Colourful tales of hospital’s past

Gympie Hospital in the mid 1960s to early '70s.

Gympie man JOHN HERMANN shares some of his colourful memories from the mid ’80s serving as a nurse at The Gympie Hospital.

My main reason for moving to Gympie in mid-1984 was to take up a new nursing position in the aged care section at Gympie Hospital. I had already had a telephone interview with the nursing superintendent: still called “matron“ in those days.

The hospital’s original main building was still standing at that time.

The beautiful old open verandas had long since been built in to make for more space; but a magnificent red cedar staircase still led from the building’s main entrance up to the aged care wards on the first floor.

There were some colourful characters up there: both staff and patients.

I still have a photo of myself with some of the old men at the 1984 hospital fete.

I still believe that this old building could have been fumigated and restored to its original condition.

However, both it, and the beautiful old red cedar staircase, ended up as rubble beneath the new car park just across the street.

During my first evening shift at the hospital, a little old Ford Prefect pulled up in front of the old outpatients building.

A couple got out of the front and then proceeded to wrestle a calf out of the back seat, and lead him inside to be treated.

“Strike me!“ I said to myself,“What on Earth have I come to here?“

On another day I was attending to an old fellow named Smithy (I have changed his name, for obvious reasons), when one of the other male nurses came along and said “I hear you duffed (stole) a few cattle in your time, Smithy!“

“I never duffed any cattle in me life!“ Smithy replied gruffly.

“That’s not what I hear! I hear you duffed a few!“

In the course of time, poor old Smithy passed away, and went to the great cattle yard in the sky.

One day much later though, I bumped into an old farmer who had suffered a stroke, who was wheelchair-bound, and could not speak. But I still asked him “Hey, Bill, ever heard of a bloke named Smithy?“

“Whoo!“ the old farmer exclaimed, and he just about jumped out of his wheelchair.

I took that as a “Yes“.

While, after this, I got talking to an old former police officer one day.

“You ever hear of a bloke named Smithy?“ I asked him.

“Ho!“ he chuckled. “That old cattle duffer! Trouble is, we could never catch him in the act. And I hear he’s taught his trade to his sons!“

I miss those days, and those people.

Gympie Hospital was a real treating hospital back then; everybody knew everybody else, and their business.

There was a real sense of community.