Ever since she was eight years old, she always knew she wanted to be a nurse. Mary Kay MacDonald, now 97, remembers taking care of her paternal grandmother after school thinking that “this is what I want to do for the rest of my life.” Caring for people was her calling. She began her 3 year program, at St. Joseph’s Hospital in 1939. She remembers that when she was ready to become a nurse after graduation, there was not much work for nurses in the hospital as the nuns held most of the jobs. Mary Kay worked both in the hospital at St. Joseph’s and the doctor’s office of J.O. MacNeil and Joe A. MacDonald at the Glace Bay clinic.
St. Joseph’s Hospital stood from the first sod turning in 1901 until it closed its doors in 1996 at the corner of Main Street and Wallace’s Road. In the beginning it was the work of Father Ronald MacDonald and Father Charles W. MacDonald until the Sisters of St. Martha took it over from 1902 to 1908 and then from 1915 onward. It was a 75 bed unit in the beginning and was the first hospital to incorporate the “Check-Off” system of paying which was the groundwork for our modern medical care system we know today. It also housed a nursing school and TB (Tuberculosis) Unit. If you want to know more about the history of St. Joseph’s Hospital you can go to Mary Chaisson’s website here… http://www.gbsaintjoes.qrconsulting.ca/GB_StJos.html .
Mary Kay remembers the nursing school as the highlight of her life for three beautiful years of study. She became a nurse in 1942 and to her this was like a dream come true. Glace Bay, during this time, was a very different town from the way it is today. “It was a booming place.” She remembers the old Dominion grocery store on Commercial Street. You could take a streetcar to town. It was a very different day. There are no more grocery stores left on Commercial Street today. Today we have Sobey’s and Super Value on Reserve Street in the town. No more streetcars either. Glace Bay was a town of big dreams when “coal was king.”
Mary Kay, grew up in the area known as Number 11 or Paschendale in the town. It was named Number 11 after the Number 11 Collery opened on the Emery seam in 1899. The mine was deemed too shallow and later closed. You can read more about Number 11 Collery from the following website…
As a child, Mary Kay, attended St. Anne’s School and remembers learning the basics of reading, writing, arithmetic and progressing every year. She remembers winters being much harsher than today and summers being much hotter. There was always an outdoor skating rink to go to even if you had to fight with the hockey players for rink space. The boys would always take the best patches of ice, she remembers. Mary Kay was married in 1951 and has two children named Barbara and Brian. She now lives with her cat in Dominion, Nova Scotia. Glace Bay in the 1940’s was a very different day because you could have a career here. It was a bustling town with big dreams.
If you have a story to tell or know someone with a story to tell about Glace Bay or growing up in Glace Bay, you can contact me at email@example.com.
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