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Posts tagged ‘sisterhood’

(May 1-3, 2014, was reunion weekend for graduates of the Montreal General Hospital School of Nursing. Our class, the Class of 1964, celebrated the 50th anniversary of our graduation. Please click on the photos for a larger version. The quality of the photos is not consistent.)

Friday morning: The Livingston Hall Coffee Party

There was a glass case just outside the lounge in Livingston Hall. I was waiting for my classmates and I was looking at our class’s memorabilia which was on display.

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“Who are they?” I heard someone ask.

“They’re nurses who used to work here. They came back for a reunion,” said another voice. “They used to wear proper uniforms and a cap.” After a few disparaging remarks about how nurses have changed, he went on. “They were real nurses,” he said fondly.

The questioner was a young man in uniform – probably a porter – and the middle-aged man answering the questions was from housekeeping. “You’re one of them, aren’t you?” he said to me.

I assured him I was and we had a lively conversation about what Livingston Hall used to be like. They were interested to hear that it was our home as well as our school – I pointed out the nearby elevators and told them about our rooms and some of the fun we had there, as well as the more difficult times.

There are many highlights of our reunion weekends but the visit to Livingston Hall always stands out because it takes us back to a more familiar place than some of the other events. It’s there that our memories are waiting.

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So many of us, for example, remembered Miss Herman, ever-vigilant, with her tape measure to make sure we didn’t have too much leg showing on our way to work. I was an expert at turning my waistband so my apron was a good two and half inches shorter than it was supposed to be. I wasn’t nearly as good at avoiding Blanche but on the days I did, I always had a better day.


When a few classmates and I walked along the corridor between Livingston Hall and the hospital lobby – with a stop at the Hop Shop, of course – we slowed down to pay homage to Mrs. MacLeod near where her office was. A little further on, we remembered – by name – our evening and night supervisors. We remembered some more fondly than others.

Since graduation, we’ve lost 12 of our classmates. There are some we’ll always remember as the girls they were when they left us, far too soon. Others, lost more recently, are still mourned, still causing us to say, “I can’t believe it. It seems like only yesterday that we talked.” Whenever we meet, our missing classmates are there, if only fleetingly, because in some small ways, we ask time to stand still for that kind of remembering.

Thursday evening: Reception at the Omni

We had 56 members of our class attend our reunion – an excellent turnout for a class that graduated 108 students 50 years ago. We were in varying stages of mobility and health and, as we’ve observed before, some of us are instantly recognizable having retained at least some of our identifiable characteristics. Others of us must try to keep our nametags front and centre to try and minimize any embarrassment and to avoid those awkward whispers of, “Who is that anyway?”


Our sense of fun remains intact and we enjoyed the Omni. Our Thursday reception, the first point of contact unless we had run into each other in the lobby, was a party of perpetual motion and musical chairs as we tried to talk to everyone at once.




Friday evening: Dinner at the Omni

We all went to dinner wearing funny glasses, emblematic of the 50-year class. We stayed up late, got up relatively early, commiserated with those who are going through a rough patch, admired photos of grandchildren, new digs, momentous life events. We talked and talked and talked.

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In the end, we behaved like the sisters we are. Sisters, not by virtue of blood or relationship, but sisters in life experience and in shared memories.


Because we don’t want it to be over, we’re all prepared to do it again, whenever we can.


One of the highlights of 2009 was the May reunion of my Montreal General Hospital nursing class. I did a short write-up of the weekend for the alumnae newsletter which was published in the Fall. I’m republishing it here. It will be of special interest to my nursing friends but perhaps there will be some general interest in it as well.

When I began to write this, it took me by surprise when I acknowledged to myself that a tour of the hospital and the nurses’ residence, Livingston Hall, stood out as such a highlight of the reunion weekend. Hanging out in the hotel, walking the downtown neighbourhoods, eating good food and being together for the wonderful evening of the alumni dinner couldn’t have been more fun but it was in walking the halls of where we used to live and work that the past really returned to life.

In 1961, when we arrived at the MGH, the hospital had only been open for six years. It’s been through a lot since then; it shows some wear and tear but that’s to be expected. During the tour, we found it amazing 1) how much and how many details we remembered and 2) how everything used to be so much bigger.

For those of us who haven’t worked in a hospital setting for some time, things looked unfamiliar and intimidating but we found it easy to super-impose yesterday’s memories over today’s realities. We stood in the sixth floor lobby – not as imposing as it used to be, by the way – and looked at those six elevators that used to take us up to work every morning. Funny thing, we all had the same memory and that was how, as student nurses, we had to stand back and let the staff doctors go first even though they wouldn’t catch hell from the head nurse if they were late – as we certainly would.

From that memory, we went on to the one about being in the cafeteria lineup where we had to let practically everybody get into line ahead of us – and we had only a strictly-enforced 30 minutes for lunch. The cafeteria is a much different place today and if we complained about the food then … well, there’s no guarantee the commercial fast food and pre-cooked meals of today would be met with any more satisfaction.

The affection that we feel for the Montreal General is connected to much more than happy thoughts of youth. The time we spent at the MGH School of Nursing was formative in so many positive ways. I had written about an earlier reunion and speculated on the intimacy that was still present in our relationships with one another:

We wondered why we still felt so close, although it had been many years since some of us had seen each other. We knew there was something more than just the simple fact of having lived in residence together even though our residence was not only our home but was also our school and was connected to our workplace on several different physical levels.

In the end, I think our bond of sisterhood grows out of years of proximity to each other but also to our shared participation in the great stories of life and death and in knowing the intrinsic value of the important work we were so well-trained to do at the Montreal General Hospital.

There were 57 members of the Class of ’64 at our 45th reunion. There were classmates whom I hadn’t seen in the whole 45 years since graduation. It made me think regretfully of the light-hearted way the words, “Have a great life …” are used by the young and how different the significance of those words is at the different stages of our lives.

The organization of activities and fun was flawless and in case we didn’t all get a chance to say so, many thanks to everyone who worked on the reunion, at all levels, to make such a satisfying weekend come together.

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