Archive for the ‘General’ category

Holiday Greetings

December 26, 2012

Christmas Greeting/Postcard from 1911 NWPL#3186

Christmas Greeting/Postcard from 1911 NWPL#3186

This photograph is taken from an original greeting card/postcard. New Westminster’s Columbia Street in about 1911, looking west near Church Street after paving and improvements – such as new street lights were done. At right from foreground is the Hall-Lavery Block, the building with the public Library and Firehall, and City Hall. The card was signed by Blanche and Alfred. The inside verse read: “’Neath Good Fortune’s fond perfection,/May your Christmastide be spent/To your perfect satisfaction,/And your heart’s entire content!”

We wish all our readers a Very Merry Christmas and a Happy, Healthy New Year.

Please check back here in the new year for new posts. In the meantime, grab a cup of coffee and browse through back posts either by date, or by topic. Check the categories on the right to find posts in your area of interest.



December 12, 2012

The first male nurse to graduate from a BC hospital, James Bullen, finished his training at St. Paul’s School of Nursing in 1950. Coincidentally, he was the great-grandson of BC’s first medical doctor – Dr. JS Helmcken. In New Westminster, the first male nurse graduated from RCH in 1968.

That 1968 graduating class saw two massive changes in who could be a nurse. An article in the local New Westminster paper in late 1964 foreshadowed one of these changes, saying that a man had signed up as a student nurse. That’s all it said – no details of who it was (he preferred to remain anonymous), or whether the rules had changed – just that a male had signed up. Then in May of 1968, the following article reported that the first man had graduated from the RCH School of Nursing.

This article also refers to another huge change that would profoundly affect the career decisions of thousands of students – nurses could marry and still practice nursing. Technically, this was not a first. During the Second World War, there was such a shortage of trained nurses that, in order to fill the need, temporary licences were granted, married nurses were permitted to work and student nurses were allowed to marry, though only to servicemen. However, hospital rules often remained that a student could either be a nurse, or marry, but not both.

While it is unlikely that any of the student nurses named in this article are still nursing, some of these names may be familiar.


Rosalind Guppy, Roland Wood, Marna Dueck….graduates

Rosalind Guppy, Roland Wood, Marna Dueck….graduates

“Three years ago, Roland Wood walked into a classroom at the Royal Columbian Hospital school of nursing and was asked by the teacher: “Yes sir, may I help you?” I’m Mr. Wood, and I’m a student,” he replied. Monday night, he ceased being a student and became a full-fledged nurse and the first male graduate of the school.

Wood, who was elected valedictorian of the class, was accompanied by 73 female nurses and one other male nurse, Reinhold Adolf Schmidt, of Chilliwack, at the graduation ceremony at Vincent Massey School auditorium. Schmidt started the course six months after Wood. Wood, 32, said he decided to become a registered nurse after working as a psychiatric nurse at Woodlands school for 10 years. “I decided to step up my qualifications, but the problem was finding a school which would take someone who was both male and married – and Royal Columbian did,” he said.

Wood said his fellow students were surprised but pleased with his entry into the class. “I’ve been sort of a big brother to the girls, and I’ve had a fair amount of wet shoulders during the course,” he said. In his valedictory address, Wood said the students had started out as strangers and had quickly become friends through their common study and work. “We came from many different backgrounds, in many shapes and sized, and for the first time in two sexes,” he said. He paid tribute to the girl graduates. “There are two times in your lives when you’ll look the most beautiful – once when you’re a bride, and once – right now,” he said.

Guest speaker, Eleanor S Graham, executive secretary of the Registered Nurses Association of BC, told the graduates they must make sure they still keep in touch with the patients. “The role of the nurse must change in the future, but the nurse must not be taken farther away from the patient,” she said.

The general proficiency award for the September 1968 graduating class was awarded to Mrs. Marna Dueck, 21, of New Westminster. Mrs. Dueck, who married eight months ago after regulations on marriage were relaxed, said she had always wanted to nurse. “It sort of runs in the family – four of my cousins are nurses too,” she said. Mrs. Dueck said she hopes to enter public health nursing and perhaps work overseas. Her husband, Peter, is a social worker.

