Times Past: Janet Keyes remembers her first day in nursing school at Franklin County Public Hospital

  • Student nurses discuss their studies inside the living room of the nursing student building in 1960. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

  • The growth of the nursing school necessitated a dormitory addition in 1949. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

For The Recorder
Published: 5/12/2017 4:45:28 PM

It was Sept. 15, 1957. It was a Sunday and I was moving into the nurses’ residence of the former Franklin County Public Hospital to start my nurse’s training.

I was scared. New things always scared me. Would I like the other girls? More importantly, would they like me? Would I be the smartest? Did that really matter?

I found my room — I think with the help of an older student. The room was small, but there was space enough for the bed, bureau, desk and chair as well as the closet and the sink.

The bedspread and curtains were sturdy, institutional and a dull salmon pink. I made a mental note to get a pair of real curtains and a bed cover I would like. There was room in the closet for the salmon pink stuff to be neatly folded and placed out of sight.

I went downstairs to the large parlor where other girls were entering. We were a small class of only 14 girls.

My head filled with first impressions and confusion as I looked around the room. There was a bubbly dark-haired girl, a merry-looking blond, a cute redhead — who seemed to be friends with an equally cute brunette, a stern-looking girl, an older girl who appeared sophisticated and a pretty girl from Turners Falls. There was a stylish blue-eyed, black-haired Irish-looking girl, a girl who looked even more terrified than I felt, a beautiful and tall girl, a short and friendly girl and a few others.

It was late afternoon when Deanna, a kind older student, invited me to go to the cafeteria and have supper with her. I gratefully accepted the invitation and felt more grown up than I had to then — and probably should have.

I don’t remember what I ate that evening — only that as we were leaving, my classmates were arriving.

My heart sank as I realized I should have stayed with my classmates that night. Within the first 24 hours of my arrival, I learned that by leaving my classmates that very first evening, I managed to miss a significant orientation speech and some special instructions, which laid the groundwork for me to suffer some embarrassment. I felt alone.

Returning back to my new residence after supper, I went to my room and unpacked. The queasy feeling in my stomach was not related to the food I had eaten, I knew that, for sure.

My thoughts kept returning to the date I had enjoyed the previous evening with a nice guy whom I really liked. His name was Allan and I had hoped he would call me for a second date. He was so nice. It was hard to imagine that we would be married three years later.

As that first evening wore on, I found myself in the room of the bubbly brunette, who earnestly said, “I hope our class can all be friends — I don’t want us to be broken up into little cliques like those girls in the class ahead of us.”

I was not sure how she knew about the second-year girls, but I shared her hope and optimism as our new life was beginning.


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