St. Elizabeth Hospital in the Fifties (1950)

By Joyce Phillips Bryan

St. Elizabeth Hospital employed around two hundred people in the 50's. St. Elizabeth's was built in 1908 from granite stones quarried in the Elkhorn Mountains West of Baker. Many large buildings in Baker were made with this stone and some houses.

My Mother's Aunt Irma Spriet DeRoest, worked in the hospital, mending the Nuns and the senior's clothes. When she retired, she recommended my Mother (Julia Spriet Phillips) for her job. My Mother was such a good seamstress' that she was soon making the habits for the sisters.

Her Mother, my Grandmother (Alida Verhaeghe Spriet), worked at the hospital as a morning and lunch cook.

My future Mother-in-Law (Jacky Jackson), also worked at the hospital as a cook, taking my Grandmother's place as morning and lunch cook.

With my work permit and application in place, I was given a job in the cafeteria, after school and on Saturdays. When I started my hours were 4 to 7:30. So I had time to walk from the High School to the hospital, and after work, I would walk the 15 blocks home. I worked behind a steam table, serving up the food for those that came in. I cleared tables, washed them, and then in a room behind the steam table, was a large dishwasher that I used. Being young, fast and naive, I soon had my work done by 6:30. Sister Helen saved herself and the hospital an hour by letting me go at that time. I lost an hour and they gained an hour. Actually, this worked fine for me, as I would have homework to do or a movie to go to with my girl friends.

I had one big problem with Sister Helen though. Between the dishwasher and the hall was a large restroom that had not been used in years because it was so dirty. One day, Sister Helen decided when I did not have anything else to do (She hated to see me standing around waiting for my next customer) I could clean this filthy restroom. I was incensed! Here I was handling food and she wanted me to clean a restroom and then run to serve dinner to someone when they rang the bell? Not me!

I went to Sister Superior and explained the situation. Sister Superior decided I was right, and it would not be a healthy situation. Sister Helen was put right, and it was forgotten.

One week, one of the high school girls that worked on the third floor (nursing home) took a week off as they were short- handed. Sister Superior asked me to fill in for a week. Always eager to learn a new job, I said yes.

The job was easy enough, just fill all the pitchers with fresh water, and see to it that all washed their hands before dinner. Plump pillows and straighten bed clothes. Every thing went great on the ladies floor and soon I was done and went to the Men's floor. I was getting everything done in record time when I came to the 6-bed men's ward. Not finding a pitcher on the nightstand, but finding something that looked like a pitcher, I grabbed it and brought it back full of nice cold water. All the other nightstands had pitchers on them and so I went ahead with my work. I realized that some of the men were giggling and some were even laughing, but they were a good lot and someone had probably told a good joke.

Then Sister Francis called me aside in the hall to talk to me. "Joyce" (and she pointed through the doorway to the first pitcher)"That is not a pitcher." She said. "That is a urinal, and we do not use it for a pitcher." Well, how was I to know! I had never seen a urinal before!

St. Elizabeth Hospital

Additional Resources from Joyce - Belgian Town, Baker City, Oregon

Source: Joyce Phillips Bryan, from life experience.

Baker City

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