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Interview with Beatrice Hogan

Hogan, Beatrice Johnson
Greeson, Jennifer
Date of Interview: 
United States Army 38th Evacuation Hospital; World War II; nursing; United States Army Reserve;
Mrs. Hogan discusses her long career in nursing in this interview for the Museum of the New South. She graduated from nursing school during the Great Depression and began work at St. Peter's Hospital in Charlotte, later moving to Charlotte Memorial Hospital. Hogan also volunteered for duty with the U.S. Army 38th Evacuation Hospital Unit and, later, the U.S. Army Reserve. She served in North Africa and Italy during World War II and in Fort Polk, Louisiana during the Vietnam and Korean wars. She describes her experiences, nursing duties and Army life.
Charlotte, 1930s-1990s
Interview Setting: 
Interviewed at 3932 Nevin Rd., Charlotte, NC.
Levine Museum of the New South, Professional Women Series
Interview Audio: 
JG (Jennifer Greeson, interviewer): OK. This is Jennifer Greeson. I'm with Mrs. Bea Hogan in her home. And it is the eleventh of June 1993, and it's about ten-fifteen in the morning. And so, Mrs. Hogan, I'm here to talk to you about your long nursing career and anything else you want to talk to me about, so--.
BH (Beatrice Hogan): Okay.
JG: Well, could you tell me where you got your nursing training and--?
BH: In City Memorial Hospital, Winston-Salem.
JG: City Memorial.
BH: Graduated in 1938.
JG: How long did it take to get--?
BH: Three years.
JG: Oh, wow. [Pause] What was that like? What was nursing school like up there?
BH: It was hard work. Long hours. [Pause]
JG: What kinds of things did you have to do?
BH: Bedside nursing.
JG: Um-hum.
BH: Mostly. Well it was all bedside nursing.
JG: Uh-hum. So, are you from the Winston-Salem area?
BH: Lenoir, North Carolina, western part of the state.
JG: And what brought you to Charlotte? What brought you down to Charlotte?
BH: Oh. I came to St. Peter's Hospital in 1938. I had acquaintances who worked there. And, of course it was during Depression. And I needed a job. [Laughter]
JG: Were they your friends from nursing school who were there?
BH: Different schools.
JG: Different OK. How did you like Charlotte?
BH: I love it. It's a big city to me. Winston-Salem was a big city to me, but Charlotte was bigger. [Laughter]
JG: OK. How, how was St. Peter's?
BH: St. Peter's was a general hospital. And, it was about a sixty-bed capacity.
JG: That's not that big, I bet you guys were busy. Was it always full?
BH: Yeah, always full.
JG: What kind of shifts did you work?
BH: I worked mornings, sometimes and night shifts. They were twelve-hour shifts. During the day we had three hours off. But during the night it was a twelve-hour shift from 7 P.M. to 7 A.M.
JG: With no break?
BH: With no break. [Laughter] Except we took a break occas--, you know occasionally.
JG: Uh-hum. What do you remember best about that?
BH: I loved taking care of patients. And the, the friends that I, I mean patients that I met became friends, even now.
JG: And then St. Peter's closed?
BH: St. Peter's closed when Charlotte Memorial opened. They moved the patients from there to Charlotte Memorial, because it was a part of St. Peter's.
JG: Did they move the nurses?
BH: Oh, yes. All the nurses went to Charlotte Memorial.
JG: What was the difference between Memorial and St. Peter's?
BH: It was a big hospital, with everything new. And of course, the hours were about the same, for a long time.
JG: Did it make it easier as a nurse to have everything new?
BH: Well it was, I think so.
JG: [Pause] And if you think of anythings you want to tell me about, you don't have to just--. You know, just, just--. [Laughter]
BH: Well, I enjoyed work at Memorial because, as I said, it was a bigger hospital. And we had so much new equipment. And then we had more doctors there than we had at St. Peter's. During, I mean because they had doctors coming in from other nearby places.
JG: Did you like the doctors?
BH: Very much.
JG: Did you live at Memorial? Did they have a place for you to live there--?
BH: A nursing home--, nursing quarters.
JG: Um-hum.
BH: Nurses' quarters.
JG: What were those like?
BH: Well, they were very nice. Two per room. And we ate in the cafeteria. And it was more homelike in the nurses' quarters there. [Pause]
JG: And then what did you do next?
