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The Betty H. Carter Women Veterans Historical Project

Oral history interview with Faith Sparks Hawkins, 2005

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Object ID: WV0325.5.001

Description: Primarily documents Faith Sparks Hawkins’s childhood in Wilkes County, North Carolina, during the Depression; her service with the Cadet Nurse Corps during World War II; and her family and nursing career after the war.

Summary:

Hawkins describes her childhood in the 1930s, including her mother sewing their clothes, sometimes from feed sacks; their social life and entertainment; and youth programs at her Baptist church. She also recalls hearing her grandmother talk about taking care of patients during the 1918 flu epidemic.

Hawkins then discusses nursing school at H.F. Long Hospital in Statesville, North Carolina, in the mid-1940s. She comments on the strict rules in the dormitory; spending six months in Washington, D.C., for pediatrics and obstetrics work; shift schedules; being given a lot of responsibility for patients; social life and dating; Cadet Nurse Corps hospital and dress uniforms; and her favorite songs. She also recalls having reunions with her Cadet Nurse Corps graduating class for more than fifty years.

Hawkins also describes her husband’s medical career and their return to Wilkes County; her continued nursing education and nursing career; her children and their careers; the impact of the Cadet Nurse Corps and nursing on her life; and her love of nursing.

Creator: Faith Geretha Sparks Hawkins

Biographical Info: Faith Sparks Hawkins (b. 1927) of Wilkes County, North Carolina, trained as a nurse with the Cadet Nurse Corps from 1944 to 1947, then practiced at Veterans Administration hospitals and facilities in North Carolina.

Collection: Faith S. Hawkins Papers

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Jackson Library, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Full Text:

Hermann Trojanowski:

Today is August 3, [2005], and my name is Hermann Trojanowski. I'm at the home of Mrs. Faith Hawkins in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, to interview Mrs. Hawkins for the Women Veterans Historical Collection at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Mrs. Hawkins, could you give me your full name, including your maiden name. We'll use that as a test to see how your voice sounds on the machine.

Faith Hawkins:

Faith Geretha Sparks [Hawkins].

HT:

Mrs. Hawkins, thanks so much for talking to me today. Could you give me a few biographical facts about you, like when you were born and where, and where you lived when you grew up, and a little bit about your family?

FH:

Well, I was born in Forsyth County on February 22, 1927. We soon moved to Wilkes County, because this is my mother's home county. My mother wasn't well, and so we came to the mountains so she'd get plenty of good fresh air, fruit and vegetables, and so forth. I was the fourth child of five children, two girls, a boy, and two girls.

My dad was a carpenter. He worked in construction work and could do anything. Anything that had to be done, Daddy did it, and I guess I've tried to make myself [like that?]. My mother was a homemaker. She was always home. She did her gardening and her preserving of her products from her garden. She was an outstanding seamstress. With four girls and a boy, she made all of our clothes.

HT:

And this was the Depression, too.

FH:

Right. Oh yes, and I remember having this, picking out the feed sacks, to have your dress made of. [laughs] But some of the neighbors would ask mother to do special sewing for them. She was that fine a seamstress. She made quilts, like everybody did during that time. But when we got around to having a real ready-made dress, oh, we thought we were in high heaven. [laughs]

Now, our social life consisted of playing with the neighbors and our school friends that lived close to us, because we were rural and we didn't have real close next-door neighbors. But we always got together. Our main social activities centered around our church. They had a very active youth program at our church, which is unusual for that time of growing up. But every Sunday night we were at BYPU, and that is Baptist Young People's Union. We had two leaders who traipsed with us to carol sing, scavenger hunt, all over the Moravian Falls [North Carolina] area.

My younger sister and I were buddies. We played a lot. We had our own—we'd go out in the woods and set up a playhouse. We had dolls on moss cushions, and our younger brother, my brother would come and [unclear] us. We could take care of him. He was very special.

HT:

Now, were you the oldest, or one of the middle children?

FH:

I'm the fourth of five. I had two older sisters, and my brother, and then I have one younger sister, and she and I were the two buddies. We were about two years apart.

Oh, I remember when we got our first radio in our house. It was like we would do right now, trying to tune—everybody sitting there listening to all the static. [laughs] This was programs, or Let's Pretend, and all that we listened to religiously on Saturday.

Looking back, I did not have a lot of planned activity, but I learned a great deal. Walks in the woods, I guess that's where my wildflower love comes in.

HT:

Where did you go to high school?

FH:

I went to high school—well, I went to elementary school here in Moravian Falls, and then I went on to high school at Wilkesboro High, which is no longer. I rode the bus to and from school, all through elementary school and high school. We had one car in the family, so on Saturdays that was the day we went off to town to do all the shopping they had to do, what they had to do, Mother and Daddy.

HT:

When did you graduate from high school?

