Oct 11 , 2009

We move on here from the last topic of Deadman’s Pond to Hospitals, doctors and so forth. Because of your great response this time to the topic, the subject will be split into two parts. Here we recount memories of Dr. Paton and the little Cottage hospital that became known as Banting Memorial Hospital.:

But first, one last note on the terrible forest fires of 1961 from Bob Warren:


The fire was in 1961…it was the year I was hired by EPA as a seaplane dispatcher in South brook ...a summer job while out of Memorial U..

I remember  there were talks of a possible evacuation of Gander and I was concerned where Mary was going to end up...the highlight of the fire for me!!

Bob Warren, GA Class of 1959


So now, strap yourself to a gurney here and get ready for some early ‘health and wellness’ memories:



My memories of the Gander hospital relate to getting needles from Dr Paton. I hated needles. Still do.
When I was about 14 years old I became overly ambitious with my axe and cut my leg to the bone.  I recall that Dr Paton diligently sewed up the wound and gave me a needle. A few months later I was back at the hospital, being examined by Dr Paton prior to going to the Canadian (Boy Scout) jamboree. Although I protested that I just had a needle a  few months ago, he  decided to give me another shot, 'to be cautious'.

About a  year later, while running towards the 'green lane',  I inadvertently used  a nail stuck in a pole to bring me to a stop. Again Dr Paton sewed me up and gave me a needle. One year later he gave me a series of shots prior to my leaving for the Boy Scout (World) Jamboree.

When I graduated from high school Dr. Paton sent me the attached note which I have always cherished. There was no mention of needles.

Eric Smith, GA Class of 1956





I remember needles in Grade X, last year at Hunt Memorial, I wasn't having a needle come hell or high water, and so I didn't. It was for Polio.

Audrey Mingo Grantham, GA Class of 1958

I was thinking that I had not been in the hospital at all when all of a sudden I realized that was not true. It is amazing how we can suppress a nasty experience.

One Christmas, both my brother Alex (Millar) and I were put in the hospital to have our tonsils and adenoids removed.  I don't remember either of us having anything particularly wrong with them, and neither of us were sick, but at the time I believe it was the thing to do. Interesting that now children rarely have that operation at all.

It was extremely painful and we were in hospital for many days. I was really angry at my parents for arranging for the event to take place during the holidays when we could have been at home having fun away from school.

I was in a large ward with a lot of people and had my own little bedside table to keep personal items. Imagine my shock one day to open it and see a large cockroach waving its antennae at me.Not being able to do much more than croak with my sore throat I could not even protest much to anyone. Then I was afraid to open the drawer in case I saw the cockroach.

Later, when I could communicate with my parents they thought I was imagining things, as the cockroach was nowhere to be seen.

The weather must have been wintery while we were in hospital as I remember being cold and the light in the room constantly gray making the white of the bedspreads stand out.

In my early teens I experienced a sore tummy for several days and was taken to the hospital and seen by Dr. Paton.  The worry was that it might be my appendix. That did not seem to be the case but I was kept in hospital overnight for observation. In the room was a pretty young lady from somewhere other than Gander, who taught me to play crib. I do not remember her health issues but she wore the most enticing perfume called ‘Heaven Sent’. In the end, there did not seem to be anything wrong with me and I was sent home. This time, I was in a room with only one person and the windows were quite large and it was sunny every day.  I guess that means I must have been there for a couple of days. Oh yes, and people smoked in hospitals in those days.

Those are memories which have not surfaced for years, I think I will just pack them away again.

Michal Millar Crowe, GA Class of 1960

I was in and out of that hospital more times than I care to remember.

Most of the time my visits were to look after minor hockey injuries - cuts, bruises, stitches and the like. I do recall having a major case of the flu prior to an important game and being sent by the team in to the hospital to receive treatment that was intended to have me back on my feet within 24 hours. It worked but it took me a couple of days after to get over the shot.

My first impression of the hospital was of how primative it appeared to be. It didn`t seem like it would be able to handle any major cases. but first impressions aren`t always lasting. My problems were minor but my wife Flo was in there for a  major neurological problem and received first class care.

I often look back on those days of running from the rink to the hospital to be stitched up with some nostalgia. The rinks now days have complete medical facilities available. In some of these rinks a complex operation could be performed. Progress sometimes isn't all its cracked up to be. Back in those days they didn't have all the modern medical know-how or equipment that's available now but they certainly took the time to understand a patients problems and provide the best quality care.

Dave Gilhen, RCAF Gander 1957


I remember the airport hospital, the Banting Memorial Hospital which I first saw at age 8 in 1948. Dr. James Paton was the miracle-worker there and I remember my parents calling him in for my abdominal pain very early one morning. I didn't need surgery at that time but within a few years I had the famous 'tonsillectomy', performed under chloroform for anesthesia. This liver damaging chemical is no longer used. I was kept in for a day and released to home where I vomited so much I had to get rushed back to the hospital for severe bleeding. I recovered eventually and entertained notions of going into Nursing although other influences were encouraging me to go into Teaching. My mother discouraged me from doing Commercial or any of the Service industries connected to food or travel. There wasn't much for a gal to do those days.

