Bernice Dixon oral history interview, 2015-06-04

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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TRACI DRUMMOND: Today is June 4th, 2015. I am in Lilburn with Mrs. Bernice Dixon, we are finishing up her interview today. This is Traci Drummond, I am the archivist for the Southern Labor Archives at Georgia State University Library. Welcome back to, to the last part of your interview.


DRUMMOND: Um, so the thing I wanted to cover today, is just to sort of follow your career path a little more and have you talk about each of the jobs a little bit and just sort of get that. And then well finish up with maybe anything you want to talk about that I havent asked you although the way youre looking at me is (laughter) you saying you feel like youve already talked enough. So um, which is not, absolutely not true. So um, I know that you -- I know, I remember that we covered from 45 to 48 at Grady you were head 00:01:00nurse in charge of the surgical unit, but we didnt really talk too much about 48 to 49, when you went up to Marietta for just a short time to work in the operating room. So, was that a big, um -- was that a big difference from, from Grady when you got up to Marietta?

DIXON: Yes, it was. But -- lets go back just a little bit.


DIXON: I graduated in 1945, and I became the head nurse of -- of Ward C, the medical surgical unit. And I was there during the Winecoff fire and all of that. And then, in 194-- seven, '48, I went to Marietta and I worked in a hospital 00:02:00there, in the operating room and uh, I spent two years there. I -- and thats the one time that I had, really had, only real automobile accident. I had bought me a new 1948 Hudson and I was on my way to Augusta for a weekend and on the way -- there was no interstate at that time. And just before I got to Greensboro, there were two trucks -- it was misting rain, and there were two trucks going down the road and throwing mud up on my windshield so I could see a straight, 00:03:00clear path ahead of me and I started to pull around them and when I did, they moved over across the middle line and I had to get off on the, my left wheels were off on the shoulder of the road and when I got past them and tried to cut back I skidded across the road, my car stood up on its nose and -


DIXON: -- flipped over twice out in the fresh plowed pit, plowed field. I had a laceration on my head and I had a fracture of my clavicle and a couple of ribs and um, the doctor in Marietta sent his driver and his car down to get me, to bring me back there and of course I was treated in Greensboro for the fracture and everything. And so it took me a while to recover but I kept right on working 00:04:00and then I decided well, Grady wanted me to come back to work for them and I did. I went back to work because I really wanted to go back to school.

DRUMMOND: Okay, but before we get to there, what did you do in Marietta? Because you just talked about your wreck but you didnt talk about what your day-to-day duties were.

DIXON: I worked in the operating room. My friend and I, who was a Grady graduate, were the only two nurses in the operating room, and the hospital was owned by two surgeons. And there was another pediatrician that was in with the ownership too. And, Murl Hagood was an excellent, excellent surgeon. And I learned a lot. We took care of a lot of different patients and it was while I 00:05:00was there that, um, I saw my first embalming.


DIXON: Uh-huh. We had a patient, had an acute appendix, and she was tremendously overweight. As a matter of fact, we didnt have any retractors that could retract her body, so my friend and I retracted while the doctor did the surgery. Later on she died, and uh, we were able to go down to the -- funeral home and they allowed us to see her embalmed. It was no fun. I never wanted to see another one. But it was an experience and uh, I learned a lot there. I always liked the operating room. I worked in the -- my times at Grady, I worked both in 00:06:00the white operating room and the colored operating room, and um, whether or not you really learned a lot or feel like youve done a good job depends a lot on your surgeon, because we had one surgeon that was -- well, he was very impatient. And uh, one day, I stayed up practically all night trying to memorize the instruments he liked to use and what was, which one was what and this sort of thing and so during the surgery he asked for a vein retractor and I handed him a vein retractor. This is not a vein retractor, he said and he threw 00:07:00it across the room. So I handed them another, which was a nerve retractor, and he said, This is not a vein retractor, and he stuck it in the surgeons pocket over here. So I just stepped back and said, Then select whatever you want to use, and um, but, all the difference in the world because theres -- most of the surgeons were excellent. This man was an excellent surger-- surgeon but he was very impatient and he was patient-oriented but he was very impatient with the people working with him and I mustve really irritated him. (laughter) Because -- but he, he was an excellent -- he really was a good surgeon, but um, that happened at Grady. Now Dr. Hagood, and every surgeon out at Marietta that I worked with they were excellent and this hospital closed when 00:08:00Kennesaw - Kennestone Hospital opened. So thats when I was out there. I went back to Grady and started school at night and um I worked oh, eight to ten hours a day and went to school at night. And actually uh, I was working in central supply that time and the school of nursing needed a teacher in Pharmacology and they learned that I had passed a -- made a, I think I made an A at Georgia State and so they asked me if I would teach. Well I got help from my teacher up there. And so I started teaching -- (phone rings). So I started teaching um and I, I and I was teaching and I was working my full late hours at 00:09:00central supply and going to school at night and after about a year of this, I said Ive got to do one or the other, and so they transferred me to the school of nursing and I was there and um -- and I taught medical surgical nursing and I taught -- later on I taught communicable diseases. I taught just about everything except pediatrics and obstetrics. And then -- a situation arose and I um -- had an well, while I was, when I started at Georgia State to practice teaching we had to have a quarter of practice teaching. And it was supposed to 00:10:00be at Georgia Baptist. Ms. [Emmeline McKee?] was the teacher and uh, but when I got into the program, and God, I had finished everything except the quarter of practice teaching and I had been teaching for about five years. They no longer had it here, you had to go to Augusta. Well by that time, I was married and I had two little ones, but -- and I went down to the University of Georgia to talk to the president about it but never gotten to see him. And I had no alternative if I wanted to get a degree. So I, at, I was at Grady and I was working and I was doing all of that and I had finished my um, B.S. [N.E.?] except for that quarter of practice teaching and I had some difficulties and I had an opportunity to go over to Georgia Baptist and teach in their school of nursing, 00:11:00so I taught over there for two years and while I was there, I uh, took a quarter's leave of absence and went to Augusta. And Id leave every Monday morning very early and drive to Augusta and Id come back either Friday night or Saturday. I never did any practice teaching, while I was there -- one time, I take that back, and it was a program for all the schools in the Atlanta area and I was at Grady when I taught it. But anyhow, I learned a lot though. I had a, a Mrs. [Lee Alt?] who was the person in charge of me. She was my mentor. And I think Ive said this before, but she made me defend everything that I knew -- 00:12:00any decision I made or anything Id said, she made me defend it and that helped me because I had been -- I knew a lot of answers but I was not very forthcoming with my response. I'd try to hide behind somebody in the classroom so the teacher wouldnt call on me and, but she made me defend everything and that helped me a lot. And I wet back to Georgia Baptist and then Grady asked me to come back to Grady.

