Oral Histories

Hannah Pittman

Hannah Pittman in nurse uniform.

Hannah Pittman Personal Recollection, 1957. Interviewed by ______.

I was asked to tell about the Old Grand County hospital, as I knew it from may 1939 until our new hospital, the Allen Memorial was ready for occupancy.

You might be a little interested in my arrival, May 16th, 1939. I came by train, arriving in the middle of the night at Thompson. A letter in my handbag stated that Dr. Allen would come to Thompson to get me. No one was there. Assuming that the only Doctor in a small community was busy, I decided to just wait in the station waiting room. When 6 a.m. came, the station agent told me that “Ma” Rogers’ cafe was now open, if I wanted a cup of good coffee. So I wandered across to her cafe, ordered some breakfast, and went back to the station. A bit later, Dave Goudelock, driver of the MoabTransportation truck, had arrived, checked with the agent, and went to load his truck.

In those days, caskets, fresh foods, and just about everything came by rail to Thompson, and was trucked to Moab and points south. Of course, the perishables came first, then whatever else was deemed most important that day.

Dave came to me and said, “Sister, I’ve saved enough room for you and your baggage. You better come to Moab with me.” Well, I explained about the letter, and the Doctor would meet me eventually.But Dave insisted I go with him. He finally loaded the trunk, and told me that he knew Dr. Allen, and that I wouldn’t be met. So, stubborn me, I let him go while I remained behind.

To make a long story short: At about 4 p.m., the nice, and concerned, “Ma” Rogers got me a ride to Moab with a United Produce salesman. He had to stop at a road camp (Moab people were building a new highway south of Crescent Junction and were in a cam12, complete with a cook). The fellow got his produce order there; then he came to Dalton wells CCC Camp. More orders taken while I waited; next stop was the Arches CCC Camp located about whereAtlas Minerals now is another wait, while he took orders; then we crossed the old one-way bridge and came to Moab. But, before taking me to the hospital he just had to take me out, what now is 4th North, and show me two of the oldest and biggest cottonwood trees. (One is still there, on the old Helen M. Knight residential place the other went down when 4th North was widened).

That man was fascinated with Moab’s trees. He also told me about the one by the former Clark property, still standing on East First South.

After all this, he finally took me to the Grand County Hospital. There, he took me in and introduced me to Faun Smith, head nurse. I soon found out, this hospital only had 15 beds on the main floor, and an isolation bed was later added after Faun married and moved out of her basement room. All other nurses had to rent rooms elsewhere, but could have all meals at the hospital; they were paid $100. per month. The other nurses consisted of one R.N. on 4-12 p.m., and one R.N. on 12-8 a.m. Fawn had day shift.

If there was surgery, all nurses rolled out to assist. Faun scrubbed, after putting out everything she though might be needed; one R.N. circulated and answered patient’s bells tho they were all “bed-panned” and given water and juice before we began our surgery and if we had a seriously ill patient, a member of the family was called in to “sit” until we finished. The other R.N. gave drop ether under the eagle eye of Dr. Allen.

There was no steam sterilizer for instruments; no autoclave. So we nurses sterilized surgery and o.b. packs inthe old copper boilers, on a wood and coal range in the laundry room, in the basement. We also kept two kettles of water, and whenever we smelled the boiler going dry, would go down, pour some water out the kettle spout into a sink, then lift the lid of the boiler, and pour carefully down the side until the water reached the tip of the wooden rack These boilers were also used for canning fruits and vegetables. Whenthey had “cooked” for many hours, packs were removed, and put in the oven, on wooden sticks, and in the warming oven above, to dry. Fortunately the Good Lord was with us, as we did not have infections.

Instruments were boiled on a very hot fire, in a big granite turkey roaster with a lid. Water poured off after 20minutes of hard boiling, and the pan carried up the stairs, and to the surgery. Yes, we who scrubbed got some burned fingers thru our rubber gloves, but it was all in a days’ work.

The other R.N. with Faun was Elizabeth Knight, a Moab girl, sister to Nate Knight Senior, Elsie Leec, and Erma Taylor.

Nurses were hired 7 days per week; if one wanted time off; she had to get a relief R.N. (few here) or a nurse-aid that had been trained by Dr. Allen and the nurses. That person got the$3,33 per day, paid to her by the R,N. she relieved. And don’t forget, if there was a surgery or severe accident, all 3R.N. ‘s had to be there. We did work hard but there also were days when we had only one or two patients, and I recall two days (when I worked nights) that we didn’t have any patients. Those days, it was not uncommon for an R.N. to paint a wall or two, or to clean cupboards, scrub a floor, etc.

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