“This is Peggy Barbour Straughen and I am on my way back to Ohio from a family reunion and I thought I would report some of my childhood memories of my grandparents. As I am speaking of this, I am now 60 years old. Let’s see…”
My grandmother grew up in south-central Pennsylvania, living for a time in Shippensburg but growing up mostly in Chambersburg. In 1997 she recorded a tape recounting memories from her childhood and transcribed it. These are some of Peggy’s memories in her own words.
I chose to go to Lebanon Valley, partly because it was a church related school, it was small and it offered a five year nursing program. The advice I got while in high school was – if I was going to do a five year program, I should do the college work first and then do the three years of nurse’s training which is how it was most often done. However I could have done it in reverse and in retrospect, I wish I had because then I would have had my nursing degree by the time I got married and would have been employable.
So I went to Lebanon Valley for two years, and loved every minute of it. It was like a whole new world opening up to me. I dated lots of different boys; I took voice lessons; I played varsity basketball, playing guard on the girl’s team, and loved that. I stayed in a very small dorm in which there were only about 20 of us of all classes.
Then at the end of those two years, I went to Harrisburg Hospital, and met Bill in the fall of my first year there. At the time Bill was a Senior at Hahnemann Medical School in Philadelphia and had chosen to come to Harrisburg to do various, what were called ‘externships’ – specialized areas of work during his Senior year. That is when we met. At the time I was dating somebody else on the Lebanon Valley campus, but he chased me pretty hard and I’m glad he did.
Whenever he was in Harrisburg, – he would come up on the train from Philadelphia, and, of course, we would go out. Sometimes we would go out for dinner and sometimes the student nurses would have dances on weekends. We became engaged the weekend in February when I received my ‘cap’. We were no longer probationary students, but full-fledged student nurses. We were allowed now to wear our caps and our student nurse uniforms.
So after having been home that weekend and announcing our engagement, I went back to the School of Nursing on Monday. I was called in to the director’s office. She said to me “Miss Barbour, I understand you are engaged. What are your plans?” and I said “We expect to be married in June after he graduates from medical school.” She said “Fine, — I will expect your resignation on my desk the first of June”, and I had no options. In those days, student nurses were not allowed to be married, but I had not even thought about that.
It was not going to make any difference, because Bill was going to Wisconsin to do his internship and I wasn’t going to stay in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania! So it was a moot point and that’s what happened!