Thursday, June 12, 2008

Valerie Brent, ex-nurse Craig-y-nos 1946-48

Inside the Glass Conservatory

Winter of 1947

During the 1947 snow the hospital was snowed in for two whole weeks.
“So it was - bed to work, bed to work.”

“I used to go and help them fill up the hot water bottles on the boys balcony.

You would hear the little boys saying” my hot water bottle is cold” and they would be snuggled down the bottom of the bed when they were supposed to be up the top having fresh air.
And I would have to tell them:” Come on back out!” I used to think they would smother but they never did.

“The children would be like little balls of fire buried at the bottom of their beds. We had to pull them up for the fresh air. It seemed to me that it was so cruel. But I was very young and didn’t understand that was the treatment.”

In the mornings it would take two nurses to lift the snow covered tarpaulins off the bed and throw it over the balcony.

The sweetie tins
Nothing had to be kept in the lockers, which would deter children from eating their proper food.
After each meal they would get treats and the “sweetie tin” would be passed around.

The nurses needed to supervise the patient eating, supposing a mother brought a bar of chocolate in and gave it to the young boy then perhaps he wouldn't feel like his lunch so I think that was the reason behind all that to make sure they had nothing in their lockers that would deter them from eating their proper food.

The children would have their meal, then bed pans and we would wash them, then we would go round with the chocolate in a big tin and we would cut up the bars of chocolate into pieces. this would be done after breakfast.
The reason behind that this was to give them the chocolate or sweeties after every meal as a treat so that they would be quite hungry and ready for the next meal.

So it was no good feeding them in the middle of the afternoon otherwise they wouldn't be hungry for their next meal. They were given this every day three times a day we used to go around with the sweetie tin and the chocolate. This was in the Conservatory.

Visiting time
Visiting was only once a month and that was petty traumatic. It was like Christmas day every month with the things that used to be brought in.

“The children would go crazy with excitement.”
Absolutely crazy.”
A couple of the older ones 6-9 years of age would know the weekend in the month that visitors were due would be crazy for two or three days before.
It was like Christmas.
Whatever they brought in could not go back out. It had to stay there forever.

It would become their personal toys while they were there.
But they wouldn't be allowed to take them home. Nothing was allowed out.

There was a certain part of the corridor near the entrance to the Conservatory where we used to accept all these things and once they were over that line they could not go back out.

Relatives used to come with hot water bottles because it was so cold and they would have them under their coat, that’s people who couldn't suffer the cold very much because doors and windows were open in the Conservatory.

I can recall being at the door when the relatives were coming in and they would hand over a cake or whatever anything they had brought they would hand over, hand over everything chocolates and sweets.

They would hand it over at the door and we would stack it up until we had got all the visitors in then we would take it to the main pantry and store them there so that every child, irrespective of who brought what in every child had the same, some most probably couldn't afford much. Whatever came in was stored then distributed around the whole ward.


We used to have sing songs for the children:” It is a happy, happy day the sun has got his hat on”.
We started singing if we saw the little ones were crying to try and keep them happy.

Yes, children were in restrainers during the day otherwise they would get out of bed.
If nurses had time they would untie maybe one or two and play with them but you were never allowed to leave them untied. Maybe this would be untied for half an hour, if we had time.


“We tried to make this a special occasion. We would dress the girls in pretty dresses and they would walk in a crocodile to the theatre with their little bag of sweeties.”

(The final part of this interview will appear tomorrow).

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