 However, when it turned out that I had won a 'scholarship' to Memorial University, I decided I would go there and do PreMed---Take That---and after that I didn't go to medical school because we didn't have one in the province, so I allowed myself to be talked into doing Honours Biology and Graduate Biology studies involving the recently discovered helices of DNA and RNA, 1950's. But that fell through when my academic program changed from Genetics to Marine Biology and I got married and turned into a wife and mother! ---Now What---?

In less than a year I had answered a request from the UIC to take a job with a local brewery; I was now to become a Brewing Chemist. In the 3 years in which I held that position the brewmasters had dealings with American and Danish brewing companies as consultants and I usually typed and received the correspondence. To discourage them from addressing me as "Mr." which they seemed to prefer, I invented the form of address, "Ms." Yes! MS, circa, 1963. (You've heard it here first)!

 By the time the local brewery was taken over by a larger company, I was taking more university courses like Chemistry and Psychology, and had decided to stop working and return to MUN to pursue a degree in Education so that by 1966 I was now a qualified Teacher and all I needed now was somewhere to teach. So I filled in at Gander High for the last few months of the school year. After that, I continued teaching in St. John's, then Winnipeg and continued doing courses such that in 1969 I had a degree in Arts (Psychology) and in 1970 I had a Master's degree in Science Education and I returned to St. John's and teaching where in the 3rd year with a new school board, my destiny was realized when I discovered I could go to MUN Medical School and graduate with M.D. in 1979 (15 years late, if you care to look at it that way; I think better late than never).

 And all of this was possible because I didn't bleed to death before I became even a teenager, thanks to Dr. Paton and the makeshift Banting Memorial hospital and the rudimentary Cottage Hospital System which Newfoundland had up that time. Families paid up to $20 annually for 'healthcare' whether they needed it or not! I guess this is as much as can be handled at this time.

Doris (Moss) Cowley, GA Class of 1956,  Houston, Texas.


I stayed in the Teachers' Hostel for the first two years of GA. It was next door to the Sir Fredrick Banting Memorial Hospital but down around the loop a little. I forget the name of the road/street. The front of the hospital was on the main road so I saw little of what was going on. Were there ambulances then?
I do know that the engineer of the hospital was the husband of the Hostel matron. He had visiting rights. They were from Twillingate and had a daughter who had a small physical disability - she worked somewhere in the area and would occasionally visit.
What about an earlier hospital.

P.S.: Now I remember. I get a lot of these senior moment these days. The last names of the Matron of the last days of the Teachers' Hostel on the airport and that of the Engineer of Banting Memorial Hospital was Gran(d)ville from Twillingate and our assistant at the hostel was a Mrs. Hynes perhaps from Change Islands.

Clarence Dewling , GA teacher


Hi Everyone,

Thought I would share my memories of the old hospital. In 1944.

 I was still living in Gambo and the only means of transportation to Gander was by train.  My Mother at the time was in bed with her 4th child (Effie) and I decided to go upstairs to see her. Being only 2 1/2 years old at that time and had the mumps fell down and broke my mumps, so I'm told.  My father and aunt took turns carrying me to the train station which took about an hour, then on to Gander.

I still vaguely remember the walk but not the train ride. I guess I fell asleep. But I remember my little room in the hospital had a small white painted bureau with a teddy bear on it. Don't know how I remember  but I can still see that little teddy to this day. I guess it was because it was so traumatic for a little 2 1/2 year old.

My mom said my head was a mass of curls at the time but they had to shave my head and my hair grew out straight after...hence the perms as a teenager.

PS. I was 6 years old when we moved to the army side and what a day it was. We were running around the house turning on lights, flushing the toilet and we even had bathtub which at least four of us enjoyed a bath at the same time ...no more galvanized tub in the middle if the kitchen floor near the warm wood stove. When I look back now I say to myself ' life was good then" and of course it still is.

Mary Osmond Warren GA Class of 1959


Hi Mary, You may not know it  nor even care that Kezie Gill's grandmother Sophie Gill used to watch/see you smooching after school when Bob used to walk you home. She would then report on it. Actually The old lady liked young people and charmed on their activities. I know.

Clarence Dewling, GA Teacher



When I was 21 years old, I got inside the hospital. Had my tonsils & adenoids removed. I was admitted, put into a semi private room, across from the Nursing station with a maternity patient who screamed and hollered the first day, 'CAUSE she was in labour.

The next day I was  off to the OR, given ether which was the knock out choice back then (and made you God awfull sick for days after) on the way back from OR I felt myself drowning in my own blood, the sutures came apart
where they had sewn the adnoids, I began to choke. The Nurse (she was a friend of my mother's, but I can't think of her name now) and an orderly that were in front and on back of the streatcher were having a great gab about the party they had attended the night before and how hung over they were.

A great confidence booster. I tried to get their attention to no avail.

SO I rolled myself off the trolley. That did the trick - with a lot of "Oh my Gods"  I was promptly slapped back on the stretcher for a ride back to  the OR -- "re-sewed".

