Fond memories revisited
Friday, 16th April, 2010
By Gina Wilson
It was a brief six months, but half a century later a former local nurse said the city still held wonderful memories. From January to July 1961, Helen Brady worked as a registered nurse at the hospital and has returned with her family to see the place she once called home. With her, the Canadian brought the original page from the BDT where her and two of her friends, Phyllis and Jean, featured. “We were quite a novelty,” Mrs Brady said.
“They’d never had three Canadian girls in town.” The trio were working in Los Angeles and decided, for an adventure, they would go to New Zealand to work. They boarded a ship to Auckland, where Helen, at that time a single lady, met the ship’s banker Ken, whom she later married. The NZ adventure was cut short after Ken convinced them they must visit his Australian homeland. Little did they know they would end up in Broken Hill, a place they had never even heard of.
“(The nursing board) gave us a choice of going somewhere like Griffith, or somewhere in the green belt, or Broken Hill,” Mrs Brady said.“The choice of going to a farming community wouldn’t be quite as exciting as going to a mining town so that’s why we choose the extreme.” Mrs Brady said in those days it was quite strange for three young women to be boarding the train in Sydney for the remote city of Broken Hill.“When we were on the - I guess it was Central Station at Sydney - we had our footlockers and one bag each,” she said.
“(Someone on the platform said) hey there’s three girls for the ‘Hill. “It was like we were sending three girls out for all the bachelors or something!” She said working in Broken Hill was quite different to working in America as registered nurses did different jobs.“We were more hands on back at home,” Mrs Brady said. “But here we were seen more as supervisors, while the students did the hands on work. “Jean worked in communicable diseases in a very primitive building. She had to sweep the wooden floors.
“The first day she went to work she cried.” Mrs Brady returned on Wednesday for the first time since she departed in July 1961, and brought Ken and their daughter, Jane. She said one of the biggest changes to the city was the activity and the colour. “I remember the first morning waking up. The red soil. The kangaroos and the emus. They were everywhere, everywhere,” she said. “It was much dustier, yes, I think there was a lot more gravel and I don’t remember as many sidewalks. “And there are lots of lovely shops.”
To her many family and friends returning to the remote NSW city was a balmy idea, but Mrs Brady said it was great to be back.“Oh it is, it is. I told my family I’m not going unless I go to Broken Hill,” she said.“The family in Sydney and our friends ... said why, why?” All three nurses are now retired, but Mrs Brady said they remained friends and often talked of their time in Broken Hill.“I remember a day where I was taken yabbying in Menindee! We still talk about yabbying,” she said.
“(When I told her I was coming) Phyllis said ‘put me in your luggage’.” The family will take a tour of the nurses quarters, where Mrs Brady lived, and the hospital before leaving for Adelaide tomorrow.