BH: I went to Mountain Home, Tennessee, to the Veterans' Hospital and I worked from latter part of '41 until April of '42, and then I joined the 38th Evacuation Hospital unit from Charlotte, and I went overseas with them, in August of '42, and I came back in April of '45.
JG: Tennessee is kind of a far away away, why?
BH: Beg your pardon?
JG: Tennessee is so far away--.
BH: No, it's not very far. It's just beyond North Carolina.
BH: The western part. It was east Tennessee.
JG: Did you transfer up there because they needed so many nurses--?
BH: Well, I just--. It was a better opportunity.
JG: Um-hum. Why?
BH: The pay was better, the hours were better--.
JG: Everything!
BH: Everything was better. [Laughter]
JG: Did you like working up there?
BH: Oh yes, very much.
JG: Well what made you come back and join the Evac?
BH: Well, the hospital was being formed here in Charlotte, and, I knew the nurses here who were joining the hospital. And I had a feeling that eventually, the nurses would be. They were not drafted, but I had an idea that later I would be going in service and so I thought it was better to go with people I knew, the doctors and the nurses. Which I did.
JG: You felt like you would have to go sooner or later probably.
BH: Yes. Um-hum.
JG: Did they ever require nurses to go?
BH: No.
JG: They didn't?
BH: They were strictly volunteer.
JG: Um-hum. How was it different being in the army?
BH: [Laughter] No comparison. We were in a tent hos--, tent hospital. We started out to be 750 beds, but we went up far beyond that. And we were a front-line hospital. We got patients directly from the lines. And of course it was as I said, long hours and hard work. But I wouldn't have missed it.
JG: Why not?
BH: Because, all the men, you know. All the soldiers, and everything, the casualties we had. Everything was, it was a busy time but a, an enjoyable time.
JG: Could they train you to be ready to do that? To go into war?
BH: Oh, yes. We would close a hospital, [Cough] excuse me, in the morning and move, whatever distance we had to and open the hospital that evening.
JG: Uh-hum.
BH: Because we were a strictly mobile unit. Tents always. [Pause]
JG: How is it different caring for people who are war casualties than for people who are sick at home?
BH: Well, we had--. Well, it was entirely different because they were wounded people. And then too, we had medical, like malaria. And medical, during the winter, respiratory cases and everything, it was not just strictly battle casualties.
JG: [Pause] Was it hard whenever you first started ( )?
BH: Well, we had to get oriented to a--.
JG: Uh-hum.
BH: Different routine, and different, you know, methods of doing things. We, we had to get ourselves organized. But it didn't take long. [Laughter] Because you had learned the basic things of nursing and it could be rearranged and applied any place you went.
JG: What sort of basic things?
BH: Well, well, as I, most of our, our patients were cas--, war casualties, surgical. And of course, our equipment was different in a lot of ways, so.
JG: [Pause] You don't only have to answer my questions. [Laughter] if you think of any anecdotes, or anything you want to tell me about--.
BH: Well, I can't think of anything in particular at the moment. One instance when our, a storm came and our tent blew down, on all of us. I remember that then our hospital flooded one time.
JG: What did you do?
BH: Got out alive! [Laughter] And then we had a terrible storm and our hospital was, not destroyed, we didn't lose any casualties, but we got out of that but--.
JG: Did you have to move all those 750 patients?
BH: Well however many we had. We had about 400 that time but I don't recall how many we had at the flood, during the flood, but we had a lot.
JG: Uh-hum.
BH: But we managed to get them out.
JG: And you stayed in the army ( )?
BH: Until April the following year, and then I stayed in the Reserve from then on, for twenty years.
JG: Uh-hum.
BH: But I was recalled in, during Korea and during Vietnam.
JG: Did you nurse overseas both times?
BH: No. I went to Fort Polk, Louisiana, for two years during Korea, and then one year during Vietnam. [Pause] And by that time I had finished twenty years. And I thought it was time to get out of the Reserve because, before I was recalled again. [Laughter]
JG: Did you not like being recalled by that point?
BH: Oh, yes. That was part of, of being in the Reserve. You were ready and you're expecting to be recalled.
JG: Uh-hum.