FH:

I graduated from high school in 1943, and I was too young to go into nursing school. I was sixteen, just barely. So I went back to school for a year. Well, Mother wanted me to go back to school for another year, high school, because they didn't end in the twelfth grade. I found out I was wasting my time, so I got a job in one of the stores in town, and worked there till I was old enough to go into nursing school.

HT:

Did you have to be a certain age to go into nursing school?

FH:

I believe it was seventeen or eighteen or something; I don't remember. But I know that I had to wait a year.

HT:

What made you decide to go into nursing?

FH:

I'd always dreamed of being a nurse.

HT:

Any relatives?

FH:

My grandmother was my influence, or I guess I say she is. She knew her herbs, she knew her barks. She had a cure for everything.

HT:

This is your mother's mother?

FH:

Yes. And she, in 1918 and '19, when they had the flu epidemic, they set up a church, up here on this side of Moravian Falls, and at that church they would bring the flu patients in, hoping that the families would not get the flu also, and they called on my grandmother to take care of them. And she did. She used to talk about all the things that would happen, how cold it was. The men would come to the door with wood, and leave the wood inside the door of the church. It was her job to go to the back of the church and put it into a big potbelly stove. And then water was brought to the door, that she had to have, and she would bring it on in. I often think those poor patients couldn't have had much of a bed.

HT:

And so basically it sounds like they were quarantined in this church.

FH:

It was. When a patient, when a person would die she would move the body to the back pew of the church, and then the men of the community would come in and take them for burial.

HT:

And she would do this all by herself?

FH:

She had to have some help. I don't know how, because she couldn't do this alone, but she never mentioned anyone other than herself doing all of this. She was a very stout woman, I will say that, and very active. But can you imagine in the cold winter, trying to heat a house even with a potbelly stove?

HT:

Much less a large church, or even a small church.

FH:

It was a small church.

HT:

But still.

FH:

But still, larger than this room.

HT:

That is amazing. So she was a great influence on your life, it sounds like.

FH:

Yes. She would tell us that her feet would get so cold that she would place them up against the stove to get them warm.

HT:

So after you decided that you wanted to go into the [Cadet] Nurse Corps, what kind of steps did you have to take in order to get in, and that sort of thing?

FH:

Well, the five children, a person trying to get—well, I had no idea how I was going to be a nurse. So cadet nurse came up.

HT:

I guess you saw some sort of advertisement somewhere.

FH:

Yes. In fact, one of the pictures I showed you was typical, and, in fact, this made my dream come true. [pause] I entered a hospital nursing school in late summer of '43—no, it can't be '43—maybe it was '44. I finished in '47.

HT:

Because one of the photographs has 1944 on it.

FH:

Okay, all right. It was a very strict environment—I called a friend and asked her, I said, “Tell me, were they strict on us because we were, quote, 'military personnel'?” We were sworn in and we took the oath to become a nurse, I mean a cadet nurse. I said, “Were all nurses programs so strict that we had to be in at a certain time at night?” When we left we had to sign out what time and where we were going, and we had to sign in when we came home, or coming back to the dorm. But it was there as a cadet nurse I met one of my very best friends.

Unfortunately, our room as freshman nurses was right over the director of nurses' room. Every time you'd walk across the wood floors they would squeak, and many times she had come upstairs during study. We had seven to nine, I think, that we were supposed to be studying, and she wanted to know what we were doing. We found that we could jump from bed to table to bed to chest and get around without touching the floors. [laughs] But we were so happy when the time came that we could move on to another room.

HT:

Tell me, what did your family and friends think about you joining the nurse corps?

FH:

My mother and daddy were very supportive. I had one cousin that said, “Faith, you don't want to be a nurse. You don't want to do that.”

And I says, “Yes, I do.” And I was very supported and honored.

So one thing about our strict hours, and this is a funny thing I'll never forget. We'd been out on a date, and we had to be in by twelve midnight. This was a Saturday. That was the only night we could stay out till twelve o'clock. My date was taking me to the door to say goodnight, and as we got to the door the assistant director of nurses was standing there at the door, getting ready to lock it, with her arms crossed in front of her. And my date started saying goodnight. He'd look at her and he'd look at me, and he finally said, “I'll see you.” [laughs] I'm telling you, I laughed so hard about that.

So what's your next question?

HT:

Okay. When you first entered, did you have to take any sort of special tests, physical tests or written tests?

FH:

We had to have a physical, but I don't remember any written test that we took. They just put us right in there and put us to work.

HT:

This was a three-year program, is that correct?

FH:

Yes.

HT:

So you were committed to those three years.

FH:

Right.

HT:

Where did you do your training?

FH:

H.F. Long Hospital in Statesville, [North Carolina]. It is no more.

HT:

Was that affiliated with any religious organization, or private—

FH:

No. Well, I guess it was private, yes. We did two affiliations, one in pediatrics in Washington, D.C., and we did our obstetrics affiliation in Washington, D.C. also.

HT:

How long did those—

FH:

About three months each, so six months we were away.

