Our Stories: 1940's


LaNelle (Blackston) Baxter, Class of 1947 B

It is unique that I learned of the School from a funeral director who had attended Gupton-Jones School of Mortuary Science. I wanted to obtain a college degree as well as become a nurse. He said I could "get it all at Vanderbilt." How right he was.

I wanted to become a nurse to learn how to take care of sick individuals and their families. It was the actual clinical experience that I was seeking. Throughout our course of study, it was stressed that the individual was a member of a family in the community and that the hospital experience would be a temporary interruption in his activities. Our goal was to return the patient to their family as an active participant in the community. The faculty maintained this objective in the planning and presentation of our classes. We respected our professors and knew that we were among the fortunate few to have such well known instructors providing us with the latest information in their fields.

The happiest (and sometimes most challenging) times were spent on the wards and other clinical areas. It was a laboratory experience in the true sense of the word. Patient assignments were made by competent nursing instructors who remained on the units. We did not staff the units and had no responsibilities for the maintenance of the unit.

Periodically our class will remark that we have something that can't be taken away from us and will continue to serve us well throughout life (most of us are in our early to mid 80's now). We are most fortunate and richly blessed to have attended Vanderbilt and receive such an outstanding education. It prepared us well for a professional career in nursing and certainly has enriched our lives as wives, mothers and grandmothers.

Our class is extremely "close." We have kept in touch since graduating sixty years ago and know the addresses of each classmate and correspond often. Those loyal friendships started at Vandy! I congratulate Vanderbilt University on its Centennial, and may it continue to be one of the greatest educational institutions in this country and abroad.

Ann Moore Crain, BSN, Class of 1947

In front of the Building sits our faithful Ford Coupe ready for action, one larger Ford car was bought just before our six weeks use. It was the first to be available when the Ford company opened up after the War. This car was used to take us from Nashville to Murfreesboro and return to Nashville. We had orientation to Public Health, then given assignment of families to visit and we were off. We were each assigned a car and a road directions and a brown bag lunch backed by the kitchen (usually pimento cheese sandwiches and cottage cheese and raisins, good but strange.

Each car had a disticinct personality all were black, straight drive (with a clutch). The one I dreaded the most had a huge hole in the floor board between the clutch pedal and the gas pedal. No problem until the creek had to be forded (no pun).

Driving through the creek took a bit of planning and agile foot work and always on the other side of the creek was a sloping upper bank to navigate. One foot on the brake, one foot on the choke and one foot on the gas and one foot to cover the hole in the floor. This was a good lesson in Problem solving.

A classmate, Mrs. Cloace Ferguson, from Texas made a home visit to a rural home and found the mother and her children huddled in a panic. The reason a skunk was under the house. She calmly asked if they had a gun. The answer was yes. They handed it to her, she located the skunk,and with one shot she shot the skunk before the skunk could shoot. She returned the gun and proceeded with her visit.

Nancy Gilien, Class of 1947

The Vanderbilt nursing program emphasized preventive health care and provided a student rotation at the rural Rutherford County Health Department. I remember that rotation as one of my most interesting and pleasant student experiences. It was exhilarating to think that I could provide useful health information to a family. Those tolerant people always listened politely, and I was sure in those days that I had probably saved them from some significant health care blunder. The drives from family-to-family in the beautiful Middle Tennessee countryside are a pleasant memory to this day.

Since graduation, after some initial hospital work, all of my work has been in public health or related types of programs.

Beth Winchester Isaacs, Class of 1947

I decided in high school that I wanted to go into nursing and started checking into this profession and a list of nursing schools. One of those schools was Vanderbilt University, the mad father’s alma mater. To appease my mother, I first went to the University of Colorado for two years. They were planning a degree program, but it would be connected to some hospital in Denver and was still provisional.  When I wrote to Vanderbilt, they sent me a list of recommended classes to take at UC before transferring to Vanderbilt.

