I was fifteen, It was the heart of the depression and every family needed money. Our family was no exception.
Esther Koehler was a classmate in St. Peter & Paul high school in Seneca. She had a sister, Rita, who was in nurse training at St Francis hospital in Kansas City. The hospital needed summer help. Rita told the nuns that she could probably find several girls to work. Esther asked me if Iíd like a job for the summer. I was very excited about the prospect of working for real money but , Iíd have to convince mom and dad to let me go that far from home. It didnít take long for them to say OK.
Esther Koehler, Erma Woltkamp, Mary Alice Kohake and me Mary Kay Kokenge left for Kansas City the last of May. It was the first time away from home for all of us.
One of the nuns met us in the lobby of the nurseís residence and took us to our room. We all stayed together in one large dormitory room. We unpacked and settled down to our first night away from home. Mary Alice had the only radio. I was not used to turning on the radio anytime we felt like it. Our radio at home only worked when the wind charged the battery. I guess I was pretty impressed with the radio because I remember it to this day. Mary Alice turned on the radio to listen to some Glen Miller music but our room did not get good reception. We turned the radio every which way and set it in all different locations but no luck. The only way it worked good was to have some one hold the antenna wire. No one wanted to sit and hold the wire so we put a circle in the end of the wire and put it over someoneís big toe. Whoever was lounging on the bed or sleeping became the antenna holder.
The following day we were taken across the court yard to the hospital. Our first real money paying job was to begin. It was a big hospital for those days. Three floors high and three wings. My first challenge would be finding my way around. I was assigned to the floor with all the patients who had operations. No new babies on this floor.
I would begin the morning by dust moping the rooms. I donít remember how many rooms were assigned to me but I would finish the job by nine thirty or ten in the morning. When I finished that job I began to learn a little about nursing. The girls studying to be nurses followed the doctors on their rounds. As the doctor went into each room he would look at the wounds of each patient and explain everything to the nurses. My job was to follow this entourage with the medical cart. This cart had all kinds of bandages and medication to take care of the wounds. The first day on the job the doctor needed something from the operating room so he sent me to get it. I opened the operating room door and there on the table was a foot with about nine inches of leg standing in a white enamel pan. I stared in disbelief but told myself I had to get the medicine so I looked away and walked past the foot to the medicine cabinet.
Another unusual job was to sit and hold the hands of some of the really sick people who had no one to be with them. I always prayed that none would die whole I was holding their hand. None ever did so maybe my prayers were answered. I job I disliked the most was emptying the bed pans. These were flat pans used to potty in. We took the pans emptied them, washed them under a spray and put them on a rack to dry.
We worked six days a week so we had one day off to do our own chores, laundry and things like that. Once a week we walked a mile to get to a down town movie. We were all very frugal and didnít spend much money on anything else.
I made enough money that summer to pay for my books and everything I needed for school that next year. I bought my first new coat, not a hand me down, and the best thing of all, my prom dress.