Bite Size Memoir

Bite Size Memoir #6: My first Job

I’m still playing catch-up with Lisa’s Bite Size Memoir challenges from the past. Lisa is back from her short break now, so the prompts have begun again. This time, instead of the 150 words, I am using the option of 10 x ‘I remember’ statements.  I was 17 when I began my twelve month State Enrolled Nurse training at the Mount Gambier Hospital, my birthplace, in South Australia. So, here we go… shame I cannot lay my hands on my certificate and badge, and I haven’t a proper photo of me in uniform.

I remember My First Job.

I remember wearing a bright lime green midi-dress, with a gold chain belt, and white boots to my interview with Matron Odgen.

I remember the embarrassment of being examined by kindly Dr Joske, at Casterton, for the health assessment and chest xray.

I remember that first day going into my own room, on the fourth floor: room 407, and getting in trouble at one regular room inspection, months later, for not using Marveer to polish the wooden fitted furniture.

me nurses home

I remember the amazement I felt, that first time, going to the staff cafeteria – the yummy smells, all that food.

I remember I promptly put on weight because it was the first time in my life I’d ever had access to as much food as I could eat – three courses! every day!me blue lake

I think I remember that my uniforms were laundered (the property of the hospital), but I had to iron them, using Fabulon ironing spray: I shrunk my pink woollen mini dress (you can tell) in the wash and also managed to shrink a yellow woollen jumper (which took me months to knit) in the clothes dryer.

me lift




I remember collecting my first pay from the bank and buying a secondhand lounge suite for my mum: I still have a payslip to show you one day.

I remember being scared in my first lift experience: I still am nervous in them. (That’s a classmate in the photo.)

me nursing

The watch my parents gave me when I left home: it was impractical for reading while counting pulses, so I had to get another.

I remember the first body I prepared for the morgue, but I cannot remember her name: I treated her with respect and I cried.

me hotpants

I remember the first time I had to give an injection – the glass plunger fell out TWICE – and, after signing out the drug for the third time, the Sister came and watched, but she still made me do it to the poor woman patient: Over the border, in Victoria, nursing aides didn’t do injections.


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27 thoughts on “Bite Size Memoir #6: My first Job

  1. Sue says:

    Ah the good old days. Loved Fabulon, smelt fresh, had to be careful you didn’t use too much or it stuck to the bottom of the iron. Your lucky you had your own room, when mum was doing her training she shared and the girl used to throw a pillow at her to stop her snoring.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Sue says:

        Bet her room mate was glad when she went on nights. Oh, and they forgot about switching mum back to days, she did 12 months on night duty when they were supposed to do 3 months. (lucky room mate)

        Liked by 1 person

        • Sue says:

          Just read out some of your story and she said you were lucky to get 3 x 3 meals . She lived on bread & lard with sugar, they were stuck with the white beans (no fancy recipes in those days, just boiled). The war had started and the potatoes were given to the soldiers. She was lucky that she could go home at the weekends and get a good feed. A lot of the girls came from the country and couldn’t get back home.

          Liked by 1 person

          • That sounds awful. Not only did we have plenty of food, but we had choices! Our board and loadgings came out of our pay – I think it was about $13 a fortnight or something, left. Must find that payslip. Maybe it was $39. 😀 it’ll turn up during the spring clean that will happen anyday now – it’ll take to next spring.


          • Sue says:

            A hint to pass on – NEVER use Mr. Sheen on furniture that has a lacquer coating on it, it softens the lacquer and the coating will just scrape off with a fingernail. Marveer and Marteako (think that’s how you spell it) are much better. On bare timber any furniture oil or wax are best.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Sue says:

            Just saw Lisa’s comment on corpses. Mum said that the morgue was in the basement and you had to go along a long dark tunnel after going down in the lift by yourself. It was usually the young trainees job to take the body there. The young student doctors would lock the door and sneak off. One girl was hysterical by the time someone came to let her out. (Funny in some ways, but not very nice for the person being locked in)

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Christine, I love it, many good memories, I had the feeling you miss all of it, this challenge seems great, later I’ll check it. Thanks for sharing this important time in your life. Have a great day!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Maggie. I’d never heard of polishing furniture. I know mum polished the floor, but furniture! But I know better now, and I love nourishing wood – once I realised that was what proper polish was for. I still prefer Marveer to Mr Sheen.


  3. This is wonderful Christine! So much to remember. Nursing seems a baptism of fire for the young. I remember similar tales from both my Mum and her Mum (particularly some scary pranks with corpses!)

    Thanks for playing catch-up – Please stick a ping-back in the actual “First Jobs” post so anyone else stopping by there knows you’ve shared this.
    I love it! Especially the reminder that I put on about a stone the first term of university for very similar reasons, along with a pesky Kit-Kat vending machine – the likes of which I had never had access to before!!

    Thank you for playing catch-up – this was one of my favourite prompts – the reposes were all really rich in experience.

    Lisa xx

    Liked by 1 person

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