The first of January 1945, I took the train to Nashville. At Memphis, I met two of my soon-to-be classmates, Bea Szabo and Yvonne Orr. We were all seated together in the dining care and made our acquaintance at that time. In Nashville, we went to the campus and were assigned rooms in the Kirkland Hall dormitory. Following several days of testing, the class of 1947B started their education. 
My first room was on the fourth floor and it looked our over 21st Avenue. This was a beautiful view, as it faced East and I could see the sun rise every morning. The first semester was spent in classroom study. To make sure that all students had background in the same subjects, we took 25 college hours that semester. The reason that it could be done is that all of us had some of these courses before and only part of the courses were new. 

Our professors came from the campus and taught all our classes at Mary Kirkland Hall, except laboratory classes which were taught at the Medical School. This limited our contact with other students on the campus, but we really had very little time to meet other students or participate in the activities on campus. I was told that the reasons we were in an accelerated program was because it was commensurate with requirements of Cadet Nurse Program which was active at the time. While I was not signed up for this program, it took care of expenses and furnished a uniform for those who were.

Among the activities were the field trips that we took. One that was particularly memorable was to a packing plant in Nashville which was taken on a cold wet day. We were bundled up in our winter coats and were shown how the animals were processed.  Evidently aromas from the plant got on our clothes. So much so, that when we headed back on the city bus to campus, I remember a perspective ride backing away saying, “I’ll take the next bus.”  When we got back, we all took our coats and hats to the seventh floor and hung them outside on the roof to get rid of the odor.

I remember lots of get-togethers among us students. There were events at Halloween, picnics, cider/fruitcake sharings and more. I’ll never forget the beautiful All-School Banquet that was held at the Belle Meade country club where pictures were taken of all of us in our best dresses and hats.

When we were on Obstetrics and Pediatrics, one student was approached about baby sitting. The doctors assured the anxious first mothers that the nurses would be competent. Whenever there was a request for a babysitter, a name and phone number was placed by the phone and anyone free could let the prospective parent know that they could come.

There are other events that occurred when we went on our Public Health training. One the way to Murfreesboro one group of nurses stalled their car on the railroad tracks.  The men at the cleaning shop pushed the care off before the train came. As a result of this acquaintance, whoever was going out would take any cleaning needed to the cleaning men and return it that evening completely done. The prices were very reasonable too.

We were supposed to leave the Public Health Office, but if it was a very pretty day, the group would manage to take their box lunch, provided by the school, and drive out somewhere for a picnic. One time whoever was driving the car failed to properly set the brakes and the car rolled toward the river. One of the girls was fast enough to turn the wheel and the care was stopped by a fence post.  That seemed to put a damper on picnics.

A classmate of mine from Amarillo High School was a student at the Medical School and we got together soon after she started. I went over to visit with her when she was working on her cadaver and she told me that one of the attendants in the morgue had been there for many, many years and might remember my father. I visited with the gentleman and he said, “Sure, I remember him.  He helped dig up the bodies in potters field.”  He described my father (class of 1907) and even remembered his crippled finger.

Julia Hereford was the health nurse for the students and encouraged us in exercise.  She went on one picnics with the class and we all played baseball. Julia was quite a good ball player as I remember.

Martha Jenkins King, Class of 1947

In 1939, the Taylor Family came into my life. Jimmie was five years old and Garie was three years old, and they were our new neighbors. As a 14-year-old only child, I was drawn to their home with so many of their aunts, uncles, and other family members.   But the two greatest attractions were their mother and father, Mary and Jim. Little did I realize that my path to the Vanderbilt University School of Nursing had begun.

Mary Steagal Taylor graduated from the School of Nursing in 1932 and was employed as a public health nurse at the Davidson County Health Department. By the time I finished high school in 1942, our families had grown very close. I wanted to be a public health nurse, and with two years of college, I entered the Cadet Nurse Program at Vanderbilt in 1945. It was a cold, cloudy January 3rd when I left my East Nashville home.

 Forty students began and only 28 completed the program. The truest of friendships were formed and now over 60 years later most of us keep up with one another. The teachers and professors were superb. I thought the class on body mechanics was "farfetched," but I soon realized it was most important and still use those rules every day. All of my education at Vanderbilt was the most rewarding part of my life. After I graduated, I spent five years working as a public health nurse in Tennessee and teaching students in Augusta at University Hospital. That’s how I met my husband Dr. Coleman King, and all of this sent me into a happy and blessed life.