HT:

And that was normal, everybody went.

FH:

Yes, everybody went to that.

HT:

Where in Washington did you do the training?

FH:

Children's Hospital, and Sibley [Hospital]. That was for pediatrics, naturally. S-i-b-l-e-y Memorial, Sibley Hospital, in obstetrics. I don't know if Sibley is still there or not. Pediatrics, Children's Hospital still is, not the same one I was in.

HT:

And these were in the outskirts of Washington, or were they downtown somewhere, do you recall?

FH:

Well, didn't bother me, because I got all over Washington. Yes, they were downtown, I guess. Yes, because Sibley was close to Union Station, the railroad station.

HT:

By the time you got to Washington, were the restrictions lifted a little bit, or were you still doing six days worth of work and one night off only, and that sort of thing?

FH:

Yes, same thing.

HT:

What was a typical day like? What were the hours?

FH:

Now, are you talking about in Washington or—

HT:

In either place.

FH:

We would be up at seven o'clock and have breakfast, I mean, before seven, and be on duty at seven o'clock. Seven to three, and then we would do the afternoon shift, three to eleven, and the night shift was eleven to seven. We would rotate through those. As you progressed in your school, more and more responsibility was given on you. You'd spend more time—you'd be in total patient care.

HT:

Who were the instructors?

FH:

Dorothy Bryant, B-r-y-a-n-t, she used to say—

HT:

She was the chief nurse?

FH:

She was head nurse, chief nurse, yes, she was. I remember one time I'd come off duty at eleven, and I went down the hall and I heard some voices, and so I opened the door and went on in, and one of the girls had been home to—her family had a farm, and she'd brought back a watermelon. There were all these girls, and so I decided to have watermelon with them. It wasn't long until, lo and behold the night supervisor is in there, “What are you girls doing in here?”

And I said, “Well, I just came off duty,” and the rest of them, naturally, were up past hours, having their little watermelon party.

She says, “You're all campused.”

HT:

And what does that mean?

FH:

That means you don't leave the grounds, period. So I said, “But now, I'm just off duty. I haven't even had time to get to bed.”

“Makes no difference. You're here with them; you're campused.” And, oh, I was furious. I should not be campused. So I got myself dressed the next morning or after thinking about it, went over to Dr. Goode, who was head of the hospital, and told him the problem.

And I told him, I said, “I was coming off duty, and I joined them for their watermelon, and I do not think I should be campused.”

He said, “Don't worry about it. You're not campused anymore.” [laughs] I don't know, I was a headstrong little girl. [laughter]

HT:

Now, you mentioned one instructor. Now, were the other instructors nurses, or were they doctors?

FH:

Oh yes, they were nurses. There was a Mrs. Younger, and I'll have to think. She died just recently, and she was very, very good. We had, oh, I see her face, Miss Nebrocken[?]. She was Miss, and she sure acted like a miss, older miss. So I really don't remember the names.

HT:

That's fine. It sounds like a rather strict type of instructions.

FH:

It was.

HT:

Of course if you were taking care of patients, I mean you had people's lives and welfare in your hands, so I guess they wanted to make sure that you were doing the right thing.

FH:

Right, and we had good supervision. We were probably allowed to do more than a lot of—well, I know that when we went to Sibley and to Pediatrics [Children's] in Washington, we had already done a lot that they were just then teaching, because we were given total patient care, total responsibility, and this is where your small hospitals—I guess it had some weaknesses and some strengths.

HT:

Now, how many were in your class, do you recall?

FH:

Twenty, and we were all cadet nurses except one, and her parents wouldn't let her join the service.

HT:

Everybody, you went in together in 1944—

FH:

Right.

HT:

—and graduated together, and went to Washington together, and all this sort of thing?

FH:

Well, not all together. We would go at different times, because they wouldn't send the whole class at one time.

HT:

Was there another cadet nurse class the following year?

FH:

Yes.

HT:

So you sort of moved up. It sounded like a college campus-type situation.

FH:

Right.

HT:

You have freshman, you had sophomores, and juniors/seniors, and that sort of thing.

FH:

In fact, in one of our photo books I've got the freshman class getting caps. We were capped, and then we had a formal graduation, and that sort of thing.

HT:

Tell me a little bit about the uniform that you wore.

FH:

The uniform was a striped dress with the Cadet Nurse [Corps] insignia on the sleeve, and with a white apron. We wore a hospital cap, which you don't see anymore, and I regret that, because I think the cap is one of the main parts of the uniform. So we found that when you sat down, you took your apron and wrapped it around on your lap.

HT:

Why was that?

FH:

Because it would keep it from getting wrinkled. [laughs]

HT:

Did you have a dress uniform as well, because I'm assuming the striped dress was probably your daily?