DRUMMOND: Okay, because you got your degree -- your B.S. in nursing in 56.

DIXON: Mm hm.

DRUMMOND: And then -

DIXON: In 1956. I was at Georgia Baptist for two years. In 1956, I came back to Grady as chairman of medical surgical nursing.

DRUMMOND: Okay, and so what did that job entail? Thats a, a really big title. 00:13:00What did that entail?

DIXON: What? Chairman of medical surgical nursing?


DIXON: We had medical surgical nursing one, two and three. And the chairperson was in sort of the head of the group and uh I taught but I worked with the, all the teachers and we had some wonderful, wonderful teachers. As a matter of fact, the instructors and the students made the school of nursing and I was there for -- until 1962 (cough) and I decided -- I needed to do something um, I needed to either and I decided to go back to school and I made application to Emory --


DRUMMOND: Why did you decide to go back to school?

DIXON: Well, the director of nursing education, she and I had some disagreements about it -- (laughter) what and how medical surgical nursing should be taught and uh, and she told me one day that -- and I think Ive said this before -- but she got everything that she could out of [them and finally kicked them in the seat?] and thats exactly what she was -- I think doing, trying to do to me and it was sort of dividing the faculty up. You know, because a lot of the faculty really, really, as most of them as a matter of fact supported me and I didnt want that to happen, so I said I either have to resign or go back to school. I decided to go back to school. And I made application thinking Id 00:15:00get in the next January, I think I sent in my application about June and they sent me back a telegram and said come in and take my pre-examination and I could come in in September. Well, thats what I did. I dont know what I made on the pre-exam, because I never wanted to see what it was but I got in for the program and I was there for a year. You might want to turn that off until she gets really -- [clanking sound in background]

DRUMMOND: I know, I know. She, shell be done in a second.

DIXON: (laughter) Shes decided to eat.

DRUMMOND: (laughter)

DIXON: But uh, that was quite an experience.

DRUMMOND: And where did you get your Masters degree?

DIXON: I got my Masters degree in 1963.

DRUMMOND: But where?

DIXON: Oh, at Emory.

DRUMMOND: Emory? Okay.

DIXON: Yeah. Masters in nursing. And um, I had to do a lot of clinical 00:16:00practice. I had to take care of a lady who had had a --had had a um, hip replacement and got an infection and had to go back in and she was in isolation and uh, Id get there early in the morning and try to get her all situated and by the time I did it was 9:30 and my class started at 9:00 so Id had to run across campus. Come in ten or fifteen or twenty minutes late, and only one seat in the middle of the room. And then, the professor stopped at ten minutes of the hour, so I felt like I was not, so what Id stay late in the afternoon to be tutored. We had -- older students or other faculty members that would tutor us 00:17:00in certain things and um, one situation happened in that, that particular class, that um, the professor said that somebody had cheated. And so -- and they really had. I didnt know anything about it, I was so concerned about myself because I didnt think I was going to pass the course and so he said, he said that what -- the final exam, wed be seated in the armory. Every other row, two or three seats in between and um, that was the only exam that would count. Whatever we made on that exam would be our grade for the course. And somebody walking up 00:18:00and down the aisle and then um, if you had to go to the bathroom, somebody had to go with you. And there were ten questions, and if you missed one, you literally missed them all, which is very poor test construction. (laughter)

DRUMMOND: Yeah. (laughter)

DIXON: I knew better than that. But thats the way it was. And I wouldnt, I wouldnt go to find out what Id made. I just knew I had failed it. And Doctor Mary Margaret Williamson who was the nurse in charge of the program, she was wonderful. She said, Mrs. Dixon, stop worrying. She says, Just stop worrying now. And she -- I went to her and she said she was so concerned about me because I had just knew I had failed. And somebody went down there and hed posted the grades and I want you to know I had passed it. (laughter)


DRUMMOND: Well, of course you did.