Winner of the general proficiency medal for the February, 1968 class was Rosalind Guppy, 23, of New Westminster. The Dr. J Margullius Medical Nursing Award was presented to Annie Millar of Coquitlam, and the Dr. George T. Wilson Surgical Nursing Award to Carolyn M. Davies, of Vernon. The obstetric nursing award for the February class went to Judith C French, of Burnaby, and the paediatric nursing award to Sandra Yurick of Vernon. The September class obstetric award was presented to Fracya C Miller of Vancouver. Barbara Clippingdale, of North Burnaby, won the medical nursing award, and Magdalena Ruesch, of New Westminster, the surgical nursing award.”

Vancouver Sun, May 7, 1968

It All Started With A Few Test Tubes

December 5, 2012

There are few if any departments at any hospital that do not depend on laboratory services to be able to function safely, efficiently and effectively. But “laboratory services” have changed dramatically over a relatively short period of time.

Lab tech hand

The function of laboratory services was first provided at the Royal Columbian Hospital in 1918, but it was not done on site. Mr. Gooding, a bacteriologist, was contracted at the rate of $30 per month, and worked at his laboratory at the Public Hospital for the Insane. His lab work consisted primarily of analysing specimens using only a few test tubes, reagents and a microscope.

The lab at Royal Columbian Hospital itself began in 1920 in a vacant room in the basement of the 1912 building. Mr. Louis A Breun was appointed as Chief Bacteriologist to manage the laboratory, X-ray and pharmacy departments with the assistance of one technician – Miss Isobel Barr.

Sixteen years later, the following article appeared in The British Columbian, Royal Columbian Hospital 75th Anniversary Edition, 1937.

Fine Laboratory Built Up During 16 Year Period

One of the proudest assets of the Royal Columbian Hospital is the up-to-date laboratory, started with a few test tubes 16 years ago by L.A. Breun, chief bacteriologist and gradually built up by him into the very complete and efficient department it is today. It is the lab that diagnoses thousands of cases by testing blood, tissues or fluids taken from a sick patient.
Mr. Breun is assisted by Miss I. Barr, technician, and shortly the laboratory will be expanded and the quarters doubled. The basal metabolism department will be extended and Mr. Breun will be given additional assistants.
The laboratory may handle between 650 and 800 cases every month, some specimens requiring numerous special tests.
Since the laboratory was started, Mr. Breun has handled 32,023 pathological tests. These are not the routine tests, which run into a large number more. In the past five years, the number of monthly tests made in the lab have doubled. Besides tests for germs and tests of cultures, Mr. Breun does section work, such as studying tissues for cancer and so forth.
In addition to all sorts of pathological and routine hospital tests the department makes any tests required by the city department of health, such as tests of milk and water and for infectious diseases.
In 16 years the department has gradually acquired a fine array of microscopes, culture incubators and similar equipment. Mr. Breun has also accumulated an unusually complete range of pathological exhibits and a fine library.”

As the hospital grew, so did the need for a histological department and in 1948, Dr. P.S. Rutherford became the first permanent pathologist at RCH. He had a staff of 8, including himself, 6 technologists and 1 stenographer. Eventually, in 1952 the lab moved from the basement to the top floor of the old wing of the 1912 building, and included a training school for technologists.

The concept of a Regional Laboratory Service was introduced in the mid-50s, and the role of a lab technologist began to change with automated equipment and computers becoming a standard part of the work.

Would Adrian Breun or Isobel Barr recognize any of the equipment in a hospital laboratory today? What would they make of the partial list of procedures available from Outpatient Laboratory Services at Royal Columbian Hospital that includes “blood and urine collection for chemical analysis to determine glucose/lactose tolerance, cholesterol level, HDL/LDL and triglyceride level, and blood gas analysis; sweat chlorides, bone marrow testing, H. pylori breath tests, fine needle aspirates, coagulation testing and endocrine simulation tests?

Diane Oberg RCH Lab Technologist 1998

Diane Oberg RCH Lab Technologist 1998

They might well wish that they could have been part of the exciting and complex world of laboratory medicine of 2012, but without the groundwork they and others did in the first half of the 20th century, none of today’s services would be possible.

They would certainly have been impressed if they had seen the full double rainbow on December 4, 2012 clearly indicating that RCH really is worth its weight in gold!

Double rainbow Dec 4, 2012 over Royal Columbian Hospital. Courtesy of A Sense of History Research Services.

Double rainbow Dec 4, 2012 over Royal Columbian Hospital. Courtesy of A Sense of History Research Services.