BH: But I thought with twenty years I had done enough. [Laughter]
JG: Sure. [Pause] Did you ever go overseas again, not during a war?
BH: Oh yes, that's where we were.
JG: Um-hum.
BH: As I spoke about being in tents.
JG: Right.
BH: We were in North Africa and Italy--.
JG: Um-hum.
BH: And Anzio.
JG: What was that like? Being in all those places?
BH: Well. As I said, we were in tents out in fields of mud, sleet, snow.
JG: Uh-hum.
BH: And North Africa was hot, like 120 degrees. You think this is hot, you don't know nothing. [Laughter]
JG: Did you meet any of the people who, the local people who lived there or--?
BH: Oh yes.
JG: Italians and North Africans?
BH: Um-hum. Um-hum. Oh yes.
JG: Was it interesting?
BH: Well we didn't have too much contact with them because we were always busy.
JG: Um-hum. Did you know about all the attention that you guys were getting back in Life magazine and stuff?
BH: [Laughter] No. We weren't out for attention.
JG: Oh, I'm sure.
BH: We didn't, I didn't know about this magazine until someone, Dr. Matthews sent it to me.
JG: Um-hum. [Pause]
BH: But my husband and I were both overseas at the same time.
JG: Uh-hum.
BH: We were not married then.
JG: Uh-hum.
BH: We went overseas on the same ship in '42 and twenty-two years later got married.
JG: Wow. Did you meet on the ship?
BH: Uh-huh.
JG: So you met?
BH: Oh yeah.
JG: Uh-huh. Did you stay in touch or--?
BH: For a while.
JG: Um-hum.
BH: And then later when he had finished his--. He was regular army, then we got married.
JG: How did you find each other again?
BH: He was on his way to Atlanta from Washington and he stopped and called me. So.
JG: Were you going--, were you going to say something or--?
BH: No.
JG: No? [Laughter] Let's see. Why did you decide to stay in the Reserves?
BH: Well. I had already spent four years on active duty, [Clear throat] excuse me, and I felt that if there was a possibility of being recalled, that it would be better to be in the Reserves, than it would be not.
JG: Why?
BH: And, too, we always think of the pay.
JG: Uh-hum.
BH: And that was one thing probably that--. However, I would have stayed in the Reserve had I not been on a pay status.
JG: Uh-hum.
BH: That I stayed in.
JG: What did you do from day to day while you were in the Reserves?
BH: I worked here, private-duty nursing.
BH: It was no different. My lifestyle was no different. But I attended meetings every Monday night.
JG: Um-hum.
BH: And then I went to summer camp every two, every summer for two weeks. And then I recruited nurses one summer. And I did a little bit of anything they asked me to do. [Laughter]
JG: Uh-hum.
BH: Whatever came along.
JG: Why did you do private-duty nursing instead of hospital--?
BH: Well, I felt like I had had enough of institutional work and I wanted a change.
JG: Uh-hum.
BH: And so I decided that private-duty would be, still be nursing, which I enjoyed.
JG: Did it have better hours?
BH: Yes. Better hours that eventually got to eight hours a day. Which, I felt like I was on vacation! [Laughter]
JG: Oh my goodness. [Laughter]
BH: I felt like I was on vacation. And then too, you could judge your own time, you could make your own working schedule. If you wanted to be off a week, you took off a week. And if you wanted to spend the summer doing something else, you did. Which I did not. [Long pause]
JG: So you supported yourself all that time right?
BH: Oh, yes, of course I did.
JG: Do you think nursing is a good way to do that?
BH: Oh, yes. Very much so.
JG: Was it ever hard to make ends meet or anything?
BH: Well, if you managed right it wasn't.
JG: Uh-hum.
BH: But you didn't squander your money. You always thought about later you might need it and so you planned accordingly.
JG: Uh-hum. What was it like whenever you got called up for Korea and for Vietnam? What sorts of patients were you working with then?
BH: I was working with post, Army post patients, just regular medical and surgical. Just like for example like Memorial Hospital.
BH: Just medical and surgical.
JG: So there weren't war casualties or being, being sent home or--?
BH: Oh, no. No, no. No.
BH: Just sick patients.
JG: So when you retired from the army, then what did you do? Did you--?
BH: Well I was, I was doing private-duty at the time.
JG: Right.