DIXON: And I, I nearly fainted when I found out. But --

DRUMMOND: (laughter) So you were able to work at Emory hospital and go to the nurses program at the same time, the or the ma - get work on your masters degree -

DIXON: For the masters program, I took a years leave of absence.

DRUMMOND: Oh you did. Okay. Okay.

DIXON: I had too. Because it was --

DRUMMOND: It was too much.

DIXON: -- I was in class all day. And then, had to drive home at night and --

DRUMMOND: And, but, you had, did you have, were you married with kids at this point?

DIXON: I did.


DIXON: And my poor husband. (Sound of things falling) All night, he did my typing for me because I couldnt afford for somebody to type my papers and everything. I've still got the typewriter downstairs, and he would sit there and type. Id write. Id write. Because I had all these reports I had to bring in and all the research that we had to do and all of that and he'd - 00:20:00(laughter) hed type. He was pretty good typist. He made a lot of mistakes. And get the children to bed. And then, Id get up early in the morning and take them across town to my mothers. We lived in southwest Atlanta and she lived in northeast Atlanta. And then Id go on to school and then Id come back by sometime, to pick them -- sometimes I just let them spend the night, but uh yeah, it was a rough -- it was a rough year.

DRUMMOND: Well, how many other women in the program had that same situation where they were married with children or were most of the women in this program single?

DIXON: Um, many of them were single, most of them really were or that didnt have children.

DRUMMOND: Mhm. Okay.

DIXON: There was one man and woman, husband and wife who were in the program.

DRUMMOND: Oh, okay.

DIXON: And uh --

DRUMMOND: And so, and so was this time about the time you started to see more 00:21:00men in nursing programs?

DIXON: Didnt see a lot of them then, no. It was later on -- well, I take that back. It was in the '60s. Yes, it was in the '60s. Its just -- began seeing more men. As a matter of fact, Grady admitted their first in 65. But when I was near graduation, Grady hospital called me and asked me if I would come back as director of the school. And I -- I still dont know what happened to the person who was there because she and I became very good friends later on -


DIXON: -- excellent friends.

DRUMMOND: The woman who had sort of been bothering you before, ended up being a good coworker?

DIXON: Mm hmm. But anyway uh, they asked me to come back as director of school 00:22:00and I made five hundred dollars a month. But uh, I did it.

DRUMMOND: That was your starting salary?

DIXON: That was what I made.


DIXON: As a matter of fact, I probably made that for two or three years without a raise because they didnt have a lot of money. I dont guess they -- well maybe theyve got a lot now. They can pay their CEOs a lot of money now. The nurses too are making more, but anyway, and thats when I became director of the school of nursing in 1963. September. Um, Miss Hammett was the director of nursing and the school of nursing was under the director of the nursing, and so was the director of nursing education. As a matter of fact, I was sort of director of nursing education in name only for a few years and it was in 1965 00:23:00that we had an accreditation visit. And we did not get reaccredited. We lost our accreditation. As a matter of fact, I dont guess I really realized what was going on because Miss Hammett was in charge of everything. We had some, uh tudents on -- going on affiliation, and the hospital administrator called me and they, they didnt get -- go with the regular time and they needed their tickets and he asked me where they were. Called me on Saturday, I told him I didnt know. He said, Why dont you know? I said, I dont have that responsibility. Here I am now, in charge of the school of nursing and he 00:24:00says, Well why dont you have? I said, Well, Miss Hammett has that responsibility. I said, I dont even have the records in my roo- office. So, the next Monday morning, Miss Hammett came bringing, all the records were brought to my office. And things became a little different for me because I dont think the hospital administrator really realized that I was just there, helping out, sort of doing what I was told to do, and that sort of thing. But it changed. And when it changed, we um -- (pause) when it changed, 00:25:00and I had a consultant come, to the school, in 1967. And she said, looking back at the recommendations the league had made that the primary responsibility, the primary reason we had lost our accreditation was because the faculty members were really not in charge of assigning the clinical pra tice. Nursing service people were taking care of that and supervising the students, and she felt that was the reason we had lost our accreditation. So, she gave us excellent --(dog barking)

DRUMMOND: We were talking about the reason you didnt get accreditation.


DIXON: Okay. (pause) Is it on now?

DRUMMOND: Mm hm. It is.

DIXON: Okay. I also learned that the NL-- National League for Nursings procedure for accreditation had changed. Prior to this time, they um, sent visitors and they stayed at the school for like a week and then the visitors wrote up their impression of the school and then the board will review. Use their - whatever they wrote. But they had changed it. And they had changed it to the fact that the school did an intensive self-evaluation and wrote up -- they had the guidelines for the evaluation and wrote it up and they sent copies 00:27:00to every board member, ten copies to the National League for Nursing. And the visitors, two visitors also had a copy.