Health for a Shilling

November 21, 2012

Medications that are now used with great caution, if at all, were common place in the Victorian age. Mrs. Winslow’s Soothing Syrup, described as an indispensable aid to quiet crying or teething babies, had morphine as a major ingredient. Opium, regarded as an all-purpose drug, was widely used to control coughing and diarrhea. One company sold heroin tablets to relieve asthma symptoms. Cocaine was used in drops for toothache, one company promoted cocaine throat lozenges as “indispensable for singers, teachers and orators”, and dentists and surgeons used it as an anesthetic.

While these were legitimate drugs in medical practices of the late 1800s, a whole range of patent medicines also flourished during that period. People bought them from traveling medicine shows, and they were advertised in newspapers and magazines. The golden age of patent medicines ended in the early 1900s, when new legislation prohibited the misbranding of foods and drugs, as well as false advertising. Also, as legitimate medicine evolved, new cures replaced the old. Opium and other addictive drugs fell by the wayside once scientists realized their pitfalls, and novocain replaced its predecessor, cocaine, as an anesthetic.

Advertisements from the British Colonist of October 7, 1862, the day RCH opened, included ones for Holloway’s Pills, Brown’s Bronchial Troches, Dr. Jayne’s Sanative Pills, and Dr. J. Hostetter’s Stomach Bitters, standard remedies that most New Westminster families would have had on their shelves.

Ads for Dr. Hostetter’s Stomach Bitters were often targeted specifically to local conditions. During the Civil War, they were sold to soldiers as “a positive protective against the fatal maladies of the Southern swamps, and the poisonous tendency of the impure rivers and bayous.” In BC, the ad described the medicine as “a preventive of various dangerous diseases to which the gold seeker is liable”. The original formula was about 47% alcohol – 94 Proof! The amount of alcohol was so high that it was served in Alaskan saloons by the glass. Hostetter sweetened the alcohol with sugar to which he added a few aromatic oils (anise, coriander, etc.) and vegetable bitters (cinchona, gentian, etc.) to give it a medicinal flavour.

Ad for Hostetter’s Stomach Bitters

Dr. Jayne’s Sanative Pills, on the other hand, would speedily remove “bilious affections”, and were “invaluable to the miner as they may be taken without necessitating a discontinuance from work, even though the latter should be in the winter”.

Ad for Dr. Jayne’s Sanative Pills

Feeling a little hoarse? Brown’s Bronchial Troches were just the thing. The ad quoted a clergyman from Morristown Ohio, “Last spring I feared my lungs were becoming dangerously involved, and until I used your Troches could not preach a sermon of ordinary length without hoarseness, but now, with the assistance of the Troches, I have in the past five weeks preached some forty sermons.”

Ad for Brown’s Bronchial Troches

But the most popular patent medicine of that time was Holloway’s pills. Under the title, “Health for a Shilling”, their ad claimed that they would cure an astonishing number of diseases and conditions from coughs, colds and asthma, to dysentery, gout, tumours and “weakness from whatever cause”. Analysis of the pills showed that they contained aloe, myrrh and saffron, which while probably not harmful, would be unlikely to have the claimed effect.

Holloways Ointment and Pills

OMG! Did I Really Look Like That?

November 7, 2012

Old scrapbooks and photo albums are a great way to learn about the past. If they’re fully captioned and labelled, they can be a great source of information, and if they’re not labelled at all, well, they can still be fun. A large photo album came our way recently with lots of unlabelled photos of past events designed to raise funds and public awareness at Royal Columbian Hospital in the mid-to-late 1980s and ’90s.

Many are pretty self-evident, but some are a little puzzling. We’re hoping that some people will recognize themselves or others in the following, or at least be able to tell us more about the event at which they were taken. Even if that doesn’t happen, they provide a great glimpse at the kind of events that were happening about 25 years ago.

RCH Fundraising Thermometer Being Installed on Woodward’s Roof 1988

This “thermometer” was installed on the roof of the Woodward’s store at 6th & 6th in uptown New Westminster in 1988 to keep track of funds raised for Royal Columbian Hospital. The slogan was “Catch Our Fever: It’s Your Turn to Care” and the top of the thermometer showed $6.0 million – did they reach it?

1989 Get-Away Van

This Get-Away Van was the Grand Prize in a fundraising project in 1989. Not sure why this man is having his blood pressure taken – did he just win the prize?

Raymond Burr as Key-Note Speaker 1988

There was great excitement when the famous New Westminster-born actor, Raymond Burr, visited RCH in May, 1988. Here he is shaking hands with then-Mayor Tom Baker, while Norm Grohman looks on. Burr has just finished his key-note speech.

Raymond Burr Chatting With Staff

Raymond Burr obviously enjoying a friendly chat with RCH staff in the cafeteria.

