Sunday, March 18, 2007

Jean Hopkins ( nee Phillips) - 1942

Jean was in Ward 2 with a TB gland in the neck as a 12 year old. She was allowed up and spent most of her time on the balcony.

This is an extract from her own written account:

“We lived in Swansea, so the journey there by bus seemed to go on forever. Mum and Dad were with me, which was very comforting. Thank heavens I was not aware of it, but I would in fact be spending my 12th birthday in July and Christmas 1942 as a patient there. I can remember feeling very sad and lonely after they had left, I know I cried quite a bit that night.

The trouble was I was the eldest child in the ward, so I could not let the younger ones see me sad. Jean Caldwell who was a year younger than me, became my friend, and after I was discharged in January 1943 she remained there.
Jean’s home was in London. She had been evacuated to relatives in Neath.
“I had what was known as the “sun ray treatment”. We patients sat in a circle around a contraption, which today seems antiquated. We were given very dark goggles to put on to protect our eyes from what I can only describe as a sparking flame.

“When a new girl was admitted it was a pleasant change. I can remember one such patient arriving and was duly settled in the “six bedder” ( Adelina Patti’s former bedroom).
We were allowed to pop in to see the six patients any time we pleased.

This new patient introduced us to her hobby of writing to film stars for an autographed photograph. I for one threw my heart and soul into this and was soon in receipt of my very first one, Gene Autry and his horse Trigger.

The male children were in the ward below us. Jean and I would write little notes to the boys below and lower them on pieces of our knitting wool. When someone discovered what we were up to, it was frowned upon and had to stop.


All our crockery and cutlery were numbered; this enabled each patient to have the same set each mealtime. If my memory serves me correctly, I was number 44.

One devastating blow was the fact the children were only allowed visitors once a month. All the time I was there I did not see my three brothers and little sister who was five years old. My eldest brother says he did come to Craig-[y-nos -y- one occasion,and can remember waving to me from the courtyard, and not quite seeing me distinctly at the window.

My time was spent reading, doing jigsaws and knitting. One idiotic rule I can remember was no knitting on a Sunday.

Sister Morgan was very kind. I do not know how often we had films in the theatre. Sister Morgan would take me on the promise I would not tell the other children where I had been. ...I cannot remember how I explained my absence to Jean.

We had a lovely big Christmas tree in the ward. On Christmas Eve the nurses toured the ward singing carols. Christmas morning when we awoke there were presents for everyone at the foot of the bed.

We had a very brief period of schooling. A teacher called Miss Watkins was the unfortunate one sent to educate us. I say unfortunate, as Miss Watkins had one heck of a task dealing with children whose ages ranged from five to twelve years old. At the end of term not to anyone’s surprise I was top pupil.
I still have my report.”

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