I remember wakeing up back in my room to a screaming baby, by now the new Mother was being shown how to breast feed, it was not going well - and didn't for the rest of my stay - she cried - the baby screamed and I sure would have cried if my throat didn't hurt so "dang bad". OH yes! the nursery was also located nearby - lots of crying babies.

During the next three days I was afraid to sleep at night as you could hear the "'COCKROACHES" SCAMPER UP THE WALLS AND ACROSS THE CEILING. I was told the cockroaches came in during the war to eat up the bacteria, don't know how true that story is/was - but "DANG"  they WERE THERE.

For the next three days the liquids were alternated, tomatoe juice in a glass that had a great milk ring, an apple juice glass with a tomatoe juice ring, water  with God only knows what kind of ring (I guess sanitation was not a big factor  in the early 60's)  I was supose to drink X number of liquids before I could be released.  It wasn't gonna happen there, so I DID cry, went to the Nurseing station said I wanted to go home, they said I couldn't go yet I hadn't had enough liquids &was too weak to go, I promptly  phoned my father, from the pay phone, come get me - he said NO after speaking to the Head nurse.

Not to be "unknown" for my stubbornness  and determination  I went to the bathroom dressed my self with great difficulty, after borrowing 2 baby diaper pins from my roommate to keep my slacks up, when I put the slacks on, buttoned them up they fell to the floor I had lost that much weight in five days (God only knows I was skinny enough in those day - must have lost that formula)

I Called a taxi - with two screaming nurses telling me I wasn't allowed to go, no one had signed me out.  I replied I was 21 and could sign myself out. As I'm getting in the taxi they were giving me a lecture about how the hospital will not be responsible if something happened to me after I left.  Since my father told me I couldn't go home, thinking that would stop me.  I WENT TO PATRICIA'S HOUSE. 

Pat tried to talk me into going back to the hospital, THAT WASN'T GONNA HAPPEN, she did allow me to stay with her for three weeks, and SPOON FED me water, juice, jello, icecream etc

I recovered nicely thanks to my big sister, AND one of my best friends, PATRICIA.

Jane (Dempsey) Donnelly  GA Glass of  1960


I have several memories of the Sir Frederick Banting Memorial Hospital, none of which I would call "fond" memories. I remember going to the hospital to receive my smallpox vaccination. It was on a Saturday morning in the summer, I can't remember the year, but I do remember the needles and that I had to return to the hospital the next Saturday for the nurse/doctor to check my vaccination.

In, I think, grade 2 at morning recess one fall day I happened to get in the way of one of the homemade propellers that they boys used to make from a bit of string, a tobacco tin, a sewing cotton reel, a few nails and a short stick. It shot into the air and suddenly became a boomerang, coming back into the group of boys standing around, and clipped me in the right temple.

Blood everywhere!

Roland Clarke called my Dad and he took me to the hospital to be patched up by Doc Paton. No stitches, thank goodness!

Doc Paton also gave me my first physical exam when I started work with CN at the USAF Repeater Station in Gander. I don't remember the details of the exam, except for a cold hand and a very weak cough.


I remember I had to go to the Banting Memorial Hospital for a hernia operation. I don't know how I got that but I suspected at the time it was from a well-placed hockey stick. They put that mask on my face and turned on the chloroform, or ether, or whatever. All I know it was horrible stuff. I was sick for days from it. They didn't have the IV in the arm / out like a light method in those days.

On another occasion I went to the doctor with a very sore throat and he said, "those tonsils have to come out". So I was checked into the BMH again and had the customary Vanilla ice cream. They had to get the infection cleared up before they would operate. But after a couple of days they decided the tonsils didn't have to come out after all. So I was sent home cured. But it didn't matter in those days. No waiting list to get in for surgery and you stayed as long as it took to get healed. And I still got those tonsils 50 or so years later.

We went to the RC school on the American side by bus. One day as we were waiting for the bus to return home, a little kid fell off the telephone pole he was trying to climb and broke his leg, just as the bus was arriving. He made it quite clear that he didn't want to be left behind so I picked him up by the armpits and carried him onto the bus and laid him across one of the seats. I instructed the bus driver to let us off in front of the BMH which he did. I carried him into the hospital and handed him to the first person I saw. Days later the kid was back on the bus again with a big cast on his leg. To this day I don't know who that kid was.

Coincidently, the same thing happened in our back yard when Marilyn Green broke her leg while jumping off a snow bank onto a piece of ice. I picked her up and carried her to her house next door. She also showed up a few days later with a cast. I guess I was kind of a paramedic without an ambulance.

Easy for me to respond. Was always struck by the manner and patience of Dr Paton, for whom the new hospital was named. He always seemed to be available and I'm sure personally doctored most of Gander's population at one time or another. A true legend.

Second is the dental visits! In the days before we had a dentist there was only one way to deal with a serious toothache. Go to the hospital, be knocked out with ether, and a nurse yanked out your teeth.

Remember being held down as the ether was administered and the groggy wakeup afterward. Painful memories to this day...