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Nurses remember the good old days at Knoxville General Hospital | Health

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Nurses remember the good old days at Knoxville General Hospital
Health, News, People, Schools
Nurses remember the good old days at Knoxville General Hospital

All that remains of the old Knoxville General Hospital is one building, now converted to a nursing home.

The nurses who trained at the hospital still get together to talk about old times.

It's a chance to reminisce about the Knoxville General Hospital School of Nursing.

They look at old photographs of buildings and classmates.

The women went to nursing school at the hospital in the 1950s and lived together in dorms on site.

"We were not supposed to go out to Wolfies. That was a little restaurant bar sort of thing that was out on the corner and naturally we gravitated there just as soon as we possibly could," Jo Ella McCall said.

Christine Christenberry remembered, "They would send me to Wolfies which was forbidden. We were not supposed to go to Wolfies. They would send me to Wolfies and I would come back with a big load of bologna sandwiches."

They have lots of tales of trying to sneak out of the dorm down a fire escape.

"I got down to the bottom of the fire escape and I didn't realize that it didn't touch the ground. So there I was just stuck and I couldn't reach the ground so then I was in a predicament of getting back up and back inside the dorm before the house mother came," McCall said.

The stories poured out 60 years later.

"I have kept up with the girls and come to the reunions and belong to the association and it has been a good life," Christenberry said.

She said she graduated early from high school at 16 and needed something to do.

"My mom called the mayor and said Mr. Dempster I have a girl that I want to be in Knoxville General Hospital School of Nursing. He said, no problem. She'll be in. She'll be getting a letter. And I did. So George Dempster is responsible for me becoming a nurse," she said.

She remembered a particular celebration in a locked conference room.

"The girls got together and they said we're going to have a smoke Chris you're going to smoke. So they handed me a Camel cigarette. Camels if you know anything about cigarettes. I didn't," she said. "I don't know what I did with this Camel cigarette but I about passed out and they said oh, we've got to get her some orange juice... It was a good lesson learned. But they thought it was funny."

Jo Ella McCall finished nursing training in 1954 and went to work as a surgical nurse.

"I thought I was so wonderful I was going to be making $221 a month. I was rich. Ha! Back in 1954," she said.

They normally meet once a year and have had as many as 35 show up.

McCall said, "We just talk about things that happened during training that we remember and things that have happened in our lives."

They shared experiences during training then took different paths: clinics, hospitals, marriage.

"I just don't think I could have ever done anything else and I know that I would have never loved anything like I loved nursing," McCall said.

Just like they loved each other for more than half a century.

Check out the KGH School of Nursing has a website with lots of history and information on reunions.

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