FH:

Yes, oh yes. Our dress uniform, I thought it was really, really pretty. It was gray, and we had our—well, you will see in the picture here where it had the straps across the shoulders, and the insignias, and I do have some of my buttons and insignias somewhere. But we have a place here at home that's called Never-Never Land. These are things that we have kept and we don't get rid of. It's an attic over here, and it's so hot up there I can't go up there. We go up there Christmas and get our Christmas things down, but it's something in Never-Never Land.

I loved our hats. They really flattered us, or me especially. Surely we had a special blouse to wear, but I don't remember right off. But we had the jacket and the skirt, and we were supposed to march in a parade. Harry Truman was coming to Statesville, and so here they all the cadet nurses getting dressed up, trying to teach us how to march.

HT:

So you'd never had any formal marching instructions?

FH:

No, no. So anyhow, at the last minute he cancelled his trip. [sighs] We were relieved. So we were already sworn in in uniform.

We had a glee club or chorus in nursing school, and as far as having special parties, we had our own.

HT:

Like the watermelon party?

FH:

Yes. But as far as having a group thing, my graduating class have had reunions up until about four years ago, or three years, I think, every year since we graduated in '47.

HT:

That's amazing. That's fifty years worth of reunions.

FH:

Yes. And not too long ago, one of them that lived down near Carrboro, [North Carolina], there, she called and she said—no, it was on a Christmas card—“Let's get together.”

And I said to someone else, I said, “This is the end of the note from Hazel [Wilson Roundtree] saying that she wants to get together.”

And she just came back with the same thing as I did, “Well, why doesn't she do it?” Really, I hesitate to have it, because they always want to go to Statesville—and then where do we end up after we have our dinner or whatever? At Susie's [Stevenson Jurney] house, one of the girls, and it's not fair to Susie to have all the gang in there every time. We're not a gang anymore, but our husbands love it as well as we do.

They will say, “When are you nurses going to meet again?” I've had them to come up the mountain to our house up there. We've met at Mast Inn. We have met at, well, in Statesville numerous times. But I've had them to come to our home over in Moravian Falls one time when we did a cookout, and then others have had things, too. But it's strictly fun times, getting back to see each other.

HT:

And reminiscing a little bit, that's great.

FH:

And talking about our old patients. And do you know, some of them to this day I can remember being in a certain room?

HT:

That is truly amazing. Well, what was the hardest thing you ever had to do in those three years, physically, and then the next question will be emotionally?

FH:

I don't remember anything being really hard, except studying and doing the testing.

HT:

Now, during your course of studies you had, I'm assuming, classroom time as well as clinical time?

FH:

Yes, right.

HT:

Was that divided half and half, or can you describe that a little bit for me?

FH:

I remember, but I don't know how we divided it. We still had our duty, our clinical, even when we had classes, and I don't know whether it was in the morning, or it seems like we had classes most of the time in the morning. But, oh, we worked a lot of 3:00 to 11:00s [shifts]. [laughs] And then as you would progress you would be given the responsibility of working 11:00 to 7:00. I never found it really hard anywhere, I mean what I call hard. We went through some tough times. We had to adjust to hours.

But I guess the most aggravating thing was when you're on call for OB [obstetrics], and we had to—you make lasting friendships with your patients, I'll tell you. This one woman would come in and, you know, now, you have to go into the hospital and have it right off. Well, she came in, false labor, and we'd go home. She'd come back and she'd still have a few little pains down there, and so every night we were on call, she was having her baby.

I would be like, “Sylvia [Crowson], are you having any pains?”

She'd say, “No.”

I'd say, “Well, listen, I'm going out tonight, and so don't start anything till after 11:00.” [laughter]

So her husband later told us, he said, “Well, we would have had this baby a lot sooner if you all hadn't been dating so much.” [laughter] But it was just a fun thing, and they were friends for life. In fact, I think her son, they nicknamed him “Sparkie,”

HT:

After you. Would you have any other humorous memories from those three years that you can recall?

FH:

Right off I can't. I was asking Susie when I talked to her. [some background noise] I think there's some crazy things we did? But, you know, what amazed me in Washington, we used the trolley, and we walked down through a—and I hesitate—well, a black section of people, apartments. They were always so very nice, and spoke to us, and we spoke to them. We were not the least bit scared to walk back down through there to get to the Children's Hospital, and I thought, goodness, today would you do that? So we were blessed in many ways.

HT:

Of course you had your uniform on, and I think that—

FH:

No, we were not. They just recognized the fact that the nurses would come down. We'd been out for the evening, and we'd come in. I know my sister came to Washington. I was with some friends, and she called me at the hospital and I said, “I'm working until eleven tonight. I'll get the trolley. I know how to transfer there.”

She said, “No, you're not going to do that. You get a cab and come over here.” Well, I hadn't been ridden in a cab since I arrived, hardly. But anyhow, I got a cab and I told her where we were going, so we got there, and he was very nice and friendly, picking a nurse up at that hour of the night, going across town, and I was friendly with him. We had a nice little conversation.