CKNW Orphans Fund Presentation

Jim Fair, President and CEO of RCH, explains a piece of equipment to Judge Tom Fisher in an undated CKNW Orphans Fund presentation – probably 1988 or 89.

The following 5 photos were all taken at the Surgery Open House Day December 01, 1991 at which almost every department had a table or booth, or was open to the public. It was obviously very successful judging by the crowds in other photos in the album. Recognize anyone?

The sign on the wall may say “It doesn’t have to hurt”, but the young man in the red sweater doesn’t look very convinced.

Auxiliary volunteers always at the centre of the action!

Certainly a happy group!

Even with all those balloons, some of that equipment looks pretty scary.

She looks like a natural, so did she eventually become a surgeon?

If you know any of these people or attended these events and can add details, please share your comments.

Royal Columbian Hospital Auxiliary

October 31, 2012

Among the many thousands of events the Royal Columbian Hospital Auxiliary has held in support of RCH over the last 110 years, one of the most poignant was a tea to honour the student nurses when they received their caps. The following article appeared in The British Columbian in the early1950s, describing that year’s ceremony.


LIGHT OF MERCY was lit anew at Royal Columbian Hospital Friday night as 16 preliminary nursing students attended a “capping ceremony” and were admitted to membership in the student nurses’ association. The ceremony is symbolized by the lighting of a nurse’s candle by a senior nurse as the student receives her cap. Pictured from left are Miss Irene Templeton, Matsqui; Miss Phyllis Brown, chief instructress; Miss Elizabeth Clark, superintendent of nurses; Miss Molly Pickton, New Westminster. Miss Pickton has just been capped.
Undated article in 1949 The British Columbian

A delightful mid-week social event was the “capping” tea held this afternoon by the Royal Columbian Hospital Auxiliary to honour the student nurses who will receive their caps tomorrow evening at the hospital capping ceremony.

Mrs. Wiliam Stewart, 520 Third Street, gave the use of her home for the party. The hostess was assisted in welcoming the 39 nurses by Mrs. W.R. Brewster, auxiliary president, and Mrs. G.N. Matthews who were in charge of the tea arrangements.

Spring flowers adorned the living room, and the lace covered tea table was centered with a low plaque of daffodils and yellow mimosa. Tall tapers burned in silver candelabra. Miss Helen McGillivray was in charge of the tea table. Presiding at the urns for the first hour were Miss Eleanor Graham and Mrs. J. Gartside. Their places were taken by Mrs. C.D. Peele and Mrs. C.R. McMillan.

Assisting to serve were Mrs. R. McDowell, Mrs. Douglas Quinn, Mrs. H.C. Lennerton, Mrs. Molly Nixon, Mrs. T.R. Selkirk, Mrs. M. Lane, Mrs. J. Wilson, Mrs. S. Wilder, Mrs. G.H. Worsley, Mrs. W. Phillips, Mrs. C.E. Rook and Mrs. H McCauseland.

Mrs. Douglas Phipps was in charge of the capping register, and the drawing for the registration prize. Tea cups were read and there was also fortune telling by palm reading and cards.

Other events were usually intended to raise funds which would then be used to purchase equipment for the hospital. The following photos described some of the preparations for the 1950 Country Fair. That year, the fair realized $5,000 which the Auxiliary used to completely renovate the RCH children’s ward.

FLYING PAINT BRUSHES – There are gay touches on the novelties being readied for the Country Fair by Royal Columbian Hospital Auxiliary members pictured. Mrs. William Gifford is winding raffia around the neck of a glass jug and Mrs. L.F.C. Kirby is studying a glass design watched by Mrs. U.G. Gilroy. Standing is Mrs. Mel Lane who has designed the patterns used. The group was working, when the picture was taken, at the home of Mrs. Mack Flett, who is painting a glass. The fair takes place at the city market on the night of Nov. 6, commencing at 7 p.m.
The British Columbian Oct 26, 1950

DOLLS AT COUNTRY FAIR – Mrs. H.G.F. Warner, Mrs. H.R. McCausland, and Mrs. J.E. Hannah have worked busily at the McCausland home putting the finishing touches to the dozens of dolls and cuddly animals that will stock their booth at the Country Fair tonight at the city market. About five kinds of dolls are included and there is also a dog and an amusing zebra. The Eva-Jean doll is the wide-eyed blond; Topsy Turvey next to her will delight any moppet. (Note: this doll depicted a white child one way, and a black child when inverted).