DRUMMOND: Since they're cutting grass outside can you speak up just a little to make sure -

DIXON: Who, me?


DIXON: My voice is not too good.


DIXON: But they had changed it to sending -- the school did an intensive self-evaluation and sent a copy of that evaluation to each member of the board of review and then the two visitors came. They had copies too and the two visitors came and just, they were there for like two days and they had certain areas they looked at, to see if you were really doing what you said you were doing. And their -- what they -- after they wrote their impression, they came 00:28:00back and met with the hospital administrator and everybody. Well, they met with like everybody at, to begin with, but they came back with their report. And then their report, the board of review, the National League for Nursing, actually evaluated the school on their self-evaluation and then the board of reviews comments just simply verified all of this. Which made a whole lot of difference in how a school was evaluated and whether or not they got accreditation. But um, you know later on, I became a member of -- we got accreditation back in 58 when we had our visit. I became a member of the National League for Nursing 00:29:00board of review and served as a visitor and as a leader for I think it was four or five years. It --

DRUMMOND: And so you got to review other schools?

DIXON: Oh, yes.


DIXON: I visited many schools. Well I -

DRUMMOND: What was -

DIXON: We couldnt visit more than two a year. Wed go on one trip and be gone for two weeks.


DIXON: And uh, it was quite an experience. I mean you learned a lot and it - what our visitor what our, who we had a consultant come, what she said was, identify your strengths and your weaknesses, major on your strengths, but point out what youre trying to do to correct your weaknesses and the best advice that person could give - and she used examples to do that so, I thoroughly 00:30:00enjoyed my um, time on the board, as a member of the board of review.

DRUMMOND: How long did you serve?

DIXON: It was about four or five years.


DIXON: And we had, what we had to do as members of the board of review, every program that came before the board that year, we had to go over their records, but the two visitors were the key ones that presented. But each one of the board of review members had to go through the self-evaluation and make their comments and then we got together and talked about what our impression was of the school and the visitors what their impression was and then a decision was made. So it was exciting and it was quite an experience to go to New York City, where -- 00:31:00twice a year and spend a week up there and you know and with all those important people that I got to meet, it was just wonderful. This little country girl. (laughter) I, I got to meet some of the leaders, work with them, it was, it was quite an experience. It really was. But um - and then I stayed on at Grady, actually, we had six hundred students. And then the -- that was in the, uh 1965 or 66 and then the enrollment started to decrease and the attrition rate 00:32:00increased. We did just about everything you could think of -

DRUMMOND: So, let me clarify, fewer students but a better graduation rate. Attrition. So, more people, fewer students, but more of them graduated. Okay.

DIXON: More of them did not graduate.

DRUMMOND: Did not graduate. Okay. Okay.

DIXON: Yeah. And -

DRUMMOND: What do you think caused that?

DIXON: The advent of the associate degree program and also the National League for Nursing really was emphasizing more than just clinical practice. It was the diploma graduate that had the clinical practice. As a matter of fact, I worked on them, um, Governor Jimmy Carter appointed a master planning committee here in 00:33:00Georgia and I was the member and [Kathryn Pulp?], another Grady graduate, was a member. And [Mrs. Mary Woody?] our director of nursing was chairperson of the group. And we studied nursing in Georgia (dog barking). We gave transfer credit to students if they had been in another school of nursing if they could pass our basic nursing, we did a program like that. We did a program to admit licensed practical nurses. We would let them come for an intensive course in basic nursing and pass, or if they could pass our basic nursing test then we gave them credit for that and they could start at the second level. We established a program for admitting medical corpsmen. We did all kinds of things to try to get 00:34:00more students into the school of nursing but enrollment dropped and but the baccalaureate -- I mean the associate degree program, the study that we did, the governor, the master planning committee, it, its amazing it pointed out how when the associate degree came into being, the enrollment went up like this and the diploma went down. Well, it makes sense. You know, its not the way -- I worked in trying to um, what the -- the purpose for the associate degree program to begin with was so that the licensed practical nursing could move up and the 00:35:00diploma program would move into the baccalaureate program. Well, it didnt work that way. What they did, they established an associate degree program for two academic years. We had the diploma program for three calendar years. And then we had the baccalaureate program for four academic years and all of them writing the same state board. Well, its impossible, and so you could see why a young person would spend two academic years and become RNs rather than spending the three calendar years, you know?