So when we got to the house I said, “You'll have to wait here just a minute. I've got to go in and get my sister to give me the money to pay you.” [laughs] So just silly things like that.

HT:

Speaking of pay, were you paid?

FH:

Yes, we were. I don't know whether it was ten or twenty dollars a month.

HT:

That little.

FH:

That little, yes. I wished—I asked Susie, I said, “Susie, how much did we get per month?” And I said, “Was it ten dollars?” And she said, “Well, it might have been twenty.”

HT:

Of course you were furnished your clothes—

FH:

Room, board, clothes.

HT:

—your room and board, and that sort of thing.

FH:

Well, our work clothes.

HT:

So the little they did pay you was just your mad money for your—

FH:

Right.

HT:

—once-a-week dates and that sort of thing. [laughter]

FH:

To have a telephone, number to call a telephone; I don't know who we'd call.

HT:

Now, you said earlier that you were sworn to military, but you didn't have to go through any kind of military indoctrination at all?

FH:

No. We were sworn, I think to, well, I'll find it in a minute [looking through papers]. But we were sworn to stay in active nursing for the duration of the war. I know where it is, right here. I thought I was so well organized.

[Tape recorder paused]

HT:

Before we turned the tape off we were talking about humorous events and that sort of thing. If we can backtrack a minute, when you joined the Cadet Nurse Corps, did you think that you might join the Army Nurse Corps eventually, or something like that?

FH:

Oh, I was ready for the navy. I was going to the navy.

HT:

Did you ever join?

FH:

No, I never joined, because the war was over, and I was working and making some money for a change. But that is where I was going, and also the—

HT:

The war ended before you completed your training, but the training continued on even though the war had ended.

FH:

Yes, right. We continued right on as if, and some of them, as I say, could have gone on into service. I did not.

HT:

Did any of your classmates join any of the other branches of the service?

FH:

I don't think so. I know Dot Dagenhart that I told you about, and remind me to give you her [unclear].

HT:

Do you recall what some of your favorite songs and movies and dances were from that period of time?

FH:

In the Mood, and Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree, and movies, I'm not a movie person. I guess I grew up and went to the movie theater once a week on Wednesday night when families could get in for ten cents each, and we would have [unclear]. My husband grew up in Statesville proper, and he could tell you any movie star and what they played in, and everything else. But, I'll Be Loving You, Always.

HT:

Now, you said you were allowed to go on dates at least one night a week.

FH:

Well, yes.

HT:

Where did you usually go for that?

FH:

Well, it might be a movie, or just maybe—you know, I told you, we did not have any special parties. We did. We had Christmas dances, or we had dances, and we'd have affairs like dances. [unclear] and on afternoons off I dated a boy that—

[Tape recorder paused]

FH:

Our dates would take us on picnics, or my date did. I remember maybe I had a day off, and we'd go up on the parkway, and another couple with us, and we just found our own entertainment, just like growing up as a child we didn't have things planned for us. We did our own planning, and that was pretty much in nursing.

[Interruption by a pet bird]

HT:

After you completed your training in 1947, what did you do next?

FH:

All right. I came back home and worked in the hospital here.

HT:

In Wilkesboro.

FH:

Yes, in North Wilkesboro, at Fred C. Hubbard Hospital. I worked obstetrics and delivery room, and then on night duty I would work the emergency room, which I hated. We didn't have that much emergencies, but the type that would come in, it was in a small town. So we worked there.

Then I worked at the VA [Veterans Administration] Hospital in Fayetteville, [North Carolina]. Now, this may not be in the order, but these are—that was before I was married, and I was close enough to Chapel Hill [North Carolina] that Hal [Hawkins, FH's husband] could come down on weekends. He had a friend who lived down there that provided him room and board, so while I worked he studied.

HT:

So he was in medical school at that time, I guess.

FH:

Yes. While I worked VA Hospital, Harry Truman did come to Fayetteville, and they took—we as nurses escorted the patients out to the field for them to see Harry Truman.

HT:

Now by this time, of course, you were not in the military anymore, the Cadet Nurse Corps.

FH:

No.

HT:

And were you actually discharged?

FH:

No, you just graduated. Then I attended Queens College for one year, getting credits toward my BS [bachelor of science] in nursing, but I did not go on farther, since other items came up. And since then we went to—well, after I was married I worked in a nursery school in kindergarten in Chapel Hill, and the Baptist church sponsored a nursery school, and that was while I was a private duty [nurse].

We were married and went to Cleveland, Ohio, for him to finish up. This is when Chapel Hill only had a two-year medical school, and I started working at Crile VA Hospital in Cleveland. It ended up that the hospital was on one side of Cleveland, and the medical school was on the other side, and with one car getting around in Cleveland, I left the Crile and went to a doctor's office, and worked in the doctor's office the rest of the time we were there.

I came back home and had four children, and meanwhile helping my husband in his office.

HT:

You actually worked with your husband.

FH:

Yes.

