing when it was time to get off. Sometimes I was but on the whole it didn't worry me whether I was a half hour longer it didn't matter. But I enjoyed all the wards I was working in. I never liked leaving one and starting a new one, but then I wouldn't have been, perhaps more than two or three days in a new one, and I was quite content to be changed, be there, I was quite happy there again and didn't want to leave that ward again.

GP: So nursing, what sort of patients did you like most?

EB: Well, the best wards were the male wards.

GP: Why?

EB: Well, there's a mixture there because men make the better patients, in that they don't want a lot of fussing over unless you get one who does, and if you do, well you've really got one on your hands. But on the whole, what they need is done for them, then they're satisfied, talk to their neighbour or whatever. They don't want a lot of fussing around them. But the women patients they do, they'll tend to want you drifting backwards and forwards and they want a bit more attention. But when it comes to bearing pain, women leave the men nowhere. Men can't bear pain like women can, except an occasional one, and I struck two while I was training. And what those men suffered, and there wasn't a… I never heard a word of complaint from either of them. Though we knew they were having it, they never complained and they never asked for anything for it. But we knew they were having it, because they couldn't avoid it, but I never heard a word of complaint from those two and as I say, those two at least stood out on their own. No women could have touched them for bearing pain.


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We commit to working in partnership with the Traditional Custodians and the broader First Nations (Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander) community to support self-determination through economic and community development.
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