DRUMMOND: So they were getting the, an equi - an equivalent degree with like, less formal training --

DIXON: Getting the registered nurse, RN, but then they would -- and this is what 00:36:00some of the directors in nursing said. They had to work for about a year before they could really do the clinical, because it was the clinical practice tha they were so limited in, and thats still true. Its still true. But, and also then as the associate degree they would have had two years and they got credit for that, going on and getting their bachelors degree. Where, the diploma graduate did not. The maximum I guess that we ever got was maybe forty-five hours credit. When our students got thirty-five hours at Georgia State, because starting back in the '50s, we started sending our students to Georgia State for their basic sciences. So thats why, that is one of the major reasons why the diploma school closed. That began closing all over the 00:37:00country, but, yes. Associate degree has limited clinical practice while the baccalaureate degree does have too. But uh, we focused on caring for the patient. We did everything. We didnt have all the different health personnel come in. We -- when we had patients that need to be re-breathed and we didnt have the respirator we gave them a brown paper bag and they breathed in it. In and out, in and out, in and out, and it worked. And we did all kinds of things because we did not have all of the electronics they have today. And thats another thing that has changed in that you have so many different groups of 00:38:00people, or so many different professional personnel that come in to take care of patients. We took care of the patients. We did everything for them. That we didnt even have intensive care units back then, they were all on the general floor. We took care of them. And uh, so, nursing has changed. As a matter of fact, I'd have to go back to school, if I went back into nursing and I got an offer the other day (laughter). This lady called and offered me a job and I said, Honey, she sounded like a young person. I said, Honey, Im ninety-three years old. She said, You are?

DRUMMOND: So your name mustve been on a list somewhere.

DIXON: Well, Im still, I, my RN is still active.

DRUMMOND: Okay. I see.


DIXON: I said I worked too hard to get it. (laughter) To give it up.

DRUMMOND: Okay. So what point, at what point did you sort of realize that Grady, that the school of nursing was going to have to close?

DIXON: I knew it long before it closed.


DIXON: And -

DRUMMOND: It was just inevitable.

DIXON: Right. We had an administrator though. Mr. J.W. Pinkston, he really loved that school and he did everything he could, but financially, you could not maintain the staff and faculty that you needed to take care of and to teach the students, so it, it was just inevitable. You know? It really was. And we did, we tried to do everything we could and uh, but like if we admitted -- Id, I did 00:40:00a study on the admissions and the number that graduated three years later in our program. As a matter of fact, we shortened our program by a quarter.


DIXON: We did. From twelve quarters to eleven and that didnt really help so, we permitted -- early on, married students could not be come into the program. We permitted students to marry and they had to live on campus early on, but we permitted them to live off campus anywhere their parents gave them permission to live. If they were married, of course they didnt need parents permission. We admitted male students. We made, had all those programs to give credit if people had, really had any experience in nursing whether thats practical 00:41:00nursing, medical corpsmen, whatever. We actually tried -- we did everything we could. And some of our students would come into our program for basic nursing, get credit for the associate degree and go back to the associate degree program. But interestingly enough, I -- and I think its just wonderful -- in a newspaper article when the school was closing, the last class, one of the students said she had, was in a baccalaureate program. She said, "but they didnt have any clinical practice so I came here because I wanted some clinical practice." Because our focus was on the patient and the patient's 00:42:00family and uh, it was just inevitable, I felt it coming and financially, the hospital could not continue to afford it either. So we had to close.

DRUMMOND: And the last class started in 82?

DIXON: Last class started in 79.

DRUMMOND: And graduated in 82? Okay. Okay.

DIXON: The announcement was made in January of 80. And what we thought we were doing was merging with Georgia State, but it didnt work that way.

DRUMMOND: Right. We talked about that a little bit last time. And that mustve been a big disappointment.

DIXON: Well, Georgia State continued and increased the number of uh, affiliations with Grady hospital. This is where they got whatever clinical practice they got. And uh, but, the diploma graduate still got such little 00:43:00credit if they decided to go into baccalaureate program. But you know, I wanted an education. As a matter of fact, I started a doctoral program, PhD program, and then I decided, am I going to put my family through this too? No. Im not.

DRUMMOND: Where did you start that program? The PhD?

DIXON: The University of Georgia had an Atlanta --

DRUMMOND: Okay. Okay.

DIXON: They started a program here in Atlanta.

DRUMMOND: So lets pick back up with um, you had mentioned J.W. Pinkston had been trying to keep the school open.


DIXON: Mr. Pinkston truly, truly loved the school and he wanted to keep it open and he did everything he possibly could, but with all the - (dog barking) - the few students we had and - (dog barking) - excuse me, Im going to put her outside.


DIXON: Youre going outside.

DIXON: He did everything he could and he worked with me on anything that I suggested that might be a way to get more students. He worked with me on that. He -- I explained to him about working on the committee with the, the Georgia 00:45:00Nurses Association in planning with the National League for Nursing, in planning the um, for the associate degree and as our plans were, he said he wanted me to work on that and uh, we were very active in the uh, national diploma program and uh, he was just all for the school of nursing.

DRUMMOND: During this time were you all feeling pressure from Grady to -- I mean were they supportive of your efforts or, okay. So they were. Its not like you thought they were really trying to come and -

DIXON: They were supportive all the way.


DIXON: They had a uh, a cost study analysis several years before then and they recommended that they, might consider getting out of the education business. And 00:46:00um, so, it was several years later though before actually a decision was made, but I talked with the students, I talked with the alumni association about it before we closed. And the students understood and I, I cannot give enough credit to the students and to the faculty that stayed with me until the school actually closed its doors after the graduation of the last class. They graduated in June of 1982 and on July the 2nd, I had everything was out and I had to find me another job, or whatever. And I transferred over to nursing service.

DRUMMOND: Okay, and what is nursing services?