HT:

If we could backtrack, when did you actually get married?

FH:

1950.

HT:

And when were you in Cleveland?

FH:

Let's see. We were up there two years [1951-1953].

HT:

So you were finishing your schooling up there, and where did your husband do his residency?

FH:

In Charlotte Memorial Hospital, so we came back home. So then he finished and we lived in Charlotte, and I worked as private duty and the like. We only had one child at that time. Every so often my mother would come down and stay a while, take care of this child, and for me to work for a little bit.

So then he came up to Wilkes County, and I was in the hospital with my nephew, who was having a tonsillectomy, and I said,

I'll go with him and be with him.

My little sister was frightened, and I knew most of the people. So this is funny. While we were standing there in the operating room, I was in the background, and the nurse there is a dear friend of mine now.

She didn't know who I was then, and she said,

Well, who's mama's little baby that has to have a private nurse?

[laughs]

And Dr. Newton said,

It's his aunt.

So that day I saw one of the doctors and he said,

Well, are you all coming back here?

because I had worked with all these doctors before.

And I said, “No, this'd be the last place in the world we'd come.” I said, “Hal's family would have a hissy if they found out we came back to my hometown.” So that was it. Well, later on, after the morning and I came back home, Hal and my mother had been out riding all over Wilkes County. He was looking for a place, possibly, to go back to, and so he came back to me and I said, “Which doctor would you have to talk to?” And so I'm taking him down to Dr. Lewis, I said,

I didn't dream of this.

I said, “But he wants to know about possibly coming back here to practice.”

HT:

Was he a GP [general practitioner]?

FH:

He was a surgeon. There was a retired doctor that was doing practice in Moravian Falls, and Hal had finally talked to him, and he said, “I've tried to quit,” and he said, “I can't.” He said, “They just keep coming.” So he filled in for a couple of doctors, and in the end he opened his practice here in Wilkes County.

HT:

And you helped him in the office?

FH:

Yes. We were in a duplex apartment, an office in one half, and we lived in the other half, and we still had the one child. I wish I could remember. I think the first office call that he made was around two dollars, I mean that the patient came in and he said, “Well, you've got enough relatives up there to keep me in business, maybe.” And who was that first patient, were the relatives. [laughs] But anyhow. Then we moved, or he moved his office into Wilkesboro proper—see he was out here in Moravian Falls, and it was an inconvenience for him and for his patients running back and forth.

And I would take continued ed[ucation] courses with AHEC [Area Health Education Centers]. Now, that was a life saver, because every time they had a course that I could take, I would. I took critical care nursing with them, and ended up working part time at the local hospital here in North Wilkesboro, in the intensive care.

HT:

Did you ever get your BS in nursing?

FH:

No, I didn't. I wish I had, although I've done everything I wanted to do anyhow. But I worked there, and I was part time, and one day the director of nurses came up to me and said, “Faith, I've got a question to ask you. Don't answer it now, tell me later.” Margaret, that was their in-service education director, was going back to get her master's, and she said, “Would you work in in-service education for one year while Margaret's gone?”

And I looked at her and I said, “You're crazy.” [laughs] So the more I thought about it, I thought, hmm, that would be a golden opportunity. I'd learn more than I would ever learn anywhere else. So I worked at the hospital there for a year in in-service education, and she came back and I was getting ready for my next venture. She called me into her office. I was sitting in her office telling her I was going to be leaving, because I was just working part time and not doing what I really wanted to do then, because she was calling the shots.

So anyhow, I mean she's very nice, but [she] said, “I've got a question I'll ask you. I'm pregnant. Would you work for me for about three months when I have this baby?” And I looked at her and I said, “Margaret, I came in to say I'm not doing your work anymore.” [laughs] So I agreed to work for her during her time out with the baby.

So after that I was involved in a lot of volunteer work, and in my husband's office I said I was cheap help.

[End Tape 1, Side A-Begin Tape 1, Side B.]

FH:

They couldn't afford to fire me, because every time somebody was out sick, I had to manage the office, too, I was called in. But I'll tell you what. The cadet nurse program made my dreams come true.

HT:

That's great. That's wonderful. Well, if we can backtrack just a minute, of course, you were in school during VE [Victory in Europe] Day and VJ [Victory in Japan] Day, which was in 1945. Do you have any special memories of those times in 1945?

FH:

I remember, well, I was home for one of those, celebrating with my sister, and everybody. It was like a big party, but nothing really spectacular there. The newspapers we have somewhere in the house. But it was so good for it all to be over. It didn't affect me as personally as it did a lot of people. My brother was coming home.

HT:

I know that many people say they were just glad it was over.

FH:

It was, it was a relief. I was at VJ Day—this is not in your program—in England, and they had the big celebration of VJ Day. My trip to England was, I wanted a tour of Buckingham Palace. I wanted to go to church at St. Paul's [Cathedral], and I wanted to see the Queen [Elizabeth]. Do you know in the first three days there I had done all three? They were having the VJ Day parade, and she was there, and Buckingham Palace was open at that time of the year, and then on Sunday morning we were on the bus and I headed toward St. Paul's.

