Saturday, October 06, 2007

California calling!...Marlene Hopkins

"that's my bed behind Shelia Halford. I was known as "Marlene on blocks"."

"here I am standing behind Dr Huppert. I am on the right"

The phone rings.
Malcolm, my husband, answers it.
An American voice says:

“ I was in Craig-y-nos with your wife.”
“ Really? You don't sound Welsh.”
“I am Welsh and I speak Welsh.”
“Where are you ringing from?”

I grab the phone.
“Who are you ? when were you in?”
“My name was Marlene Hopkins . I was in from 1953 to 54. I was known as “Marlene on blocks.”
That’s my bed on blocks in the photo of Sheila Halford.”

From time to time out of pure nostalgia she taps Craig-y-nos into Google and she was amazed to discover my blog and to see a photo of her bed and another of herself with Dr Huppert.

Marlene always wanted to be a nurse and even in Craig-y-nos she used to keep a diary which noted her daily temperature and pulse.
After training she went for further studies in midwifery to the University of Chicago.
(I tell her I was in Chicago as an exchange student seven years ago at the School of the Art Institute).
We can't believe our paths have crossed again after all these years - Craig-y-nos - Chicago - and now the internet!

Yes we were in hospital at the same time though neither of us can remember each other partly because Marlene was a few years older than myself and she was inside Ward 2 while I lived out on the balcony.

These two tiny communities (14-20 girls inside and 8-10 outside) lived separate lives for years on end though we were physically only yards apart.

She remembers Sister Winnie Morgan -”very militaristic....a cold person, no warmth there, only once did I ever see her smile and that was the time she told me that I would be going home”.

And other staff:
“Thank God for Auntie Maggie and Nurse Glenys Davies. They were our surrogate mothers.”

How did she pass the time? “I had a stamp collection and I wrote letters and I kept a diary.”
Snap. So did I.

As for Dr Huppert “I remember her heavy accent and the way she used to drag her leg . Dr Williams was wonderful.”

Yes Dr Huppert frightened her but not as much as the ward bully. Neither of us can remember her name but we think it was Valerie, a physically big girl and a bit older than the rest of us.( One day she punched me real hard. I remember that.)

Marlene reminds me that Auntie Maggie and Nurse Glenys Davies used to bring in catalogues so that we could choose gifts for our families. They did our shopping.

Marlene recalls that the food was :”not up to much except on Sundays. I put on 20 lb. while I was in there.”

She was fifteen years of age when she went in and later she was moved to the Six-Bedder. Among the names she remembers is that of Norma Pearce, who has already been in contact with me.

Looking back on the experience she says it made her self-sufficient:” I can be on my own and enjoy myself just reading a book.”
Yes, it did help to develop inner resources.
“I did miss out on my teenage years. I grew up differently. I had a twin sister and I couldn't do the things that she did.

Now aged 70 Marlene has lived in America for over 45 years.

She’s been married for 43 years with four children and five grandchildren and she still retains family links with Wales.
“If you ever had another Reunion let me know and I will be there.

“I don't have bad memories of my time at Craig-y-nos though I do remember that I used to worry after x-rays and tomograms . I knew I was there for a purpose and that was to get better.”

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