DIXON: Well, I was patient service coordinator. At that time, all the patients, they had a person on each area in the nursing areas that was, were responsible for working with the people in the area and budget and getting whatever they needed and that sort of thing and I was over that entire group. I worked over there, well, that was suspended after a while and I was, first as an assistant director of nursing service. I was still in, all those years, the ten years I continued to work I was in charge of the nursing budget and for any new piece of equipment that came into the hospital, it had to come through my committee.


DRUMMOND: Was that a satisfactory way to end your career, given all the hands-on work you had prior to that, with patients?

DIXON: Well, I wouldve preferred to stay in nursing education, but I was so near retirement I did not feel it would be wise to try to resign and go into nursing education somewhere else. Because -- and I worked very hard, I, I made the director of nursing look good because we stayed on budget and -- but I had some wonderful peopleto work with. And um --

DRUMMOND: Well, do you want to talk about any of those people? Is there anybody that maybe we havent covered that you could um, that you could um, that you 00:49:00want to mention?

DIXON: Well, you see, while I was working in that position, I worked with every department in the hospital. And I became acquainted -- I had seen this people, you know, that I really worked with them. We had the most wonderful people working there. They really -- it was like a big family, you know? And everybody was interested in seeing that Grady was the best and the patient was the focus of everything we did. Now, as I told you before, we integrated with no problem, but there were people that felt we werent doing what we ought to be doing and --

DRUMMOND: Meaning?


DIXON: -- Im not sure that I ever -- that I told you about this, but I was called one day and now this was mind you we integrated in 1965. And this was in -- after the school closed, it was in the 80s. And somebody called Mr. Pinkston and uh, was questioning the assignment of patients in rooms throughout the hospital and he called me one morning and said, I need you to check every patient room in the hospital starting with thirteenth floor down to the third floor and tell me the patients assigned to the rooms, whether theyre white 00:51:00and white, white and colored, or colored and colored. What we were doing, we were assigning them according to what was wrong with them. Where we had a room, so I started --

DRUMMOND: Is that how it usually works in the hospital? That patients are assigned to an area based on what theyre there for?

DIXON: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: Oh, okay.

DIXON: Like surgery. Surgical patients were assigned to the surgical floors and prior to our integration the C and D areas were the -- for the colored patients and the A and B areas were for the white patients, but when we integrated we just integrated the patients according to their diagnosis and so I checked every patient room from the thirteenth floor to the third floor and gave him a report that day, I did all of that in one day and I have (laughter) I was tired when 00:52:00the day was over but I did it and there was no problem because we truly did that and -

DRUMMOND: Well had somebody made it sound like patients --

DIXON: Somebody -

DRUMMOND: --patients were being assigned unfairly --

DIXON: -- somebody had questioned whether or not we were doing it, so. And, I had actually, they did that at the school of nursing. What I did, I admitted them according to alphabetically, so I didnt know whether the As were all whites or all blacks or mixed, or whatever. But they were assigned alphabetically when they came into the school. And then, because they had --

DRUMMOND: You mean the students?

DIXON: Students. We had to have two to the room.

DRUMMOND: Right. Right.


DIXON: And so after six months they could choose their roommate. I gave them an opportunity to choose their roommate. And I was on vacation up in the Tennessee mountains with my husband and a group of young people from his church. And uh, Dr. Martin Luther King Senior was questioning whether we were doing that. So I had to come back and we went through all the nurses' residences. He wanted to be sure to check in Hirsch Hall, it had a community bath, where's -- all the students like living on the floor use the same bathroom. If they were assigned to the individual rooms, well actually they had nurses were assigned to rooms 00:54:00and so, he had to check that we had a, I think it was three tubs and three or four showers in the bathroom in all the most we needed. So we walked through every nurses residences, checked everything there, no problems, but they would have questions and they wanted to be sure. I guess they didnt trust -- they didnt trust us to do it. But actually Grady Hospital, I worked over in the colored operating room and uh, and when we had that Fats [sic] Hardy incident where all those people suffering and dying from drinking wood alcohol all of us white, black, and everybody else, we had a few white patients. But very few, and 00:55:00we had so many colored patients, we had them in their cars out in the streets treating them because the emergency room was full and everything. Now -

DRUMMOND: Because of wood alcohol poisoning?

DIXON: Mm hm.

DRUMMOND: Whats wood alcohol?

DIXON: Well, ethyl alcohol is what you can drink. Wood alcohol is poison.


DIXON: (overlapping voices) Fats Hardy was the mans name. There were some other people involved too but he was the one that was prosecuted. He was set -- they had increased the tax on whiskey. And so people were getting whatever they could get to drink and what he was doing, he had kind of dirty water and some peach flavoring and wood alcohol, and I had one patient, Ill never forget 00:56:00him. He came in and we treated him when he was all right we let him go home and I guess it was the next day, got him back in the hospital and he said, I had some left over and I just couldnt throw it away, so I drank it. And he died.

DRUMMOND: So what did, what was it doing to people, what is the effect --

DIXON: They died.

DRUMMOND: -- I know but like, was it shutting down part of their vital organs or was it? I mean what was the damage that wood alcohol could do?

DIXON: It was a poison.