HT:

Well, you mentioned the Queen here. I'm assuming you're an admirer of hers, probably.

FH:

Yes.

HT:

Who were your heroes and heroines back in the time that you were a cadet nurse? Did you have anybody that you were particularly fond of, and respected a great deal, and that sort of thing?

FH:

While I was a cadet nurse? Well, I think our instructors. Mrs. Younger, I'm telling you, she was one. She was our friend as well as our instructor. She was like our mama away from home, really. And then I guess I'm not a big fan of famous people. I appreciate what our local people are doing.

HT:

Now, you mentioned earlier that Mrs. Younger was like a mother to you, the cadet nurses. Did you ever get homesick or anything like that while you were a cadet nurse and away?

FH:

Not really.

HT:

Or did you come home often enough that—

FH:

I came home often enough, and your nursing class, your nursing friends became your family. If you had any breakups with your boyfriend or whatever, you had those shoulders to cry on. [laughs] But it was just, what was going on in the nursing home, everybody knew, I mean even the upperclassmen.

HT:

After you became an upperclassman, did you help the freshman at all? I mean, did you become buddies with the freshmen?

FH:

Yes.

HT:

Or mentors, I guess, is the right word that I wanted to use.

FH:

Yes. We sort of took them under our wings.

HT:

So I guess you were the first class at the Statesville hospital, is that correct, or were you the second class there?

FH:

Oh, there were many classes there. It's an old hospital.

HT:

I'm now talking about in the cadet nurse program. Was that the first cadet nurse program they had, ''44?

FH:

It might have been. I really—no, no, no. There were some other girls in there, upperclassmen then.

HT:

I think that the cadet nurse program started in '43, is that correct?

FH:

Could be.

HT:

Yes, and you were probably the second class to start in the program at Statesville hospital.

FH:

Yes.

HT:

Well, do you consider yourself to be an independent person?

FH:

Oh, very definitely. [laughs]

HT:

Were you always that way, or did being in the cadet program make you that way?

FH:

I've always been independent. Give me a challenge and that's all I need. I guess the one thing I regret, I never quit nursing; I love it.

HT:

Are you involved at all as a volunteer in anything like that these days?

FH:

Yes. I've worked with the Red Cross. Not now, I'm not doing it, but I am now, we're doing a Congregational Nurse Program in our church. It's new and I haven't done a thing except go to meetings, but they will come to us and ask us for information about maybe some medicines or something like that. I know one woman came in about her mother, and it really shocked me when she came to me and I thought, well, why is she coming to me? But she was concerned about something in her elderly mother, and saw I was someone that she could talk to.

I am now active in the VFW [Veterans of Foriegn Wars] Auxiliary, and I work through the hospital auxiliary, and in the past I was on some board, and I don't know what it was, at a community college. But with four children, I was fortunate enough to be able to get someone to help with my household, and my children loved them, I mean, were very attached to them, and they attached to her, and I was lucky that I had someone I could trust.

HT:

Did any of your children go on to medicine?

FH:

I have a daughter that's a nurse.

HT:

So Mama was a big influence, probably. [laughter]

FH:

She's in Greenville, South Carolina, and now is a school nurse, and she has three boys. But then our son is the director of patient financial—back in my day we called it business office—patient financial manager at Wayne Memorial Hospital in Goldsboro, [North Carolina].

HT:

Were any of them in the military?

FH:

Our oldest son. He was—[breaks down]—in 1981— [He was a U.S. Navy pilot lost on assignment in 1981.]

[Tape recorder paused]

HT:

How do you feel about women in combat positions?

FH:

I don't believe that they should be over there.

HT:

In Iraq?

FH:

Yes.

HT:

Many women have been killed already.

FH:

Right. I know that they serve in the National Guard, mothers and parents, couples. I think the mothers need to stay home with their children. There are jobs within the States that are essential enough for those people to do here. And I was just really disgusted, the medical couple, both of them were doctors? They both went to Iraq and left their children here. They've been together. I do not—I believe that the women are capable of many things, but there are jobs for women and there's jobs for men.

My husband was in the navy, and he was in the medical corps. Well, he was a pharmacist, second mate is his rank [pharmacist mate second class]. But anyhow, he served as a [unclear].

HT:

This was in World War II.

FH:

Yes, in Florida at Jacksonville, and a female corpsperson was assigned to him. They had to take an extra man along to transport patients, because she couldn't do it. He said it was the silliest thing he'd ever seen, to have to assign her to a job and then have to put two more corpsmen with her to do her job. I mean, I don't know if that's what's going on now or not, but I do not think that those women should be in Iraq, I mean with children. Single women, yes.

