Former PMH nurses remember the good old days

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The ladies of the Princess Margaret Hospital 1/69ers celebrated their 50 year reunion with a trip to the Perth Children's Hospital.
Camera IconThe ladies of the Princess Margaret Hospital 1/69ers celebrated their 50 year reunion with a trip to the Perth Children's Hospital. Credit: Picture: Tom Zaunmayr, Tom Zaunmayr.

Dressed in red coats, blue chequered dresses and aprons, A group of 10 former and current nurses walked the halls of the Perth Children’s Hospital this week. The people and outfits were the same, only the building had changed.

Sunday marked 50 years to the day since a group of ladies known as the 1/69ers—one of only three cohorts to shake hands with Princess Margaret—begun their stint as student nurses at Princess Margaret Hospital.

Port Hedland resident Joan Foley, who went on to spend most of her nursing career in the outback, led the reunion efforts.

Blast from the past: The 1/69ers as trainee nurses 50 years ago.
Camera IconBlast from the past: The 1/69ers as trainee nurses 50 years ago. Credit: West Regional News

“I thought it is coming up to 50 years since we first walked in the door at the training hospital, lets stick together a reunion and see how many people will come,” she said.

“Having had children who have had lots of PMH care, that left me knowing what it was like to be the parent of a child with high care needs.

“We were 17, not old enough to vote, yet when we were on night shift and the senior went on lunch you had 40 kids in the ward.

VideoIn just three days the new children's hospital will open, marking the end of the days for Princess Margaret Hospital.

“We were not debriefed on trauma back then so our camaraderie was our therapy, our way of managing.”

Foley said some of the ladies had not seen each other since leaving training school 47 years ago.

After stints in Quairading and Esperance, fellow 1/69er Mary Bothamley went on to a long career at Princess Margaret Hospital, having served there from 1985 until 2016.

“It was probably the happiest time of my life that 3.5 years of training,” she said.

The ladies of the Princess Margaret Hospital 1/69ers celebrated their 50 year reunion with a trip to the Perth Children's Hospital.
Camera IconThe ladies of the Princess Margaret Hospital 1/69ers celebrated their 50 year reunion with a trip to the Perth Children's Hospital. Credit: Tom Zaunmayr.

“There have been a huge amount of changes, but the bottom line was always in the care you gave, not the medicine or other things, it was the nurturing and the love.

“Even though people used to say PMH looked very tired, it was what went on inside which kept the walls standing that was incredible.”

Practising nurse Francis Embleton had a particularly memorable meet with Princess Margaret after having to chase her down during a ceremony.

Blast from the past: The 1/69ers as trainee nurses 50 years ago.
Camera IconBlast from the past: The 1/69ers as trainee nurses 50 years ago. Credit: West Regional News

“Having to run after Princess Margaret for my certificate because there was a mix up with names, I’ll never forget that,” she said.

“What I say to my children is you never know when you might eat with the queen so watch your manners. After all, I met her sister.”

The three-day reunion tour saw the ladies meet up in South Perth, head off on a trip to Rottnest Island and take a tour of the new Perth Children’s Hospital in the outfits they wore as trainees 50 years ago.

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