All that I learned at Vanderbilt it made life easier and more enjoyable when it came time to take care of my three children and help sick friends.

Thank you Vanderbilt University School of Nursing and Mary Taylor. With God's help it has been a wonderful life. And I am so happy to report that Mary Taylor is now 97-years-old and is getting along amazingly well.

Iola McClellan Manoogian, Class of 1947

My Thanks to Vanderbilt School of Nursing

I was a senior in college and looking for a nursing school which would give me my basic training and offer me a degree in Nursing. Vanderbilt was at the head of the list which I surveyed. It had the Nurses Cadet Corps program and was one of the best universities in the States so I chose Vanderbilt and it surpassed my expectations.

We went on field trips, did surveys, and were taught leadership as a part of being a "whole" nurse. At times it was difficult to get supplies so we were taught to improvise and use what we had which was invaluable to me when I went to Beirut, Lebanon, and worked in a small mission hospital where improvising was what you did. My excellent education, wide experience in all fields of nursing gave me the basis on which I started a nursing school in that hospital and taught for 30 years.

I remember the bus rides to the field trips, the social teas to which we were cordially invited "but definitely expected to attend", living next to Otis, the elevator, and all the lasting friendships we made. Thank you Vanderbilt School of Nursing.

Margaret Fort Meggs, Class of 1947

My brother was a graduate of Vanderbilt University. Located in Nashville, Vanderbilt was close to my home in Clarksville, Tenn., and travel from Clarksville to Nashville was available to me.

So when my decision was made to enter the field of nursing, my application was to Vanderbilt. It was my wish to have a profession that would give me opportunity to be of service to others. The variety of experience acquired gave me, as a young person, the opportunity to choose an area of nursing that seemed to suit me best.

We had field trips, more formal classes and practical experiences in the hospital ward, as well as in clinics and in public health.

One experience resulting from a field trip, which I well remember, occurred after our group visited a meat packing plant. The last part of that visit was in the slaughter house area. When we all left and boarded a city bus to return to our dorm, the bus was rather crowded and the odor from our field trip was quiet strong. Some riders already on the bus got off at the very next stop to catch a breath of fresh air and a later bus. We laughed at ourselves and remembered lessons learned on that trip.

The whole Vanderbilt experience gave us valuable knowledge and background for getting to work in our field of choice and where we wanted to work. These guided and varied experiences also helped prepare the way for, not only successful work relationships, but everyday living throughout our lifetime.

Last, but not least, the longtime friendships developed with classmates have been enriching and endured all these years.

Ada Trice Smith, Class of 1947

The calendar said January 1, 1945.  The clock said 8 a.m.  My heart said, “Are you sure you want to do this?”  But I was packed, fed, dressed and ready to go.  Changing my mind was not an alternative.

America was hard at war and all citizens were trying to do their patriotic duty in whatever way they could.  An older friend of mine had come to my college, recruiting girls to attend Vanderbilt University School of Nursing and to be members of the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps.  At that time, there were only three baccalaureate schools of nursing in the United States – Western Reserve, Yale and Vanderbilt. Each awarded their graduates a Bachelor of Science degree in Nursing. 

My friend said the day she graduated from Vanderbilt she wanted to start over and do the whole three years again.  That convinced me that this would be a good way for me to do my part in the war effort.  Besides the cadet uniforms were really snappy looking – light grey wool with brass buttons and red epaulets and a cute beret trimmed also in red. When in the uniform we were permitted to board trains, buses and planes with the service men. This facilitated getting a seat, but did not guarantee it in those war days of heavy travel.

