Posted tagged ‘Auxiliary’

Christmas Through the Years at RCH

December 19, 2012

This week’s New Westminster NewsLeader had a great story and photo of Santa arriving at Royal Columbian Hospital by helicopter, bringing Christmas smiles and cheer to patients and staff. It wasn’t the first time he had arrived by air ambulance (see From Buckboard to Sikorsky),

Santa arrives at RCH Heliport 2005

Santa arrives at RCH Heliport 2005

and it certainly wasn’t the first time that people in the community had worked to bring comfort and cheer to hospital patients.

From the very beginning of the hospital in 1862, individuals and groups in the immediate vicinity and throughout the colony, worked hard to assist the patients and staff in any way they could. Most often this entailed raising funds, but it also frequently entailed personal gifts and entertainment for the patients. The Vancouver Sun in 1922 tells us that “between 90 and 100 patients at the Royal Columbian Hospital will receive tasteful little boxes packed with candies and fruits Christmas morning from the women’s auxiliary to the hospital.”

The newspaper in 1912 tells of the Women’s Auxiliary gathering donations to buy presents for the patients, while the local Boy Scout troop visited the hospital, toured the wards and distributed “presents of fruit and Christmas cheer”. The following year, in 1913, the Auxiliary placed baskets in local stores so that local residents could place donations in them – “candies, fruit, magazines, books, toys” that were to be distributed on Christmas Day. Also that year, a group of 30 young ladies held a “Cinderella Dance” (a dancing party that was to end at midnight) on December 26th to raise funds for RCH.

In earlier years, we see an even more personal involvement on the part of the general population. Just before Christmas of 1882, some Board members were in the hospital “inspecting the accounts” when they heard “the melody of sweet voices that filled one of the wards. On making inquiry they discovered that two ladies, well known in the city, are in the habit of calling on the patients and soothing their sorrows with vocal music”.

In the first decade of the hospital’s operation, there was often a grand ball or soirée held at the Drill Hall just before or after Christmas to raise funds for the hospital. In 1865, according to the local newspaper, the Ball was a great success, both socially and financially. There were very elaborate decorations, chandeliers and lamps that made the Drill Hall almost unrecognizable. About 100 people attended, “the ladies’ dresses were elegant and tasteful…. while the music, under the able leadership of Mr. Bushby, lent a charm to the whole.” And, although “no regular supper was provided” because the Board wanted all proceeds to go to the Hospital, “dancing was kept up till 2 o’clock with great vigour and all appeared to enjoy the occasion.” The sum of $150 was raised and added to the hospital funds.

In 1882, the patients in Royal Columbian wrote a letter to the editor including all their names, that said, “We, the patients in the Royal Columbian Hospital, herewith return our heartfelt thanks to the kind friends who so thoughtfully provided for us the bounteous dinner on this Christmas. To Mr. Jackson, the Steward of the Hospital, and the ladies who so ably assisted him in setting it before us in so tempting a manner, is due great praise and our grateful remembrance”.

Than, as now, when help was needed, individuals responded, and all contributions, large or small, were very much appreciated.


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.

Weird and Wonderful Fundraising Events

May 30, 2012

A 1905 book by Mrs. Herbert B Linscott, called Bright Ideas for Entertaining, describes a Measuring Party as a “pleasing way” of raising money for charity. Whether or not they got the idea from that book, the Woman’s Auxiliary of the Royal Columbian Hospital held such a party at the home of Mrs. T.L. Briggs (today’s Irving House) in November of 1920. The invitation read,
“A measuring party we give for you,
‘Tis something pleasant as well as new.
The invitation carries a sack,
For use in bringing or sending back
Five cents for every foot you’re tall,
Measure yourself against the wall.
An extra cent for each inch you’ll give,
And thereby show how high you live.
Then with music and song, recitation and pleasure,
We will meet one and all at our party of measure”

A tiny bag of silk was sent with each invitation and on the day of the party, each guest was to bring their bag with money and place it in a basket by the door. At this party three ladies, including the Auxiliary President, Mrs. Elson, were in charge of taking various measurements of the guests such as the length of the nose, size of the head, size of the hand etc. The “winner” might win a prize or be expected to give a couple of cents for each inch measured. They had food, fortune telling and, as promised in the invitation, music, songs, recitations and lots of fun. And best of all, they managed to raise $75 for the hospital!

