“Starched White Aprons – Pink and White Checks”
Southampton Hospital – Suffolk School of Nursing 1959 – 1962.
I was there in those years studying to be a Registered Professional Nurse,
my dream since I was seven years old. And, I was amongst fifteen other young
women in my class with that similar goal.
Suffolk School of Nursing was established in 1924, with just six students
in the first class. It was located on the grounds of Southampton Hospital,
between Meeting House Lane and Herricks Lane. The name of our residence
was Ellen Jacobsen Hall and the school was called the George H. Schenck
Memorial Building. The hospital, the school, and the residence were all
connected by tunnels; mostly to facilitate accessibility during inclement
A three year diploma school, Suffolk School of Nursing was the only
nursing school in Suffolk County at that time. It was also in the heart of one of
the most beautiful and oldest towns in the U.S.A., situated between the nearby
Atlantic Ocean and Peconic Bay. There were tree lined streets with sidewalks,
green lawns, lush fields, pretty ponds, and a very wide Main Street with a
variety of exclusive stores and restaurants. Much of how it looks today.
As my class started our first year, we were called probies during the first
six months. We each had a “big sister”, an upper classman, who would
acquaint us with routines, and try to answer our questions. My ‘big sister” was
Our uniforms consisted of a pink and white, tiny-checkered dress that
had a white, pleated bib and short sleeves, and a starched, white apron with a
buttoned waist. We wore white stockings and white shoes. A white nurse’s
cap, which we starched and folded ourselves, completed the look. If local
citizens or “out-of-towners” were patients or visiting the hospital, they were
sure to see one or more of us scampering about the grounds, or taking care of
patients during our clinical experiences. These uniforms were impressive, and
we were so proud to wear them.
In June of 1960, our class was given a capping ceremony where we
received a blue band for our white caps, recited the Florence Nightingale Pledge
and held our lanterns with lit candles. This took place at the Parrish Memorial
Hall on Herricks Lane.
For the next three years, we studied many courses, listened to doctors’
lectures, and dedicated our summers to working in the hospital.
In our free time, we would bicycle to the ocean on Old Town Road, attend
Sunday service at one of the local churches, or window shop on Main Street.
Tanya’s clothing store was one of our favorite shops. Most of us didn’t have a
car, so we usually walked to these places. When the movie, “Psycho”, was
featured in 1960 at the movie theatre on Hill Street, about six of us sat in the
front row and screamed. That shower scene was a shocker! Then, during
Hurricane Donna in 1960, two of my classmates, Helen and Marge, and I rode
the hospital elevator up to the roof solarium, and watched as the wind and
waves toppled a large, waterfront house into the ocean.
During summers, we would be surprised to see celebrities visiting the
hospital. I met the Rheingold girls, who were doing a publicity stunt in the
Hamptons for the beer product. Ava Gabor came in one day to visit a patient.
Then, there were two sisters, Ann and Charlotte, who were often seen
there as volunteer candy stripers.
As students in our senior year, we were required to affiliate at city
hospitals for Psychiatric, Pediatric, and Obstetrical Nursing. We spent three
months at each place. At each hospital, we were always admired for our pink
and white uniforms; most nursing schools used blue and white, but ours were
different. Although it was exciting to live in the city, we were always so glad to
return to Southampton each time a program ended. Back to the open spaces,
fresh air and beautiful town of Southampton.
Finally, three years went by, and my classmates and I graduated on
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