And I can understand joining the National Guard. You do get extra pay for it, I understand. I don't know how much. And they go through the training, but they know when they go in that this is a possibility, that they will have to go into active military service. I have a great deal of support for our National Guard, but right now our local National Guard is getting ready to go to Iraq.

HT:

From Wilkes County.

FH:

Yes, this post, and a lot of females. The newspaper here showed—I didn't know about it; I'm living in two different places. They had a special tribute to them Sunday at the Walker Center at Wilkes Community College, and to see those—now, a lot of them are sweethearts and I know that hurts, but to see those mothers telling their sons or their child goodbye, I would resign first. I mean, I don't think it involved a situation like this when they went in. But I think their family, their children are more important; at least leave one home, either mother or father, and if Mother is so important she needs to be over there, all right, send her on, but keep Daddy here.

HT:

Well, Mrs. Hawkins, I don't have any more formal questions. Do you have anything you'd like to add that we haven't covered? We've covered quite a bit of territory, almost from the time you were born to, until now. [laughter] But it sounds like you had a wonderful time with the Cadet Nurse Corps, and it had a big influence on your life.

FH:

I did, and I think it's made me reach out and search more, because since I have left nursing, I've learned to play the dulcimer, I've taught my grandchildren how to play, I've taught adults that. I've taken up clay work, art, and I've done some painting. I am still living, and there's so much to do I can't get it all done. I think you see that in nurses so much. A true nurse can't sit around, has got to be doing something, and I'll always be grateful to the Cadet Nurse Corps.

HT:

It sounds like a wonderful program, you've just made some wonderful friends over the years, sounds like.

FH:

We may have talked about the shortage of nurses now. Do we need it again?

HT:

Do you feel that we do need it again?

FH:

I don't know. I've asked myself this. I thought, well, they've got to do something. There's many programs to get nurses, but they're not staying in nursing. Why, I don't know, because I dearly love nursing. I love bedside care, and I guess that's the reason I went back in intensive care. I didn't want to be a secretary and like somebody doing all the paperwork that nurses have to do. True, it's now getting computerized, but I knew that intensive care, you took care of your patient.

HT:

I guess over the years you've seen patient care change quite a bit—

FH:

Oh yes.

HT:

—in the last fifty or so years. Do you think it's for the better?

FH:

No, I don't. I think, but it's our fault. We want so much, and if we don't get it, all right, lawsuits. We're losing mighty fine young men and women in the medical profession because of the cost of staying in practice, and we shudder now when we see what all has to be done in the hospitals, how many people it takes. Nurses aren't nurses. Well, in so many places.

I had a knee replacement a couple of years ago, and got along beautifully. I had good therapists, the nurses were good, and I had no complaints. My doctor was wonderful to me. Well, they wanted me to go to rehab, and I thought, well, do I really need it? They said yes, so I went to rehab. I went to rehab, stayed about one day, and not one—nurses don't wear uniforms any more. I did not know who came in my room, a nurse, a custodian, technician, whatever.

So one girl, and she was, I guess she'd call—she emptied the garbage can or the wastepaper basket a lot. I just hate to say she's the maid, but she was in custodian care, I guess. But she would come in and she was very friendly, and I would tell her I needed something, or I would ask for something, and then I would eventually get a nurse come back. And I thought, well, hmm, I thought she was a nurse.

So I felt that, being a nurse, that I did not need to stay in rehab. I could do at home what they were doing, and, in fact, I sort of shook them up. I went over to rehab and I said, “Now, that's the restroom there.”

“Oh, you can't go.” I looked at them and she said, “You can't, you are bed—you have to stay in bed until we get you okayed to be up to go to the bathroom.”

And I looked at them and I said, “I've been going to the bathroom.” So something else came up and I said, “Well, I'll just go home today. There's no use in me sitting over here.” I said, “I've got a bathroom at home that I can walk into.” We didn't do it deliberately, but this is the way this house is built. We have a shower that we can walk in with our feet in it. And I said, “[No].”

So they did get a technician to come and okay me to get up and go to the bathroom, and to walk. I mean, we've got too many controls, and when I got ready to come home I guess my name's mud over there good, because I said, “There's no use in me staying here any longer. I can do this at home.” And my doctor wanted me to stay longer, and I thought, what they heck do they want? Are they trying to get [unclear] over here or what? And so I said, “Fine.” I said, “Just tell her that I'm not staying any longer. I'm going home today.”

Her reply, well, she was not coming back to the hospital any more that day. I said, “Well, good. You fixed up all the papers, and she can sign them tomorrow.” And I came home. See, these papers have to be done. I understand their problem, and so I said, “You know, this is silly.” And we've got so many come in here, came in. Every committee has to come in and ask you questions, am I disability, and am I this other thing? That takes people, and that's taking nurses. So anyhow, that's the meat.

HT:

Okay, well, thank you so much for the interview today. I really appreciate it.

FH:

Well, I hope you got what you needed.

HT:

I think so.

[End of Interview]