The Auxiliary has worked hard to support the hospital for the last 100 years and still does. The list of their fundraising activities over the years includes a French Cabaret held at the Legion Hall in 1932 by the Girls’ Auxiliary. It sold out with an attendance of well over 350. The tables were “illumined by flickering candles, the musicians wore Montparnasse garb, balloons were tossed, confetti showered and serpentines streamed”. The entertainment included a French peasant number, a Paris ballroom dancing exhibition, French songs and solo dance numbers.

In 1947, a special feature of the Auxiliary’s annual Country Fair held at the new market building was a “Galaxy of Dolls”. This is how the local paper described it, “Some of the toys to be found at this booth will be boy dolls in knitted suits, girl dolls in pinafores and sunbonnets; saucy Eva dolls in fluffy, bouffant skirts; Belinda dolls with upswept hairdo’s. There will also be cuddly stuffed toys for the baby, including blue bunnies with pink silk ears; velvet lambs, Scottie dogs and all other childish favourites. And perhaps most important of all, the luckiest little girl in town will be the winner of the raffle – a beautiful lifesize baby doll complete with bassinette. She is dressed in the daintiest of lacy christening robes, and possesses a whole wardrobe of real baby clothes.” As always the money raised went to provide equipment for the hospital.

In 1961, the Vancouver Sun advertised the Auxiliary’s Country Fair saying “the doors of the oldest market building on the lower mainland will swing open at 7 pm. There will be stalls of home cooking, candy, knitting, sewing, appealing gingham and felt animals, ideal for Christmas giving, dolls’ clothes, superfluities, handmade novelties and, of course, items for Christmas decorating. There will be refreshments galore and a party atmosphere for every member of the family at this 16th annual event. Proceeds will go towards the purchase of a deep X-ray therapy machine for the cancer treatment department of the hospital.”

Of course, not all community support was in the form of cash – sometimes it was goods and time. This notice appeared in the paper on December 22, 1922. “Between 90 and 100 patients at RCH will receive tasteful little boxes packed with candies and fruit on Christmas morning from the women’s auxiliary to the hospital. Mrs. Wells A Gray thanks the public for its generous donation of the candies and fruit.”

There are wonderful descriptions of a wide variety of events held by the Auxiliary and others to support Royal Columbian Hospital throughout its 150 years. We’ll post others in the weeks and months to come.

Community Support – Furnishing a Nursery

March 22, 2012

An article in the September 24, 1932 Vancouver Sun talks about the new nursery that was about to open at RCH and how the Girls’ Auxiliary had furnished and decorated it. It describes how “the babies the stork delivers at the Royal Columbian Hospital in New Westminster are going to have one of the prettiest and most up-to-date nurseries on the Pacific Coast in which to spend the first few weeks of their lives. These small morsels of humanity have the Girls’ Auxiliary to thank for the remodelling and refurnishing of the nursery, bathing room and hallway of the Babies’ Ward done over at an expenditure of $1200.”

The article continues, “Visitors to the hospital next Friday will enter the ward from the main corridor through doors that have been hung with crash drapes, appliquéd with nursery figures. In the nursery itself, with accommodation for 24 small folk, are a dozen basket-type cots, supplemented by another 12 bassinettes, now being purchased with several already donated. The colour scheme is naturally in Babyhood’s own special colours of pink and blue, showing to advantage against the soft neutral tone of buff walls around which strut white ducks and bunnies on a wooden carved frieze of blue background, the central figure being a life-sized stork. White curtains, dotted in blue, frame windows through which sunshine pours. Through a glass partition is visible the bathing room, equipped with mono-metal tables – bathing and dressing tables that keep an even temperature at all times. Several spacious cupboards hold all sorts of necessities. Two new case-rooms and a semi-operating room have been furnished also by the Auxiliary.”

Other projects of the Girls’ Auxiliary that year included sewing 4 dozen crib covers for the new nursery and conducting a book drive that resulted in over 500 books being collected, repaired and made available to patients. The group also had a new social service department that incorporated a “driving committee” who was now ready “to take patients riding”. This was a service for inpatients – not to take them to appointments as you might expect, but just to go for a ride to get a change of scenery and enjoy being out of the hospital. Remember this was 1932 and going for a ride in a car was something new for many people.

These are just a few of the ways in which individuals gave their time and abilities to help the Royal Columbian Hospital in 1932. We’ll have other stories in coming weeks of the countless ways over the last 150 years in which individuals, corporations and groups have supported the hospital. If you would like to donate to the Royal Columbian Hospital Foundation and the next 150 years of medical excellence and compassionate patient care, visit or call 604 520 4438.

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