Finally two of my Tupelo friends, who were medical students at Vandy, arrived and loaded me and my bulging suitcases into the car.  We headed north to a world that was completely new to me.  I had never been to Nashville, and really knew very little about the city.  As we turned north, the threat of snow increased and patches of an earlier snow could be seen under bushes and in the shades of trees and houses.  As we approached Nashville, it seemed the city was covered by a grey foggy pall.  I had heard about the smog caused by the burning of soft coal but this was beyond my imagination.  As we approached the city limits, grey clouds began to spit a little snow, but not enough to cover the black lace soot that adorned the remnants of earlier snow.

We arrived at Mary Kirkland Hall in early afternoon, and I was not impressed except for the huge oak tree that grew right in the middle of the sidewalk leading to the front door.  The building was large, austere and foreboding.  The thought of the next three years spent here did not make me happy.  As we entered with my luggage, my friends spoke and introduced me to a couple in small entryway office.  He was a senior medical student, and she was a senior nursing student. They were addressing their wedding invitations.  “Hmm. . . “ I thought, that seemed like a ray of hope for the future.

I soon learned how I looked in that funny green and white uniform with the starched cap was not important, but what I learned was.  We were part of the university but also set apart. The medical school faculty from Dr. Billy Orr, who always wore a bow tie and called everybody “cousin,” to Dr. Barney Brooks who scared us all to death and our own nursing school faculty who molded, inspired and taught us how to be worthy graduates of the Vanderbilt School of Nursing were all magicians.

What we did after graduation was very diverse but hope worthy of the experience of our time at Vanderbilt.  And you know what?  I also would have liked to start all over the day I graduated and to do it all over again. The friends I made and the things I learned have enriched my life for the past 60 years. Thank you Vanderbilt University School of Nursing.


Martha Larsen, Class of 1948

I graduated from Peabody High School in Trenton, TN in 1937. I attended Milligan College for one year and graduated from Charity Hospital School of Nursing in New Orleans in 1942. I returned to West TN to work in Public Health Nursing combined with home delivery service. I enjoyed traveling throughout the rural areas helping deliver babies. I then joined the Army Nurse Corps as a 2nd Lt. attached to the Army Air Force. I served for three years and was discharged as a 1st Lt. While in the military I met 1st Lt. Herb Larsen. He had just returned from flying 52 missions over North Africa.

My husband Herb and I attended Vanderbilt University on the GI bill. After graduation Herb and I moved to Oak Ridge, TN where Herb worked in the legal department of the Atomic Energy Commission and I was the chief nurse at the Oak Ridge Health Department for 5 years, and worked over 27 years in the Biology division of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

In 1998 I moved to Tryon Estates, an ACTS retirement-life community in Columbus, NC. I enjoy playing golf, bridge and staying in touch with family and friends world-wide.

Nadine Turner, Class of 1948

Greetings from Kentucky! I am Nadine Branson Turner from the Class of 1948. I am 90-years-old and still live independently.

I am a graduate of Norton Hospital School of Nursing in Louisville, KY in 1943. Our country was at war. I joined the army nurse corp and served in the states and overseas. While I was serving overseas I made a decision to select a university where I could earn my bachelors degree in nursing. I wrote to five universities and I eliminated four of them and chose Vanderbilt. I have fond memories of the School of Nursing faculty especially Dean Ziegler, Julia Hereford, Helen Powell, Agnes McGlothlin, Lucy Dade, and LuLu Wolf. The faculty prepared me for a long career in nursing that has included instructor, educational director of a school of nursing, director of a school of nursing, and for the last 25 years Director of Nursing Services in two different hospitals.

During my career, I was privileged to serve as President of the Kentucky Nurses’ Association. I was appointed by Governor Wendell Ford to serve on the Kentucky Board of Nursing and also to serve on a committee of education. I served on the American Nurse Association Ethical Standard Committee.

In the 1970’s I returned to college and obtained a master of science in education from Murray State University. In the early 1980’s I was invited to join a 40 nurse member team to the Peoples Republic of China. Spalding University in Louisville, Kentucky awarded me the annual leadership in nursing award.

I retired in 1982. In the 1990’s I wrote a book “My Journey in Nursing” which covered the years from 1940 to 1982.

Proudly stands Vanderbilt University and may there be many more years ahead.

Hail to thee my alma mater!