BH: When I was recalled, I just left and went to Fort Polk and then ten years later, during Vietnam, I did the same thing. I was doing private-duty so I just left for a year.
JG: Uh-hum.
BH: Came back where I started from.
JG: Did your patients miss you?
BH: Well, in private-duty nursing, you only had them when they were real sick.
JG: Oh.
BH: So, some you kept up with and then some [Clears throat], you, you know, lost track of. But you had, I had my nurse friends here and the doctors, of course I missed them, while I was gone.
JG: Did you work a lot with the doctors while you were doing private duty?
BH: Oh yes, the same doctors, some of them.
JG: Uh-hum.
BH: Came back because they were from here. We only had sick patients, you know that, who required a lot of attention.
JG: Right.
BH: And they did not have intensive care units, at first but now they have more intensive care units.
JG: Oh. So instead if keeping them in the hospital, they would send them to home and you would do--?
BH: No--.
JG: Oh.
BH: They were in the hospital--.
BH: But not in intensive care. But now the intensive care units take care of them--.
JG: I see.
BH: Like we did.
JG: Uh-hum.
BH: And so when they were ready to put out in the hall, they were much better.
JG: How have you seen medicine change?
BH: Tremendously [Laughter]. All the new medicines and new methods and everything. There's been a big change.
JG: Uh-hum.
BH: Terrific change.
JG: Do you see hospitals being able to save people that they couldn't have?
BH: Oh yes. Definitely. Much more than they did several years ago.
JG: Uh-hum. What is it like being a nurse in a hospital or in a medical unit? Do you get all the hardest work?
BH: Beg your pardon?
JG: Do you get all the hardest work?
BH: No not necessarily.
JG: Uh-hum.
BH: We just did what was supposed to be done [Pause].
JG: Uh-hum.
BH: As I've said before if you want it done, the best way to do is do it yourself. [Laughter]
JG: So you always got along with the doctors well?
BH: Oh yes.
JG: Um-hum. Do you feel like nurses work as hard as doctors do?
BH: Harder.
JG: Harder?
BH: Um-hum.
JG: Well--. But I guess their, a lot of the time their jobs have less prestige or whatever. They don't get paid as much.
BH: No.
JG: Did any nurses ever mind that?
BH: No.
JG: No?
BH: No.
JG: Why not?
BH: I don't know.
JG: Is it because you all liked what you were doing?
BH: We enjoyed it.
JG: Uh-hum. [Pause] Do you think it's probably more fun to be a nurse than a doctor?
BH: Oh, yeah.
JG: Why?
BH: Well, I don't know I guess, because I enjoyed nursing and--.
JG: Uh-hum.
BH: I'm sure that the doctors enjoyed their work equally as much.
JG: Do you get to spend more time with the patients?
BH: Yes, we spend more, much more time with the patients than the doctors did because they don't--. It isn't necessary for them to spend as much time as we did.
JG: And you like to spend time with the patients?
BH: Definitely.
JG: Do you see any difference in nurses now, people who are nurses now currently, than the nurses that you knew?
BH: Yes.
JG: How are they different?
BH: Well, we did more work than I think than the nurses do now. Much more.
JG: Why do you think you had to do this?
BH: Well, things that the nurses used to do it, they're, they're not allowed to do it now. Such as starting IVs and different procedures, they're not allowed to do it now. Whereas we used to do everything.
JG: Um-hum. [Pause] Do they seem to relate to patients the same way?
BH: I think so.
JG: Um-hum. [Pause] So are you proud of your career as a nurse?
BH: Oh yes, definitely. I couldn't, wouldn't have been happy doing anything else.
JG: Um-hum. What made you go to nursing school in the first place way out in Lenoir?
BH: Well, I couldn't think of anything else that would have been better. And as I said before it was during Depression, when you really didn't have money to do a lot of things. So that was one factor
JG: Because you needed to find a job and--?
BH: Right. I needed to do something.
JG: Uh-hum.
BH: So.
JG: Did you know any nurses when you were growing up?
BH: No.
JG: Uh-uh?
BH: Not until I was through high school. Then, when I had my appendix removed, I knew the nurses at the hospital then but I did not grow up knowing a nurse.
JG: When you had your appendix removed, did that make you interested in it?
