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Published on April 03, 2015

Call Box: St. Vincent's nursing school grads have fond memories of their hospital time

By Sandy Strickland, Florida Times-Union

Unlike St. Luke’s, St. Vincent’s nursing school grads have no big reunion involving all classes. It’s up to the individual class to arrange a reunion, said Debbie Gottlieb, a member of the nursing class of 1970. Some do, and some don’t. Gottlieb’s class gets together every five to 10 years, with the last reunion five years ago on its 40th anniversary. Participants toured Seton Hall and had lunch. Gottlieb said another is planned this year.

Seton Hall still has the mailboxes used by the nursing students. The school closed in 1973. It opened in 1919 at Fifth Street and Boulevard in Springfield, and in 1928 patients moved into a new hospital on Riverside Avenue.

The Class of 1947 was a particularly close one with friendships forged so strongly that they still sought out each other’s company more than 60 years after graduation. The 13-member class lived in a house provided for student nurses on St. Vincent’s Riverside campus, said Trudy Lenten. They bonded while training in various specialty areas, as well as a three-month training period at a psychiatric hospital in Baltimore.

It was a time when there were few aides, so they had to comb female patients’ hair, bathe them, brush their teeth, empty bed pans and urinals and find vases for their flowers. Off duty, they went bowling on Bay Street, caught the bus to the beach and ate at Ma’s Hamburgers on Park Street and went to USO dances.

Every year, some of the women had a weeklong reunion, usually at a Florida beach, catching up on each other’s families, reminiscing about school and yes, discussing their own health issues. With only a few left of them left and now around age 88, they no longer get together, Lenten said.

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