DIXON: It was a poison.


DIXON: And what we, as I recall, what we did a lot in treating them, we gave them IV normal saline and some other things, but uh, it was really something. I think it was about 137 people that died.


DRUMMOND: Oh my gosh.

DIXON: Mm hm.

DRUMMOND: Oh my gosh.

DIXON: Yeah.

DRUMMOND: Thats so many. Thats so many.

DIXON: Well it was terrible. It was a terrible time.

DRUMMOND: Mm hm. Mm hm.

DIXON: It was a terrible time. Now that might not have been that many died, I dont want to confuse that with the Winecoff fire.

DRUMMOND: Still, to have a lot of people show up on the same day with alcohol poisoning.

DIXON: It was all within the, a few days there, that all this happened, like I said within a week. Yeah. It was terrible.


DIXON: It was terrible.


DIXON: And there were several people involved but Fats Hardy, that was his, they called him, he was overweight and his name, his last name was Hardy. But they called him Fats Hardy, and he's the only one that was really prosecuted. Because 00:58:00he was the one in charge and owned everything.

DRUMMOND: Yeah. Ooh.

DIXON: A lot of, weve had, we had lots of -- see Grady Hospital is, is home for so many people. And it, it has been there and theres a sign on television today is, Atlanta cant live without Grady or something like that and that's true. Thats true. And when we opened our burn unit, it was just really, really -- we -- theres just no way to describe the feeling we had back then because everyone, the hospital administrator knew everybody. We were all a part -- it was like a big family, anything happened in my department, oh 00:59:00my, there were these people coming in to help and it was not all the animosity that you feel in a lot of places. It was like you were a member of the family, and uh well, I worked hard. But I enjoyed it because nursing was my life. And I felt like what I was doing after I transferred over to the nursing service department after the school closed, what I was doing, was -- had to do with patient care. And I have to give credit to so many wonderful faculty members in the school of nursing. I particularly -- Ruth Reeds and Imogene Davis. Ruth Reed 01:00:00stayed with me until the very end. She and I went through every record at Grady Hospital, dating back to 1898. And she is one that helped me in making out the list of those who entered and did not complete and the dates they entered and the date they left and also those who entered and who did complete the program. Shes the one who helped me do all that. She was the most wonderful, kind, gentle, firm person you ever hoped to meet. And she was older when she came into the school because her mother had died and she helped to raise her family, but -- and she was dearly loved by thestudents. She was dearly loved by the 01:01:00students. She was the greatest help. Imogene Davis was -- she retired as a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, and she died last October. Ruth died years before. Ruth had a heart problem when she came into the school and uh -- but she was wonderful. But then I have a lot of others too. Some of them are still living. And uh, Juanita, Kimbrough now, she was Juanita Fuller, she was there until the last person graduated. Just so many people that, and so many good excellent, [Binnie?] Blake was one of the best faculty members I think I ever 01:02:00had. She truly was. She was so dependable. She was so strict and yet she was so caring. And she always looked perfect.


DIXON: (Laughter) She was the neatest person you ever saw. She still is.

DRUMMOND: Why has it been so important to you -- to hold onto this Grady School of Nursing history and to preserve it and to try to share it with people?

DIXON: Because I felt like -- the story ought to be told. But actually now, what happened is, and I have the papers from Mr. Pinkston on this, what he did, he 01:03:00assigned a doctor to write the history of Grady and I was to write the part on the school of nursing to go in that book. Well this doctor and other doctors wrote the history of Grady hospital. I tried to get in contact with him but I never could. So the school of nursing, except he made some comments on it and they're not correct, because in his book he stated that the school of nursing was a two-year program. It was not. They had a two-year program and when the Grady hospital trainee school was chartered in 1898, then it converted to a three-year program, they discontinued the two-year program and so I, the reason he would say that Im sure is because it doesnt seem reasonable that 01:04:00somebody entered in 1898 and graduated in 1900. They didnt. If they entered in 1898 they graduated in 1901. So there was a group of, in the, the director of nurses' annual report, in the annual, hospital annual report, she had about sixteen, I think it was sixteen students in the two-year program and six or seven of those graduated in 1899, which tells me that the rest of that group graduated in 1900, in the three-year program. They decided to continue for 01:05:00another year and become an RN, so. But actually, the purpose of the school of nursing to begin with was to staff the hospital. They said it. Its written out. And we staffed the hospital. And even after we were accredited in 1959 by the National League for Nursing. In 1961, Miss Hammett sent out a memo stating the duties of the student nurse -- 7:00 to 3:30, 3:30 to 11:00, 11:00 to 7:00 and all that. And student nurses were in charge on 11:00 to 7:00 shift most of the time. They had somebody they could call if they got into a bind, problem, and thats the way it was back in the 40s when I was a student. And thats the way it was continuing that, uh, we did not have faculty to 01:06:00supervise. Now when I was a probationer, during that period of probation, we, when went into the clinical areas, we had our instructor went with us. We had maybe two or three instructors in the whole school. So it started out, and it was to staff the hospital. And thats what a lot of hospital administrators wanted, but Mr. Pinkston was wonderful. He went along with so many things and I mean he was so gracious about it. He -- greatest support I ever had.