Held on November 6, 1950 this 7th annual fair featured a booth with hand-made Christmas decorations. The members made miniature moulds of tiny animals, trees, houses, churches, bells, Santas, choir boys, angels and other figures associated with Christmas. After the moulds came the work of casting the figures, drying and painting them. There were also booths featuring home cooking, knitting, dolls, novelties, and toys. Raffle prizes included a live turkey donated by the Queen’s Park Meat Market, a beautiful doll’s house, a “radio phonograph”, a silver tea service and tray, a Warren K Cook suit and $100 worth of canned goods from Westminster Canners Ltd.

Modular Building makes debut at Royal Columbian Hospital

October 10, 2012

New two-storey medical wing of Royal Columbian hospital hides the ancient original building from view of passersby on East Columbia street. The new building was erected in a nine-month crash program to replace a structure dating back to 1912 and now condemned as a fire hazard. Entrance is at far right. Photo from The Columbian Oct 6, 1971

From The Columbian newspaper, Oct 6, 1971

The long-awaited modernization program of Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster takes its first tangible step tomorrow with the official opening of a new building for medical patients, constructed in a crash program from factory-built modular components.

The Modular Building, as it is named by hospital authorities, will accommodate 153 adult patients and 21 children for a total of 174.

The accommodation is to replace an ancient structure first built in 1912 and now condemned for hospital use by fire officials. A major portion of the 1912 building is to be demolished and eventually equipped for Royal Columbian’s role as the principal referral hospital of the lower Fraser Valley.

The modular building, though considered temporary, and designed to be dismantled and moved to some other community in the future, is nevertheless completely and well-finished and equipped. It has a full basement, with storage, heating, garbage and laundry-handling facilities, and two nursing floors. It is connected to the permanent buildings by two covered walkways, for comfortable movement of patients, staff and meals. It has some private rooms, but the majority of patients will be housed in nine to 12-bed wards, with the usual movable drapes to give privacy to each bed when required.

Comfort of the patients is assured by new and up-to-date beds and other furnishings. Each bed has its own lamp, hooded to prevent glare in the eyes of other patients. Each has a nurse call switch, which lights an indictor at the nursing station and over the bed. All have piped oxygen outlets, and a plug-in for cable television.

Construction started on Jan. 20 this year, after many other plans for expanding and updating the hospital had been made and turned down by regional and Victoria authorities because of cost. The modular unit system was finally chosen and approved because of speedy construction and the possibility of dismantling and moving the building at some future time. Prime contractors, Van Construction of Burnaby, built the 80 modules in the firm’s own shops, trucked them to the site, and fitted them into a steel framework erected on the basement foundation.

The majority of the modules are 10 ½ by 40 feet, and had electric wiring and piping systems installed and ready for hookup at the plant. On-site jobs included exterior cladding, roofing, flooring, installation of fixtures and trim, and decorating.

Cost came to approximately $28 per square foot for a total of $2,395,000, only slightly higher than a comparable wood frame or cement block building, and considered well worth the extra amount for the gains in time and portability.

The building is designed to accommodate patients suffering an illness, rather than those hospitalized by injuries or for surgery, who require more of the sophisticated electronic equipment for their care. The modular unit has no operating room, x-ray or cardiovascular equipment. Patients requiring treatment in thee departments will be taken to the main building through the connecting corridor.

But every facility to help provide the best nursing care has been included. Nursing stations are large, with an attached “medi-prep” room with stainless steel fixtures. They are fitted with intercom to all wards, call system and convenient storage for patients’ records. Each floor has its own food service center, with an ice-making machine, refrigerator and other facilities for serving between-meal snacks. Each floor has day rooms for “up” patients to lounge and receive visitors.

The children’s ward is at one end of the second floor to eliminate through traffic. Isolation for patients with communicable diseases is in the same location on the first floor, but has an entrance from outside for visitors, locked for control.

From related article:
The present remodelling was done in order to relocate offices, medical records, the cafeteria and other service departments housed until now in the portion to be demolished. Virtually untouched in the present program is the central building constructed in 1950, containing 235 patient beds, the operating theatres, and the trauma unit added recently.

Total patient capacity in the 1912 and 1950 wings of the hospital was 445, until remodelling forced removal of 53 beds temporarily. When the modular unit replaces the 1912 wing, capacity will be stabilized at 409. Planners speak of the possibility of topping-off Royal Columbian with a capacity of 700 in the future.

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