BH: Well, I thought the nurses were nice. [Laughter]
JG: Uh-huh.
BH: And I thought that it was something nice to do.
JG: Uh-huh.
BH: And they, it was just different.
JG: Different from?
BH: I mean the work was different than secretaries or teachers or something like that.
JG: Um-hum. [Pause] What did everybody in your hometown and your family and everything think about you being over in North Africa?
BH: [Laughter] Like everybody else, they worried about me.
JG: Right, I'm sure.
BH: But. They were glad when I came home.
JG: It doesn't seem like that many families had daughters--.
BH: No.
JG: Overseas. They all worried about their sons.
BH: Right. Well there were not too many compared to the men. There were not that many women. [Pause] I've forgotten the number. I think it was fifty some that, more than that, there was thousand army nurses.
JG: Uh-hum.
BH: But the navy had probably equal as many.
JG: Was your family proud of you?
BH: Oh yes. All families were.
JG: Uh-hum. And you decided to settle down and stay in Charlotte.
BH: Oh yes.
JG: Uh-hum.
BH: I guess I just got so accustomed to Charlotte until I feel like no other place for me would be ideal.
JG: Uh-hum. Is it still ideal?
BH: Oh, well for me it is. I have my nurse friends here, I have my other friends here and of course the doctors whom I've known all my nursing life and I just sort of belong here.
JG: You make it sound like being in the medical, medical community is like a family.
BH: Oh yes, right.
JG: Does everyone look after each other or--?
BH: Oh yes, um-hum.
JG: That's good. [Pause] What do you think you brought back to, working in, in the civilian hospitals from having been over working in the army hospital?
BH: Well. You mean what you, what you think did, did I accomplish?
JG: Did you learn anything in the army hospital that you could use in nursing back in those days?
BH: Well, once you learn what to do in nursing it stays with you.
JG: Um-hum.
BH: So really I can't say that I've brought something back exactly but it helped me in many ways, in doing things and planning things.
JG: Um-hum. [Long pause]
BH: I know you need something to drink by now don't you? [Laughter]
JG: Oh, I'm doing OK. [Laughter] How did you, how did you feel whenever you were over there in the army? You must have felt so important, helping all those people--?
BH: Well, well I, I had so many friends around me, we all--. Nothing bothered us too much.
JG: Um-hum.
BH: So far as being away from our families, we were, we missed being in the States--. But still--.
JG: Uh-hum.
BH: We didn't want to leave to come home until others came home.
JG: Right.
BH: So. [Clear throat]
JG: Well, does anything else come to mind right now that you want to tell me about?
BH: [Laughter] I don't know. I don't think of anything at the moment? Do you think of anything?
JG: Oh. I've been asking you all these questions. [Laughter] I'd just like you to tell me about anything you want to.
BH: Uh-huh. Well, let me see, I'm trying to think. [Pause] Now is this what you're going to give Sally?
JG: The tape--?
BH: Uh-huh.
JG: Or?
BH: No?
JG: No.
BH: Or no?
JG: The--. I'm going to listen to it and type.
BH: Oh, I see.
JG: Type what's on the tape.
BH: Oh, I see.
JG: And that's what people will see.
BH: Uh-huh. Yeah.
JG: So.
BH: Sorry my voice hadn't gotten back to normal yet. [Laughter]
JG: Well it sounds--.
BH: It's about--.
JG: It sounds very good.
BH: Well compared to what it was I think it's very good. [Pause] Well, what do you want to drink? You must be thirsty. RECORDING PAUSED THEN RESUMED
BH: Running all that time?
JG: Uh-huh.
BH: You don't have that TV on.
JG: Huh? The tape recorder? Do you mind if I turn on?
BH: [Laughter] Turn it on!
JG: Oh, I'd rather hear stories.
BH: [Laughter]
JG: No? If I don't--.
BH: He came through Charlotte--. That's all right.
JG: That's OK?
BH: And called me.
JG: Uh-huh.
BH: And then the next week he came back through Charlotte and called me. And from then on, it wasn't long until we married.
JG: And how long had it been since you had heard from him?
BH: Twenty-two years.
JG: Good gosh! That's something else. I guess you made a big impression on him the first time, huh? [Laughter]
BH: [Laughter] [Pause]
JG: Actually I--.