DRUMMOND: And so youve written the history of Grady Nursing?

DIXON: Beg pardon?

DRUMMOND: Youve written the history of the Grady School of Nursing?


DIXON: Ive tried. So much of it is--

DRUMMOND: A history.

DIXON: -- from my memory.


DIXON: And the others, Ive gone back, I do have an 1899, uh, hospital annual report and I -- a 1900, '01, '02 and '06 or something like that, I have the annual reports of almost every year except for a period of time when they didnt have one.

DRUMMOND: Hmm, interesting.

DIXON: Because the city of Atlanta was in charge of the hospital until 1946. And then the Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority took over, so theres a period of time there in the um, early 40s, like maybe from 1939 to -- oh no, that I could not find an annual report. I dont think they wrote one. But the 01:08:00Fulton-DeKalb Hos-- see when I graduated from nursing school, my first employment at Grady was through the city of Atlanta but when the Fulton-DeKalb Hospital Authority came into being in 1946, they took over. Mr. Wilson was the superintendent. Mr. Walker was the assistant. Mr. Pinkston -- Mr. Pinkston was working there and then he moved on up as assistant director and then Mr. Wilson died, they appointed him as director. Very, very intelligent man. Hes still living but hes not well.

DRUMMOND: Well -- Im sorry, were you going to say something?


DRUMMOND: Were you going to say something?


DIXON: Not that -- the only thing I want to say is Grady is a part of me and I am a part of Grady. And uh, I hope that we will be able to find all of the things that I had saved and that they can be put into the archives so that they can be available for other people.


DIXON: And Im hoping this history, or this story that I have written, that people will understand what Grady hospital really is and what its all about.

DRUMMOND: I think its such an important piece of Atlanta for so many reasons because its part of the community. It gave young women a way to earn a living. It was one of the best programs in the country. I mean, you know, it, it 01:10:00really is important and, and I feel like because when we started talking about this project, and that I you know and I know that we have a small Grady collection at the labor archives. That was not a substantial documentation on what had happened and on the history, and so Im glad that are pursing all these avenues to really get that history together and Ill be very interested to read the history you've written.

DIXON: I wouldve had it finished had they had not moved me and boxed up my materials so many different times and also had I not had so many personal difficulties with the family and illnesses in the family and all of that. Its been in the back of my head all these years and its been and, to handwrite it 01:11:00all and I had to do that. You can imagine. (laughter) And then Id go back and scratch and I'd correct something and go back and add something else but um, Ive written, I have had a reference for everything Ive written.


DIXON: I have not written anything thats not true. So it's a story, it is a story of the school of nursing from my perspective and I was a part of the school of nursing for so many years. So --

DRUMMOND: And you, I think, more than anyone because you got your degree in the 01:12:0040s, when you were, I mean, youve seen Gradys history pretty -- except for maybe the first forty years. Youve been there to experience Gradys history. Thats phenomenal. I mean, I dont know how many people can say that. Maybe you are the only person who can really say that.

DIXON: I dont know, but I -- and two people that stand out so much except faculty and all of those, one was an orderly, Squire Benning. The most precious little man, he was a little man, but Squire was there when I needed him. Just, oh, he was so efficient. So wonderful. The other man is Mr. Dewey. He was uh, in the hospital maintenance department and he worked nights and he was the students' friend at night. Hed pop up, have a bar of candy or something and 01:13:00talk to you, he was just wonderful. Of course they all were, but uh, Mr. Dewey was there when I was a student. So was Squire and he was the greatest help to me. He knew, he knew how to take care of patients and back in the very early days. The orderlies took care of the male patients, their personal care and uh, Squire was right there. He was, he was just wonderful. Of course we had others too, he just stood out. So many people, I could -- from the day I entered the school of nursing, but the school of nursing can give the credit to Mrs. Annie 01:14:00Bess Feeb ck for setting the standard and I tried, I really tried to maintain her standar. I could never do it like she did. Never. Because that lady had a vision and she worked toward it, she was patient, firm, sometimes we thought she was mean, but she truly wasnt. She was fair. And it does hurt when people correct you a lot. You think theyre mean, but theyre, it's for your own good.

DRUMMOND: Right. Right.


DIXON: So. And I thank you for listening to me and all of my ramblings.

DRUMMOND: It has been a pleasure to interview you.

DIXON: I guess I could go on talking about Grady forever though.

DRUMMOND: Well we can always have a follow-up interview if you think of anything. (Laughter) I mean, Im, youre shaking your head but we -

DIXON: I could think of a lot of things. It comes to me every day but I -- theres some things I dont think you want me to record. (Laughter)

DRUMMOND: Well, if there is nothing else, is there? No? Then I will wrap up our, the third part of our interview for now, maybe for now, maybe we can add another one at some point in the future if you want to. Thank you so much for sitting for these interviews. They will add a great deal of context not only of course, to your life and career, but that of the Grady School of Nursing, so I really appreciate it and I feel like generations to come will really enjoy listening to 01:16:00this story.

DIXON: Well I thank you. Thank you for your patience in all of my ramblings.